Sunday, April 10, 2016

Plink-Plink

"Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and He saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And He said,Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in >>> MORE <<< than all of them. For they all contributed out of their ABUNDANCE, but she out of her POVERTY put in all she had to live on." (Luke 21:1-4)

The widow no one bothered to see gave the last 2 coins of her livelihood up to an all too judgmental, too cruel and often too stingy church for our liking. No one noticed her sacrifice that day except Christ, who four days later gave up His last breath to an all too judgmental, too cruel and often too stingy people. And who was that cruel and stingy church but us? Whether you go to church or not, you are not perfect. You are no better—and no worse—than every person in any pew in any church or temple in any country. But you won't find Jesus sitting on a bar stool, even if He loves you all the while you're at the bar.

I think we all wonder in our private moments of selfishness: Does anyone bother to see me? I've been a sick hermit for so long, I wonder if I've become invisible. But God the Father sees me. He sees me give my all and He sees me hold back. He sees me sin and He sees me choose not to sin. He sees me be kind and be mean, be patient and impatient. He sees ALL of me, but because of Christ's sacrifice four days after that woman's sacrifice, He only remembers the good in me.

“I, I am He who blots out your
transgressions for My own sake,
and I will not remember your sins."

So, who notices as Jesus drops His last 2 coins with an undeniably pathetic plink-plink into that unworthy offering box of God and becomes the worst criminal ever to walk the earth and, at the same time, remains the only perfectly innocent man and God, and a single Sacrifice great enough to atone for an entire world of sin? Who heard His final words: not of condemnation of those killing Him without cause, not of judgment on those murdering the Son of God, not of scorn so duly earned by mere men torturing the King of kings, not even of the self-pity I feel while I'm stuck here in this horrid hospital room one more time. Who heard Jesus' words of pure and merciful forgiveness that were for all of mankind, including you and me? "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do." Plink-plink. (Luke 23:34)

You have to sit in a pew and listen
for that quiet plink-plink to hear it
because you won't hear it anywhere else:
it's drowned out by the jeers and sneers of the world.

It's Not About the Money
This is about giving the LAST of ourselvesgiving out of our poverty, not our wealth. This hushed, plink-plink is getting up and going to church even though it's your one day of the week to sleep in. This plink-plink is a Mom and a Dad finding the strength to go back to the church where their baby was buried. This plink-plink is you coming back to church after God chose not to save you wife or your husband from cancer. This plink-plink is you coming back to church after God has chosen not to save your house from foreclosure, your lob from being lost, your mother from developing dementia. When you almost can't manage to get out of bed for sorrow, but you somehow find the strength to get up and worship: plink-plink. And you are able to worship out of your sorrow and poverty and hurt because the plink-plink Christ put into that offering box was out of own His weakness, out of His own poverty, and it was far greater than ours, great enough to save you, me, and the whole world for all of time.
almost unnoticeable pathetic 

We notice the unrighteous whom we expect to be righteous as though they had searchlights flooding from their sinful eyes. A policeman commits a hateful crime against an innocent person—usually out of anger—and the tens of thousands of fine, upstanding regular police men and women who put their lives at risk to keep ours safe are forgotten as though they never existed. A select few manage to take advantage of Social Security Disability Insurance program and suddenly, everyone who needs the disability insurance they paid their taxes for is a fraud. A conservative pastor or priest is found to have been having homosexual affairs while married and suddenly all of Christendom is comprised of nothing but hypocrites.

It's hard to hear any plinking over that derision. It's hard to hear a lot of things when we are made fun of openly without the bully being thought of as a "bully" or "bigoted" or "judgmental," even though we are called those very same names when we judge another's beliefs and behaviors as wrong. But we are the ones who are publically ridiculed, mocked and humiliated, like so many other groups who have been in the lion's den before us and, strangely enough, by so many other groups who have been in the lion's den before us.

Those who chaff Christians, or religious people, in general have no reason to love us or show mercy to anyone. But we as Christians have every reason in heaven and on earth to love those who hate us and show mercy to everyone, no matter how much hostility they heap onto our shoulders (or rather, the shoulders of Christ) (Luke 6:27-26). The fact of the matter is, Cain got it wrong when he told God he was not his brother's keeper, so, so, so very wrong (Genesis 4:8-11).

We are ALL our brother's keepers.
We are ALL each other's brothers.

It sounds almost like Dr. Seuss, but the simple fact is that because our salvations is secure in Christ, we are now FREE TO LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR AS OURSELVES. Commanded to, yes, but most importantly FREE TO (Luke 10:27). I can see Jesus turning over tables now, whipping usthe complainers, myself includeduntil we start helping whomever we can help and changing whatever we can change. Yes, some people abuse the systems meant to aid the poor, ill, and elderly and they get away with it, just like some people abuse the office of Congress and get away with it, just like some people abuse every system ever made and get away with it, just like some people abuse their free and clear salvation in Christ and skip church and tell dirty jokes and let the little sins of their friends and family slide by without a kind but disagreeable word like living together before marriage or homosexuality or pornography because, I mean, who wants to be unpopular? Not me. (But no one gets away with that one).

All the while, we forget to notice that we are
every single one of us
the spiritually poor if we don't go and get fed.

So let's stop running our mouths and try and DO something to make the world a little bit better one needful neighbor at a time. We can't help out exactly like Jesus did, no. We can't heal the sick, raise the dead, calm a storm, or give the blind back their sight with a word or a touch. We certainly can't get up on a cross and die for everyone's sake. It's been done, and we are not the Son of God, though we are God's heirs. And as heirs, we can think of something better than complaining and thanking God that WE are not THEM (Luke 18:9-14). (Especially when, yes, WE most certainly ARE THEM or THEY ARE US or rather there is no such thing as US and THEM: Romans 3:21-31). You've made good choices and are in a good place in life now? Good job. That's not always easy to do. You don't have to give all your money away: Jesus took care of that (Matthew 19:16-22).

Love your neighbors the best way you can
with the gifts God has given you.
Plink-plink
 

But It's Not About the Poor, Generous Widow
Poverty might land you in the street. Greed might make you a very lonely, unhappy person. But spiritual poverty ends in hell (John 14:1-14). And so this plink-plink is saving $10 on your grocery budget this week and instead of buying something for yourself, you buy $10 worth of food for your local food bank. This plink-plink is doing something good and useful and thoughtful and kind for those who do not deserve it, according to our own superior judgment.

It's Not About You Either
After all I just went off about doing: the doing for those in need, the loving God and your neighbor at once, the turning complaints into action... Jesus' event of the Poor Widow's Offering isn't about that either. This widow is Christ camouflaged in His dizzying revelation of Heaven where the last will be first and the first will be last. There was so much splendor to look at in this wealthy temple, this House of God, and Jesus notices the oppositea poor widow with nothing left to her nameand He used her act of selflessness to teach us right from wrong as He had done again and again, but that's not all He's teaching us by pointing out this generous-to-a-fault poor widow. He's pointing at Himself. And finally, one last time, He defeated Satan with weakness of all things: by allowing Himself to be murdered in the most brutal way sinful man could think of for no reason except for sheer hate.

All for the sake of those who hated Him.
Generous to a fault.
plink-plink

So act as Christ acts, and keep in mind that pretty much everything we do as chronically ill people comes out of our poverty. That's the hardest part about being sick sometimes: having good ideas but having no way to implement them because we are just too sick. Apart from Christ and the blessings of our family and friends, all we seem to have is poverty: a deficiency in our health, our energy, our funds, our time, our happiness, our desire to act... But I'm here telling you to act anyway. Give out of your poverty as only you can. Find a niche and do some good.
  1. Worship God as He sees fit and go to church or ask your pastor to visit you when you can't leave your house: plink-plink.
  2. Visit a sick or elderly neighbor when you are able or send cards: plink-plink. Provide freezer meals for the sick or for new Moms: plink-plink.
  3. Babysit for a sick child so their parents don't have to miss work or can go to the hospital and get care for themselves: plink-plink.
  4. Be friendly and patient in the grocery line behind a family with a stack of WIC or EBT coupons or a man or woman who doesn't know English. Smile at them and don't look at your watch in irritation. We all have things to do, make being nice your thing to doplink-plink.
  5. The next time you have a budget surplus, make something good come from it for somebody else, especially someone you think doesn't deserve it: plink-plink.
  6. The next time somebody asks you for a favor and you are able to comply even though you don't really want to, say yes: plink-plink.
  7. And the next time Sunday morning rolls around, get out of bed, get those kids dressed, pack some snacks, and meet God on His termsnot yours because your terms just don't matter: plink-plink.
The Heart of the Matter: It's About Jesus

God doesn't want to hear about hockey practice or volleyball tournaments on Sundays. He doesn't care about your one day a week to sleep in or how your kids won't sit still or are too little to understand what's happening, or how it's such hard work to just get that through that one hour in the pew. He hung on a cross for you and your kids. He sets the terms, and His terms include church every week. He wants them and you in those pews. And while we're on the subject, what you think of this widow who gave her all to some erring, greedy institution doesn't matter either.

Feeling pretty unimportant yet? Good. Now what's the good news about all of this not mattering? What you think about yourself laying useless in your sickbed or tethered to an I.V. pole or poor as can be or shamed with sins too grave to mutter aloud to anyone DOESN'T MATTER. God sees nothing but the good in youthat is what Christ did for us on the cross and that is what is why we gather in that same building and recite a lot of the same words every Sunday morning.

We gather to give thanks and praise to the One, True God:
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

That's why we still tithe today when those offering plates are passed around from person to person: to keep that building open, to keep it comfortable, to keep it safe, to keep our pastors sheltered and fed and preaching that same Good News about what really matters (Jesus) and administering those Sacraments and visiting those sick and burying the dead with hope of the resurrection, and to keep a hundred other things going and events happening that most parishioners and most of the community just take for granted will always be there and will always be happening.

But they won't always be there unless, like that poor widow and her last 2 coins, someone gives the money to do it and someone does the work to make it happen. Give money to the church like the Poor Nameless Widow did or don't. Your salvation doesn't rest on that. Your place in heaven is secured by Christ's sacrifice for you. Go to church or don't: that's your choice, but I can't speak to your place in heaven if you consistently choose not to go, choose not to worship, choose not to love Christ who died for you (John 14). That's between you and God. You can still do wonderful "plinks" of love all over the place, and you should because it's the right thing to do, but none of themdone for the church or otherwisewill earn you a place next to Christ and His Father and the Holy Ghost in Heaven. Jesus earned that for you, your baptism assures it, and participating in the Word and Sacraments of God regularly seals it, but you can throw it away if that's what you want. You are, after all, free.
So go and think of your best ways to plink-plink.
And then DO them.
(James 2:14-26)

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Suggested verse to repeat when complaining threatens to replace action in your day is
"For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them."
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