25th Sunday after Pentecost – November 11, 2018 – Mark 12:38-44 – Trinity Church, Winchester, TN
“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
These are hard words to hear, if you ask me. I for one, happen like special treatment. Don’t you?
Is there a place where people tend to roll out the red carpet for you? Or a special time? Maybe at a birthday party? Or a retirement party? For me growing up, it was the Toyota dealership. Whenever I went in to get my vehicle serviced, I was treated really well because people there knew that my dad worked for the corporate office.
Whenever I get special treatment, whether it’s in a car dealership, or at a restaurant, or at my favorite aunt’s house, I really can’t help but reflect on this passage. And I feel bad.
I should not want special treatment. After all, I’m a servant of God. We’re all servants of God. There is no greater joy than that, right? So why do I need special treatment? I confess this to you, not because I think I really am something special, but because I bet you’re the same.
Doesn’t it feel good, at least sometimes, to get special treatment? Have you ever been to the spa for a pedicure? Or won an award and got to sit at the place of honor at the banquet? Doesn’t it feel, at least a little, good?
Maybe we’re just not humble enough, those of us who like to be indulged from time to time. I know people who can’t stand to be the center of attention. They do exist, those types of people, who when you clap for them, their face turns red.
There are some people who really do seem to shun he spotlight. There was a Sunday School teacher at my home church who was like that. Each year we had what we called “Promotion Sunday” when all the kids in Sunday School would move up to the next grade. They would always recognize all the teachers, too, and each year Mrs. Hayes would be recognized because she had taught the longest—30 years, 35 years, 40 years—the same grade. “Yes, OK, whatever,” she seemed to say, waving off the applause as she walked back to her seat, “It’s not a big deal.”
Yes, there are people who shun the spotlight. And I don’t know about you, but it’s those people I worry about judging me when I embrace it.
In those people, I see Jesus. Those people, I tend to think, have chosen the better part. It’s those people who volunteer to teach Sunday School, make Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless, mow the church lawn, and yes, even serve in the military, and never seem to need to be validated.
And here I am just happy to be recognized when I go in to get my oil changed!
There are people who do good deeds of wonderful generosity every day. We don’t know about it. They don’t even need—or want—to be known.
When I was in college I remember they were redoing the science hall. Didn’t much matter to me, but they insisted. I remember the day they announced a $3.5 million anonymous gift for that building. Who in the world wouldn’t want credit for that?
I’m telling you, it’s those people I worry about. It’s those people I just don’t understand. It’s those people who make me crazy.
And I think I know why. I’m jealous. I’m jealous… because they get it. They’ve heard the message. They know that they have already received their reward just by being able to give it in the first place.
They’ve learned those things. You know those things that they’ve been trying to teach us since Kindergarten? “It’s better to give than to receive.” “It’s not about what other people think.” “You matter.” They get it.
Think about what faith they must have, those people who don’t need applause. They’ve already learned this valuable lesson: that they are enough. What trust they have: that God will do what God needs to do through them. With the work of their hands they glorify God no matter if they are recognized for it or not.
I think that’s a lesson worth learning. Those of us who like the special treatment, we’re not bad people. I promise. It just doesn’t come as naturally to us, this notion that we are enough. Sometimes we just want more out of this life. Sometimes we just want a little bit of reassurance that we matter. It’s only natural. There’s lot in this world that tells that we’re not enough. Politics tells us we’re not enough. Television commercials tell us we’re not enough. Sometimes we tell ourselves we’re not enough.
But God, not so much. God’s job is to tell us that we are enough, and he’s really good at it. Take a look at the Gospel.
Your couple copper pennies are enough. Your one vote this week: enough. Whether it went the way you wanted it to or not: what you did was enough. The one prayer you offered at the bedside of a dying friend: it was enough. Even that one little good deed you did the other day—or will do tomorrow day—is enough.
You are enough. You don’t need other people to recognize you to know that, even if it does feel good sometimes.
Now, I’m not saying it’s not necessary to recognize our unsung heroes from time to time. It is! In a few moments we’ll do just that when during the prayers of the people our parish bell will toll in remembrance of those died in Wold War I and all veterans. Many of these people have been forgotten. Their portraits today are unrecognizable. But they are still enough.
The truth is, even when you think your work goes unnoticed, it doesn’t, because God is there. Anything you do, any gift you give is filled with the power God and it has infinite power to change the world. Trust that, dear friends, and give all you have to give. It is, miraculously, enough.