The Widow's Mite and other Offering scriptures
Summary of Workshops:
- Art – “Widow’s Mite” Make stewardship banks. (Adaptation post.)
- Computer - Play & Learn Children’s Bible and Powerpoint of - Abraham and Isaac.
(Volunteer Moderator suggests using Abraham & Sarah from Sunday Software instead).
- Cooking - Flower Pot Cupcakes
- Drama - Have fun using puppets
- Games – Play Wheel of Fortune
- Movie – Watch “Adventures from the Book of Virtues-Generosity”
- Science – do an experiment about growth in action
- Storytelling – Read “A Penny is Everything” (Arch Series), Concordia, 1974, 9780570060840. Moderator adds: book is discontinued, but still found on-line. It's also been replaced by "The Widow's Offering" (Arch Series), 2008, 9780758614513.
Note: no lesson plan for Storytelling.
Memory verse: “for God loves a cheerful giver." 2 Corinthians 9:7b NRSV
- Genesis 4:1-11
- Genesis 22:1-18
- Amos 2:6-8; 5:21-24; (Micah 6:8)
- Mark 12:41-44
These scattered selections of scripture have in common the offering to God in response to God’s gracious gifts. Each passage understands that a person brings to the giver what has first been given or entrusted. The offering is an indication of the relationship with The Giver. (Note Cain vs. Able or the rich vs. the widow)
GEN. 4:1-11 (Cain & Abel Offerings)
Cain and Able both bring offerings from their work (an offering of their own lives). Is the difference that Cain works the land (farms) while Able works with the animals (shepherds)? Or is there indication in the story of the quality of the gift? Is it hard to imagine the Lord “rejecting” or ‘honoring’ gifts? Did Cain plan to get ‘rejected’ by his choice of a gift? How does this connect with your own offerings? Is it a contradiction that at the time of worship, the time of meeting God, Cain’s anger erupts? How do our lives replay this story in regards to our siblings? How do our gifts of time, money, talent (LIFE!) reflect our connection with The Giver?
The Lord inquires: “Where is Able, your brother?” Cain’s infamous question-response “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cries for a loud answer: “YES!” This is exactly who we are! This is who the designer created us to be. We are our brother’s keeper. We are created to be our neighbor’s keeper. Any parables come to mind which illustrate this concept? Any verses? Who are keepers in your life? Your students’ lives?
The emotions of anger, shame, guilt and denial are all threaded into the character of Cain. Yet knowing the darkness of his being, God continues to care and protect him (as the story continues).
“Damage goes back beyond any obvious deed. A famous criminal lawyer is reported to have said in a newspaper interview: ‘Everybody is a potential murdered. I have not killed anyone, but I frequently get satisfaction out of obituary notices.’ Trouble begins with a twisted thought in the mind and a grudge hidden in the heart.” The Interpreter’s Bible vol. I, p., 518
GEN. 22:1-18 (Abraham's Offering of Isaac)
The story seems strange and even frightening to our minds. To prepare, to intend, to travel carrying the burden of such a plan, seems an immense load on the psyche for Abraham and even Isaac (?) (Though his innocent question in v 7 suggest he does not know of his father’s intentions).
Why would the author place a story of child sacrifice in this book? Why would the OT “curriculum committee” include it in the Bible? Look at God’s role for an answer. God provides versus kills.
A second reason is the contrast with the Canaanite neighbors and their gods or idols. The Canaanites practiced child and adult sacrifice. This was especially true of the “eldest” son. (Note II Kings 3:27 which dates from about 800 b.c.) Now as you reflect on this story, what does it say about human sacrifice? What does it say about the difference sought in the actions of the worshippers of God? How would you tie this with the description of God as a God of Life (Gen 2:7)?
As Easter People we often view the OT in the light of Christ. In that light the potential sacrifice of Abraham’s long awaited son seems to ring as a prelude to God’s Son being sacrificed. (Theologians can argue the sacrifice of Jesus through many volumes)
Continuing the theme of offering: What is Abraham willing to do? What does his response to God’s direction to sacrifice Isaac say about his relationship to God? Remember he was about 100 yrs old when Isaac was born. This long awaited, treasured, only child is the one Abraham is told to sacrifice. (What do you expect was the conversation between Sarah and Abraham when she found out Abraham’s intention? She is the person, who laughed at the idea of having this child, now do you think she is laughing? He has already dragged her out of her home town ((Basra of Iraq or Ur of the Chaldees)) and away from her family and now God tells Abraham to take her only child away.)
Our Bishop Jon Anderson quoted someone who wanted to add two words to the 1st Article of the Creed. It would then read: “I believe in God the Father almighty, creator and owner of heaven and earth.” “And owner” helps us to view our treasured ‘possessions’ in a way that indicates who is the owner. -- How does this understanding help us to bring our gifts back to the Giver?
Think about Abraham’s faith statement in v. 8. One looks humbly in the light of such trust. Where do you see that level of trust in your world? How would a person grow to that level of trust? What are you doing to cultivate that growth? What would help your students grow?
Our lives are not lived in the clarity that we often want. We ‘see through a glass dimly’. We trust and make steps forward leaning of the God who in the past has been faithful often wondering if God will still be faithful today. The devil fills us with doubt and worry. Our God is not a god of doubt and worry. Confidence in God’s benevolence allows us to step into the future ‘in faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ Lutheran Book of Worship p. 153
AMOS 5:21-24, 2:6-8 (Amos' Call to us to offer our gifts)
Amos was a shepherd. He lived in the 8th century b.c. His home was south of Bethlehem in the hilly, barren country west of the Dead Sea. It was a time of prosperity. People felt that they were the favored worshippers of a very powerful God. God was good to them so their duty was to worship. Elaborate feasts and sacrifices made God a participant in their prosperity.
Amos challenges this “comfortable” understanding of the God of Israel. Amos sees God as a stern and exacting God who the inspires awe. Amos has seen God’s power in the destructive power of nature. God’s voice could be heard in the crashing of thunder or as the earth shuddered in the terrifying earthquake.
Amos’s message is one of impending gloom. God will bring punishment upon their neighbors and also upon them. The punishment is due to ruthlessly seeking wealth, of oppression of the poor, and of a lust that knew no bounds. During this time the courts were unmerciful to the poor sending them into slavery for insignificant debts. Irrevocable doom was coming.
Amos message confronts us with our lives. Do we live with justice to the poor? Do we enact laws that bring justice to the weak? Does our economy support the needy? Why do we ignore homeless children in Minnesota? In the last month 118 people received 1800 pounds of food from St. James’ food shelf. This happens while Augustana’s food basket sits empty.
At the beginning of his ministry Jesus sets forth his goals in Luke 4:18. The goals are to be a bringer of “good news to the poor, release to the captives, bring sight to the blind and let the oppressed go free”. Amos is calling us to offer our gifts and our selves in the same fashion as Jesus.
MARK 12:41-44 (Widow's Mite)
Note 12:38-40. Jesus is warning about the scribes. They are hypocrites. They pretend to be what they are not and “devour widows’ houses…” Their lives practice what Amos preached against: trampling on the poor and selling those in poverty into slavery.
In the temple of Jerusalem there was a large treasury box. Here offerings were given for the poor. It had trumpet like horns extending out from the box. The “scribes and the Pharisees” would place their offerings into the brass horns and the brass horns would make much noise as the many coins were clanging down to the box. A great contrast in lack of noise and show when this widow puts in two small coins.
The thinking of that day was that if you were rich, you were blessed by God. So if you were rich you could flaunt your “blessing” by making much noise and show of your offerings.
Jesus looks at the widow who gave “all she had to live on”. He sees a person who is so trusting of the God “who provides” that she is willing share all that God has trusted to her. Does this remind you of Abraham and Isaac? Her gift is “more” because it shows 100% trust. She gave her next meal – her “lunch money” – as a thank-offering to the God that has given her life.
What we put in the offering plate is usually money. In order to earn that money we invest our time, effort, talent and training. The money represents our very life. So when we give an offering, we are bringing back to God our lives that God has first given to us.
How do we give? What would be something you hold so dear that would compare to this widow’s gift? How do you show love and trust in God by your offering? How might your students show that trust?