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Why Give?

Hello, friends, and welcome back. I’m the Rev. Sare Liz Anuszkiewicz and this is the Sunday Sermon. If you’re looking for the bits of the bible I’ve referenced in this sermon, you can find the link right here. For the nerds in the know, this is Proper 25, Year C, Track two, and here’s the sermon I preached on Sunday, October 23, 2022.

Listen to the audio-only version here.

Good morning! This week kicks off our stewardship campaign which is the few weeks in the year that I get to remind you how important your donations to Trinity are. Because you donate your time and your talent we have a ruling council with a treasurer and a clerk who make tough decisions with me, we have a coffee hour, we have outreach programs, we have an altar guild, our readers are organized for worship, and when I’m unable to be at Trinity due to vacation or ice storm, we have lay people reading morning prayer. Because you donate your time and talent, we have snow shoveled in the winter and grass mown in the summer, flowers planted in the spring, a church filled with greenery before Christmas. Because you donate your time and talent, things are built, painted, and contractors are met with. And because you make a financial donation to Trinity, we can maintain this building, pay my salary, and help support the diocese of which we are a part. And so I want to thank our members and friends who give what they can, when they can. Thank you. You give what you can, as you can from your time, your talent, and your treasure, and you do it because there is something that you love about Trinity, something that you get from Trinity – inspiration, or friendship, a sense of peace, or a time to get right with God… or something else entirely. Thank you.

Now, in our readings today we have a beautiful illustration about how not to be when it comes to donating to a religious organization. Despite the fact that this is Luke and just like always in Luke, Jesus is calling out the familiar, upright, and honored character as doing the wrong thing, and holding up the reviled and marginalized character as doing the right thing, I don’t think many people look on the pharisee and think, ‘yep, he’s the upright and honorable one’. Because he’s boasting about how much he gives to the temple, he’s boasting about how religiously ‘perfect’ he is. And the tax collector – don’t think about the IRS, here, this was ancient Palestine and it was occupied by Rome, so the tax collectors were a) colluding with the Roman Overlords and b) they were almost entirely corrupt and charged too much – so this tax collector, which the people at the time would not have had a high opinion of, was just having a mild panic attack during his prayer to God, you know, as you do, and was fully owning his humility.

Now, I don’t recommend you have a panic attack while praying, but if you’re going to have a panic attack because your life feels that out of control, aim it at God, because God can take it. But God does in general prefer when we are honest with ourselves about what we’ve done and not done – which admittedly both the tax collector and the pharisee are. But the thing that really impresses God is our attitude toward other people. If we act with justice, with mercy, with compassion, with kindness – if, in fact, we love our neighbor as our selves… That is what makes God happy.

So even though the pharisee and the tax collector were both honest, there’s a subtle implication about their honesty, so let’s consider this for a moment. The pharisee is boasting about everything he’s done right, but none of it connects to how loving he’s been toward other people, and in fact he’s busy setting himself in a different and more exalted category than a bunch of people Jesus himself might go to dinner with. Now the tax collector on the other hand is repenting and it sounds like he’s doing it with sincerity and grief, but everyone listening would know why he needed to repent – because he swindled fellow Jews. But… he’s repenting. He finally gets it. He feels awful about it and presumably he’s going to start making some restoration pretty quick. So the pharisee, despite being a religious leader, still doesn’t get that God wants him to love people, and the tax collector, despite being a stooge for the Roman Overlords, is starting to get that God wants him to love other people.

This parable is important in part because it demonstrates that we can’t buy God’s love. We can’t out do each other in impressing God. We either get God’s Will that we love one another, or we don’t.

And we support a church like Trinity for the same reason that we give a donation to any non-profit, because we agree with what they do, and we appreciate what they offer.

Amen.

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