A great worship this morning, indeed! Too much to say, so little time … let’s start with my sermon.
We Are Enough
I have often said that I would make a really good rich person. Love of shoes and Apple products aside, I just think that I would be great at being wealthy. I promise I would use my money to do good things in the world. I would help people; I would fund research labs, build educational centers and pledge above and beyond the level of tithing to the church. I would wine and dine my family and friends often, give unexpected gifts and be able and willing to help anyone out of a tough situation.
When I was in college I read the book “Notes From My Travels” by actress and humanitarian Angelina Jolie. The book is a collection of journal entries from her journeys to and through refugee camps in Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Pakistan, Cambodia and Ecuador.
I was reading through the chapters on Jolie’s visit to Sierra Leone when a familiar named jumped off of the page. Jolie had paid a visit to Ambassador Joseph Melrose, the former ambassador to Sierra Leone and – more relevant to my story – one of my college professors, while she was there. Take away, for one moment, the fact that I was positively giddy to learn that there technically is only one degree of separation between Angelina and myself; when I made the connection I was eager to now have the opportunity to peek inside the life of a famous and wealthy humanitarian.
A few weeks later I found myself sitting in Ambassador Melrose’s living room. We were supposed to be talking about my post-graduation plans, but I – of course – had to bring up Angelina Jolie. When I told him that she mentioned him kindly in her book, he smiled and said, “Oh Angie – she is a wonderful person.” He went on to tell me about the work that she did, the compassion that she showed and the money that she donated for the people of Sierra Leone. You read about the charitable work that celebrities are doing around the world in the news, but it was quite remarkable to hear a first-hand account of it.
It was also very humbling. The scale of resources that someone like Angelina Jolie has at her disposal is exponentially larger than anything that I have or will likely every have. How can I compare? How can I make a difference in the world? How is what I have to give enough?
It is easy to get caught up in numbers. Even in the church, we are constantly trying to balance budgets, look at new ways to bring in funds and encourage people to raise their levels of giving. It is a product of the world that we are living in. It would be so much easier if we were all just wealthy and could be good rich people, wouldn’t it? Well, let’s look at the Gospel again:
He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.
Jesus never asked us to be wealthy; he simply called us to be disciples. Jesus lifted up the woman who had little and gave it all, saying that she gave more than the wealthy who gave much larger sums of money.
This weekend I had the pleasure of watching 21 youth from the Rehoboth Congregational Church join about 75 other youth from 6 congregations in the Attleboro Council of Churches create a city of cardboard that they called home. They listened to speakers, worshipped together and stood in solidarity with people living in homelessness by braving cold temperatures and sleeping on uneven ground. They stepped outside of their comfort zones and asked people for money; they worked in and prepared food for soup kitchens; and they allowed their eyes to be opened to the ways that they – as teenagers living in middle class America – can be part of the change that needs to happen in this world.
I cannot be sure, but I would be willing to bet that not a single one of the youth or chaperones that slept out, panhandled, raised awareness, packed lunches and decorated signs are millionaires or billionaires. They may not have an excess of financial resources at their disposal to distribute; they may not be photographed traveling the world like the Jolie-Pitt children are; and they may never have the ability to fund research labs, build educational centers and pledge above and beyond the level of tithing to the church, but they are doing what Jesus called them to do. They are being the disciples that Jesus called them to be. Together, they are making a difference. They are enough.
And do you know what? We are enough. What we have to give is enough. Who God calls us to be is enough.
In the introduction to her book, Angelina Jolie said poignantly, “I honestly believe that if we were all aware, we would all be compelled to act.” Some would say that it is easy for the wealthy to act. But without billions of dollars at our disposal, how do we act?
We act with the gifts that we have. Jesus said, “For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
We are enough. What we have to give is enough. Who God calls us to be is enough.
We give what we have – and we trust that God will use our gifts in the most transformative and grace-filled ways.
Thanks be to God!