Bold prayer #2: Break me.
On Sunday, Nov. 11, we’re starting our generosity campaign called Step Forward Together to raise money to see God’s vison for building at 580-586 N Michigan St become a reality.
This made me think about the first gift we ever received for a building fund. Pathway officially started on Sunday, October 2, 2005. We sent postcards out and invited people to come and had a great turnout. Some of the people who came were family and friends who came to support us including my sister Karen and her husband Eric and their three children Zach, Katie and Luke. They live in Ft Wayne but they came to celebrate and support us that day. It was so encouraging to have them there that day, but the biggest encouragements was the offering. That day someone gave their entire life savings. It was a gift from my nephew Luke who was 5 at the time. He was so excited about us starting a church, he brought all the money he had, it was less than $5, along with a note that he wanted it was to help us buy a building someday. Beautiful!
As I thought about his gift this week I thought how sweet when children give their life savings, but what if an adult were to give their life savings for the upcoming generosity campaign? Would I respond the same way? Probably not.
Even though the gift would be great, if I’m honest I would be thinking that seems a bit irresponsible. How would they live? How will they provide for their family? How will they be secure? What if something unexpected comes up how will they pay for it? It’s sweet when a child who has no bills and no responsibilities and is under the care of his parents to provide for his needs gives all he has to Jesus. But when an adult who has bills to pay and responsibility for others gives all they have that seems a bit irresponsible. Then I realized that my response says more about the fears in my own heart than it does the giver.
I know I’m not alone in this. Although money and possessions are neutral, they can exercise power over us. What happens is when we attach our significance and our security to our money and possessions they have a hold on us and prevent us from letting go and being extravagant givers.
Why does money has this kind of power? The answer is in the famous verse where Jesus says in Matthew 6:22, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." In other words, to find out what you value the most follow the money. Look at your bank account or your check book and it will show you what you treasure.
When we attach our significance and security to money instead of Jesus, then money will have a hold on us and we will have hard time giving it away freely to him. This is not a new problem. What we’re going to see this morning is that even Jesus closest followers - the ones he called to be his apostles and to build his church – they struggled with finding their security and significance in their possessions and money.
But what I want to show you are two individuals who are so free from the power of money and possessions that they are extravagant givers. And from these two stories I want to suggest a prayer that we pray so we too can be set free from the love of money and possessions and become extravagant givers. But to do this we are going to look at the second story first.
In Mark 14:22-25 Jesus institutes the LORD’s supper. And as they were eating, he took bread and after blessing it broke it say that “Broke it”, and after blessing it gave it to them and said, “Take this is my body.” And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Say that “poured out”. Truly I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.
Broken and poured out. Jesus loves them and us so much that he left the riches and glory of heaven and is now going to sacrifice his life – his body represented by the bread will be broken on the cross. And His blood represented by the cup will be poured out on the cross to make a way for our sins to be forgiven and for us to be declared righteous in God’s eyes. Broken and poured out. Jesus loves us so he freely gives his most valuable possession his life, for us.
Growing up in the church I attended there was a big solid wooden table at the front of the church in front of the stage. It was the communion table. And on the front engraved was this saying that we find in Luke’s gospel in 22:19 and we also read it in 1 Cor 11:25 where Paul reminds the Corinthian church of the right way to celebrate communion. This do in remembrance of me.
But in Mark’s gospel this phrase is missing. Is Mark saying we are not supposed to remember what Jesus did when his body was broken and his blood was poured out? No. He actually uses a similar expression but in a different context. Let me show you.
In vv.3-9 Mark tells us about another dinner two days before the Passover meal. V.3 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper. I love that detail. Simon used to be a leper an outsider but Jesus healed him and made him whole and now Simon is hosting this dinner party at his house while the Jewish leaders are plotting how to kill Jesus.
As he was reclining at the table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly.
Further down in the story we will learn from the other disciples who criticize here b/c they say it was more than 300 denari. Now if you look at your footnote you will see 1 denari = to 1 day wage. So how many days in the year? 365. How many weekends 52? If you subtract out only 1 day = 313 days of work. If you subtract two days 261 work days. So 300 days worth of work. A years worth of pay. Start to get an idea of the value of this pure nard.
So this woman comes into a diner party where Jesus is at and she takes out this very costly pure nard contained in an alabaster flask and notice what she does with it – She broke the flask say Broke and she poured it over his head say Poured She broke it and poured it out. Broken and poured it out. Sound familiar?
This was not ordinary. This is outrageous. Why did she have it? Only two reasons: Either it was part of her dowry or it was to be used for her anointing at her burial. She is pouring away her future and her present.
Where your treasure is there your heart will be also. What this woman’s actions reveal is that her treasure is not this jar of perfume but Jesus. She is so full of delight in Jesus that she freely breaks and pours out her most costly possession.
Notice the response of the other disciples. Vv.4-5 John focuses on Judas but the others are right there with him. They are indignant. How could she? What a waste. Notice what they say “This could have been sold for more than 300 denari and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. See their response reveals their treasure is not Jesus but what they can gain from following Jesus. Yes they like Jesus and they are glad that he called them to follow him b.c of what’s in it for them. Maybe sit and the right and left in his kingdom. I wonder if that’s why some of us are Christians not b/c we delight in Jesus but b/c of what we can get from following him?
But notice Jesus response. Vv.6-9 Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing. For you always have the poor with you and you can always do good to them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could she has anointed my body beforehand for burial – a fulfillment of Psalm 2.
I wonder if in response to Jesus death we have given all we could?
But check this out- the last thing Mark records Jesus saying about her. And truly I say to you where the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.
It’s like Mark says on the Communion table etch these words in the wood: “Do this in remembrance of her.”
See Mark wrote his gospel to show us what it looks like to be fully devoted followers of Jesus. And so whenever we remember the gospel and whenever we celebrate communion and remember his body broken and his blood poured out and we are to remember this woman who loved Jesus more than she loved her possessions and money “Am I giving all I could out of my love for Jesus?”
See we don’t give b/c we have to but our giving shows us what we treasure and value most. And Mark wants us to ask am I fully devoted to Jesus? Am I looking to Jesus only as my security and significance or am I looking at money at posessions for security? Look at your giving?
Am I giving all the time I could, am I giving all the money I could?
IF not I want to invite you to pray this prayer Lord break me of any hold that money and possessions have on me and make Jesus the greatest treasure of my heart so I can be radically generous for your glory!
Will you pray that each day this week and see what the LORD does?