Giving to God What is God's When We Have Nothing Left to Give
The Rev. Andria Skornik
Sermon for October 18, 2020
Good morning everyone! It’s great to be with you after being gone the last 12 weeks on maternity leave. I have to say having this time to focus on our new baby and be with family has been such a gift. I’m so thankful to everyone who made that possible: our lay leaders, our staff, and our interim Fr. Matthew David Morris. Everyone did such a wonderful job of moving things forward and making it an easy transition back. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
Having gone through it recently, I’m reminded how those first few months of a baby’s life tend to be one of the most stressful times for a parent. The lack of sleep, the crying, the feeding every hour of every day. It stretches you unlike anything else. There are times when it feels like you have nothing left to give.
And yet, in some ways having a baby has been like getting a vacation from 2020. Like in the hospital, I got to hangout in close proximity with other people — and not just the ones in my bubble. Getting to hold a baby let me forget about the pandemic for a minute. And the immediacy of it meant thinking less about all the scary things happening in the world and more about simply what does the baby need next.
It’s weird that in some ways it feels like I’m coming back refreshed when I still have a baby waking me up in the middle of the night. But that’s how this year has been. It has pushed us to the brink. Having to retool with every new development. Figuring out how to keep things we love alive. Trying to stay sane in quarantine. And just when we think we have nothing left to give, something else comes up, and we have to find a way.
But the good news is that our feeling like we have “nothing left to give” might be the very thing that God wants. As we see in today’s reading from Matthew there were some people who asked Jesus whether it was lawful to pay taxes to the Emperor. Now they didn’t actually want the answer. It was a trick question meant to make Jesus look bad. Because if he said it was lawful it would upset the people who hated the Empire and whose having to pay this tax was basically financing their oppression.
But if Jesus said it was unlawful he could’ve been accused of inciting a rebellion. It was a lose-lose no matter what he said. But his response is brilliant. He lifts up a coin that bears Caesar's image and says, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. And to God what is God’s.” In answering in this way, he takes their disingenuous question about taxes — and pushes them to thinking about a much deeper question, which is, what is God’s and thus, what are we to give?
If we think about the things that are God’s, it’s actually a really big umbrella. Because God is our creator. There is nothing that exists apart from God. Psalm 24 says, “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.” So then to give God what is God’s is not to look at what WE have and try to figure what portion to give to God. It is to see that all that we have and all that we are is God’s already. And that is what we are to give.
As we’re probably already familiar this means we offer God the good things in our lives. Our thanksgiving, our gratitude. In our bedtime prayers, my family and I make sure to name the parts of the day we are thankful for as a way of doing that.
Or like in the ways we can give back or give beyond ourselves. In the church we often talk about the gifts of our money, skills, or time — the ways we give to further expressions of God’s love in the world. As we’ve seen at All Saints, these gifts have immense power to change people’s lives. Not to mention, many of us have never been happier than in those acts of generosity that are prompted by our faith. God wants that.
But Jesus’ words here ask us to go even beyond that. Because God doesn’t just want those good things that we have to offer up. God wants it all. Which means the not so pretty stuff, too. The question is can we do that? Can we give God the parts of ourselves that we don’t want to look at much less hold up as an offering. But what would happen if we did?
What if we gave our fears and the things making us anxious? Whether about the coronavirus, the election, what happens next in all of this. We may think, “I can’t do that — don’t you see what’s happening in the world right now?!” Like somehow our worrying is keeping the earth on is axis. But giving it to God creates that window for God to come in and give us God’s peace — even as we remain aware of all that’s going on.
Or how about giving God the argument or conflict we’re having with someone? Like even right in the middle of it, could we pause and say, “Okay God I’m putting it in your hands.” That act of giving it to God is a way to trade our hurt and resentment for God’s desire to reconcile.
Or how about not just giving God our financial gifts but our financial struggles? Inviting God to walk with us in them. And see them in light of God’s eternal perspective. Or see where there is opportunity and where God wants to bless us.
Or how about our grief? The stuff that feels too painful to open up and give because it’s so raw.
But giving it is how we see that in fact God is there grieving with us. Feeling it as deeply as we do. And promising that one day there will be resurrection.
And because we’re all feeling it acutely -- what if we gave God the disappointments this year? The trips not had? The adjustments to holidays coming up? Or really, how about we just give God this year? What if we were to say, “God we are giving you 2020! It’s yours!” What might God do with the rest of it?
What if we were to give God what we have when we have nothing left to give? And let ourselves see that God wants that. And as Christians that’s part of how we make it through this.
The best we can do with anything, the good or bad, the beautiful or ugly, is offer it back up to God. Because that is how they and we are transformed.
Today if you are full of joy or hope, let this be your offering. Today if you feel like you have nothing left to give, let this be your offering. The world and everything in it is God. And God wants it all.