19 Sunday C - Watching and Wating

From Fr. Jude Botelho:

 The Book of Sirach written a little less than two hundred years before Christ’s time, reminds its readers that God is no respecter of personages, he listens to the humble and the poor. In a corrupt and unjust society as the one that existed in ancient times and still exists today, the situation of the poor was seen as totally helpless. Without financial backing and social influence the poor would never get justice when they were wronged. Keeping this situation in mind, the author says God will come to the rescue of the poor, he will punish the guilty and vindicate the poor, humbling their oppressors. In the words of the response psalm: ‘When the poor man called the Lord heard him.’

No respecter of the privileged
Before Mahatma Gandhi led India in its struggle for independence he practiced law in South Africa. Becoming aware of the injustices there he managed to persuade the Indian community to offer passive resistance to the government policy of discrimination. One incident which impressed itself on his mind was when he was obliged to step into the gutter so that a group of white passers-by would not be contaminated. Reflecting on the experience afterwards he wrote: “It has always been a mystery to me how men feel themselves honoured by the humiliation of their fellow human beings.” Gandhi made the remark not in anger but in surprise. –In the language of the first reading, Gandhi believed in a God who was no respecter of the privileged to the detriment of the poor.
Denis McBride in “Seasons of the Word”

In the second reading from St. Paul’s letter to Timothy, Paul humbly confesses that like a good athlete of Christ, he has pushed himself and run the race, faithful to the end. He is sure of his reward from God, who alone has given him strength and never abandoned him. He sees his approaching death as the climax of the ’prayer of thanksgiving’, which he has offered up to the Lord all his life long.

Living on Purpose
They said he had died! One morning in 1888 Alfred Nobel the inventor of dynamite, who had amassed a fortune manufacturing and selling weapons of destruction, awoke to read his own obituary in the newspaper. Actually it was his brother who had died, but a reporter mistakenly wrote Alfred’s obituary. For the first time Alfred saw himself as the world saw him: ‘the dynamite king’ and nothing more. Nothing was mentioned about his efforts at breaking down barriers between people and ideas. He was simply a merchant of death, and he would be remembered for that alone. Alfred was horrified. He determined that the world would know the true purpose of his life. So he wrote his last will and testament and left his fortune to establish the most valued of all prizes: the Nobel Peace Prize. Now the world has forgotten his dynamite legacy.
Frank Michalic in ‘1000 Stories You can use’

In today’s Gospel Jesus told the vivid story of two men who went to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee the other a publican. The prayer of one was heard but the other was rejected. One presumed he was praying while he was actually only talking to himself and boasting about his achievements. In his prayer, while comparing himself to the publican, he exalted himself and judged and despised the other. In so doing he felt he was qualified to judge others because of his ‘religious’ activities but in judging others he had closed his heart and closed himself from God. His was no prayer and what he said and did was unacceptable to God. The Pharisee represents those who take pride in themselves and in their religious practices and exalt themselves at the expense of others. The Pharisee tried to justify himself whereas only God can justify us. The publican, on the other hand, was acutely aware of his unworthiness and sinfulness and dared not come close to God. From a distance, not even daring to raise his eyes to heaven, he confesses his sinfulness and says, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” The publican, who represented people who are despised by religious people, did not defend his actions, but humbly confessed his sins, and asked for mercy. This man’s prayer was heard and he went home justified before God. Jesus concluded his story stating that those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Only when we see and acknowledge our own need, our weakness and our sinfulness is God ready to help us.

Prayer for faith
Dorothy Day died in November 1980 at the age of 84. Reporting on her death, the New York Times called her the most influential person in the history of American Catholicism. Since her death there has been a movement to canonize her for her personal life and her work among the New York’s City poor and destitute. In her book From Union Square to Rome she describes her conversion to Christ. One of her first attractions came in her childhood. One day she discovered the mother of one of her girlfriends kneeling in prayer. The sight of this kneeling woman moved her deeply. She never forgot it. In the same book she tells how, in the days before her conversion, she often spent the entire night in a tavern. Then she would go to the early morning mass at St. Joseph’s Church on Sixth Avenue. What attracted her to St. Joseph’s were the people kneeling in prayer. She writes: “I longed for their faith…. So I used to go in and kneel in a back pew.” Eventually Dorothy Day received the gift of faith and entered the Church.
Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’

“Jesus in today’s gospel has two extremes of the religious society of his day, two attitudes before God. This concerns me this Sunday. In which do I see myself, the Pharisee or the publican? First the Pharisee, with his magnificent ‘prayer of thanks’: “I thank you God……..” He asks nothing for himself, and we should judge him no hypocrite: what he says, he does, and perfectly. The trouble is he knows it too well; he listens to himself praying, he is preoccupied with himself. Above all he judges others. As far as he is concerned about God, he sees him chiefly as the one who will recognize his merits. Set against this religiously observant man we have the publican. He makes no great prayer of thanksgiving; he confesses, not because he needs to sweep his conscience clear (the Pharisee has done that for him), nor to go back over his faults, but to express all the sorrow he feels for them. Finding nothing that could give him any assurance before his judge, he entrusts himself to the divine mercy: hoping to receive his very existence as a grace, a gift. When this humble man returned to his home, he and not the other was at rights with God. As Christians we know that a just man who has been justified, is saved by God, without regard for merit. Do we believe that firmly enough when we pray? The best revealer of God and of ourselves is still our prayer. -Glenstal Bible Missal

Prayer of the Anonymous Soldier of the Confederacy
I asked God for strength, that I might achieve –I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey. I asked for help that I might do greater things –I was given infirmity, that I might do better things. I asked for riches that I might be happy – I was given poverty, that I might be wise. I asked for all things that I might enjoy life – I was given life that I might enjoy all things. I got nothing that I asked for – but everything that I hoped for. Despite myself my prayers were answered. I am among all men, most richly blessed!

From Fr. Tony Kadavil’s Collection: 

1.     Be watchful servants:  

Steven Anthony "Steve" Ballmer (born March 24, 1956) has been the chief executive officer of Microsoft Corporation since January 2000. As of 2010, he is one of the richest people in the world with a personal wealth estimated at US$14.5 billion in 2010. He's Bill Gates' hand-picked successor. In 2004 he was seen crawling on the floor of the General Motors' executive conference room, trying to fix a connection that would enable him to make a pitch to GM engineers. The image of the Microsoft CEO on his hands and knees to please some customers made such an impression on the author Steve Hamm that he wrote a whole article based on this one incident. (Steve Hamm, "Why High Tech Has to Stay Humble," Business Week, 19 January 2004, pp76-77.) Corporate executives will get on their hands and knees to show customers how much they care. In today’s gospel Jesus warns his followers to be ever prepared by doing the will of God always in their lives, as the time of their death is uncertain.
2.     Privilege carries responsibility:  

Three years ago, in a game against the Washington Nationals in San Francisco, Barry Bonds whacked his 756th homer, breaking the 33-year-old mark held by legendary player Hank Aaron. This was the 756th home run of Bonds' career, breaking a record that had stood for 33 years. None of the legendary players of the game like Yogi Berra, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays or the previous record holder Hank Aaron could accomplish it. But in spite of Bond’s miraculous achievement being tarnished by allegations of steroid use, another baseball player still lives in people’s hearts. It is Cal Ripken, the former baseball player for the Baltimore Orioles. He was a sports hero of two decades simply because he always showed up and gave his best and was ready for action at any time. He got ten national awards in ten years including 1996 Male Athlete of the Year and 2001 All-Star Game Most Valuable Player. He learned the principle that faithfulness demands consistency, commitment, and hard work. He never missed a single game in sixteen years of playing baseball! He earned the nickname "Iron Man" by playing in a record 2632 consecutive major league games. The string of successive games ran from May 30, 1982 to September 19, 1998. Perhaps, Ripken's determination, and Barry Bonds’ failure, to live an allegation-free career by avoiding steroids, remind us of today’s gospel which tells us that the joy and privilege of being a son or daughter of God carries with it the more awesome responsibility of being faithful to God in our stewardship. The gospel passage also reminds us that we should avoid the temptation to put off for tomorrow what Jesus expects of us today.
3.     Look Busy, Be Busy:  

Today’s Gospel reading reminds me of the old story of the apparition on the corner of Main and Market in a busy city. It was Saturday morning when Fr. Pascucci heard a knock on the rectory door and an extremely excited lady said, "The Lord has appeared on the corner of Main and Market." Father was in the process of trying to decide if she was suffering from stress or whatever, when a second person came running, "Father, Father, the Lord has appeared on the corner of Main and Market." "When?" Fr. Pascucci asked. "He’s there right now," they both answered. So Fr. Pascucci went down the block where a large crowed had formed, and sure enough, he saw Jesus. After a while the Lord left. Fr. Pascucci didn’t know what to do, so he called a monsignor friend of his. His friend told him to call the bishop. So Father Pascucci called the bishop and told him the news, "The Lord has appeared on the corner of Main and Market. What should I do if he comes back?" The bishop thought for a while and then told Fr. Pascucci he’d get back to him. The bishop then called Rome, and, being an important bishop, he got the pope. "Holy Father," he said, "One of my priests, Fr. Pascucci, reports that the Lord has appeared on the corner of Main and Market in his parish. He wants to know what he should do in case the Lord comes back." After a few moments the pope replied, "Tell Fr. Pascucci to look busy." Good advice for us all. The Lord is coming back. How should we prepare? Not just by looking busy, but by being busy, doing good to others by humble service. (Fr. Pellegrino)
4.     “I have sent you many messengers.”  

According to an old fable, a man made an unusual agreement with Death. He told the Grim Reaper that he would willingly accompany him when it came time to die, but only on one condition – that Death would send a messenger well in advance to warn him. Weeks turned into months, and months into years. Then one bitter winter evening, as the man sat thinking about all his possessions, Death suddenly entered the room and tapped him on the shoulder. Startled, the man cried out, "You're here so soon and without warning! I thought we had an agreement." Death replied, "I've more than kept my part. I've sent you many messengers. Look in the mirror and you'll see some of them." As the man complied, Death whispered, "Notice your hair! Once it was full and golden, now it is thin and white. Look at the way you tilt your head to listen to me because you can't hear very well. Observe how close to the mirror you must stand to see yourself clearly. Yes, I've sent many messengers through the years. I'm sorry you're not ready, but the time has come for you to leave."
5.     Get ready for the heavenly trip.  

During his sermon, an evangelist asked all who wanted to go to heaven to raise their hands. Everyone in the audience did so--except for one elderly man sitting near the front of the auditorium. The preacher pointed his finger at him and said, "Sir, do you mean to tell us that you don't want to go to heaven?" "Sure I do," the old man answered, "but the way you put the question, I figured you were getting up a busload for tonight!'
6.     Grandpa ready to meet his Lord.  

God created the mule, and told him, "You will be mule, working constantly from dusk to dawn, carrying heavy loads on your back. You will eat grass and lack intelligence. You will live for fifty years." The mule answered, "To live like this for fifty years is too much. Please, give me only twenty years." And it was so. Then God created the dog, and told him, "You will hold vigilance over the dwellings of Man, to whom you will be his greatest companion. You will eat his table scraps and live for twenty-five years." And the dog responded, "Lord, to live twenty-five years as a dog is too much. Please, make it ten years." And it was so. God then created the monkey, and told him, "You are monkey. You shall swing from tree to tree, acting like an idiot. You will be funny, and you shall live for twenty years." And the monkey responded, "Lord, to live twenty years as a clown is too much. Please, Lord, make it ten years." And it was so. Finally, God created Man and told him, "You are Man, the only rational being that walks the earth. You will use your intelligence to have mastery over the creatures of the world. You will dominate the earth and live for twenty years." And the man responded, "Lord, to be Man for only twenty years is too little. Please give me the thirty years the mule refused, the fifteen years the dog refused, and the ten years the monkey rejected." And it was so.

And so God made him to live 20 years as a man, then marry and live thirty years as a mule--working and carrying heavy loads on his back--then, have children and live fifteen years as a dog – guarding the house and eating leftovers; then, in his old age, to live ten years as a monkey, acting like an idiot to amuse his grandchildren and waiting for the Lord’s final call during the sleepless nights.
7.     Faith and believing:  

There has long been the tale of the Loch Ness monster in the highlands of Scotland. Some people claim that they have seen its dark form on the surface of the murky waters; others claim the tale is just a hoax. Well it seems an atheist was spending quiet day fishing on the lake when suddenly his boat was rocked by the monster. The beast threw him and his boat high into the air. Then it opened its mouth to swallow them both. As the atheist fell to certain death, he cried out, "Please, good God, help me!" At once the terrifying scene froze in place, with the man suspended in midair, held by some mysterious force above the gaping jaws of the monster. A booming voice was heard from the clouds, "I thought you didn’t believe in Me!" The man pleaded, "Oh come on God, give me a break! I didn’t believe in the Loch Ness monster either!"
1.     Truckee Dads 

In a far North Territory, there is a city where at one time, ten percent of working fathers were truck drivers. Those working parents spent a lot of their time on the road, sometimes weeks at a time. At home, the most common question that cried out of the mouth of the young children was, "When is dad coming home?" To reduce the pain of the little ones, the mothers would reassure them that their fathers would soon be home. They would tell the little ones to believe and have patience, to just wait and see! (Connections)
2.     Once upon a time a family was driving home from their summer vacation.

It had been a good vacation and everyone was happy about it, including the Daddy, who had a reputation of being something of an impatient man. However, the vacation was now over and it was time to get back to the real world. To this with the greatest amount of efficiency - the Daddy always prized efficiency - the family had to leave their vacation house at noon on Sunday to beat the late afternoon traffic. WELL, I hardly need tell you that, mommies and kids being what they are, they had not even begun to load the SUV at noon. Nor at 1:00. Nor even at 1:30. Finally, they hit the highway at 1:45, right on the cusp of Sunday traffic. With a little bit of luck, they would miss the worst of it, though there would be delays at the toll gates. They had driven about a half mile down the road when they saw one of those little cars that parents give their kids for graduation (an Izuzu Trooper actually) pulled over at the side of the road with a flat tire.  Melissa has a flat tire one of the kids shouted. Melissa was a teenager who had babysat for the family. We should stop and help her, the mommy said. Mommies are always saying things like that. We haven't got time, the Daddy said as he drove on. We have to beat the traffic. Someone else will stop to help her. The car was very silent the rest of the way home. (Andrew Greeley)
3.     At the height of the Civil Rights struggle Curtis Mayfield,

The lead singer of The Impressions, wrote his most memorable lyrics. Listen to the Chorus:

People get ready
There's a train, a comin'
You don't need no baggage
You just get on board
All you need is faith
To hear the diesels hummin'
Don't need no ticket,
You just thank the Lord

In that turbulent decade Curtis Mayfield was calling people to a higher purpose. The chaos of the 60's left this nation in much confusion--from the Six-Day War to Viet Nam, from the assassination of JFK to Martin Luther King, Jr. There were many reasons to be afraid during those ten years. But Mayfield, like many others, understood that something great was on the horizon. He could hear it like the distant hummin' of a diesel engine. You don't need no baggage; all you need is faith; don't need no ticket; you just get on board.

People get ready. This is the very message that Jesus is giving to his disciples. They are to be ready. They are not to be afraid; they are to sell their possessions-don't need no baggage. They are to be dressed for service and ready to open the door when the master returns.

The train is coming. One day Jesus will return and we must be ready...

4.     The beauty business is big business.  

Adorning ourselves, perfecting every perceived imperfection, curling what is straight, straightening what is curly, bleaching this/highlighting that, products that promise to make youngsters look older and oldsters look younger never lose their appeal. "Stuff" made out of low-tech squished fruit or high-tech spliced genes all promise to adorn and ultimately to transform our faces, save our skin, and sanctify our souls.

If only we will buy just this ONE product.

An Arizona based cosmetics firm calling itself "Philosophy" sells a moisturizer it calls "Hope in a Jar." The label on this jar of "hope" declares" "Where there is hope there can be faith. Where there is faith, miracles can occur." Here the cosmetics company provides (for a hefty price) the "hope in a jar." But the consumer must supply their own "faith" if they expect a "miracle" to occur.

We all KNOW that nothing we smear on our face, or rub through our hair, or massage into our "love handles" or cheese thighs is really going to defy the space-time continuum and strip away everything wrinkled, grey, or saggy. We all KNOW that if that super-secret skin serum being hawked on that late-night infomercial could really do what it claims, its manufacturers wouldn't have to be advertising it on a late-night infomercial.


And every cosmetic manufacturer in the world loves, depends, exists on this "but." BUT we do have "hope." The problem with this "hope" is that too often it is rooted in "hype." Unlikely. Unproveable. Unrepeatable. Unreliable.

Hope based on hype leads nowhere at best, hell at worst.

The passionate preacher of the "Letter to the Hebrews" didn't give his spiritually exhausted congregation a message of "hope" based on hype. He didn't weave them a yarn about a perfect life that was just around the corner. Instead, he spoke about FAITH...
5.     Affluenza 

Someone recently invented a wonderful word that graphically portrays the sickness that so often comes from material abundance - affluenza. We have all heard of influenza, but have you heard of affluenza? The definitions of "affluenza" include these:

1. The bloated, sluggish and unfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses. 2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by the dogged pursuit of the American Dream.
3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth.

We usually try to water down Jesus' radical commands about money. We prefer Matthew's version of the Beatitudes which says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit," to Luke's version which says, "Blessed are the poor." We typically assert that not everyone needs to "sell all and give to the poor" as Jesus advised the rich ruler. Only when acquisitiveness becomes an all-consuming compulsion does it have to be completely abandoned.

Mickey Anders, High Fidelity
6.     Back to School Good Behavior 

Even though it certainly still feels like summer across the country, many schools are back in session in the next few weeks. Here is a story for all of the teachers, students, and school personnel who are getting ready for another academic year. Lutheran pastor Larry Henning tells a humorous story about when he was in the fourth grade. He writes:

Our teacher, Mrs. Cannon, would periodically leave the room and say, I'll be back in a few minutes. Just work quietly at your desks on your math worksheets. Now, my friends and I tried hard to figure out just when Mrs. Cannon was coming back. We would take turns going to the door to see if she was indeed making her return. Why this obsession about the exact timing of her return? Because in her absence, we were throwing chalkboard erasers around the room and didn't want to get caught by her sudden and unexpected reappearance. Mrs. Cannon was a good teacher who was nice most of the time, but her wrath in response to willful disobedience was an awesome thing to behold. ... Meanwhile, our classmate Elaine never worried about just when Mrs. Cannon might reappear. Why? Because Elaine would be at her desk the whole time faithfully doing her math -- faithfully doing what Mrs. Cannon asked her to do. Whenever Mrs. Cannon would return, she would find Elaine faithfully at work. Elaine was so good! (I wonder whatever happened to Elaine.)

The purpose of sharing this story -- a story that some of us may have variations on -- is to suggest an analogy to the gospel reading. In the story, Elaine is doing the work her teacher has set before her. So whenever her teacher returns, she is busily engaged in her work. She has no need to fear the return of her teacher, unlike the boys in the story. In our lives, the Rabbi - the Teacher -- from Nazareth has given us work to do as well. We are to live as those who belong to God. We are to love as those who belong to God. If we are faithfully engaged in such work for the sake of God's realm, then we need not fear those times when Jesus enters our lives, when Jesus returns in the stranger, or alien, or outcast. We will be ready, for our hearts are turned toward God, and we have been faithfully doing the work of love that we are given.

Larry Henning, adapted by Mark Richardson, Ready to Risk
7.     If I Should Die Before I Wake 

Many of you are familiar with the childhood prayer "Now I lay me down to sleep, " but I was little surprised to learn that it is a shortened version of an Old English prayer, which goes like this: 

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,
bless the bed that I lie on.
Before I lay me down to sleep,
I give my soul to Christ to keep.

Four corners to my bed,
four angels there aspread,
two to foot, and two to head,
and two to carry me when I'm dead.

I go by sea, I go by land,
the Lord made me by his right hand.
If any danger comes to me,
Sweet Jesus Christ, deliver me.

He's the branch, and I'm the flower,
pray God send me a happy hour.
And if I die before I wake,
I pray that Christ my soul will take.

The prayer has an important refrain, that Christ is the keeper, the caretaker of our soul. And, when we slip into the unconsciousness of the night I suppose, on a daily bases, we are never nearer death. It was out of this fear of sleep that this prayer was written. At night, when we are vulnerable, we want someone watching over us. So, we prepare ourselves with a prayer: If I should die before I wake... Our text this morning asks us to be prepared, to be dressed ready for service. We are to keep our lamps burning for we do not know when our Lord returns. 

Brett Blair,
8.     Historical Surprises 

Who would have thought that relatively powerless persons could bring shifts in history? Gandhi, an unsuccessful lawyer, adapted the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount and the writings of Tolstoy and became the key to bringing independence to India, because he was ready.

Rosa Parks, in refusing to move to the back of the bus in Montgomery, sparked the beginning of the civil rights movement of the '50s and '60s. She was a rather inauspicious person to take such a critical action, but she was ready.

Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison. He was released to bring a shift in the politics of South Africa at a critical juncture when many thought either that change would never come or if it did, it would be accompanied by a vast bloodbath. The transition to a more just society came relatively peacefully under his leadership after he was unexpectedly released from prison. Prison had prepared him, made him ready.

Mother Teresa, a rather unpretentious nun, is being considered for sainthood for her simple act of trying to rescue people from the streets who might otherwise die. She was ready!

William E. Keeney, Preaching the Parables, CSS Publishing
9.     Readiness - Watchfulness 

A U.S. Army officer told of the contrast in his pupils during two different eras of teaching at the artillery training school at Fort Sill, Oklahoma (Home of the Field Artillery). In 1958-60 the attitude was so lax that the instructors had a problem getting the men to stay awake to hear the lectures. During the 1965-67 classes, however, the men, hearing the same basic lectures, were alert and took copious notes. What made the difference in the class of 65? They knew that in less than six weeks they would be facing the enemy in Vietnam.
10.  Christ Return - Watchfulness 

There is a woman who is buried under a 150-year-old live oak trees in the cemetery of an Episcopal church in rural Louisiana. In accordance with this woman's instructions, only one word is carved on the tombstone: "Waiting." 

Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew, p. 275.
11.  Do Not Let Him Find You Sleeping 

Augustine, a man in the 5th century who became Bishop of the church and a saint in history, originally lead a life of sin giving himself over to whatever pleasures presented themselves. His mother had earnestly prayed for him his entire life that he would give his life to the service of Christ, but Augustine persisted in his sins until one day he sat with a friend on a bench weeping over the state of his life. It was at this moment that he heard a boy or girl--he says he does not know which it was--singing a song. The sound was coming from a neighboring house. The child was chanting over and over: "Pick it up, read it; pick it up; read it." Here is what happened next in Augustine's own words:

Immediately I ceased weeping and began most earnestly to think whether it was usual for children in some kind of game to sing such a song, but I could not remember ever having heard the like. So, damming the torrent of my tears, I got to my feet, for I could not but think that this was a divine command to open the Bible and read the first passage I should light upon.

So I quickly returned to the bench where Alypius was sitting, for their I had put down the apostles book. I snatched it up, opened it, and in silence read the paragraph on which my eyes first fell: "Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lust thereof." I wanted to read no further, nor did I need to. For instantly, as the sentence ended, there was infused in my heart something like the light of full certainty and all the gloom of doubt vanished away."

Had Christ returned before that fateful day, Augustine would have been caught unprepared. He would have been found asleep. From that moment on, however, Augustine was prepared. He was on the alert! He had awaken from his sins.

Brett Blair, Quote is from Augustine's Confessions.
12.  The Proper Use of Abundance 

In Luke, I don't think that a person could be a faithful follower of Jesus and have lots of possessions. The proper use of one's abundance is to give them away or share them (or the money received from selling them) for the common good. We also know that this communal structure did not last very long in the early church. Yet, a few years ago, I heard a pastor talk about his congregation living by the dictum: "There will be no needy among us." They have a fund from which members in need can use. The only way such a fund could exist is if the wealthier members give from their excess.

At another congregation, the pastor wondered if the money given for flowers that are thrown away might be better used. They established a "Good Samaritan Fund" to which people could donate "in honor of" or "in memory of" someone with it noted in the bulletin. Money from this fund is used to help the needy among them. They do not have flowers on the altar. When they asked the staffs about donating flowers to nursing homes and hospitals, the staffs did not want the left over altar flowers. It meant more work for them as they had to rearrange the flowers.

Note also that in the first century, it was believed that there was a fixed and limited amount of wealth. If someone gained wealth, someone else had to lose it. They didn't believe that everyone becoming wealthier. Malina and Rohrbaugh (Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels) state: "Acquisition was always considered stealing" (p. 359 emphasis in original). So, if the poor were to escape their poverty, it would have to come from the wealthy sharing their possessions. In essence, the wealthy would have to become poorer if the poor were to gain some wealth.

Brian Stoffregen, Exegetical Notes
13.  Offering Ourselves to Serve 

In 1972, NASA launched the exploratory space probe Pioneer 10. According to Leon Jaroff in Time, the satellite's primary mission was to reach Jupiter, photograph the planet and its moons, and beam data to earth about Jupiter's magnetic field, radiation belts, and atmosphere. Scientists regarded this as a bold plan, for at that time no earth satellite had ever gone beyond Mars, and they feared the asteroid belt would destroy the satellite before it could reach its target. But Pioneer 10 accomplished its mission and much, much more. Swinging past the giant planet in November 1973, Jupiter's immense gravity hurled Pioneer 10 at a higher rate of speed toward the edge of the solar system. At one billion miles from the sun, Pioneer 10 passed Saturn. At some two billion miles, it hurtled past Uranus; Neptune at nearly three billion miles; Pluto at almost four billion miles. By 1997, twenty-five years after its launch, Pioneer 10 was more than six billion miles from the sun.

And despite that immense distance, Pioneer 10 continued to beam back radio signals to scientists on Earth.  

"Perhaps most remarkable," writes Jaroff, "those signals emanate from an 8-watt transmitter, which radiates about as much power as a bedroom night light, and takes more than nine hours to reach Earth.'" The Little Satellite That Could was not qualified to do what it did. Engineers designed Pioneer 10 with a useful life of just three years. But it kept going and going. By simple longevity, its tiny 8-watt transmitter radio accomplished more than anyone thought possible.

So it is when we offer ourselves to serve the Lord. God can work even through someone with 8-watt abilities. God cannot work, however, through someone who quits.