Adult Object Lesson: Mark 12:38-44, November 11, 2012
Developing Spiritual Habits
Today’s object is a skill game — paddle ball (a paddle with a rubber ball attached with an elastic string) or a cup and ball toy (bilbo catcher) pictured here.
This lesson can be adapted for use with children or adults.
The lessons in today’s lectionary reference things that are habits in our lives. Habits are a demonstration of an acquired skill. There are good habits and bad habits. Everyone has them!
Practice whichever game you choose until you can paddle a good series or catch the ball with ease. You’ll want to show your skill as you start your sermon — perhaps missing and improving as you talk.
The widow in the Old Testament story is going about her daily routine, knowing that this may be the last time she ever prepares a meal for her son. Along comes Elijah and claims her last morsel. Habits can have predictable results and can be alarming.
The Psalm today is part of a series of psalms that repeat the theme of praising the Lord, beginning with the psalmist’s own voice of praise and ultimately including everything that has breath. Habits can gain momentum.
The tables are turned in the Epistle, where Jesus’ one-time sacrifice is contrasted to the habits of priests who carry the sacrificial animal blood into the temple again and again. Good habits once, but now they are unnecessary. Habits can become useless.
And finally we come to the Gospel story of the widow’s mite. Here, Jesus is watching a ritual take place. One after another, the faithful come to the temple with their offerings. The rich make quite a spectacle of their giving and they are probably accustomed to making their offerings when there is a good audience. The widow is also part of the habit of giving. It is so ingrained that she gives from the little she has with no Elijah promising her an endless supply of oil and bread. Habits can define character.
The point of the object is to demonstrate how with practice the challenges we undertake get easier and easier. Actions that we undertake as challenging become habits. It’s tough to hit or catch the ball at first. Eventually the game is conquered. Muscle memory and balance are imprinted on the brain. Like riding a bicycle, it’s not forgotten. (You could use a bicycle as your object!) Point out that the motivations for the habits also become embedded in our minds. Watch you don’t get too adept at your challenge game! You’ll risk looking like the rich givers—showing off!
You don’t have a reason for hitting or catching the ball except the satisfaction of achieving the goal. What are the motives behind your worship habits? The motives mattered more than the gift to Jesus.
Our faith lives are built on habits—habits of prayer, praise, thanksgiving, attendance and giving. We don’t even stop to think.
If this is your church’s stewardship Sunday, you might point out that the habits of giving need to be reexamined now and then—new talents and skills discovered, new obstacles overcome.
You could point out that habits in giving need updating. $5 in the offering plate in 1970 doesn’t go as far as $5 in the offering plate today.
But mostly, today’s lesson is about the overall value of practicing faith skills until they are part of our lives and we are willing to give to God without measuring the cost to ourselves.