November 7, 2021

Pentecost 24

You'll find a video of the entire service at


The sermon, preached by Fr. Ian, begins about 23 minutes into the service.


Click here for the Service Booklet and Hymnal & Psalter for November.


Below is text of the sermon.  Click here for a pdf file.


Giving Out of Abundance and Out of Poverty

A Sermon Preached by The Rev Ian M Delinger, Rector

It’s the middle of the Annual Giving Campaign, and The Widows Mite is conveniently the Gospel! Jesus watched the crowd putting in money and many rich people put in large sums. That is the aim of the Annual Giving Campaign, so do follow that lead.

But the widow gave out of her poverty. And Jesus holds her up as the model. How do we give out of our poverty? I don’t know what any of you contribute. Those numbers are strictly with the Treasurer and the Annual Giving Campaign Team. And I certainly don’t know what any of your incomes are. I don’t want to know any of your financial situations because that’s between you and God. I am confident, though, that many of you could increase your annual pledge without decreasing your lifestyle. And many of you give to other organizations and to special fundraisings that we do here at St Stephen’s, which is all right and proper, and I am thankful. Thank you. Next year, we will be raising a considerable amount of money to rebuild the parking lot, and we will be relying on your generosity – above and beyond your pledge – to make that expensive undertaking a reality.

But what can we learn from the Widow giving out of her poverty? I’ll share 2 stories about giving out of poverty. The first is how we traditionally think of poverty: economic. I was on a summer placement with the Anglican Diocese of Perú in 2003. The Bishop asked me to visit all of the parishes, which at the time was 8…in the entire country. Lima was around 10M inhabitants, about 9M of whom lived on less than $2/day. There were 2 middle class, or affluent, neighborhoods, and then the rest of the city was made up of varying degrees of pueblos jóvenes, or slums. The dwellings in the outer slums were made of panels of raffia tied together with twine. As you traveled down from the Andean foothills toward the ocean, the dwellings in the neighborhoods were made of increasingly sturdier materials: corrugated sheet metal, wood scraps, and eventually bricks…but a house made only partially of bricks, and also of those other materials was more the norm than an anomaly. Scene set.


All of the congregations except the Cathedral were in the pueblos jóvenes, so that’s where I spent most of my first couple of weeks. The abject poverty didn’t make me feel uncomfortable. I knew that abject poverty existed, so as a Christian and a responsible citizen of the world, it is my responsibility, if I experience it, to then effect change. What did make me feel uncomfortable was the hospitality shown to me. On a number of occasions, when visiting the home of one of the faithful, I was offered food and drink. That sounds pretty normal, right? Not when you are in a dwelling that is half brick – laid by the owner, not a professional bricklayer – and half corrugated sheet metal precariously held together. The food wasn’t stored to North American refrigeration standards, and neither was it prepared to the hygiene standards any of us would be used to. None of that bothered me. The issue for me was that offering the food and drink to me meant someone in the household wouldn’t eat, or the family as a whole would each eat less that day. Yet, if I didn’t accept the offer, they would be greatly offended. The poor of the pueblos jóvenes in Lima knew what it was to live and give like the widow in today’s Gospel. Out of their poverty they gave much of what they had, all they had to live on.

Most of us at St Stephen’s give out of our abundance. That is certainly the right thing to do. Rightly, you want to know what you are getting for your money. The Annual Giving Campaign Team included a ministry-focused budget so you could see what your money is being spent on. But what if you were less concerned about what your money was being spent on, and instead, focused on – or rather, prayed for – what we do at St Stephen’s to be abundant, the Welcoming, Worshiping, Working to always be expanding to and for yourselves and to and for the Good People of San Luis Obispo? What if you gave more, not to balance the budget, but to be a part of what God and we can make possible together?

In the OT Lesson, the widow is abundantly aware that her resources are scarce. There’s more scene setting to do here. Ahab, the King of Israel, has just married Jezebel, and they are worshiping Baal. We all know that worshiping Baal is about the worst thing that the Ancient Israelites can do! So, Elijah tells Ahab that there is going to be a drought. Not a popular prediction, so God sends Elijah to live at the River Wadi where ravens will bring him bread and meat twice a day, and he can drink from the river…while everyone else is in drought. Eventually the river dries up, and God sends Elijah to this widow who, coincidentally, lives in the homeland of Queen Jezebel.

In Elijah’s day, Men of God were often poor. They were supported by others, especially women. So, God sending Elijah to this widow doesn’t faze him. What he doesn’t know is that she is rather destitute herself! So, he is surprised when he asks her for water and bread that she exclaims that she and her son are starving. The widow uses the same exclamation that Elijah did when he predicted the drought to Ahab: “as the Lord your God lives!” So, that must have hurt a bit. But, with trust in God and the assurance of “Do not be afraid”, the widow is able to produce an endless supply of food. God, the prophet and the laywoman work together to produce an abundance.

What if you were to think of your annual pledge in those terms instead of in budget spreadsheet terms? What we are doing together with your time, your talent and your money, and with God is an effort to produce an abundance! An abundance of what? Well, let’s pool our resources together and get Welcoming, Worshiping and Working, and let’s discover together what abundance comes out of all of that.

Both the OT and the Gospel Lessons are examples of giving out of poverty, and financially, most of us at St Stephen’s give out of our abundance. Thank you! There is never enough thanks! You are very generous. My goal is to encourage you to be even more generous, but with a mindset of what we can accomplish as God’s People, as the Body of Christ, not a mindset of “What can we pay for”.

Perhaps what we have a “poverty of” is a poverty of initiative and/or enthusiasm or maybe even a poverty of confidence in what is possible. Certainly, the pandemic has caused my rivers of initiative and enthusiasm to experience drought-like conditions! It has been very challenging to know how to lead you all into being the Body of Christ while we spent more than a year at home and now 4 months with some of us partially in the building and partially not, some of us spending pre-pandemic amounts of time in the building, and some of us still waiting. We have no idea if many of our members have drifted away permanently. We did really well at last year’s Annual Giving Campaign, with a few more pledges and about 105% above the year before. That was my assurance that the St Stephen’s Family was still intact. But I also thought there would be an unrestrained and unencumbered grand reopening when everything would be as free-flowing as December 2019. We are not there yet, and because of that, some of our Family may have chosen a different spiritual path.

So, it’s understandable if we have a poverty of initiative and enthusiasm or a poverty of confidence. Give financially out of your abundance, and let’s learn together how to give out of our poverty of initiative, enthusiasm or confidence. Amazing things can happen within a community when we recognize our weakness and commit to one another to overcome it. For Elijah and the widow, it was an unending supply of food. What will it be for us?

One quick story about giving out of the poverty of enthusiasm – my second story for you. Back in 2008, I discovered a pea-sized lump just under my jawline. [Note: It eventually disappeared, about a week before scheduled surgery.] I had just moved to the University of Chester Warrington Campus, but hadn’t found a local doctor, so I had to take the train 15min into Manchester and then a 25min bus ride to Chorlton, my old neighborhood. I was the last appointment of the day, which we all know is awful, but I was finally seen about an hour after my scheduled time. It was about 6pm, and I knew that my doctor had been there since at least 8am. And on top of not being scared but actually being scared, I was annoyed that I had been sitting in the waiting room for over an hour. I was called into the exam room, where I waited a bit longer. And then my doctor entered with a big smile on her face. She sat down on a stool across from me. And with that big smile, she said, “How can I help you today?”

That is what I remember from that doctor’s visit. Out of her exhaustion and depleted patience, she smiled at me and treated me for the next half-hour as if I were her first patient of the day. I can’t do that! Some of you know that if you’re in a meeting with me at 6pm after a day of back-to-back meetings, I’m not going to smile at all! Out of what I assume was a poverty of enthusiasm or patience or energy, she gave an abundance of care, which is exactly what I needed from her at that moment.

So, today, this month, this pledge drive, I want you to give out of your financial abundance so we can discover together what abundance comes out of all of that and out of the time, talent and out of the initiative, enthusiasm and confidence we can scrape together to continue being the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement, Welcoming, Worship and Working for, with and among the Good People of San Luis Obispo.


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