24th Sunday after Pentecost; Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015, Year B
1 Kings 17.8-16; Psalm 146; Hebrews 9.24-28; Mark 12.38-44
Pastor Renee Splichal Larson
Grace to you and peace from the One who takes notice, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
“Is this the place where the meal is served?” a man asked me. I had just walked out of the office at Trinity Lutheran Church in downtown Bismarck after a meeting this past Wednesday. He stood 6’2”, and his puffy sports jacket made him look even larger despite his thin frame. I had to strain to hear his raspy voice.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “but the meal is served tomorrow night in the lower level of the church. If you come back tomorrow at this time there will be signs pointing the way.”
“Okay, thank you,” he rasped back.
I continued walking, but out of the corner of my eye I noticed a woman who was sitting in the chair by the office door overhearing our conversation. The man started to walk away and the woman got up from her chair, moved towards him and said, “Sir…sir…are you hungry?”
The man looked around to see if anyone else noticed him. “No.” He fidgeted, but stopped.
The woman said again, “Let’s see if we can get you something to eat.”
By this time I was around the corner and out of range of their conversation.
I was touched by her kindness towards him, a stranger who wandered in to the house of worship. The woman noticed the him, she saw him, and it was beautiful.
Jesus sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd…
Jesus intentionally notices people like the woman who noticed the hungry man. He notices the scribes in their long robes, in the best seats, offering up their long prayers to appear more holy than they really are.
Jesus notices their hypocrisy and points out their devouring of widows houses. It’s quite easy to see why the Scribes don’t like Jesus.
Others might look upon the Scribes and think, “Wow! God has really blessed them because they have a lot of money and nice clothes, and look how religious and pious they are … they pray a lot and go to all of these fancy banquets.”
Jesus sees not just the outside of people, but their hearts. So he points out the Scribes to his disciples, calling out their hypocrisy: “You are not to be like the them.”
Jesus attention then turns to the least likely person to be noticed by anyone. I picture Jesus, sitting upon a stone wall, saying to his followers: “Look, you see there. No over there. See that tiny woman, hunched over behind all those people. Watch her.”
The woman slowly and intentionally steps through and around people to make her way to the treasury box. She clutches two small copper coins, careful not to drop them. She reaches the box and without looking up, she lovingly puts in her two small coins. She continues walking and disappears into the crowd, unnoticed by all but one.
Jesus teaches his disciples, “This poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on … You are to be like her.”
Whenever Jesus teaches his disciples we are to take notice, for he is speaking to us as well.
There are 2 things going on here in our Gospel reading. One is that the woman is lifted up as an incredible model of giving. She gives her whole life in faith to the God she loves. This is certainly to be noticed and commended.
However, the story line runs deeper than that. Perhaps the widow’s house is one that has been devoured by people like the Scribes. Jesus recognizes and points out the way their society has been set up, where the rich benefit from those who are poor.
Jesus critiques this system that preys on the most vulnerable of society. The temple was not what it was supposed to be. It was supposed to be the place where the religious leaders and the rest of the community cares for widows and orphans and the poor. Instead the leaders parade around in lavish clothing while widows give all they have to a corrupt system.
Perhaps this is one reason why Jesus enters the temple just a chapter before our Gospel reading and overturns tables and drives out money changers, saying, “My house is to be a house of prayer … but you have made it a den of robbers (Mark 11.17).”
God intends one thing, but the people make it another to benefit themselves.
So what are we to make of this story? How is it that putting in a penny is worth way more than someone putting in $1000, or 1 million dollars? It makes no sense from any reasoned standpoint.
But, Jesus tells us the widow’s generous gift is the greatest. He knows it is all she has and she still gives it away.
The widow is much more than a victim of the corrupt system. She is a person who chooses to give her whole life to God (even if people don’t think its worth much).
What doesn’t seem to be worth much is worth more than we would ever know. The widow shows us this; Jesus teaches us this.
More than once I have heard students here say, “We are just a bunch of juvenile delinquents.” And I would say, “No, you’re not.”
Many of us like to down play our own importance and our worth.
We might say, “I’m just a kid” … no you’re not.
“I’m not rich” … so what.
“I’ve done bad things” … okay.
“I’m just old” … and wise, I might add.
What doesn’t seem to be worth much is worth more than we would ever know, especially your life, especially to God.
Jesus notices people like the poor widow. Jesus notices you. Notices when you are lying in your bed at night scared, worried, sad, or lonely. Jesus notices when you do small things for others. We wonder all the time, “Does God even care that … fill in the blank.” Does God even notice that I’m hurting or sad or trying hard or feeling sick or sacrificing something?
Our Gospel reading today tells us that God indeed does notice.
Jesus says to us: “look over there…see that person…notice…”
Jesus says, “Look in the mirror, see yourself … notice your worth.”
I think Jesus noticed the woman at Trinity Lutheran who asked the man if he was hungry. She caught my attention and I want to be more like her.
I also want to be more like the widow in the story who does what Jesus will do …put in everything.”
What doesn’t seem to be worth much is worth more than we would ever know: A baby born to an unwed couple in a stable. The healing of a blind man, a leper, and a hemorrhaging woman. A cool drink of water. A seed planted in the earth. A seed planted in our heart. Small teaching moments. The welcoming of children. The forgiveness of sins. The gift of a penny. A death on a cross.
These have great worth in the Kingdom of God and so do you.