Reading: Mark 12
41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
We are working from the liturgical readings this week. The first reading is the story in Kings where Elijah goes to the house of the widow and asks for bread or a little cake. She has only enough bread and oil to make one last meal for herself and her child. Then, they will have nothing. They will starve. They will die.
Elijah asks that she feed him first.
It’s similar to this story from our reading, but different. Both ask us to give all that we have. To give first, to give beyond what’s comfortable, and to have faith.
I wanted to mention the Kings story because it takes place during a time when there is a terrible drought in the world and people are starving. As always, the sick, the poor, the widows, the children, and the most vulnerable will die first. It’s a really hard time. The stories reminds us that no matter how bad things seem, we must have faith and we must give/serve. We must have faith and we must give/serve, even, maybe especially when things seem the most bleak.
Bleak. We are called each week to Rejoice and Serve and Pray, no matter what else is happening in our lives or the world. Rejoice and Serve and Pray.
In a lot of ways, the Bible is full of the suffering of ordinary people. It is a reminder that terrible things have happened, are happening, and will happen, but we still must Rejoice and Serve and Pray. We must be Joyful. We must Give. We must have Faith.
We can take the Bible stories as exact truth. The word of God. We can take them as human stories that we are to learn from. We can take them as something in between those two. Regardless, they are sacred words. They speak of a common human truth. Bad things happen. Horrible things happen. We suffer…that’s the whole Passion: suffering. Compassion is what we do when we walk with Jesus on the journey to the cross: we “suffer with”. Compassion is also what we are called to do for one another.
These stories open our eyes to all sorts of human suffering and human resilience. Faith. Love. Compassion. They remind us to look at other people and not just our own lives. To see. To hear. To look and to listen. This does not, in any way, lessen our own experiences, but it does sometimes put our lives into perspective. Sometimes, it helps to remember we have “first world” problems. Sometimes, it does not help. We remember, perhaps, that there is someone else suffering more that we. We remember, perhaps, that we all suffer and therein lies the beautiful gift of the Passion and Compassion.
Rejoice and Serve and Pray. Faith is an action. Faith is something we practice. It’s something we do. It is also something we are simply present with: being with and being in the experience, but Christianity asks us to be of service, to give in this world. We can act as Christians in our everyday actions and in our everyday faith.
I have a friend who feeds someone else first, before every meal, to remind herself of the blessing of having enough food to eat and that there are others who struggle more than she does. She struggles (we all do), but she uses this daily practice of faith to remind herself that she is not alone and to remind herself that she is also very blessed (and also to not get caught up in a woe is me mind set). Often, she is simply feeding the birds first, or her cat, but that small act is to remind her of those who do not have enough to eat. This small act reminds her that she has so much to give. At every meal, a symbolic act of kindness. A reminder that she has enough and is enough.
Enough. Now we make our way to our Mark reading.
We are asked to give all that we have. We are asked to give what’s beyond comfortable. We are asked to give…enough. And to have faith. Truly, enough is a difficult question. Perhaps, too, it is different for each of us.
What is enough? The rich who gives away only a surplus?
What is enough? The poor who gives away what she needs to live?
What is enough? Are we being asked to give “all that we have”?
All that we have and trust that all will be well.
Perhaps, what we’re really being asked is to be honest. To look at ourselves and what we have to give and less to what other people have to give. It’s easy to judge another’s car and house and bank account and judge that they are not giving enough. It’s harder to look within and self reflect. Who knows, really, what’s going on in another person’s bank accounts, let alone their heads and hearts? The only person we can really question whether we’re giving enough…is ourselves.
Perhaps, what we’re being asked is to be honest. Give what we can. Perhaps, even to what makes us uncomfortable.
Remember, also, where we are in this story. We’re at the temple where each gift is being judged by the temple priests. Where the amount of money is more important than the person giving it. That might sound like a familiar theme. Money equaling worthy. Who gives more? As opposed to who gives…appropriately. Who gives…enough. We’re really good at judging one another. We’re not so great about looking within.
Giving to connect to God. Giving to connect to our neighbors. Anything else…is…a disconnect from Grace.
Perhaps, again, we’re being asked to be honest. If we give all that we have, what are our reasons for giving all that we have? Is it for God and Neighbor? Or is it for some other reason? Ego? Or debilitating? If we give it all away, we are unable to be of service and is that giving for God, giving for Neighbor, or giving for our self. Sometimes, putting ourselves into places of inability is an easy way out. Honesty. Self Reflection. Are we giving to God and Neighbor? What are we giving? How are we giving?
What are we, each of us, being asked to give? Perhaps, it’s a truth that each of us has something different to offer and give. That for each of us, giving to what is uncomfortable, is a different story.
It’s not easy. The stories are here to get us to think. Who are we in the story? Who could we be in the story? Who do we want to be in the story?
What do we have to give? Are we measuring on the money? Or are we measuring on the giving? Are we perpetuating the myth that money makes us worthy? Or are we worth from within, that we then give without…to connect. To connect to one another and to connect to Grace.