Benediction Online

Sunday, November 11, 2012

What are You Holding Back?

Yesterday I went to the afternoon rehearsal of the San Luis Symphony. I had a great seat where I was able to see a lot of people. As I listened to the music I wondered about them and even made up little stories about them. In today’s gospel reading, we find Jesus taking a break and indulging in some people-watching of his own. Mark tells us that Jesus “sat down opposite the treasury and watched.”

And what did he see?
I think he saw two things.
He saw a woman who was probably invisible to everyone else around her. A woman who was invisible to the wealthy folks tossing their spare change into the tall jars that held the offerings; invisible to the crowds who had just listened to and delighted in Jesus’ teachings; invisible to his own disciples who had wandered off, who Jesus had to call over and say, “Look! Look there. Do you see what I see?”

It’s no accident that Jesus saw the widow and made her visible to those who were ignoring her. Sprinkled throughout the Bible there are scores of references to widows. In many of those verses, we find God either commanding God’s people to care for widows or criticizing them for the failure to treat them with compassion and justice.

Why did God mention widows in particular? Because, though becoming a widow did not automatically mean a woman would become impoverished, most women without husbands were indeed poor. When in the first part of the reading Jesus warned the crowds against scribes who devour widows’ houses, he was describing a reality of his day and time. A woman without a male protector could easily be forced into debt. Widows, like orphans and immigrants, were systematically oppressed. There is a special place in God’s line of sight for people whose economic and political power is slim to none.

It is not always easy or comfortable for us to see who God sees. For when we open our eyes to the suffering of others, we also come face-to-face with our own complicity in systems that maintain our comfort while keeping today’s “widows, orphans and strangers” in their place, out of sight and out of mind. We don’t want to see the people who have to beg to get by. We don’t want to see the people who are constantly beaten down by a system which never lets them get ahead.

But however difficult it is, we cannot ignore Jesus when he calls us over to sit with him for a moment and watch; watch who participates in the life of our church, our community, our schools, who shop in our grocery stores, and see their need. Look into the dark corners of the world and see the people who are in need of food, clothing, shelter, decent wages, a helping hand, an advocate, a friend.

And then don’t simply observe. Help those whom we see. Not just by giving a few dollars here and there although that is an important and tangible sign of our love, but by working for systemic change to create a society and a world where there are no losers.

Two days before he was arrested and crucified, at a time when he could have been drawing his attention inward to ponder his own fate, Jesus sat in the temple and watched. He invited those he loved to watch with him, to acknowledge one woman who was otherwise lost in the crowd.

As Jesus watches, he does not judge. He watches with compassion as the woman drops two small coins into the offering. "Truly I tell you”, he says, “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."

Jesus not only sees a person who is often invisible to most of us, he sees a faithful and faith filled daughter of God. And in his commentary on her gift is a second calling to us. To make an equal commitment.
An equal commitment, not equal gifts.

We don’t know anything else about the widow. Perhaps Jesus never saw her again. Perhaps she didn’t know that he saw her, but her gift is remembered by Jesus’ disciples everywhere, in every age. Because she gave everything she had.

Today is Ingathering Sunday. We have asked you to make a commitment to give to the work and mission of St Benedict’s in 2013. The people of St. Benedict’s are a generous people and I know that each one of us has thought long and hard about how much of our giving should be through the church and how much we will give elsewhere. But I doubt that any one of us has pledged all that we expect to have in income in 2013. I expect that we have all considered how much we need to pay our bills before making any commitment to St Ben’s.

But God asks us to give everything – to give ALL of our money and ALL of our lives to God’s service and to the direction and use of the Holy Spirit. What are you holding back?

What are you holding back, thinking that you can make better decisions about it than can the Holy Spirit?

We cannot meet all the needs of the world, and sometimes they seem overwhelming. But as we allow the Holy Spirit to use, in God’s service, all that we have been given, the needs of the world will be met. Because there is enough, once we all stop hoarding and holding things back for ourselves thinking that we know best.

Sitting in the temple Jesus saw the widow and invites us his disciples to see her too, and to open our eyes both to her need and to her faithfulness. Jesus calls us to make an equal commitment.

What are you holding back?

With thanks to Sermons that Work and especially the Rev. Kirk Alan Kubicek and The Rev. Christie M Dalton.


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