November 12, 2000

Mark 12:38-44

[Jesus] continued teaching. "Watch out for the religion scholars. They love to walk around in academic gowns, preening in the radiance of public flattery, basking in prominent positions, sitting at the head table at every church function. And all the time they are exploiting the weak and helpless. The longer their prayers, the worse they get. But they'll pay for it in the end."

Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins -- a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, "The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they'll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn't afford -- she gave her all."



1. November and Springtime are two typical times for emphasizing giving. Many church pledge and other contributions are solicited. The two small coins, giving one's all, is often a theme which is used to elicit more generous giving than simply indicating the need. One might make the point of focus on where Jesus focuses. There is the "crowd" and there is "one poor widow." The issue is not what "everyone is doing" but on what "I" am doing. This is a hard teaching. We are not comparing amounts, we are measuring participation in life. So, how's your participation level?

2. One of the amazing things is the way in which the poor widow supports an institution we have just been told is corrupt at its highest levels. In a sense the widow supports an institution which not only disenfranchises her, but in which she is invisible. She gives her all. In this way she is an embodiment of Jesus. The institution will eventually "pay" by falling, but the faithful will be rewarded by being raised up. The contrast here is with such images as a little leaven raises much otherwise dead dough.

3. Finally we get back to the starting point of Jesus' teaching. Those who "know" religion best, seem to be the least capable of "living" it. e.e. cummings put it this way when he wrote modern culture using such as wheel mines and Santa Claus: We are all so full of knowing that we are empty, empty of understanding.

A prayer. Please, GOD, may we not only have the gift of seeing ourselves as others see us, but the gift to live our lives as you see us. Amen.

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