I really wish you had better security here, said the woman as she approached my teller wicket. Not sure of what she was referring to, since we had not had a robbery in a few months, I asked her what she meant. To keep those people out of the bank, as she gestured with her eyes towards someone who looked out of place in a financial institution. They lived on the streets and it showed. This particular day, this person was coming down off the drugs from last night and was swaying back and forth a bit. They were not lashing out or making a scene. They held in their hand a bank book and waited patiently, while the rest of the line kept a 15 foot distance from them. What we all missed in that moment was that we actually shared more with this person than we knew. We shared the same circulation system, needs, wants, fears and joys. The only difference was we had a shower that morning and they didn't. I was fortunate enough to serve this customer who made everyone uncomfortable, and found a person who was saving all of his money to get ahead, to break the cycle of poverty he was in. For them, it was about building new relationships and trusting that they would finally move into a new way of life. Funny how that sounds alot like our widow this morning.
The widow's might is often used as a stewardship sermon illustration, that there is no gift too small for the work of the kingdom. While, there is truth to that statement, there is also a deeper question about why we would want to emulate this woman in our lives. Think about it for a moment, widows were not people of means or social standing. Sadly, when your husband died- your life in society died with him. You became totally dependant on the charity of others, you could not own land or hold a job, you became persona non-grata. Is Jesus really asking us to live that far on the margins of society that we have to give up everything that we are and do in order to follow him? Is this just another one of his crazy requests? Mark does not mince words in his Gospel, remember he's speaking to us about a context we know well- so the details he shares are important, because there are so few. The actions, and the ways in which Mark highlights the details for us, is all about showing us how it is God is acting in our midst through this person named Jesus. Jesus is this foretold messiah, coming to fulfill what the scriptures have said a new messiah would do. Jesus in all of these encounters is trying to show and remind us of what the Kingdom of God looks like, that there is room for everyone, where we find our wholeness, but sometimes we just don't see it. This morning, in the widow, we are given again a fresh lens on how we are meant to live a whole life, a wholeness found in community.
Think about it for a moment, Jesus, whenever he comes to us is always doing something a little strange. Like how many friends do you invite over for dinner who, rather than taking a seat at the table you’ve spent all day laying out, walk through your house and sit on the back porch next to your dogs house? Because this is literally what Jesus does as we encounter him in the gospels. He is constantly upending the processes and expectations of society by sitting on the edges and telling people that these people, the ones society want us to forget and ignore, are symbols of this Kingdom of God. So this woman, this widow, is a lens through which we are meant to see the kingdom of God? What? The widows tenacity to give to the temple all that she had was not so much about generosity with unrealistic expectations, but rather, it’s about a depth of relationship which brings her wholeness.
Trusting in a relationship, is at its core, seeing just how much of that relationship speaks to and through the rest of our lives. Jesus, this morning, is calling us to attention by pointing out how we too can share attributes of the piety of the scribes and and this widow within us. We are human, just as they were, which means there are parts of us that like the attention of good deeds, jobs well done, accolades and the like. It's important for us to be thanked for a good job, because it shows us what we are doing matters. There are also places within us where we feel like the widow- that we don’t belong here, we aren’t enough, or we can’t live up to this christian life thing. But what is this invitation about, we are baptized followers of Jesus, so we must be doing the work already, right??! This is about integrating our lives into a deeper relationship with Jesus in our everyday, about seeing the places where we have the ability to be both the scribes and the widow and seeing Jesus in both of them, about seeing how Jesus is using our lives for this kingdom work. A process which is about living a whole life.
Living a whole life asks us to see, hear, taste, and know the ever present person of Christ woven into everything we are and do. Living a whole life is about appreciating in new ways everyday just how much of what we have been given or obtained in our lives is from the power given to us from God, and not ours alone. It’s about seeing God as present at the altar in the Eucharist as he is in the paperwork, in the gas pump, in the dusting, in the cooking, vacation, fights with our spouses- in every aspect of our life. It’s about seeing in those places a God who says to each and everyone one of us-you are enough for me. I want to know you more closely, so I’ve sent you Jesus, so I can be closer to you than ever before. You are enough for me. But how do we do any of this in our everyday lives? I want to suggest something to continue that work among us:
- Play with the baptismal font. On your way into church, or on the way out- play with the water. Notice how wide, deep, and full it is. There is room for you. There is enough for you. Dip your finger into the water and remember your baptism while making a sign of the cross over yourself, just like we did on the day of your baptism. As you do, hold in your heart those places where you feel like a scribe, or that you don't belong. Those places where you struggle with a relationship and say to yourself- I am enough. God said to Jesus at his baptism, “this is my son in whom I am well pleased,” a phrase the church repeats at every baptism when we pray for them to have the spirit of new life and grace. You are enough, by your baptism, you are enough- it is something no one can ever take away. In our baptisms we are brought to wholeness, a wholeness that transforms us by how we live into the community of the baptized. Remember your baptism, because in it you are enough.
Jesus this morning, is calling us into a wholly life, one which sees all those otherwise separate talents, treasures and resources in us brought together in our life together as Christian to transform the world in which we live. Jesus is asking you and me together to live into a transformative relationship with him in the world, where there is space for all people. How will you respond with your life whole this week?