It is election time in the United States, and I have been thinking about this text–Mark 12:38-44 all week, before even I was conscious that it was the lectionary.
I will start by admitting that I didn’t remember that those in political & religious power are devouring widows. I remembered thew widow giving her all, but I didn’t remember that it was in such sharp contrast to those in power.
My gaff makes sense, however, because too often we forget that Christianity is not about power. Or rather, that Jesus Christ is all about empowering those who have none. Thus being in power and being Christian is tricky at best.
As a Presbyterian in the United States this is a hard pill for my particular denomination to swallow. We used to be the power brokers in the US, we are the Catholics in Rome, we have our Reverend Witherspoons and our Aaron Burrs.
I think about this often because, in my context, my denomination has the least amount of money it has ever had. And its panicking all levels from the local church to the national governance. We are spending down our reserves as less and less money is coming in and membership is “declining.”
I think Jesus Christ is telling this story not only to point out the differences in power, and to remind us who it is we should be standing by. But I also firmly believe that Jesus tells this story because its true. Those who are the closest to being poor given the most to those in need. Those who are in the most precarious place, tend to practice their faith closer to the church and in a quieter manner than those with money and power and prestige.
And I’m convinced that those who have experienced poverty give the most because they understand what it means to have nothing, and that they, we, appreciate what they have more. I say we because I have experienced the grief of poverty and debt, and as I rise in prestige, power and money I hope that I never forget what its like to pick which bill you aren’t going to pay this month, to scrape together all the change in the house to send your child the money for a school activity, to carefully put all the baby food and milk back in the fridge to be used later.
But our God is a God of abundance, as is evident of 1 Kings 17:8-16. I have seen God make something out of nothing multiple times. I have had it so that the thing that was going to break my bank was miraculously paid for by someone else. I have received timely gifts of items we have desperately needed, that the person didn’t know we needed, but somehow the winter coat came just after the zipper from the old one broke, that a free day of play at a kids entertainment center appeared right when we couldn’t afford to do anything but the kids desperately needed to get out. I’ve seen politics and power at its worse and but I have also seen how Medicaid and Therapy Care provided by the state of New York has saved our sanity and provided the structure our son with autism, and really our entire family desperately needed. And though the structure that comes through is the government, I cannot help but believe that these gifts came through my trust in God. Because the reason are in New York in the first place, in an epicenter for autistic care, is because I came here to serve a church. We thought we were just coming here to serve God, but of course, God called us here to help us.
I give to God not because God needs my money and my goods, but because God can increase them tenfold. I give to God because God can do way more with my stuff and talents than I could ever imagine.
Both widows have little
Both widows give
Both widows experience miracles.
Psalm 146 puts it well, I do not trust in the power and principalities of the world–as Nadia Bolz-Weber notes they are but footnotes in the story of Jesus, because God is the true power. So when I pray, when I trust, it’s God.
Because I want my God to be the one who executes justice. That’s who I want to worship and that’s who I want my God to be. I want a God who wants me to feed the hungry and set prisoners free, the one who opens the eyes of the blind and lifts up the burdened.
I want the God who teaches be me love the righteous, watch over the strangers/immigrants, and to uphold the orphan and the widow.
I want to know this God, and in knowing this God I want to be able to do this work.
Because I want to love God with all my heart
all my soul
and all my mites.
Thanks be to God
Katy Stenta is a solo pastor at a tiny church that is bigger on the inside in Albany, NY for over eight years and blogs at firstname.lastname@example.org When she is not dreaming up projects and ideas, some of which creep into the church, she plays with her three boys-boys or goes and visits her husband at the library, while he works, to read.
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