The 24th Sunday after Pentecost - Proper 27B (Nov. 11, 2012)

Lessons:1 Kings 17:8-16 Psalm 146 (8) Hebrews 9:24-28 St. Mark 12:38-44 Semicontinuous Series: Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17 Psalm 127 (3)

Prayer of the Day: O God, you show forth your almighty power chiefly by reaching out to us in mercy. Grant us the fullness of your grace, strengthen our trust in your promises, and bring all the world to share in the treasures that come through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

12.38 As [Jesus] taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40 They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” 41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 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.”

St. Mark 12:38-44 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Your Kingdom Come; Your Will Be Done

Here is a sentence I couldn’t have written with a clear conscience twenty-five years ago: “I love it whenever I have a chance to meet with our Catechism students.” It is a true statement today, though. We have the greatest group of Catechism students, the most dedicated group of parents, and the most faithful team of adult leaders. It makes it a joy to be on the journey with them.

Last week, during a Catechism Workshop, we discussed the Kingdom of God. We recognized that we are sinful, broken human beings, and incapable of consistently participating in what God is doing in our world. At the same time, we remembered those instances when, despite our imperfections, the Holy Spirit has been able to move through us to make something faithful happen. When that happens, it is a sign that the Kingdom of God is breaking into our imperfect world.

This same reality stands at the heart of Sunday’s Gospel lesson.

Jesus is in Jerusalem with his followers, and he is not pleased with what he sees. The Pharisees and Herodians are working against him. The Sadducees are arguing with him about resurrection. The Scribes are trying to trap Jesus with clever arguments. The leaders of the church are, in Jesus’ words, hypocrites, and leading the church down the wrong path. As he questions the wealthy members who drop large contributions into the treasury just to hear their coins ring, he seems to be making the case that the whole system is corrupt.

Yet as they watch, a poor widow approaches the Treasury. She places in the Treasury two small copper coins which, if you were to combine their value, would be equal to about a penny. Jesus is struck by her faithfulness. Jesus is struck by the sacrificial nature of her love. Jesus is struck by how seriously she takes her generosity. You can almost imagine him shaking his head as rich person after rich person makes a great show of their contribution. Then, humble and determined, she makes an offering that absolutely boggles the mind: “Look! Did you see that? She has put in more than all the others!”

Her gift doesn’t make sense. (Who would have encouraged her to support the Temple ministry instead of feeding her children?)  Her contribution seems insignificant. (What is that gift, compared to the larger amounts of money provided by wealthier individuals?) Yet we know what has happened here, and Jesus points it out to his followers. The Kingdom of Heaven has broken into this world. Despite her brokenness (poor, hungry, socially insignificant, vulnerable), she is able to make a bold-hearted gift. It is a sign of the Spirit’s movement; a brief, yet powerful glimpse of God’s Kingdom.

We are no less broken today than the faith community was in the first century. If the future of the church depended on our capabilities, it wouldn’t be much of a future. But now and again, we enjoy a glimpse of the kingdom, even in the church. An adult volunteer offers support to a Catechism student. A family makes an extraordinarily faithful financial commitment to the church. A musician touches the worshipper in away that stirs the soul. A meal is shared with a family who might not otherwise have enjoyed Thanksgiving together. A Ministry Team pursues a vision that transforms the congregation.

Thanks be to God for these glimpses of the Kingdom. May the Spirit similarly inspire us! And inspired by the Spirit may our witness inspire others. Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What was broken about first century religious life?
  2. How was this poor woman a sign of the in-breaking of God’s kingdom??
  3. What did Jesus want his disciples to learn that day at the Temple?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. In what ways is the brokenness of the world evident in my life or my church?
  2. When has the Spirit stirred in a way that has overcome that?
  3. What glimpses of the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom have inspired me?