Summary: We are called not to trust in our own strength or power, but in God.
THE WIDOW'S MIGHT
There is a sly skill that many of us practice to varying degrees. It's called name-dropping. We want to impress others with who we know, because we feel that it reflects positively on us if we move in the right circles. For ex., many years ago, my claim to fame was that I worked on Sen. Mike O'Keefe's campaign. More recently, especially since the success of copycat and several other movies on his part, I like to throw out that I know harry Connick jr.'s Dad ( he and I were with M.OK. watching the results that election). But my all time favorite claim to fame is that Loretta Lynn's brother went back up the slippery hill in the rain to get my purse, which I'd forgotten at the house. So, do you have any stories like that? What's your claim to fame? It might be that you worked on this or that issue or project, or that you went to school with the brother/sis of so and so, or with someone who is now famous for some reason. Nearly everyone likes to be identified with prestige and success, even within the church. Chapel attendance at one school more than tripled the day Robert Schuller was the guest preacher. Everyone wanted to see this Christian celebrity. It's even seen at other levels in the church. Give a boy in S.S> a choice between being a king or a shepherd in the Christmas play, and you know which one he'll typically choose. Soemthing in us gravitates towards those who have power. Perhaps their stories allow us to enjoy a bit of their glory and maybe that makes us feel better about ourselves. This tendency in human nature makes it a little hard to get into the meaning behind the story in Mark's gospel. Jesus began by condemning those who enjoy their power and prestige. Their trappings of success- things to which any of Jesus' listeners might aspire- would be the means of their condemnation before God. And if that were not enough, Jesus drew their attention to a poor widow whose meager offering was all she had. He held her up as an example to his listeners. Those were difficult words for them to hear. They knew a widow's economic standing was barely above that of a slave. They received charity: they were allowed to glean after the reapers had finished a field. They were also routinely swindled by the more powerful. Far from having a big name, this woman's name wasn't even known. I believe this story has a two-pronged message for us today.
First of all, it forces us to recognize that our temptation is to stand with the powerful. It is relatively easy to hear this story from the standpoint of those who stood besides Jesus. They looked at the widow, perhaps praising her for her generosity. But even this praise kept them at a safe distance. They are on the other side, looking down. They probably exharoted one another to be more generous in their contributions to the temple based on this woman's gift. They also probably felt good about their own level of giving, which was considerable more than the widow's. they might even have resolved to do something about the widow's plight. However, they could have done or thought all these things without changing their self-understanding and protection of their own interests. If this were the case, then they did not allow the woman, or the situation, or their master's words to speak to their heart and invite them to change. You know, it's kind of like our human tendency to not hear what we don’t want to hear. (selective hearing). What do we do generally, when an unpleasant topic for us comes up, or one that makes us uncomfortable? Usually we defend ourselves, or change the subject or just ignore what the person said, don't we? Or we may briefly resolve to act differently, only to forget our resolution later, when the pressure's off.
Sometimes we have selective hearing when it comes to God's truths as well. Our Lord calls his listeners to do far more than write a larger check. You see, while it is good to be concerned over the plight of the hungry children with no homes, those who are abused, who know nothing of god, or those kids who have nothing constructive to do with their time, so they turn to violence and bad choices, and to discuss what we can do to help them, we are called to do more than that. We need to put actions to our thoughts and wishes, to do something about it. That's why hands on mission projects, especially within our community, are so important. God challenges us to get out of our comfort zone and stand with those who we may not even think of associating with, those who desperately need God's love. He calls us to get our hands dirty, so to speak- to do the work of missions instead of just talking about it and sending money, as important as that is.