Sunday Service 26th February
153 Great is thy faithfulness https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4ox4es1jo8
641 Seek ye first the kingdom of God https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFxZeY2D5tc
502 Take my life https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gf11rReeWIs
198 Let us build a house https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9bOiAxwi4U
Today’s reading is very familiar. For years we have all heard the story of the widow’s mite as a story of sacrificial giving – the poor widow giving her very last farthing as an offering to God. The women who gave all she had.
This contrasts with the backdrop of the scribes walking about in their long robes, receiving admiration from all while stealing the houses from the widows.
It's not hard to see how for generations, this nameless widow has been held up as a positive example of financial giving. And, of course, she is.
But perhaps today we need to have a deeper look at what we can take away from this story.
Before we urge that we should be more like the widow, perhaps we should look more closely about what attracts our attention and what doesn’t.
We notice the teachers of the law – we know about them. We can just imagine them strutting about the place, looking self-important, taking the best places at functions, making a show of their piety with their long prayers.
But did we notice how it was them who took advantage of the widows – the poorest and most vulnerable in society – and robbed them of their homes?
It is easy for us to overlook these things – we read the first part and say we are not like them, but how do we exploit the poorest – charging increasingly unaffordable rents, utilities, paying minimum wage, turning a blind eye to the gig economy, running down public services and so on, as a result of political choices.
And what of the widow? A sermon that says, “be like her,” assumes that we can actually imagine being in her place.
And if we think that’s true, then we are no better than the scribes – keeping up appearances, which often includes convincing ourselves that we are more altruistic than we actually are.
Do we really want to be like the widow? We know very well the status of the widow in the Ancient Near East – we have heard so many stories recently about them and their station in life.
Who wants to be alone, destitute, or dependent? We know full well we don’t want to be in that situation.
She willingly gives her all – her all. And we know fine well that’s something we are not going to do.
Perhaps we are more like the teachers of the law than we would like to admit.
So, if this story is not just about giving more than you think you can, what is it about?
I think we can take a number of things from this story.
Yes, it is a story about giving. It is about monetary giving, but it is also about stewarding our lives.
What are the things we don’t see? Or overlook? Jesus noticed the widow but the disciples hadn’t. They were too busy looking around the temple. Jesus had to draw their attention to her.
I don’t know about you, but the pandemic showed us as a country the things we took for granted – things which made up a huge part of our daily lives and allowed us to continue living.
On Thursdays we clapped for essential workers, to show our appreciation of all they did for us.
Those of us who worked continually through the pandemic – the NHS workers, carers, shopworkers, van drivers, binmen, transport workers, postal workers and so on.
Essential during a pandemic, but not so appreciated now.
What are we distracted by? What do we overlook now and need to have our attention drawn to?
This story tells us about the God we worship. Jesus reveals God most clearly.
This God cares about this woman and her sacrifice.
This God sees her plight and recognizes her affliction.
This God will not countenance such abuse – even and especially under the guise of religious piety – and so decries those who would order their world and religion to make such sacrifices necessary.
God sees her…and God cares about her.
The religious elite parading around the Temple that day and dropping in their token offerings, hadn’t noticed this woman.
The disciples following Jesus wouldn’t have noticed her either, had not Jesus pointed her out for their attention and sympathy.
Which leads me to conclude that God also sees our struggles, recognizes our challenges, cares about where we are hard pressed to make ends meet.
But even more, I think God is inviting us to look around and see each other, those in our community we know and those we don’t.
And I mean really see each other – the pain of those who are discriminated against because of their ethnicity,
-the desolation of those who cannot feed their families adequately and have been abandoned to fend for themselves,
-the despair of those who have not enough money to pay for adequate heating and have lost hope,
-the anguish of those who have been exploited by sex traffickers.
God is inviting us to see them, to care for them, and to advocate for a system that does not leave anyone behind.
And so we can be assured that God sees our struggles and cares, but also that God believes in us enough to use us to make a difference.
God sees us, God hears us and God cares for us.
God cares, and God invites us to care, too.
God believes, in other words, that we have something to contribute, that we can make a difference, that our words and actions can help bring more fully to fruition the kingdom God’s own Son proclaimed and embodied.
And that even when we fall short, yet the God who raised Jesus from the dead will bring all things in time to a good end.
A prayer from South Africa
Your generosity is extravagant, Jesus;
your grace and mercy so freely given,
your love and presence so readily available,
your Spirit and strength so reliable.
We are so grateful for all of these blessings that we enjoy,
and for the goodness they bring into our lives;
we praise you for your always coming Kingdom,
and the abundant life it offers.
But, Jesus, we are also fearful,
that your gifts may not be enough,
that things may change
and we may find ourselves in need,
and so we hoard your goodness,
and separate ourselves from others;
Forgive us for our little faith,
and our selfish grasping;
forgive us for our failure to understand
that your blessings are always meant to be shared;
teach us to stay always awake to your coming,
and always ready to invite others in
to the blessings you so freely share with us.
In Jesus’ Name