Sunday, November 11, 2018
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Imagine what it was like in the temple centuries ago when the events in our gospel took place. It was noisy in the entryway to the temple that morning. There was quite a crowd. People coming and going, talking loudly, animals adding to the noise. People were tossing their money in the collection boxes as they passed. The sound of the brass coins made a lot of noise. It was hardly the kind of place you’d go to find a place to relax, to rest and take a break.
But it was the kind of place that you could blend in with the crowd. The kind of place that one could remain unnoticed – if you wanted to – especially if you were poor. And if you were a poor widow, well, maybe you didn’t want to be noticed, because you knew everyone would look down on you. They’d judge you because you were not only a woman, but were alone with no one to care for you, no job, no way to earn your way into a respectable place in society. You weren’t anyone special. One poor widow that day threw in two coins. The only two coins she had. Hardly anything compared to the coins everyone else was throwing in.
Jesus sat down across from the treasury, next to the places that people were throwing in their money and he watched them. He watched and he listened. All of a sudden, one thing grabbed his attention. What did He hear? What did He see? What was it that caused such a reaction? The disciples didn’t hear or see anything unusual. But Jesus did. Jesus not only heard it, He felt it. He felt the stirrings of the Holy Spirit. He felt the outpouring of faith and trust. He felt the faith of a poor widow who threw in all she had because she believed that it was God who gave her whatever little she had and it was God who would take care of her. It reminded him of the story in the Hebrew Scriptures of the Widow of Zarephath. When the prophet Elijah told her to make him something to eat and give him something to drink, despite the fact that she had only enough for one more meal for her and her son before they would starve to death, she showed hospitality to this stranger, and gave all she had. Jesus remembered that story, and it seemed to come to life for him that day. Because Jesus took notice that day, he saw faithfulness, trust, and complete reliance on God in that widow. He saw the Divine that day because he was aware. No one is invisible to God.
In the busy world we live in it’s just as easy today as it was back then to rush through life without taking the time to “smell the roses.” We can be so busy doing things, or thinking about things, that we don’t live in the present moment. And as a result we miss so much. Sometimes we can walk right by something and not even notice it’s there. If you’ve ever lost your keys only to find they were right in front of you, you know what I’m talking about. We can go about our daily lives without even noticing the people around us. The cashier at the grocery store, the clerk at the hardware store, the person in front of us at the bank….all these people have a name and a story, but how often do we take the time to really get to know them? We’re busy, places to go and people to see, we’re on a mission, but is it a mission from God?
God’s mission is all about people. That’s why Jesus came to save all people. It’s not the amount that the woman gave that struck Jesus, it was her willingness to rely totally on God for everything she needed. Maybe like the widow of Zarephath she put in all she had because she thought that was her last day too. Others may not have noticed, but Jesus did, because faith is an active energy that changes things. It might not always change the situation we are in, but it changes the way we deal with that situation. It changes our hearts, and that is the first place that real change takes place. We have to be the change we wish to see in the world. If we want peace in the world, we first have to have peace in our hearts. If we pray for God to help the poor, we first have to see that we ourselves are poor in spirit, and that in order to help others we must first allow God to work in and through us. And we must see that God works in and through each person – like the poor widow – who was noticed by Jesus.
This story from our gospel is a reminder that we need to follow Jesus’ example and be more aware of the people around us. It’s easy to generalize people. Friday and Saturday – Nov. 9th & 10th – were the anniversary dates of Kristellnacht – night of the broken glass – when the Third Reich back in 1938 in Germany began their destruction and genocide of the Jewish people. They didn’t see them as individuals. They were invisible. It’s easy to say that group or those people are doing this or that. It’s easy to label people as good or bad. We hear it all the time in the news. There’s a lot of fear that’s being spread around about caravans of people coming. But do we really know what they are actually going through? Do we know their names? How is God working in their life? What is God saying to us through them?
Throughout history people have looked for God, yet God seemed invisible. Jesus came, yet the messiah still seemed invisible to so many. God is here with us today, yet God still seems invisible because we aren’t opening our eyes. God is all around us. Don’t let the distractions get in the way. Let God use you to be an offering. Let God use your voices, your hands, your all. Get to know people. Listen to their stories. Be kind. Be caring. Be Compassionate. Be generous. God is in our midst if we only stop long enough to see. Amen.