Epiphany 4

Preacher: Reverend Doris Westfall

“Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.”

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Epiphany 3

Preacher: Reverend Doris Westfall

Focus: God calls the many to be the one body of Christ.

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Water into Wine

Bible Text: John 2:1-11 | Preacher: Reverend Doris Westfall

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Christmas Eve

Bible Text: Isaiah 9:2-7; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-20 | Preacher: Reverend Doris Westfall

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Rejoice!

Bible Text: Zephaniah 3:14-20 Canticle 9-Isaiah 12:2-6 Philippians 4:4-7 Luke 3:7-18 | Preacher: Reverend Doris Westfall

Advent 3C 2015

Texts: Zephaniah 3:14-20

Canticle 9-Isaiah 12:2-6

Philippians 4:4-7

Luke 3:7-18

“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance.” John 12:7

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.” Amen.

Today is rose Sunday, also known as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the Latin word for rejoice and rejoicing is proclaimed throughout this morning’s readings, at least the first three readings anyway.

And then we have John the Baptist in the gospel reading. John, God bless him, was never one known for tact. But then his message was too important for that. He always spoke his mind regardless of who he offended or called out in public. And this week John doesn’t disappoint, John starts this week’s gospel with an insult if ever there was one!

“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” He is saying to the crowd, “All of you are a bunch of snakes and like snakes fleeing a forest fire you are fleeing what you have brought upon yourselves! Do you really think you can escape God’s judgment? Do you really think just because you are God’s chosen God’s wrath does not apply to you?”

Rejoicing and judgment. They seem so contradictory. How do these two fit together? There has to be some reason because otherwise the theologians who put the lectionary together wouldn’t have paired these readings.   That’s what I tell myself anyway.

Rejoicing and judgment. If we really listen to the readings we hear something perhaps we have never heard before. What if we were to hear not rejoicing AND judgment, but rejoicing FOR judgment?

What if we were to believe that God’s judgment of us is a good thing? What if we were to face the judgment we know we deserve with all the hope and faith we can muster? What then? Hold onto that thought.

In Zephaniah we hear the prophet telling the exiles, “Rejoice! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away the judgments against you…The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more.”

For a people who were facing shame and oppression, for a people who had turned away from God and turned to worshipping pagan gods, for a people who wondered where the one true God was this was indeed good news.

To be told that God had judged them and still wanted them, that God would not hold their infidelity against them but wanted to start a new relationship with them, to be told that God wasn’t far off but was in their midst all along; how could they not rejoice over that? But we are told something else as well. We are told that the rejoicing would be mutual!

Too often we see ourselves as responding to God, but not God responding to us with joy and love. But that is the very picture Zephaniah paints, “The Lord is in your midst…he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you with his love; he will rejoice over you with loud singing.” God rejoicing over us. God renewing us. How can we not rejoice over that?

In the First Song of Isaiah we hear the same message from a different prophet. “Cry aloud, inhabitants of Zion, ring out your joy, for the great one in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah’s message is easy to hear. Like the peel of bells cascading through the air, tell the world that God is here. Share your joy so that others can know not only the joy of knowing God but also know God’s joy in knowing them, so that they experience God’s rejoicing over them, of God renewing them.

The message is again repeated in this morning’s epistle reading. Paul is in prison and yet he tells the new Christians at Philippi, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice…the Lord is near. Do not worry about anything.” Even in the darkest hours, even when they don’t know where to turn or what will happen, even in all the uncertainty of their lives, Paul tells them to rejoice, to rejoice always.

All of this takes us back to John the Baptist. All of this takes us to John slapping us upside the head and saying… “Who do you think you are? What do you think you are doing? Nothing can be accomplished by your running away from God’s judgment. Nothing.”

The reason nothing can be accomplished is for a reason that we often don’t think about. Not only can we not outrun God’s judgment, even if we could, we shouldn’t want to and the reason we shouldn’t want to is because without judgment there is no salvation. Without judgment there is no need for it. Without judgment there is no need for Christ in our lives.

So the “nothing” that can’t be accomplished is ultimately not the futility of our running away but rather the something known as God’s work in us. If we run away from God (and that is as simple a definition of sin as one can have) God cannot make us whole and healthy again and health is the root meaning of salvation.

Why do we run so far and so fast to escape judgment? What fears are brought up from the deep, dark recesses of our souls when we hear that word and know that it is our turn to be judged? When I say the deep, dark recesses of our souls, I mean the place that we don’t even want God to see, the primal place where the root of all our fears lie.

Why do we fear judgment? Perhaps it is because we know what it is like to be judged by another human being. Perhaps throughout our life we have known more malice than mercy, more rejection than rejoicing. Or perhaps we fear judgment so much because it is we who have stood in judgment of others.

We look at judgment through a human lens but God sees judgment through God’s eyes and what God sees is very different. We apply all our human negativity and harshness to that word, and therein lays our fear. But because what God sees is different, God’s judgment is different. God’s judgment carries not the characteristics of human judgment, but the characteristics of divine judgment. God judges not with malice, but with mercy.

I heard a story this past week that made me think of God’s judgment. It has been a very long time since I read C. S. Lewis’ Narnia chronicles. But someone reminded me of the book in the series, The Voyage of the Dawn-Treader.

In the story, Edward, one of the children sent into the English countryside during WW II, gets turned into a dragon. I can’t remember exactly how it happened, and I’m not so sure that it is really necessary to know. Anyway, Edward becomes this dragon, and Aslan, the loving lion that symbolizes Christ, has to peel all the scales off of Edward. It is the only way that Edward could become Edward again. Aslan had to break through the tough scaly exterior that had encircled Edward and kept him from being the person he was meant to be.

When we run from God’s judgment we run from God being able to take the opportunity to peel away whatever it is that is holding us back from being all that God meant us to be.

John speaks of Christ coming with his winnowing fork in his hand taking the wheat with the pitchfork and throwing it up in the air so the air could carry away the chaff, the unnecessary and worthless covering of the seed kernels. We are told that the chaff will be thrown into the fire and burned with an unquenchable fire.

To share my own struggles with being judged, for the longest time I thought that meant me. I would be thrown into the fire and consumed. I was the worthless covering over the kernel that would become nothing.

That is absolutely not what this passage is about. And in my humble opinion is as wrong as one can get in interpreting this passage. This is not about burning our souls for eternity it is about burning our sins for eternity. As is par for the course with me, I put the cart before the horse, or perhaps more correctly I mistook the cart for the horse!

What John is telling me, you, anyone with ears to hear, is that we will be what Christ saves, we will be the ones gathered in and it is our chaff, our worthless and unnecessary covering of sin that doesn’t stand a chance.

Could there be better news? I don’t think so. Let us rejoice!

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Last Sunday After Pentecost Year B

Bible Text: Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 Psalm 93 Revelation 1:4b-8 John 18: 33-37 | Preacher: Reverend Doris Westfall

“Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’” John 18: 36-37

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable to you, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Amen.

Today we come to the last Sunday in the liturgical year before we start a new year next week with the beginning of Advent. Today is known as the Feast of Christ the King and it is a new comer to the liturgical calendar being less than 100 years old.

Back in 1925 Pope Pius the XI instituted it in response to growing secularism and the rise of nationalism in Europe. Pope Pius saw that people’s priorities as well as nations priorities were badly in need of reordering.

The rise of affluence and greed, a precursor to the great depression, and the rise of despots in Germany, Russia, and Italy foreshadowing the massacre of millions of people in World War II was the backdrop for Pope Pius’ actions.

Celebrating the kingship of Christ on the last Sunday of the liturgical year brings us full circle, not only in the life of Christ, but also in the life of the world, in the whole sweep of human history.

We move from the stable to the cross, from the cross to the crown. We move from past events, to present possibilities, to future reality in one year’s time.

We start with a baby born into poverty in an animal stall and watch as the man is crucified between two criminals. We see him raised from the dead, ascended into heaven and returning at the end of time as the King of all creation. It is very appropriate that we end the year on that particular note.

It is interesting that in today’s gospel reading we have Jesus standing before Pilate on the night before he is put death. A funny place to be if you are the King of all creation! On the day we celebrate Christ’s kingship we read of a time when he was most vulnerable.

Kingship and vulnerability are not two things that tend to go together. Being a king and being vulnerable usually does not end well.

Pilate is trying to determine why this man is in front of him. Is he truly guilty of sedition, of claiming he is the true emperor of the people?

If Jesus makes that claim on political grounds than he is claiming the role that only Caesar can make and therefore is a traitor. If Jesus makes that claim on religious grounds than he is blasphemous and the penalty for blasphemy is death.

What I find fascinating about John’s account of Jesus’ trial before Pilate is that Pilate gives Jesus so much of his time. Imagine that! The Prefector of the Roman government gives literally hours of his time to a matter and a person that could have been dispatched in mere minutes. That Jesus, this itinerant carpenter from Palestine, would even be standing before Pilate is amazing.

Imagine spending half the night in Jefferson City with the Governor of the state of Missouri on a matter that involved a small religious group from Cape Girardeau. A bit absurd, don’t you think?

I can just see Pilate thinking, “Why is he even here? What does this have to do with me? They need to figure this out on their own and I need to go back to bed.”

What we don’t hear in today’s reading is that Pilate goes from the Praetorium, his headquarters, to outside of the gates to meet with the religious leaders because the leaders do not want to become ritually unclean before the Passover. And Pilate does this not once, not twice, but seven times. Back and forth and back and forth to try and figure out what this is all about.

Pilate asks him point blank, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And Jesus answers Pilate with another question, “Do you really want to know or are you asking because you heard about me?”

Pilate tells Jesus that he is obviously not one of the Jewish people so why should he care. But if Jesus was a king and his own people and religious authorities have handed him over to Pilate, surely he must have done something very grave, something very wrong. What was it?

I believe Pilate is really trying to understand the situation he is in the midst of. I think Pilate wants to know about the man standing in front of him and if he is a menace to Rome or just some poor guy who got on the wrong side of an argument and is paying a rather large price for being on the losing side of an internal dispute.

Jesus tells Pilate that his kingdom is a very different type of kingdom than Pilate can imagine. Jesus tells him that his kingdom is unlike an earthly kingdom where followers fight and try to grab power from other kingdoms, or fight to protect an established leader. Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world.

Because Jesus uses the words “my kingdom,” Pilate asks, “So you are a king?” Jesus replies, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

What I don’t understand is that the most important part of this entire exchange is left out. The scholars that put together the lectionary left out the last sentence upon which, in my opinion, this whole lesson turns.

Pilate’s very last question to Jesus is what everything hinges upon and it is a question that has resounded through the ages. It is the question that Pilate wrestled with 2000 years ago and it is the question that we wrestle with today.

Pilate asks Jesus, “What is truth?”

The truth of God was standing right in front of him and he didn’t or couldn’t recognize it.

What is truth? Our world and our time is hungry for the answer. We are so busy trying to find out the truth that we also don’t see it right in front of us.

Is money and all it can buy the truth that we seek?

Is power and prestige and getting ahead of our neighbors what we crave?

Do we believe that our mighty military will protect us against all foes and will keep us safe no matter what?

What kingdoms have we built personally, that have pushed the real king out his rightful place in our lives?

To say that we are part of a kingdom is to put ourselves under the power of a king. When we say that Jesus is our king and that we are followers, what do we actually mean?

Are we willing to submit fully, to put aside what we want and to be obedient to what Jesus is asking of us?

I don’t know about you, but I find it much easier to say that I follow the King than to actually be obedient to him. We humans have trouble with being under anything or anyone. To give up our autonomy feels unnatural, wrong.

Do you remember when our children learned this lesson? How many of us has heard our children, in a pique of anger and frustration yell at us, “You’re not the boss of me!” To which I would usually and unhelpfully reply, “Wanna bet?”

It is hard for us to understand being under someone’s rule; after all it has been 236 years since we left England to make it on our own. It has been 236 years since we told the King “You’re not the boss of us!”

We tend to equate being under someone’s rule with being under someone’s thumb. But Jesus tells us that he is not like earthly rulers. Jesus tells us that his kingship and his kingdom are different.

Jesus tells us that to be a part of the truth of God is to be a part of something that is not of this world but of something much larger, more glorious, more cosmic in its scope than anything we could ever hope to be a part of now and through eternity.

Jesus’ truth is not something we know. Jesus’ truth is something we do. Jesus tells Pilate, “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.”

The fact of the matter is that we were born and brought into this world to do the exact same thing. Our lives are to show the truth of God in Christ.

Our lives are to show the caring, compassion, and wholeness that comes from aligning our words and actions with those we see in Jesus. Our lives are our testimony. Jesus’ mission is our mission.

I think Pilate really wanted to know the truth. And I think that his going back and forth from the Praetorium to the gates and back to Jesus shows not only how he wavered in knowing and wanting to do what was right but it showed his struggle with doing what was easy and expedient. Pilate’s wavering shows us how we may very well be wavering too.

We often know what is right and we also know how sometimes doing what is right is going against everything our culture tells us is ok. How many of us have made a difficult decision and taken the easy way versus the right way? All of us have done that; doing so is part of the human condition.

Proclaiming Jesus as our King means knowing that God’s truth stands right in front of us every day.

Proclaiming Jesus as our King means that we put our lives, our souls, all that we are, under his rule.

And it means that when we tell him, “You’re not the boss of me,” we turn back and say, “Yes. Yes, you are King Jesus.”

We follow a different kind of king. He is a king we need not fear. He is a king that will always welcome us back into his kingdom when we rebel. He is the true King for all creation and for all time.

Amen.

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Pentecost 25 B 2015

Bible Text: Mark 13:1-8 | Preacher: Reverend Doris Westfall

Text: Mark 13:1-8

“As he was leaving the Temple one of his disciples said to him, ‘Master, look at the size of those stones! Look at the size of those buildings!’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You see these great buildings? Not a single stone will be left on another; everything will be pulled down.’”

May the words of mouth and the meditation of my heart be always acceptable in your sight O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Amen.

 

When I was a little girl I would occasionally have what my father referred to as “daddy dates.” He, my twin sister and myself would do something together. My father was a salesman with a large territory to cover and he was often away, so Donna and I lived for this time with him.

One time daddy took us out to lunch and then to a park with a large lake and my sister and I rowed him around the lake. Donna and I sat together in the middle and she held one oar and I held the other and daddy was in the bow. The only problem was that we dropped both oars into the water and then we just had to sit there and drift along until someone came in another boat and was able to throw us a tow line and get us back to shore.

I remember the first time I went into New York City with my father. It was quite the adventure. Daddy took Donna and me into New York City to see Ringling Brothers-Barnum and Bailey Circus! We not only got to take a train into Hoboken, but we also got to take a tube from Hoboken to Thirty-third Street and then we walked to Madison Square Garden.

I remember coming up from the underground Path Station on 33rd street and being awed as well as scared and excited all at the same time. I had never seen such bustle and busyness. I had never seen so many people and such tall buildings. I held onto my father’s hand for dear life, because I just knew if we ever got separated I would never find him again. I didn’t know what could or would happen to me, but I knew in my heart of hearts that whatever that was, it wasn’t going to be good.

And then we got into Madison Square Garden. There were tigers, and lions, and elephants! There was cotton candy and midgets on bikes. And I never have figured out how they got all those clowns into one little car! I thought I was in another world! Imagine the awe and the excitement!

Now imagine yourself two thousand years ago. You are one the disciples that goes to Jerusalem with Jesus. You are just a country kid who lives by a lake and who helps your father in the family fishing business. Perhaps you have never left your home town of Galilee.

Imagine walking into Jerusalem and seeing the Temple for the first time. You would have seen it from afar because it was perched on a hill and gleamed in the sunshine. And it was massive-900 feet wide and 1500 feet long and over 150 feet high. The foundation was made of white stone and the walls were covered in so much gold and silver that when the sun shone on it, it was said to blind anyone who looked at it. It was the engineering marvel of its day and was thought to be indestructible.

Imagine your awe, your excitement at seeing something so immense and so amazing.

“Look, Jesus! What huge stones! What amazing buildings!” And then imagine your shock when Jesus says to you, “You think these buildings are so great? Not one stone will be left on top of another. All of this is going to come tumbling down.”

Forty years later, in the year 70 AD, Jesus’ prediction would come true. The Roman army, quelling a Jewish uprising, would destroy the Temple and the massive stones would lie in ruins.

In this reading, Jesus is in Jerusalem where in just a few days’ time he will be tried, sentenced and condemned to death.

What Jesus is trying to tell the disciples and to tell us, is that all things will come to an end. The grandest human plans, the most impressive human efforts will not last, whether they are religious or secular in nature. Even those things built to glorify God will come to an end.

Herod knew he would die, but he thought his greatest legacy would be this indestructible Temple. The Romans thought their empire would transcend time and last forever yet that too would crumble.

We tend to put our trust and security in our institutions, our governments, our military might, our religion, our loved ones. Yet all of these things will fail us…every single one of them. Our institutions will let us down, our government will make mistakes and at times not be able protect us, our military will lose wars, our religion will disappoint us and our loved ones, being only human, will at times turn from us. There is no security in human built entities, whether those entities are structural, religious, or romantic.

Terrible things happen. Normal days are shattered by terrorist bombs, gun violence, car accidents and terminal illnesses. Things we thought we knew and could take for granted are up-ended and we are left reeling. That is the bad news.

But Jesus came to share God’s good news! Yes, terrible things happen, but so does grace. So does compassion. So does generosity. We cannot and should not put our faith or rely on security comes from another institution or human being. There is only one entity that deserves our faith, our attention, our praise and our worship and that is God.

God will never disappoint. God will never be destroyed. God will always be there, will always be what we need. Everything we know and love will pass away. But the good news is that God and God’s love for you and me and all of creation is everlasting. Is eternal. And is really all we could ever need.

Amen.

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Pentecost 24 B 2015

Bible Text: 1 Kings 17:8-16, Psalm 146, Hebrews 9:24-28, Mark 12: 38-44 | Preacher: Reverend Doris Westfall

Pentecost 24 B 2015

Proper 27

Texts: 1 Kings 17:8-16

           Psalm 146

           Hebrews 9:24-28

           Mark 12: 38-44

“Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 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.” Mark 12:43-44

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Amen.

Today’s gospel story is among the most well known in scripture. It is also among the most misunderstood. If I had any doubt of that before today it was dispelled by the dueling commentators I read and studied all week. One commentator said the story meant one thing, and another commentator said it meant another, and a third said it meant something else.

It was so bad that one commentator threw up his hands (or perhaps the better metaphor would be that he threw done his pen) and wrote, “I am going to level with you. I don’t know what to do with this story. I wish I had better news for you, but there it is. I’m stuck.”[1] Kudos to him for being so honest.

This response was from a well-known seminary professor and author. Someone I have come to trust in his interpretation and scholarship. Quite frankly, I don’t know that I can do any better than he, but I’m going to try.

This is the story known as the “widow’s mite.” This story is also where we get the saying, “putting my two cents in” which refers to offering an opinion or thought that may be of little consequence.

Jesus has been teaching in the Temple in Jerusalem. Right before our reading for today, Jesus is approached by the chief priests and scribes who questioned his authority. So he began to tell some parables. He told them about the owner of a vineyard who planted some vines, put up a watchtower and rented it out to some tenants.

When the time came for the tenants to pay up, the owner sent two servants who were beaten and killed. The owner finally sends his son who is also killed by tenants in the mistaken notion that if they do so, they will inherit his share of the vineyard.

The Pharisees and scribes knew this story was about them, but they were biding their time until they could get the crowds on their side in order to arrest Jesus. They send the Herodians to try and trap him about what belongs to whom. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar? “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God what it God’s” Jesus tells them.

They try to trap him with questions regarding the resurrection and marriage. And finally, a pious scribe came to him to ask him about the greatest commandment, not to trap Jesus, but to truly understand what Jesus was about.

When Jesus responds that the greatest commandment is love God with all of one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love one another as one loves one self, the scribes replies, “You are right teacher, this is much more important than burnt offerings and sacrifices!” Jesus sees the sincerity of this particular scribe and tells him that he is not far from the kingdom of God.

This is the context that brings us to today’s reading and all of it is important to at least trying to understand what this difficult story might be telling us.

Jesus is teaching the disciples in the Temple about the insincerity of the Scribes, those religious scholars who were knowledgeable in the law and who would draw up legal agreements. They were well respected for their education as well as their piety. But this respect went to their heads. They drew attention to themselves with the long prayers they uttered in public as well as with the long flowing robes they wore, symbols of their office and status.

They were the ones who were seated first at banquets and who had the best seats in the synagogue. These were people to be reckoned with; they were important people and everyone knew it.

Jesus watches the show of false piety and says to the disciples, “They devour widow’s houses…they will receive the greater condemnation.” Taking care of widows was one of the hallmarks of Judaism. It was an imperative, not an option. To say that they “devour widow’s houses” was a very strong statement.

To be a widow at that time was to be marginalized. If a widow didn’t have a son to care for her, or a brother in-law who would marry her, she was destitute. Becoming a widow could well mean total dependence on the kindness of strangers in order to live. It was not unusual for a widow who had no family to just walk into the desert to die.

The charge Jesus is making refers to the Scribes, who were legal scholars, penning legal agreements about the care of widows. They would take more than their fair share of what minimal estate there might be as payment, leaving the widow even worse off than she was before. It was this practice that Jesus was condemning.

Jesus and the disciples are sitting across from the treasury, the place in the temple where offerings were put into large metal containers. Any large amount of coins put in would be heard very loudly. They watched as the rich came and put in their offerings with all the attendant clatter and notoriety that followed.

And then, out of the shadows, comes a widow. She is unnoticed by everyone except Jesus. She takes all that she has, all that she has to live on, two copper coins worth about a penny, and puts them in the box.

There is no loud clatter as they fall into the treasury. There is no sense from others that they know of her offering. There is just Jesus, watching, and telling his disciples, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had.”

This story is often preached as a stewardship sermon. The widow is seen as offering everything, her whole livelihood to God. She is an example of depending totally on God for her day-to-day existence. It is said to show that even the worst off have something to share with God. The widow is held up as a foil to the false piety and flashiness of the Scribes and the rich of the day, who have a need to be noticed and respected.

This story is often preached as a social justice sermon. The widow’s giving is seen as overly excessive and is an indictment of the religious and cultural systems that would require this of her. It is a reminder that no matter what you give, if you do not love your neighbor as yourself, your monetary offering doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. Here Jesus is condemning those who love God, but who are clueless about the plight of others in their midst, those who live in the shadows or are invisible to society at large.

Being invisible doesn’t mean something isn’t there, it just means that something isn’t seen. This came home to me in a powerful way while watching the coverage of Hurricane Katrina. Those that died were those that weren’t on anybody’s radar screen, those who were invisible to society at large.

No provisions were made to evacuate the poor and elderly in the 9th Ward because it was assumed that everyone had transportation in this day and age, or that everyone had family that could care for them. Like the widow in today’s story, that is just not true.

We see some of the same assumptions unfolding in New York after Super Storm Sandy. The elderly in the high-rises in boroughs other than Manhattan, that place of financial wealth, the place where the scions of power play with the economy, have been largely ignored.

In this morning’s gospel, it wasn’t that the widow wasn’t there. It wasn’t that the people in the 9th Ward weren’t there, it isn’t that those in Rockaway and Brooklyn and Queens aren’t there; it is that they aren’t seen.

Jesus is telling us that we can want all the attention and respect that society can offer but if we have it and don’t see the needs of others that are right in front of us; we haven’t just missed the boat, we have missed everything. We’ve missed the whole point!

There is another interpretation of this story that I want to leave you with. This story occurs after the triumphal entry into Jerusalem and immediately before the crucifixion. Mark, of all the Evangelists, pays very close attention to what stories are placed together, which is why context is so important.

Could it be that this widow who steps out of the shadows is a Christ figure, a foreshadowing of what is about to come?

Christ, who was born in a stable, who lived among the friendless, the sick, the needy, who lived in shadows until his notoriety grew and became problematic for the elite and powerful, put in everything he had, his very life, for each and every one of us. Nothing was left unspent.

The widow’s selfless giving, giving her all for a corrupt and condemned institution mirrors Christ’s giving his whole life to humanity which was corrupted and condemned by its own sinfulness.

What is so sad is that so many don’t notice his offering, his gift of grace and salvation. Even those who should know better fall prey to the seduction of power and prestige. They make their offering and go on their way without looking around them and seeing the magnitude of his loving offering and sacrifice.

The good news in this difficult story is that the God that notices this poor widow and her struggles notices you and me and all those who wonder how we are going to manage on a day to day basis.

The good news in this difficult story is that the God who notices us is the God who gave everything for us, who takes everything we have to give, no matter how small and inconsequential, and uses it.

I do believe this is a stewardship text, but not in the way we normally think. We certainly are to be good stewards of our resources and gifts. But first and foremost, we are called to be stewards of one another, to notice the other, to be committed to the welfare and wellbeing of people known and unknown to us.

We are asked to look out in the community and believe that those that live on the margin and in the shadows are loved by God, are cherished by Christ, and that they are worthy of our attention and our efforts.

To notice, to pay attention, and then to act, is to shine the light of Christ into the dark shadows and places of this world, and in doing so to realize that the place that has been illumined by Christ’s love and light is none other than our very own hearts.

Amen.

[1] David Lose in www.workingpreacher.org 11/05/12

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