Blogging Towards Sunday, November 8th
Familiar text that we often regulate to a stereotypical reading that glorifies the generosity of a poor widow, I suspect that we are so blinded by her extreme example that we become incapable of living into the generous way of life Jesus is calling us to. She gives all that she has, 2 coins (lepton, worth about 1/64th of a day's wage for a typical worker). The coins weren't worth much, or anything in the day. Yet it's all she has. So she gives it by faith and in faith. Whereas the scribes make themselves known and visible by their actions and supposed generosity, she enters into the worship space and lives our her faith without seeking attention and glory. Faithfulness in action.
It's a great story. Yet often we've read it saying that it's a horrible excuse to deprive the poor even more, or a vain attempt to say that we, the good and faithful Christians, are like the widow and others are like the scribes. I suspect the text is more than just a black and white comparison between the scribe and the widow as examples of faithfulness. It's an invitation to recognize that the scribes weren't just blinded by their ambition, they were blinded to the fundamental meaning of the Torah. It's a juxtaposition between the ambiguity of institutions and systems and the demands of faithfulness.
Our churches today are often times more concerned, out of fear, to preserve themselves or maintain our historic traditions, than to risk stepping out and risking radical faithfulness in ministry. In an uncertain post-modern, and potentially post-Christian, age we're overcome by the complexity and ambiguity of life. In our shrinking churches what power do we have to make a difference? How can I as one person change or impact anything? I might be able to give a dollar to someone on BART or outside Trader Joe's, but does that change anything? How do we live faithfully, continuing the faithfulness experienced in this story of the widow, in our lives as individuals and as church communities today in our context? We're not called to be the widow, but rather to continue the faithful living that her example reflects in the teaching of Jesus. We don't have to reinvent the wheel, merely be present, attentive, listening for directions, discerning where God is already acting in our context today, here and now, and respond by joining God in that world-transforming work. It may be as small as the seemingly insignificant gift of the widow. It may be huge. The challenge of the text this week is that we're called to put faith into action, to follow Jesus according to his faith-invitation in Mark 8:34:
If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.