Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Widow's Mite

"Did I say that out loud or just think it?"-Bumper sticker.

I made a lot of people laugh this morning. At diocesan convention I suggested that clergy new to the diocese be asked to stand and be recognized. They went one better and also asked the newly ordained to introduce themselves. I found myself at the microphone - in front of the assembled bishops, clergy, and laity of the diocese - announcing that "Jerry ordained me bishop in August" - and after the laughter died down, revising that to "Bishop Jerry ordained me in August" - priest.

I tell you this story to illustrate how easy it is to - even unconsciously - seek after position or fame or glory.

But the story in our gospel today is different. Jesus admonishes his followers not to seek glory or fame, and certainly not to follow the example of the scribes - big shots who give themselves airs and graces and show off their ostentatious generosity and piety in front of others (all the meanwhile acting the melodrama villain, foreclosing the mortgage on the poor widow).

Instead, he says, be like the poor widow - whom he watches put all of her savings into the temple offering she makes. She makes her offering to the Lord - not to keep up appearances but really to throw her life away, to depend wholly on God and his mercy. And Jesus praises her! He says this is the way to live.

Extravagant poverty in the face of extravagant wealth - I don't think he is telling his disciples to throw away every thing they have and depend on the kindness of strangers. I think he is telling them to put their - our - whole lives into the hands of God and trust to God's providence to take care of us.

Our job is to be obedient, to worship God and him alone. He is the source of all we need, all we ask for. All that we need, we receive without grasping... from the grace of God.

Where is Jesus in the story? He is the poor widow, giving his life away for the love of God. All we are asked to do is to follow him. To depend on God. And to acknowledge that it is from God that we receive everything we need.

The psalmist puts it another way: "Unless the Lord builds the house, their labor is in vain who build it." Faith in God is the foundation of our life. Amen.

JRL Pioneer House, Sacramento: Evening Prayer Sunday 12 November 2006

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