Monday, November 12, 2018

Reflection on Mark 12:38-44

Jesus notices her. No one else does, but Jesus sees her. Jesus always notices the lowly.

You know who is easily noticed? The scribes; the famous religious leaders of the time. Jesus describes their actions this way:

“[The scribes] like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers.”

Not only that, those with high standing such as they (and the rich in general) love to enter into the temple and dump buckets of money into the metal collection horns in the temple. The clang of the money echoes their greatness. The clang of the money echoes their blessedness. The clang of the money echoes the level of respect due to them in society.

The clang of her two coins did not even register a fraction of a decibel against the noise of the rich. No one noticed her two coins. No one noticed that she, the poor widow, had given away the last of her money.

She trusted completely that either God would take care of her or that she would die…one of the two.

No one noticed…well, almost no one noticed. Jesus noticed. Jesus always notices the lowly.

You know who gets noticed in our society? The rich; Hollywood actors; sports stars; politicians; even some preachers; they all get noticed and get plenty of airtime. They are the ones who get invited onto the talk shows and asked their opinions, though I do not know why staring on a television show makes someone’s opinion on the horrors happening in Yemen any greater than anyone else’s. That is the power of stardom, I guess.

They are the ones who get the best seats and are invited to the parties and banquets. They are the ones who have the nice houses and no one fears diving down their streets. Quite to the contrary, people pay money to take tours down the streets containing their houses with their impressive gates, gardens, and grand entrances.

No one pays to take a tour of a poor neighborhood. No one trusts that they will be safe in the neighborhood of the unlucky in life. No one wants to even drive through the poor sections of the city.

If you think too hard about this, it might occur to you how ridiculous this reality is. In many countries, it is the rich with their nice lawns who are able to hire hit-men to do their murderous deeds. In these countries, it is the rich who are the dangerous, self-absorbed, do anything to get ahead members of society.

Yet, across the world, the rich are automatically ascribed wisdom and morality and the poor are automatically ascribed stupidity, laziness, and threat.

No one tours the poor parts of the city. No one even considers going. The lowly are easily overlooked. No one notices. Well, almost no one notices. Jesus notices. Jesus always notices the lowly.

What might you see if you looked closely, the way Jesus does? What might you see if you took the time to listen to the subtle clanks of those two coins from the hand of the widow?

What Jesus sees is sacrifice. He sees that this poor woman has given it all, while the rich have given only a small fraction. But, this sermon is not going where you expect that it might typically go. I am not going to start into monologue about how you should be like the poor woman rather than the rich people and how you should give it all to God and to the church. I am not going to say that you must give it all the ministry of the church because I know that you are not going to, and neither am I. That was not Jesus’ point in any case.

Rather than focusing on yourself and worrying about your level of giving at this moment, Jesus instead wants you to focus outside of yourself and take notice.

He wants his disciples to notice the one who is forgotten.

He wants you to notice that the old woman has given it all…she has nothing more to live on.

He wants you to notice that she is now in peril.

He wants you to notice that she trusts that God and the temple will do something about her plight.

He wants you to notice that the temple will not do anything because they are too busy with their long robes and their fame.

He wants you to notice that the widow exists. She is right there. She is a child of God and is no less important than anyone else in existence.

Jesus wants you to notice, because he notices. Jesus always notices the lowly.

Throughout the gospels, Jesus notices the lowly and heals. Jesus notices them and multiplies the loaves and the fishes. Jesus notices and forgives the sins that burden. Jesus takes the time to look below the flash and the glamour. Jesus takes the tour of the back alley neighborhood. Jesus notices the lowly, and invites you to take a wander through the dark alley also.

This woman need not be in peril. If only the temple were doing its job…what it was supposed to be doing as charged by God…and caring for the poor, the widow, and the orphan. If only God’s people would be less concerned about their own comfort, and were, rather, focused on looking out for the struggle of those around them. If only the disciples could have the eyes that notice.

The temple is not going to notice this widow. She is probably too proud to speak up and the temple probably would not care all that much anyway. There are banquets on the daily schedule after-all. But, Jesus notices. He takes the time to sit down and watch. God does not forget God’s own children.

There is a lot in the news this morning. Big stuff. Of course, there are presidential tweets. Jeff Sessions is out of a presidential cabinet job. There are races for senate and races for governors to be recounted and settled. Elvis is being given the Presidential Metal of Freedom, and of course the fires in California and the loss of lives there are still on the front page. Raw turkey caused a salmonella outbreak and Meghan Markle’s personal royal assistant has turned in her resignation just 6 months after the royal wedding. No one knows why!

And, in all of this news of the rich and powerful there is no mention of the widow. None. Not one story this morning talks about her. Even the stories of devastation from the California fires which certainly are full of the stories of the widows are focusing instead on Trump’s tweeted responses and the loss of rich people’s mansions. The lowly are noted in passing…but usually as a number: 23 have died so far. But, to Jesus the lowly are not a number. You are not a number. We are all God’s children, and as children of God, we are not forgotten.

This week, I ask you to do one simple thing: notice. Notice as Jesus notices. Notice those who are often forgotten. Take notice and point them out to others. Take notice and care. Follow the lead of our savoir Jesus Christ our Lord and be the church that God created us to be. Be the church that takes notice.

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