November 05, 2018
By John Nelson.
Rev. Dr. John Nelson is the Pastor of Church on the Hill, UCC in Lenox. MA.
[Jesus] sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “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 every-thing she had, all she had to live on.”
Once upon a time this seemed a simple story about the exceptional generosity of an impoverished widow. Out of the goodness of her heart she gave an offering that far exceeded what the wealthy had given. “Go and do likewise,” was the lesson.
Of course “once upon a time” took place before we began to read more deeply. Why was it the treasury where she placed the coins — not the offering plate or the alms box? If she gave everything she had to live on, what happened after? After “once upon a time” became “today,” the story wasn’t so simple. After reading Ched Myers’ Binding the Strong Man, the story was gritty, heart-rending. It was no longer about the widow’s action, or even the actions of the rich, but about the temple making ungodly demands. The story’s chief actor was a religious institution that allowed an impoverished widow — already living under heavy social and financial burdens — to be drained dry.
The story revealed itself to be about residents of Flint, MI, where it was easy for the powers and principalities to mess with the water because the folk who relied on it had as much clout as an impoverished widow in 1st century Palestine.
The story revealed itself to be about asylum seekers, fleeing the deadly economic chaos and gang violence of their homes, which were the predictable result of heartless, rapacious policies designed by wealthy countries: it is about “nonpersons” who then were demonized and weaponized by the same powers that chased them from home in the first place.
Once upon a time the story seemed simple. But Jesus lives in this time, not in a simple time. And the place he is certain to be present is where widows, and weary, waterless residents, and wandering outcasts are simply seeking a place to exist with dignity.
Teacher, show me the way, today, to place myself alongside those with a burden, to help bear the load and give the presence I have to give, and to resist all that drains life. Amen.
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First Church of Bethlehem, UCC
First Congregational Church in Bloomfield
Bolton Congregational Church of the UCC
First Congregational Church, Branford
Olivet Congregational Church UCC
This Week in History:
Nov. 11, 1918 (100 years ago): World War I ends with the signing of an armistice agreement in Compiégne, France. The 3 1/2 year war left 9 million soldiers dead, 21 million wounded, and at least 5 million civilians dead across Europe.
Starting With Scripture: November 05, 2018 , by John Nelson.