Weekly e-Devotion: November 9 Edition

Mark 12:38-44
Gospel Lesson for Sunday Nov 11 2018

38 As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, 39and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny.43Then 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. 44For 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.” 

   Scarcity and abundance are the twin faces in any conversation about money with very little middle ground. We are well into stewardship season in the church.  In whatever way we frame our conversations on funding our ministries, scripture tells us repeatedly that the values of this world are in stark contrast to Kingdom values.  Our fallen nature has a huge struggle juggling these two value systems, particularly with regard to money. The cultural message we imbibe from infancy is that we should strive to be independent; God’s message to us is one of utter dependence on him.  No wonder we are sometimes riven in two with conflicting priorities.
    This week’s readings deal with two different widows: the widow of Zarephath in the passage from 1 Kings and the story in Mark, commonly referred to as “the widow’s mite.” Widows are a recurring group in ancient Israel who were to be cared for; in fact, they required that care as, having been completely dependent on their husbands, they were destitute without them. They continue to be powerful symbols for those who have no choice but to participate in and contribute to the very systems that oppress them.
   
The widow of Zarephath was hunkering down to prepare a “last supper” for herself and her son and then to settle in to die.  The prophet Elijah came along, obeying a directive from God who told the widow that she was to feed Elijah. He arrived and asked her to bring him bread and water. She would either have to sacrifice her own last meal or that of her son to accommodate this stranger.  Apparently, she didn’t receive or understand the message God told Elijah he had delivered to her. Elijah announced to her that often-heard angelic pronouncement, “Do not be afraid.” And he assured her that her obedience to this request would result in unending sustenance as long as the drought endured. Her fortunes turned on a dime, as it were, from scarcity to abundance. 
   
Then, in Mark, we read the story most of us hear when the stewardship drive kicks into high gear.  Picture Jesus today sitting in the IRS office reading through everyone’s tax returns and coming upon someone who decided to do exactly what a cartoon once suggested, “What did you earn this year? Turn it in.”  Jesus noticed this widow’s two copper coins clanging into the till and made sure the disciples saw the comparison between giving out of abundance and giving out of poverty.  It’s as though Jesus turned to his disciples and said, “This!”
   
Jesus was focused not on condemning or minimizing those who gave out of their abundance; rather he rejoiced at the widow’s interior freedom and faith to be able to give, not just until it hurt, but until there was nothing left to give.  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27).” It is possible to be subjective about what “all” might mean in most cases, but not when it comes to a quantifiable thing like money.  It’s “all” or it’s not “all.” 
   
The most provocative aspect to this story in my view is the fact that the two coins this widow offered the temple treasury—even if they were her last two coins—were not going to get her out of poverty.  They probably weren’t even going to get her lunch!  This was someone who was not relying on her money, but on the grace of God and the righteous response of her neighbors. That is what Jesus wants from each of us regardless of our bank balance.
   
We are stewards, not owners. Therein lies our freedom. May we seek this freedom of the widow to rely on God alone. That will loosen our grip on so many lesser things. And less in this case is most definitely more… more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20)!

e-Devotion author: Nance Wabshaw.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Pastor Dan Hoeger at dhoeger@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.866.9191 .

The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website or our Facebook page.


PRAYER FOR THE WEEK

Heavenly Father, guide us toward role models whose paths are paved in service toward you and your kingdom. Keep us mindful of who we're called to be. Amen


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BIBLE READINGS

Nov 11
25th Sunday after Pentecost 
Click HERE to read
1 Kings 17:8-16
Psalm 146
Hebrews 9:24-28
Mark 12:38-44 *

Nov 18
26th Sunday after Pentecost 
Click HERE to read
Daniel 12:1-3

Psalm 16
Hebrews 10:11-14, (15-18), 19-25
Mark 13:1-8 

* eDevotion Bible text(s)


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