"...if we remember that we are called to be stewards of each other – each member committed to the welfare and wellbeing of the rest of the community – maybe we can experience again and anew God’s blessing of us in and through the family of faith."
"Rethinking Stewardship," David Lose, Working Preacher, 2012.
"God?s way is the way of self giving love and God?s community needs to be a place where love has freed people to be like that and that includes its leadership, which can often become an instrument of violence."
"First Thoughts on Year B Gospel Passages in the Lectionary," Pentecost 24, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.
General Resources for Sunday's Lessons
Robed in glory before all time, O God, your Son was stripped and mocked. Enthroned in glory at your side, Christ was lifted up on the cross. Equal to you in the splendor of divinity, Jesus emptied himself for our salvation. Fix our eyes on this self-surrender, stir up our hearts to give freely and generously all that we are and all that we have for the coming of your kingdom. We ask this through Christ, with whom you have raised us up in baptism, the Lord who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.
From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year B, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.
Some Thoughts on Mark 12:38-44
We are given an image of religious leaders who enjoy walking about in long robes, they prefer titles for address, sit in the best seats and always have the first place at dinner. It is an image of endowed special privilege.
We add to the gospel painting a knowledge that the first century widow herself was not allowed to own property or to self-direct and manager her own wealth makes this an even more interested vision. Moreover, that the religious leaders of the day were the caretakers of the wealth of such widows makes an even more convoluted picture of the relationship between these leaders and the widow. She brings her last coin; in part because the offering being made by the religious leaders is also her own offering. She is giving twice, once from the managed resources held out of her control, and once for the little bit she has in her care.
The picture we get is one of oppression and also one of an intertwined life.
Jesus is very clear that this is not the way of the follower of God and it is not the way of the new kingdom recreating the world. This is quite simply not how God's home is ordered.
This is clear if we take into consideration Jesus' teaching previously of how we are to be kind to one another and to offer one another help and aid and consolation. The small acts of human love require great courage in a world and system that typically takes advantage of the weak and those on the boundary of life. Therefore, in some sense what is before us is a commentary by Jesus on how those who follow him are to give their all to God.
The thing is that we cannot also take this as purely as a teaching on human righteousness. First of all, as one dear friend says: righteousness is not a very good motivating factor for humans. When I read the passage I am also mindful, as the scholars, that the widow is an image of God and of Jesus in particular.
So, we might once again approach the passage with this question: what does it tell us about God?
I think when we do this we see that humanity has received from God all that we are and all that we have. It is from God's generosity and God's bounty that we make our offering. Who doesn't love the best food, best clothes, and best seats? All of us - of course. But what we are reminded of is that these things (the things we normally think of sacrificial offerings) are all God's. We have taken them and we use them. God, like the widow though, continues to give and to give out of his love.
Jesus, like the widow, will give of his all; even his life. This is the nature of God's love. That though we take and misuse and use God continues to give and pour out his love upon us. This was true in the crucifixion and it is true in the resurrection; as it is true in the outpouring of God's perfect love - the Holy Spirit.
So, as I go to my desk to prepare words for this day I am mindful not only in the manner in which we might misuse our power and make subject those who enable our lifestyle...I am rather mindful that of God's love and God's faith, like a widow, who gives us his all.
It makes me think that rather than offering a "try harder" to give of everything sermon I might simply remind myself and the congregation of God's faithfulness and love; and wonder with them about how we are to respond as or God makes his way down the aisle carrying the cross, as if he were a widow who give all.
Some Thoughts on Hebrews 9:24-28
Textweek Resources for this week's Gospel
"The cycle of sin and atonement ends in Christ."
"The cycle of sin and atonement ends in Christ."
Commentary, Hebrews 9:24-28, Pentecost 24B, Amy L.B. Peeler, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2012.
"We also encounter the contrast between imitation and reality in relationship to matters of faith."
Commentary, Hebrews 9:24-28, Pentecost 23B, Susan Eastman, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2009.