Monday, November 9, 2015 9:00 am ·  1 Comment
During the war, my uncle served on a ship that patrolled the English channel, picking up bomber crews who had succeeded getting to the channel before being forced to ditch their crippled planes. An important piece of work, saving lives. But not quite exciting enough for his self image, so he appropriated their stories and remembered himself as a bomber pilot who himself ditched in the Channel on more than one occasion. I only discovered this after he died, when I found among papers, an article in which he was interviewed. The reporter said that he was humble and was reluctant to share much of his experience.
I wished he had reflected on what he actually did, because, to me, his job had value. But in thinking about him, I thought of all the thousands of men, women and youngsters who did the mundane ‘support’ jobs that weren’t dramatic, that didn’t win medals. Those who waited for loved ones to come home, for instance. We need to remember them on Remembrance Day.
There is something that touches our hearts when a small act is noticed.
And that is what Jesus did. Jesus is coming to the end of his three years of ministry, teaching, healing. He has only two days left until his arrest. What does he do?
He waited for the small act that was hardly noticeable to anyone else.
In the midst of harsh criticism of the economic and political practices of Roman culture, this little pearl of an observation is set.
41He 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.”
Mark 12: 41 – 44
He didn’t lift it up as an example to be followed. Remember, he is watching her in the midst of his critique of the culture. A culture that held the estates of widows because they couldn’t manage their own estates, a culture that was known for abusing the invisible and rewarding those who lorded it over them.
What can we conclude about Jesus’ words? He notices her; his eyes are open to the invisible, the small, the insignificant, the hidden. He notices her courage – to be there, to let go of her last coins, to face the end with hope. Jesus notices her dignity, her trust that despite the evidence of those around her, her tiny gift mattered.
And Jesus noticed her vocation. Whether she knew it or not, the widow was a prophet in the sense that her costly offering. Without speaking a word, the widow spoke God’s Word in the ancient tradition of Isaiah, Elijah, Jeremiah, and other Hebrew prophets.
But she was also prophetic in another sense, because her self-sacrifice prefigured Jesus’. Perhaps what Jesus noticed was kinship. Her story mirroring his. The widow gave everything she had to serve a world so broken. Days later, Jesus gave everything he had to redeem, restore, and renew that world.
Jesus shows us that the God we worship cares about this woman and her sacrifice. The God we confess sees her predicament and recognizes the full horror of her distress. This God will not tolerate such abuse. This God exposes a world that makes such sacrifices necessary.
Even the disciples would have missed her if Jesus hadn’t waited for her and lifted her up to their attention. God sees her. God cares about her.
God sees our struggles, recognizes our challenges and cares about where we are hard pressed to make ends meet.
Even more, God invites us to look around and see each other, those in our community who are discriminated against, who cannot find work, have been abandoned to fend for themselves, the despair of those who have lost hope. God is inviting us to see them, to care for them, and to advocate for a system that does not exploit or ignore them.
God sees our struggles and cares; God believes in us enough to use us to make a difference. Look for where God is already at work and join God’s efforts to see those in distress, help them find comfort and relief, and work for a more just world.
Remembrance Day isn’t just about the heroes; it’s about the foot soldiers in the trenches, the wives waiting for husbands, the widows and the orphans who gave their whole life. And Remembrance Day isn’t about war or winning; it’s about building peace by building justice, about lifting up the values of our faith that Jesus came to give to all people.
In the waging of peace perhaps even more than in the waging of war, it is above all others, the small act that will make the difference. It is the act of self-giving that will create a just community.
This week I learned about one small decision that a New York Bakery owner made.
The owner of Greystone Bakery decided to change his hiring methods. If someone wanted a job, they walked into the bakery and put their name on a list. When a job became available, the next person on the list would be called.
Listen to one of his employees:
I watched my mother work two, three jobs and couldn’t feed her family. So at 14, I started to sell drugs to help my family. I sold drugs to women who were pregnant, to moms and fathers.
Look at us! We were bringing down our own community back then.
I had four years in jail to reflect and I decided that wasn’t the way. But when I got out I looked for a job. No one would hire me. Then someone reminded me about Greystone Bakery. I put my name on the list. I got a call, ‘Do you want to come to work?’
I came alive. I saw people like me there; we had been through the same things. I started as an apprentice, then lead operator, then lead operator for research and development, and now I’ve been promoted into supervisor training. I built a family. I have a kid. I’m not rich, but I’m happy.
Listen to the owner:
We decided to put team pictures on a cookie product. At the launch party at Whole Foods, one of our workers saw her picture on the label. Another said, “I’m going to be on the next package. Can you believe that two years ago we were in jail together?”
God cares, and God invites us to care, too. God believes that we have something to contribute, that we can make a difference, that our words and actions can help bring more fully to fruition the kingdom Jesus proclaimed and embodied. Even when we fall short, the God who raised Jesus from the dead will bring all things in time to a good end.
God often uses unlikely people and sources to accomplish His purposes. God’s mercy extends to all people, both Jews and Gentiles, and God sees the widows at the end of their resources, and blesses them for their faith. Surely God blesses us too.