By The Rev. Sherry Deets
24 Pentecost: Proper 27 – November 11, 2012
Today, in our gospel story from Mark, Jesus offers us the widow as a model of faith. He warns us against the corrupt scribes for their selfishness and crime. In doing so, he presents us with characters of two types. The corrupt scribes are concerned with gaining power over other people in order to enrich themselves. The widow, on the other hand, surrenders power over herself in order that God may work through her. She trusts God.
It would be one thing if we could leave this story as simply character sketches of two types of people. But the story is not so safe as that. Jesus is pointing to two roads that lay in front of each and every one of us, regardless of our place in society, our role in the church, or our income level. Each of us can become the corrupt scribe, someone whose life misses the mark. Or we can become the widow, a person of radical faith.
The widow seeks no power over anyone in order to better her situation. By her gift, small as it is, she seeks to serve God. And though its cash value is slight, the gift is enormous, because it is everything she’s got. She’s not looking to fill the emptiness in herself by stealing from others. She’s looking to fill that emptiness by opening herself to God. She wants no power over others to gain consolation prizes. Instead, with the toss of those coins, she surrenders power over herself in order that God may work through her. She’s a person of radical faith.
There are two choices: misuse power over others in order to enrich yourself, or surrender power over yourself so that you may truly serve God. One’s the way to death. The other’s the way to life.
Jesus not only talked about the way to life, but he followed it through his cross and resurrection, and he invites us to join him and that widow in the temple in being people of radical faith.
So what am I getting at this time? In order to surrender power over ourselves, or to put it another way, to empty ourselves, we need to be able to trust God. Emptying asks that we have a willingness to grow. It also asks that we trust God with our lives, that we believe God is for us and not against us, that we trust God not to abandon us in our time of need. Trust is the foundation of love.
Joyce Rupp shares: St. Teresa of Avila prayed that she would let God be enough for her. There are many times when I find this notion extremely challenging. When I have times of emptiness I sometimes ask God: “Are you enough for me? Can I be satisfied with just having you and not having whoever or whatever is being emptied out of my life?” I do want God to be enough for me so that I do not go seeking for things to take the place of this Loving Presence in my life, but it is easy to waver and to doubt that “God is enough” in my moments of insecurity or pain. It’s a crazy thing, but as much as I find myself longing for God it is sometimes excruciating to have nothing but God.
When Joyce Rupp was lying on her back, waiting to be wheeled into surgery, she learned a lot about her need to trust God. There were many unknowns about what the operation would reveal and I had been very anxious about the situation. I wanted to be filled with answers instead of empty questions. As I lay there wishing that I was any place but in a hospital, words of surrender formed in my spirit. I was able to truly pray: “Into your hands, I surrender my life.” As I did this, a most profound peace came over me. In that graced moment I completely placed my trust in God and let God be enough for me. I knew then that whatever happened, it would be alright because God was with me.
Trusting God with our lives can be difficult because we often feel vulnerable when emptying happens. Yet the more we are at home with God, the more we can let go of our fears. Today is a good day to think about “trust”.
Rupp also tells of a time when she was four or five years old and visited the home of great-aunt Ida. I always looked forward to these visits because she was a wonderfully kind and generous woman. I can still see vividly how, on this particular day, she took her coin purse out, unzipped it, and put all the pennies into my hand. I don’t remember how many pennies there were but my small hand could hardly hold all of them. The bounty of those few pennies sent me into a tizzy of happiness.
I feel that same way with God’s generosity to me. I am ever amazed at how God keeps on extending care and kindness to me no matter how I feel or think, no matter what mood I am in, no matter how loving or nasty I am. God keeps offering welcoming love and abiding peace to me. God is quite astounding. This Divine Being is a limitless lover, always filling the small hands of my life with grace and goodness, always enriching my life with all that I need for my spiritual path. In a way, God’s love is like having a “bottomless cup.” I can drink and drink from the abundance of God and there is still more love to be poured into my heart.
When I lean back and reflect upon the gifts I have in my life, I realize that the generosity of God is beyond my comprehension. Nothing I could ever do would “earn” all of these gifts that are freely and lavishly given.
Today, the widow is our symbol of radical faith. This week, the widow’s challenge to us all is to reflect on the cup of our life. Empty the cup and sit back, pray. Let an empty cup remind you of your desire to received God’s love. Let God be enough for you. Embrace God’s love for you as you watch your cup overflow.
A prayer based on one by St. Teresa of Avila: Let nothing disturb me nothing frighten me. Let nothing take away my peace. May I wait with trust, with patience, knowing you will provide for me. I lack for nothing in you, God. You are my strong foundation. You are enough for me. Amen.
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