Trusting God to provide sounds almost cliche, but it’s just about where I am as I reflect on our Gospel for this weekend. As I was writing, my wife called in a panic and upset. Her car died in the fast lane somewhere in Connecticut, about two and a half hours from home. In unfamiliar surroundings, she didn’t know what to do. I gently calmed her down, made sure she was in a safe place, and instructed her to call 911. Thank heaven for technology, and thank you Jesus, she was unharmed. The car was towed, and she called from the shop, “I got bad news and more bad news.” “OK” I said. “The timing belt went and ceased the engine, it will cost $2300.00 at least to repair,” she said, “or I can sign the title over to the shop.” The car is more than 11 years old. “Go ahead and sign the title over. We’ll figure it out.” I said. “God will provide.”
How this all ties in:
I find it hard to extract this week’s Lectionary Gospel reading Luke 21:5-19 from the rest of the chapter without being led astray into an apocolyptic wonderland. It’s easy to insert ourselves and think of all the doom and gloom destruction happening in our world around. Famine, earthquakes, floods, war; we have become all too accustomed to seeing violence and death. The images from our news of rubbled buildings and crushed stone from missile and rocket launches easily come to mind as we read the warning from Jesus in our Gospel. Even today, as I write from the comfort of my own home, nations, and people are being bombed, and another senseless school shooting grasps our attention.
Do not be dismayed. Do not be led astray. There is more than this impending destruction. There is more, much more to the story. There is more to this chapter, and what Christ has to offer, what Christ is promising. It is ever so important to understand this passage in its proper context to the whole of the chapter and not isolated from the entirety of the story. It is more than a warning of impending doom. It is wisdom and promise.
At the end of Chapter 20, Jesus warns against the scribes, the teachers who are well dressed, and speak lofty prayers but devour the widow, the poor and those who are most in need. It’s a warning against being led astray by those who live false lives.
In the beginning of Chapter 21, Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, and the story continues with Jesus in a part of the temple known as the court of women. This is where the treasury boxes for donation sat out for worshippers to donate. Seven in total, one was dedicated for temple tax and the others were freewill offerings. These freewill offerings were used to expand and adorn the temple over a 46 year period under Herod the Great.
He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; 2 he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3 He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; 4 for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”
Jesus shares with the diciples the story of the poor widow and explains that this woman, giving her two coins gave more than any other. He exclaims that the wealthy gave out of excess, but she havng no excess willingly gave all that she had and was. She did not live on money and riches; she lived with strength and faith trusting that God will provide, putting God first above all things.
The disciples see the external adornment of the temple, its grandiosity takes them and they fail to see the spiritual bankruptcy. I heard a priest from a wealthy congregation once say, “People think my congregation is just fine because they are sitting in six million dollar homes, but they fail to realize that they are sitting alone with their stuff. They are sitting worried over their heroin addicted child. They are coping with their terminal diagnosis, or the loss of their spouse.” He wanted to state a point. He wanted to let us know, his people were hurting too, they weren’t their adornment.
Jesus makes the disciples aware of their failure to see past the facade, to see the hypocricy, and the oppression of the institution. He prepares them for rejection, and the impending death of the Son of God, which will happen at the hands of the well-adorned religious authority. Jesus brings them awareness, then prepares the disciples for the difficult times ahead. He warns them again against false prophets, political chaos, natural disasters, and persecutions. He then gives the disciples assurance, that they will not be alone, that the Holy Spirit will be with them, comfort them and give them the words they need when the time comes. God will provide.
19 By your endurance you will gain your souls.
I don’t ascribe to the saying, “You will be tested.” I don’t believe God “tests” us. I do believe however, that life our lives on earth will experience with human heartache and pain. That there are disasters and wounds beyond our control and that God calls us to remain steadfast in faith with trust and prayer. The poor widow stood in the temple. She had the gift of strength, the gift of resiliency and endurance, and gave it back to God, trusting and believing, putting God first.
Thoughts for this week: Where are we? How far have we come? What are the gifts God has given us? Do we use these gifts to put God first. Perhaps you are in a time of life that is in the midst of destruction, that is tearing down the old and all that you knew. Have faith and know that a resurrected life in Christ is coming. It’s hard in the middle of pain, in the middle of illness, in the middle of trauma, in the middle of whatever it is that distracts us from God to recognize the promised life to come. Hold still, endure, keep faith. Give what has been given to you and know, God will provide!
And if you happen to be in a place of grace, whole and uplifted, having come through adversity or pain, give thanks and reach for another.
Blessings and Love,