Mark 12: 38-44
November 8, 2015.
When you open the Bible to read – if you open the Bible to read – when you hear the Bible read in church, do you expect the unexpected? Do you expect to be astonished, to gasp, to put your hand to your mouth, to have your pupils dilate in awe? Or is it, o yeah, this again…pious story about little old lady giving all her money to the church, yadda, yadda, yadda. Were you astonished by this morning’s story – or a bit bored?
As a child, i heard these stories the same way i heard Tales from the Brothers Grimm or Peter Pan or Aladdin and his Magic Lamp. They were stories of magic to me(1). David slaying the giant Goliath was the same as clapping frantically at our black and white television screen to revive Tinkerbelle – i do believe in fairies, i do believe in fairies. Moses parting the Red Sea was like the Genie granting three wishes. Magic.
And then i grew up and put away childish things and went to seminary where we dissected the Bible stories in the same way i had in English lit classes, strip mining for symbols, taking the stories seriously but not literally. The stories became like Shakespeare’s Hamlet – the point wasn’t that a depressed Danish prince came home for his father’s funeral to discover his mom has married Uncle Claudius who is now calling himself king – the point wasn’t that any of these people existed but the point was – and is – that the story has power, and touches something deep in us. So, too, i thought, that’s like the Bible – whether it happened or not isn’t the point – the stories are symbolic and touch something deep in us. And the story of Moses parting the Red Sea became a symbol that God will open a way when we think there is no way.
But now, i’m coming back to magic. Not in the shazzam! Open sesame! way, but in the way the Bible stories work on us – expect the unexpected, because we are supposed to be shocked and amazed at these stories. How shocking is this story we heard this morning – that a widow – one for whom the door has been shut and the no future is open, one for whom new life is not possible, one engulfed in the despair of poverty – this widow is inspired against the need to hoard, to hang on, to control and instead throws herself into the risk of generosity. This widow, facing the end, discovers a new beginning. This widow sees something we do not see. Does she get a happily-ever-after? We don’t know; the story doesn’t tell us. But the story DOES tell us that Jesus commends her.
She is a widow – we don’t know how her spouse died. Perhaps he was a war hero, perhaps he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, perhaps he got sick and never recovered. She is a widow, and all she has is two small copper coins. And here’s the magic, here’s the astonishment – she gives those coins away, those coins that told her there is no hope, no future, limited resources. What would it be like if we put away the things that constrict our lives? Would it be magic? would we find ourselves open to something new? What would that be like in your life?
What would that be like in our church, if we put away the things that constrict our life? would we find ourselves open to something new?
What would that be like in our world – where we are told again and again that change is not possible, that peacekeeping is so yesterday, that winning isn’t everything it’s the only thing, that gender parity raises questions of merit because really girls and brown skinned people aren’t qualified for positions of power – what would it be like if we put away the things that constrict our common life in this world? What would it be like to give that poverty away? What new horizons would we see? And wouldn’t it be magic – God’s magic? What will it be like when peace and justice meet, and we speak the poet’s words: God is alive, magic is afoot.
It would be like magic – and we would delight in the unexplainable goodness of it. God is alive, magic is afoot.
(1) Thanks to this blog for the framework of magic: http://thelabyrinthway.net/the-widows-might
Prayers of the People
On this Remembrance Sunday, O God,
We remember those who fought and gave their lives in a spirit of duty;
We remember those who went reluctantly to a war not of their own making;
We remember those who refused to fight and were punished for their pacifism.
We remember those who did not return.
We remember those who returned injured in body, mind or spirit.
We remember those made refugees, unable to return to their homes.
We remember those left grieving.
We give thanks for acts of heroism and courage.
We remember those who are working for peace in our time.
We remember those caught up in violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria, Congo, Guatamala, Darfur…
We remember those who are the victims of terrorism.
We remember those growing up shaped by fear and anger.
We remember those we have been taught to call our enemies – help us to imagine them as people like us, remembering their dead, struggling to forgive, working for peace.
God of Peace, Lover of Justice,
Receive our remembering.
Open our hearts to new visions.
Open our hearts to make peace, to build relationships, to confront injustice, to pray for our enemies.
Help us to work for a time when the lion will lie down with the lamb.
Help us to trust that you are alive, O God, and magic is afoot,
And a different world is possible,