Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 32) November 11th, 2018

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Jesus Baptism by Paul Gosen. Offered here in loving memory of Kitty Gosen.

MARK 12:38-44As Jesus taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then 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. For 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.” 

Ignatius Imaginative Prayer:

  1. Preparation: Place yourself within the text. Assume a character, hear the sounds, see the activity, sense the mood, smell the smells, touch the physical.
  2. Imaginative Prayer: Read the passage and watch, listen, feel and be open.
  3. Response: Apply

Preparation: Jesus and the disciples are in the temple in Jerusalem. It is a busy, noisy, assault to the senses after a long, dry journey from Jericho. Jesus and the disciples have been discussing, arguing even, with the scribes and other religious leaders. It is getting tense and everyone is tired.

Imaginative Prayer: Jesus openly confuses and criticizes the religious leaders with those dangerous parables and unwavering authority at such a young age. Few dare confront him, but they can be found muttering to themselves behind the columns.

And then, there she is. Unseen at first. One of the many poor, lonely and forgotten. Unjust and crippling poverty exploited. “Notice!” he said. Generous sacrifice where you would expect grasping, against a backdrop of selfish clinging where there should be selfless freedom. Humility where there needs to be restitution, and opulence where there ought to be humility. No one wants to be called a hypocrite! Privilege hates having its deserved status questioned. How do we push past our defensiveness to see Jesus’ eyes of love on others? On us? Searing past the illusions.

Response: Don’t look away. “It is not how much we do that is pleasing to God, but how much love we put into the doing.” Mother Teresa.

RUTH 3:1-5, 4:13-17 Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you. Now here is our kinsman Boaz, with whose young women you have been working. See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Now wash and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do.” She said to her, “All that you tell me I will do.” So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. The women of the neighbourhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David. 

What women have had to do for security! It is difficult for us to imagine the vulnerability and desperation of a woman alone. The story is about the surprising inclusion of a foreign woman into the very fabric of salvation. But did anyone ever ask what the cost was to this woman? As with Mary’s encounter with the angel, I hope I see choice, freewill, agency…

There are women travelling toward the U.S. border at this moment (just as they come to Canada, too). What compromises are these women having to make for their security and for the security of their children and future children?

Once again, Jesus, as in the temple, is saying “Notice!” Vulnerable. Desperate. Resourceful. Selfless. Courageous. Strong. Faithful. Here, as there, the question begging to be answered is: “Will these women, men and their children be woven in to our salvation story?”

Psalm 127 Unless the Lord builds the house, their labour is in vain who build it. Unless the Lord watches over the city, in vain the watchman keeps his vigil. It is in vain that you rise so early and go to bed so late; vain, too, to eat the bread of toil, for he gives to his beloved sleep. Children are a heritage from the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is a gift. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them! he shall not be put to shame when he contends with his enemies in the gate.

Simon Sinek, an organizational consultant and inspirational speaker, observes that people can easily tell you “what” they do and “how” they do it but often struggle to find words for the fundamental “why.” This psalm challenges us to know why we build, create and do. Living a life that is God-centered means living with an awareness of why we do the things we do. Why do we care for the refugee? Why do we go to church? Why do we pray? Why do we decide to have children?

I am finding that my answer is becoming the same for all these whys: to love what God’s loves. What is it for you?

HEBREWS 9:24-28 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own; for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgement, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. 

Today’s prayer: Help me be more aware of what I need to be saved from and to welcome the rescue.

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