Reflection for Sunday November 8 – Sheryl Zabel

Readings: 1 Kings 17:10-16; Hebrews 9:24-28;Mark 12:38-44
As I was reading articles about the creative and exciting work being done by people across the country to insure that we have a livable future, I thought of the two widows featured in today’s Scriptures. These women had next to nothing in terms of material wealth, but they were willing to risk all that was left to them—one to aid a prophet from a neighboring land and the other to make an offering for the upkeep of the Temple.

The first widow trusted in the God of Israel and found that she had enough food for herself and for her son—that they would not starve. We do not know the motives of the second widow who left two small coins in the Temple treasury, but Jesus praised her remarkable generosity and fidelity.

And there is more. The widow from Zarephath made it possible for Elijah to continue his ministry and to be an inspiration to the prophets who came after him. The Jerusalem widow became an outstanding example of discipleship and an inspiration to millions of future disciples.

Do these widows inspire us today? Or are we more like the scribes whose actions Jesus condemned, even if we are not nearly as rich as they were.
It is rare to hear anything about the state of our nation that does not involve talk about the need to consume more and more stuff, so that the economy can continue to grow.

The idea that our economy must keep growing is almost never questioned. And having a job is crucial—we need more and more money just to survive and, oh yes, to get more stuff.

But were we not made for greater things? Were we not made to care for one another, to help one another become all that God intends for us to be? Were we not made to be stewards of our home, the earth? How can any of this be possible if our greatest ambition is to be like those ancient scribes? And how can any of this be possible without placing our trust in God as the two widows did?

There are contemporary risk takers.

  • The people behind the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative in Boston, which includes urban farming, democratic ownership of the land, and truly affordable housing.
  • People in Detroit protesting water shutoffs and insisting that access to water is a right.
  • The people in Detroit who opposed large-scale corporate urban farming and wanted the land to belong to the residents. The people who recognize that humanity is part of a larger community of living beings and who live each day with that realization.

Perhaps the risks these people are taking are not nearly as dramatic as the risks taken by the widows of ancient Zarephath and Jerusalem. But let us not forget the refugees from Syria and other places, who are risking everything, even their lives, in the hope for a better, more human life for themselves and for their children. It’s what we all should hope for.

We need to get rid of the dangerous short-term thinking that has taken over our society—the thinking that says consume, consume, consume and throw away.

In the Lord’s Prayer, we say, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” As Christian disciples we are called to be co-workers with God. We are called to help clear the way so that God’s will can be done on earth. We are called to take some risks.

Sheryl Zabel
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