Pentecost 24, Nov. 8, 2015

Title:Pentecost 24, Nov. 8, 2015

  Pentecost 24, Nov. 8 2015  (full size gallery)

Many "fall watchers" around here maintain that the deepest colors of fall come during November. With a mixture of sun and rain, the roads were alive this week with color. Lawns now are covered with fallen leaves. The frost covers them and produces that "crunchy" sound as we walk over them.

There are pictures above that show the advancing fall at both St. Peter’s and Port Royal. It is a great time to take in color, sound, and weather. It was cloudy earlier in the day and then turned sunny.

We had 41 in service today – and it continued the celebration from All Saints.

– We celebrated a number of birthdays – Susan and Kimberly were here so they came forward
– We celebrated Clarence and Betty’s 62nd wedding anniversary – and as Catherine said longer than she has been alive!
– We celebrated Nancy being elected as supervisor.
– We celebrated the gifts and inquisitiveness of youth as they journeyed through the prayer book in Christian Ed and participated in the "Widow’s Mite" children’s sermon
– We celebrated those who came through operations this week – Bill and Boyd
– We celebrated a sermon whose message echoed that of the angels on Christmas Eve "Fear not" and to offer up our fears to God
– We celebrated fall whose time has come among us in the leaves that cover our lawn. From Gathering Leaves by Robert Frost – "I make a great noise Of rustling all day Like rabbit and deer Running away."
– We celebrated our parishioner Susan and our Bishop Susan who will be together in an art show in a week.  

Previous to the service, the Christian ed class, "Weaving God’s Promises" began a review of the prayer book with two children and six adults. The children listed and answered questions on the book. At the end they began making prayer cards to be continued next week.

We are within 2 weeks of the end of Ordinary Time. This Gospel reading ends the series of Jerusalem controversy stories that conclude Jesus’ public teaching.

The Gospel reading explores the energy of possession and money. Related to both of these is fear which was the subject of the sermon.  The subject of a widow occurs in both the Old Testament reading in Kings and the Gospel. The Old Testament’s widow is a refugee. Refugees are the "collatoral damage" of any war. Currently there are more refugees (60 million) than at any time since World War II.

The prophet Elijah addressed the northern kingdom, Israel, in the middle of the ninth century BCE. He opposed King Ahab and Queen Jezebel who supported the worship of Baal and the other Canaanite divinities. Baal was reputed to be the god of rain and fertility. The Old Testament reading describe The war in the Old Testament is between the God of Israel and Baal, god of fertility in the Middle East. In judgment of Israel’s spiritual faithlessness and in a divine display of authority over creation, Yahweh caused a drought.In the midst of this reading Elijah finds a widow at the town gate gathering sticks.

"She has lost all hope in this situation, because she tells Elijah that after she cooks the little bit of meal she has left and she and her son eat that, they will die, because there will be nothing else to eat."

"We could consider the suffering of this widow collateral damage in this cosmic war, because this drought, brought about by God, is going to bring about this woman’s death. As a widow, she already has few resources to fall back on, and she must share these resources with her son. The drought has taken away all she has, and her fate will be to starve to death"

"Elijah tells the widow not to be afraid of running out of what she needs, or to be afraid of dying as a result of the drought, but to trust that God will provide meal and oil for her family through the rest of the drought.

"How would your response change if you offered that fear up to God and trusted God to give you what you needed to deal with that fear and replace it with hope—or if you can’t give up your fear, how would your life change if you chose to fear in the context of hope rather than despair?"

"In the Gospel passage from Mark, Jesus contrasts the actions of many of the scribes with the action of a poor widow. Many widows in Jesus’ day, if they had no sons and no living father, ended up on the streets. This widow is very poor, but gives all she has to the temple treasury. And while others have put in great amounts of money, Jesus makes the claim she has given more, because she has given out of what she had to live on. Jesus calls us to give our lives to God, not just our money, not just our prayers, not just our talents, but all of who we are. This poor widow demonstrates that kind of faith and devotion. It’s not about one act or a set of actions, but about who we are and how we live our lives for God.  

"So Jesus knew that the widow he saw at the temple treasury in Jerusalem who gave her two small copper coins as an offering was not acting out of hopelessness, as in “Since all I have left is these two coins, I’ll go put them into the treasury, and die.” Instead, she was giving all that she had with the trust that God would provide all that she needed to live."

"The widow’s trust is the deep trust in God that Jesus wanted the disciples to have, because soon they would face fear greater than any fear that they had ever known when Jesus was arrested and crucified on a cross–when Jesus died, and was laid in a tomb.

"The disciples would be tempted to live in fear, and never breathe a word about the Good News to anyone, rather than to live out of the hope that Jesus was truly the Messiah, and that God’s reign was truly near, as Jesus had been telling them since the beginning of his ministry in Galilee.

"And so Jesus commends this woman’s actions to the disciples, and to us. Because Jesus knows that we are constantly tempted to give in to our fears, to be bound by them, and to be held captive forever.

"Jesus challenges us to take our lives, and all that we have, even when, and especially when we fear the most and have the most to lose, and to offer everything, and especially our fears, up to God in trust."

This is a commentary from Canon Lance Ousley of the Diocese of Olympia on the Gospel

"In our texts this week we witness the classic battle between the theology of scarcity and abundance. Our respective theological perspective either is oppressive and anxiety producing or it is liberating and joy giving. And it rules how we respond in gratitude to God’s providence as stewards of our blessings.

"Widows had no real rights of inheritance in the ancient Middle Eastern context which often left them poor unless they were able remarry or had sons that provided for their well being. This set the backdrop for the patronage society and we find varying evidences of it in our text this week, too. These norms were based on a healthy theology of the human community and welfare of all. It established a sort of economic system founded on good stewardship of resources shared equitably to meet human need. In short, to be successful this social structure had to operate out of a theology of abundance. Although archaic, we see an example of this in the reading from Ruth.

"Interestingly, the story in 1 Kings reverses the patronage with the poor widow providing food and drink for Elijah and is blessed by God in her faithfulness with enough to sustain her and her son. She reflects a scarcity mindset in her reluctance, but Elijah encourages her to overcome it with his theology of abundance.

"The problem presented in the Gospel text is the very ones who are supposed to be upholding the theology of abundance are operating in a theology of scarcity through their exploitation of the widows, as if there were not enough for themselves. Hence, Jesus’ statement about the scribes "devouring widows’ houses." The further irony is in Jesus’ statement that the others had contributed to the treasury our of their abundance, while the widow had contributed our of her poverty (scarcity). Yet in her poverty, she lived with a theology of abundance giving all that she had to meet the needs of others and her religious obligations. But the Scribes who managed the treasury established for the care of the needy were keeping much of it for their own use as they lived into a theology of scarcity. Where is the joy in that when others go hungry?

"How do we as individuals live into either a theology of abundance or of scarcity? What about as congregations? How can you and your church live more joyfully in theology of abundance being good stewards of God’s blessings in your life?"

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