Dear Friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
There is no stone marker commemorating this poor widow who appeared in the temple. Nor are there flowers or music to recall her memory. She left no legacy of song or writing. She was the woman you might see climbing up the steps of the metro mobility van. She journeys to the neighborhood food shelf to gather her staples for another week. And on her way out, she thanks the staff. In St. Mark’s gospel, we read that the poor widow has no name. And yet, her sacrificial gift offering two copper coins to the temple treasury, everything she had to live on, touches the heart of Jesus. He praises her courageous act, and the gift of her meager treasure. And now 2000 years later, we continue to be inspired by this nameless, poor widow and by her act of faith.
Remembrance Sunday is an occasion when we are called to remember the men and women, who throughout the ages, have acted selflessly for others. Certainly, we are summoned to remember those who acted bravely in war and those who offered the supreme sacrifice for their nation. On the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day and the war that would end all wars, we should recognize the veterans who have served in the field and those who have died in battle. Jesus himself recognized selfless, shining acts of courage and sacrifice in his time. He praised both the deeds of faith, and the men and women who have performed them. And today’s story of the poor widow in the temple is a cherished witness to just such a courageous and noble faith.
In Jerusalem’s ancient temple, there were various courtyards. In the Court of the Women, a place where all pilgrims were allowed to enter, there were thirteen collecting boxes known as the trumpets. Each trumpet was assigned to an offering for a designated purpose – for the wood that was used for the burnt sacrifices, for the incense, for the maintenance of the temple. As Jesus looked up, he saw many wealthy people flinging their offerings into the trumpets; and then came the poor widow. All she had in the world were two thin copper coins, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I tell you, this woman has put in more than all of them.”
Of course, Jesus’ words had nothing to do with the copper coins’ actual, financial worth. But his words had everything to do with the most cherished of human virtues -courage. The truth is, the two coins weren’t going to change her life. She was a widow in a patriarchal world, and she would always be dependent upon the benevolence of family members, or the charity of the Temple itself. The poor know this well. A coin or two isn’t going to move you from welfare to work. And yet, the woman gave away everything she had to live on.
Now, you may be wondering: Was the poor widow’s generosity, mere foolishness or was it truly an act of courageous faith? For Jesus, it is clear. He regarded her sacrifice as an act of faith. The poor widow knew the Lord. She did not put her trust in princes and mortals, but she placed her hope in the God of Jacob, the Lord our God. She walked daily with God in prayer and worship. In knowing the Lord, the widow understood how abundantly generous God had been to her. In knowing the Lord, she knew that everything she had was a gift, and most importantly, she always trusted that it would be enough.
My friends, people with a courageous faith feel this way. They know God; they know that everything is a gift from his hand; and they know, that it will be enough. But they also believe that they have been called to make a difference. They believe, that one soul, willing to offer everything they have to live on can change the world when their work or gift is blessed by God’s hands.
Now at first glance, the story of the widow and her two copper coins might also seem to be the preacher’s perfect lesson for the season of stewardship. Many interesting parallels could be made to challenge and inspire you to give out of your abundance. I could suggest that you think about this widow when you make your pledge. Maybe you could give a little more generously than you did last year, dig a little deeper. After all the church has its own trumpets waiting to be filled. The annual budget has gone up, and it takes more to keep the church operating these days. Maybe I could suggest some specific needed repairs. Say the HVAC system. Yes, only 2 of the 3 units on HVAC are working and one of these days when you arrive in church on some Sunday morning in January or February you may find the church building stone cold. Do you think this widow who put her last two coins in the offering would have let that happen? Of course, not.
Yes, it would be easy to make the anonymous widow into a sermon illustration on stewardship. Oh how generous she was. While others gave out of their abundance, she gave all that she had. What an amazing display of generosity! But one thing would be lost- and that is the widow herself. We read that she has given everything she had to live on, so after she leaves the temple, where will she sleep tonight? Will she sleep on the street? What will she eat tomorrow? How will she live? How will she survive?
If this nameless widow is going to be a poster child for our stewardship campaign, it seems that we should not focus on her generosity. But rather, we should be focus on her desperation. Instead of saying that we should mirror her generosity, yes, “be like this widow and dig deeper and give more,” perhaps we should be asking ourselves, how can we let such a desperate woman go home? What should we be doing for her? That is the true purpose of our stewardship. As a congregation at Lake of the Isles, we can take care of our own needs just fine. That is not where we are lacking. No, I would like to ask you this day, instead, to think about others like her in our world. And then together, as a community of faith let us see if we cannot continue to look for and to find new avenues of outreach to alleviate the suffering of those in need. You see, the true measure of Christian stewardship is really not about what happens beneath our slate roof, but it is about what happens outside these walls.
On this Remembrance Sunday, as the silent army of the dead marches before us, let us demonstrate a renewed spirit of courage and place our fear, love and trust in God. If we shall remember the honored dead, let us live as the poor widow who offered her two thin coins, giving everything in service to our neighbor. If we shall remember them, let us live not for ourselves, but let us live striving for justice and righteousness. If we shall remember them, let us live courageously with mercy and charity for the least of these our brothers and sisters. Let us live offering everything we have to live on in God’s service. Yes, in these ways, we will remember them. Amen.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.