Introduction & Welcome
Welcome to worship today, God’s gift to us because God is good! all the time!
and all the time! God is good!
Widows are visible everywhere in today’s readings. Jesus denounces those scribes who pray impressive prayers but devour widows’ houses. He commends the poor widow who in his view gave far more than the major donors. Jesus doesn’t see her simply as an object of compassion or charity. She, like the widow of Zarephath who shares her last bit of food with Elijah, does something of great importance.
Confession and Forgiveness
In the name of the Father,
and of the ☩ Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.
Let us confess our sin in the presence of God and of one another.
Silence is kept for reflection.
Have mercy on us, O God.
We confess that we have sinned against you
and against our neighbor.
We have built walls instead of tables
and have turned away the stranger.
We have sought glory for ourselves
and have treasured that which does not satisfy.
Help us to love as you love,
to welcome those you send,
and to treasure mercy and justice.
Turn us from our ways to your ways,
and free us to serve those in need.
God, who makes all things new,
forgives your sins for ☩ Jesus’ sake
and remembers them no more.
Lift up your heads and your hearts.
Yours is the kingdom of God.
Prayer of the Day
O God, you show forth your almighty power chiefly by reaching out to us in mercy. Grant us the fullness of your grace, strengthen our trust in your promises, and bring all the world to share in the treasures that come through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
First Reading: 1 Kings 17:8-16
This chapter begins the story of Elijah. God sends a drought on Israel because of the sins of King Ahab. This passage depicts God’s saving acts not only on behalf of Elijah, but also on behalf of those who are associated with the prophet, even a foreigner, the widow of Zarephath.
8The word of the Lord came to [Elijah,] saying, 9“Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” 10So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.” 11As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” 12But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” 13Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. 14For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.” 15She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. 16The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.
Psalm: Psalm 146
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down. (Ps. 146:8)
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
2I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
3Put not your trust in rulers,
in mortals in whom there is no help.
4When they breathe their last, they return to earth,
and in that day their thoughts perish.
5Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help,
whose hope is in the Lord their God;
6who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;
who keeps promises forever;
7who gives justice to those who are oppressed, and food to those who hunger.
The Lord sets the captive free.
8The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
9The Lord cares for the stranger;
the Lord sustains the orphan and widow, but frustrates the way of the wicked.
10The Lord shall reign forever,
your God, O Zion, throughout all generations. Hallelujah!
Second Reading: Hebrews 9:24-28
The letter to the Hebrews describes Christ as a high priest who offers himself as a sacrifice for our sin. Christ does not die again and again each year. He died once, is alive with God, and will reveal himself on the last day.
24Christ 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. 25Nor 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; 26for 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. 27And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment, 28so 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.
Alleluia. The Lord raises up the poor from the dust,* to make them inherit a seat of honor. Alleluia. (1 Sam. 2:8)
Gospel: Mark 12:38-44
After engaging in a series of public arguments with religious leaders in the temple, Jesus contrasts the proud and oppressive ways of those leaders with the sacrificial humility and poverty of the widow.
38As [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, 39and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
41He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43Then 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. 44For 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.”
Meditation by David O’Brien
When I was young, my Grandparents would do a lot of traveling. My Grandmother would always bring us back souvenirs from their travels, my favorite of which was the local currency she would bring home. One of the places she particularly enjoyed going to was the Holy Land. I still have a bag of coins she brought home from those trips, including some Widow’s Mites from Israel. These were small coins, about the size of a penny, and appeared to be made from aluminum. At the time, I thought they were kind of funny looking and felt odd in my hands. Then my Grandmother relayed to me the story of today’s Gospel and said that these coins were meant to represent the coins dropped into the treasury by the widow in the story. I don’t know if that’s exactly right, given that Israel is officially a Jewish state, but for us Christians, it’s an interesting illustration of how Christ valued the widow’s offering of these small, almost worthless, at least to most folks, coins, more than the money being donated by the wealthier members of the community.
The Gospel begins with Christ warning us to “beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces… They devour widows’ houses.” The scribes were lawyers and teachers of the law. They had convinced the people that they were the final authority on the Word of God. We know from scripture that God provided for and protected widows and wants us to do the same (Deuteronomy 14:29, 24:19-21; Isaiah 1:17; Jeremiah 22:3, Malachi 3:5). And yet Jesus is saying that those who should be taking care of the widows are literally taking all that they have. I imagine that these scribes had become rather wealthy by living off of other’s misfortunes. One of the most unfortunate persons in that society was the widow. The word “poor” refers to “a beggar, destitute of wealth, influence, position and honor.” This widow in this story is no better than a beggar, but she gives all so God will bless her. When Jesus sees the poor widow putting in her two copper coins, He remarks on how her giving out of her poverty is of greater value than those who gave out of their abundance, because it was “all that she had to live on.” By contrast, the wealthy donors to the treasury are giving to the treasury from the money they have left after paying their bills and buying the things that they want. To put the contrast in another fashion, the poor widow is giving to God first, even before her physical needs are met, whereas the wealthy donors are putting God second, after their own needs.
Why would the widow do this? In short, she had been taught all her life, by the religious leaders, that she had to give what she had to the temple in order to be blessed. When the scribes and the Pharisees taught people to give in that way, did they require the same from themselves? It didn’t seem so. They liked to walk around in fine clothing and have the best seats in the synagogues. In the sight of others, they act for the sake of appearances. In their daily lives, however, they lived lives of plenty. It reminds me of the passage where Christ tells us to pray in private, and our Father in heaven, who sees in private, will remember.
It’s interesting to point out that this story is told shortly after the story of the rich man, who went away from Jesus grieving when he’s told that he has to sell all that he has and give it to the poor to earn salvation (or were his possessions just in the way of his relationship with God), as well as being after the story about James & John asking for positions of power and honor when Jesus comes into His glory.
So how does this reading speak to us today? To me, the story is about living one’s life with sincerity, rather than for show. Not so much about giving all that we have to the point that we can no longer care for ourselves. We’re so tempted to pluck this story out of its context as well and make it a story about money and generosity, when it’s not just about money. It’s about letting go of all the things that keep us trapped in our human systems of power and status and privilege. Systems that benefit the few while exploiting the many. As Jesus keeps telling us, any system that determines value based on “who has the most and who is the greatest” has no place in the Kingdom of God. And we need to untangle ourselves from all of it to realize the freedom and the connection that we crave and long to experience in the presence of God.
Prayers of Intercession
Eternal God, you hold firm amid the changes of this world. Hear us now as we pray for the church, the world, and everyone in need.
A brief silence.
We give you thanks for social ministries of the church around the world and for every ministry that heals, lifts up, and empowers those who are poor, oppressed, abused, abandoned, or ignored. Build up your ministries and prosper all works of mercy. Bless our Church leaders, Elizabeth & Daniel, our bishops, and Howard our pastor, that they might continue to guide us in the doing of these ministries. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
We praise you for the bounty of creation and a world of abundance. Protect the earth from all who would devour its resources. Create and strengthen sustainable communities who honor your creation with loving care. Help us to find ways to heal this Earth, which you have lent to us, from the wounds it has suffered, either by our hands or as the result of natural processes. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
We give you thanks for leaders who seek peace for all nations and lead efforts toward greater justice. Accompany all who suffer the wounds of war, with veterans who carry battle scars from the past, and all who promote peace today. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
We praise you for plentiful harvests and generous hearts. Send needed resources and caring neighbors to all those in need. We pray for refugees, orphans, widows, those unemployed, those suffering abuse, and all who are in need. Restore to health all who are sick in any way, especially those on our prayer list and those we bring before you now, either out loud or in the silence of our hearts.. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
We praise you for missionaries who share your love in new communities and bring compassion for all, especially for John Christian Frederick Heyer, Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg, Ludwig Nommensen whom we commemorate today. Continue to raise up missionaries for lives of service in your name. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
We give you thanks for the saints of this congregation who have inspired, challenged, loved, and taught us. Comfort all who grieve and lead us by their example until you gather us in your heavenly home. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
God our hope and strength, we entrust to you all for whom we pray. Remain with us always, through Jesus Christ, our Savior.
Together, let us profess our faith using the words of the Apostles Creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
And now, as our Savior, Christ, continues to teach us, we boldly pray:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours,
now and forever. Amen.
God, the beginning and the end,
who has written your name in the book of life,
☩ bless and keep you in grace and peace
from this time forth and forevermore.
Led on by the saints before us,
go in peace to serve the Lord.
Thanks be to God.