A problem for most of us is that the word “king” doesn’t have a very personal ring. Kings are far away in castles or up in the air somewhere. But think of this: “king” and “kin” come from the very same word. Jesus is all the things that Lockridge said of him. Jesus is our king. But he is also our kin. So when we embrace him, we become his brothers and sisters. And that means that we, too, are sons and daughters of God. As members of God’s royal family, we become everything that Christ is. We come to him with our humanity, and Christ fills it up with divinity. This is our dignity, our identity.
Do you remember spectrometers from physics class? They are used to separate and measure the different parts of a beam of light or to determine the chemical make-up of stars and planets. The earliest ones were simple prisms that separated ordinary white light into its rainbow-colored components. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a similar tool that could analyze our very complex lives and separate out all the problems and break them down into smaller, more distinguishable and more manageable pieces? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had the capability of going into the disaster zone of our life and use our spiritual spectrometers to determine exactly where God is and how grace is at work?
But I’m appalled to learn that this take on the text takes this text completely out of context. As I read commentaries for this sermon, I realized that we pastors have been misusing the widow’s mite in order to beg for money. So, in an act of repentance, what I want to do today is to look more closely at the widow’s situation so we can better understand her story.
What kind of teacher would let his students go to recess before finishing their math lesson? What kind of parent would let his kid eat chocolate cake for breakfast? And what kind of pastor would let her congregation celebrate the kingdom of God before it ever got here?
Your family are the people who will welcome you, listen to your words, love you and receive your love. They may be your blood relations but they may not be. They may be just friends, instead. When your friends are more like family than your own family, you can call them your “framily.” Church is a kind of framily. If we are doing the will of our Mother in heaven, we are welcoming you, listening to your stories, loving you and receiving your love. And when we do that we are family. That’s because we know that there is something much thicker than blood that binds us together: our faith. The disciples of Jesus were a framily, a true family, and everyone who follows him can belong.
My tears were prayers. God, how did we get here? And where do we go from here? If the Bible had been written by women, we might have some explicit guidance in these matters, but it wasn’t. In fact, women are little more than a footnote in the story of our faith. So we really have to do some digging. We can read the words, but we have to listen closely for the Holy Spirit. And perhaps she will whisper to us what Jesus would have to say.
And when we get to the wedding, remember that the bride and groom aren’t the only ones who make vows. We have replaced the old bit about “giving away the bride” with a new bit that asks everyone to promise that they will, by God’s grace, do everything in their power to uphold and care for this couple because they cannot hope to love each other very well or for very long without a lot of help. In the same way, the Church will fail to keep her vow to Christ and will fail in her mission to bring his love into the world without all of us keeping our vows to uphold and support her for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health and forsaking all others until death do us part.
We come to the table confessing the truth that by ourselves, we can’t do anything about the divisions in our country or world except exacerbate them. On our own, we really can’t love our enemies. But if we can accept the fact that Christ loves us—that he loved us even when we were enemies of God [Rom 5:10]—then we can let Christ love our enemies through us. This is the way the division ends. This is the way the world begins again.
Sometimes it takes an outsider to help us see the obvious: that we are in way over our heads. While none of us is Moses, we have all been in situations where we are way overextended, stretched to the limit and beyond the limit. Often we’ve been in that position long enough to forget that we ever had a limit. This can happen at work, in our job of parenting, or in the task of caregiving. It can happen as we struggle with divorce or job loss or chronic illness. In fact, for many of us, this is just daily living. The thing is that the more overwhelmed we get, the more isolated we become. Even when we are surrounded by people, we can feel very much alone. But often we don’t admit it until someone else notices it. Jethro noticed it and called Moses on it. “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone…?”
To those who still can’t let go of their ego, Jesus says, “Let me welcome that child in you who was always afraid to be last, always worried that someone would think they were least, always waiting for someone to tell them to get lost. Give that child to me, and then I will give you the strength to welcome every such child in my name. By loving and serving the last in your world, you will come to know what it’s like to be first in mine.”