Majoring in the Minors / Sermon by Pastor Carol Kniseley
Mark 12: 38 – 44 / November 8, 2009
I don’t normally give a title to my sermons…but today’s Gospel compels me to make an exception. The title is simply: “Majoring in the Minors.” Which is exactly what I perceive Jesus was doing on the last week of his life, at least according to Mark’s Gospel. Two days earlier, Jesus was seen riding on the back of a donkey as he made his way into the city of Jerusalem…as people waved their palm branches and hailed him as the King of the Jews. And just yesterday…it was this same Jesus who ran everyone out of the Temple as he overturned tables and screamed at the moneychangers to quit turning God’s house into a den of thieves. And now, on the third day…we find a much more sedate Jesus beginning his day in the Court of the Israelites, where only Jewish men are allowed.
It is here that he will argue with no less than six different religious leaders, including one lawyer who asks the one question that’s on everybody’s mind: ‘Which commandment does Jesus perceive to be the greatest?’ Jesus’ answer is as potent today as it was then: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind, and with all of your strength. AND (he went on to add)…you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
It is on this same day…and later in the afternoon…that Jesus decides to take a walk down the steps to the Court of the Women where he parks himself right in front of the Temple treasury. There are 13 containers for offerings lining the wall. They are shaped like upside down funnels: narrow at the top where the coins drop in, wider at the bottom where they empty into another container. It is here that Jesus deliberately sits down…and percedes to do something that you and I have done every single day of our lives. Jesus…engages in the age old past time of “people watching”…and this is what he sees:
1) a courtyard filled with people in for the holiday, namely: Passover.
2) Many wealthy and well to do folks bring large sums of money to deposit into the Temple treasury. God has richly blessed them, and they have come to give something back to God…as Jesus points out, not out of their poverty…but out of their abundance instead.
3) And then Jesus turns his full attention on one woman…not nearly as well dressed as the others. She is wearing the traditional dark veil over her face and clothing that indicates she is a widow.
Exactly why she caught his eye, is really anyone’s guess. When she lost her husband, she not only lost her place in society, she lost her name…she lost her face. To everyone around her, she became invisible overnight. No one paid her any attention…no one, that is, until Jesus.
He watched...as she made her way up to the Temple treasury to give her last two coins. Something about the way she did it let Jesus know that she had come to the end of her rope. Perhaps it was the length of time she stood there, holding them in her hand as if they were the last two possessions that she had on this earth. And then, when she actually opened up her hand and let them slide into the receptacle…it was Jesus that was moved to speak.
Speaking not to the woman, but to his disciples, Jesus made sure that what she did would not go unnoticed. Her sacrifice became complete when she opened up her hand and simply let go of her life’s treasure. And even though we do not know her name…what we do know is that when given the opportunity…she held nothing back from God. Her tithe was unlike any who had gone before her on that day: her tithe was 100% of her life.
When it comes to understanding the Word of God, “context” is everything. To have this story appear in the last days of Jesus’ life…makes it all the more important for us to hear today. When Jesus leaves the temple on this day, he knows that his public ministry is over. In four days, he will be dead. When given the opportunity…he, too, will hold nothing back from God…giving his life as a ransom for many. When Jesus looked at her it was like looking into a mirror at a reflection so clear that he called his disciples over to see. “Look,” he said. “That is what I have been talking about all this time. She’s the one. She’s the one to watch.”
So where is she today? The truth be told, she is not one of the people I normally look for. In fact, she is one of the people that I normally try hard not to see…which makes today’s story all the more relevant…and real...and worth paying attention to…again. You see, I’m never quite sure where she is…but what I do know is that there are some clues to her identity that I am willing to share:
Clue #1: she is not a main character on the stage of life. In fact she specializes in cameo appearances. Sometimes she is a he…sometimes she is a child…sometimes a person of faith.
Clue #2: she is usually giving something away: her time, her heart, her living, her life. The general rule being that you can’t see how much it cost her, but it is always more than you think.
Clue #3: what she is doing rarely makes sense by any ordinary human standard. She seems to get her marching orders from another planet where superior beings tend to know things that we simply can not understand.
If you really want to see her, my advice is this. Next time you’re in a crowd of people, do what Jesus did. Just sit down and take a good look at what is going on around you. Pay special attention to what is going on around the edges, where the people are sometimes hard to see. Then, squint your eyes ever so slightly and ask yourself the one million dollar question of the day:
“Where is Christ in this picture?” And I guarantee, that yes…she will appear. Majoring in the minors…is always a good place to begin. Pay special attention to what is going on around the edges, where the people are sometimes hard to see. Then squint your eyes ever so slightly and ask yourself: ‘Where is Christ in this picture?’ and I guarantee, she will appear.
Thanks be to our God…Amen!