Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost / November 12, 2006
Message text: 12: 38 – 44 / Message by: Rev. Carol Kniseley
‘Where is Jesus in this picture?’
If Jesus had whipped out his trusty Polaroid camera that day and taken a few quick shots…and then, turning to his disciples, asked:
“Ok guys…where am I in this picture?”
The disciples never would have found him. They never would have guessed that ‘the one to watch’ would not be dressed in the finest of clothing nor would he be found lingering in the spotlight or at the center of all the attention.
They would never in a million years, according to Mark’s Gospel, surmise that in order to find Jesus in the picture (any picture for that matter), they would have to begin with ‘the one’ who was being the most REAL. And by REAL, I mean the following:
R = Relational E = Experienced A = able to Apply L = a Learner
I borrowed these four traits from our Sunday School, because this is what our Christian education is based on here at Resurrection, and I believe it is a good place to start. The person we are looking for in this picture…understands that “the” most important relationship that we have is with God. Period. And by all indications, the widow in today’s story…well, she gets it. She understands that God wants it all…our minds, hearts, resources, our stuff…all that we claim to own…because, until we give it all away, we have no room for God. She has learned this, no doubt, from “experience”. Which leads us to trait #2: grounded in “experience”.
Teachers know that people learn in all different ways. Many people, like myself, learn by “experiencing firsthand” a given situation. The woman in today’s story is obviously on the “outs”. Just by looking at her, one can tell that she is ‘out’ of food, ‘out’ of a home, ‘out’ of a position in the community because she no longer has a husband.
Her identity has been stolen away…and once she lets go of those two copper coins…she will truly be out of everything. And yet, she knows “from experience” that somehow…some way…God will provide for her every need. God always has…and her experience has driven her to this point in her life…where she is now ready to take the big plunge into the depths of trust.
Now we are up to trait #3: able to apply. Has her experience been applied to her every day life? Probably, in small ways. But now, for whatever reason, she has decided that today will be the day when she will make a total commitment to God. You see, it’s one thing to simply contribute out of ones vast stores of wealth (and yes, by the world’s standards…and by God’s…you and I are some of the wealthiest people here on earth). But, it’s a whole different ball game when you ask someone to “let go” of their very last whatever…bit of food, money in the bank, time. Because when you let go of those things…what you are really saying is that “I’m no longer in control. God is.” And that’s when God smiles. Because all of a sudden you have opened yourself up to being a learner for life.
Which brings us to trait #4: learner-based. Every teacher knows that in order to learn, one has to begin where the child or student is. But, you don’t dare leave them there. The goal is to move them up to the next level so that they aren’t left behind. There is so much to learn about God…and Jesus knew that he would not always be around to point out the signs. In fact, in just four days from this point in our story, Jesus would be dead. So on this particular day, Jesus begins teaching the disciples by re-establishing the basics. IF you really want to see Jesus in this picture…and that’s a really big IF…then lesson #1: you’re going to have to slow down and “look”. One of the very first words in the Dick and Jane books that we all learned as children was “look”. Look…everyday he shows us his face…his heart…his love. Oh, it may look like the face of a complete stranger or even sound like an old friend, but the truth is…it is Jesus, in disguise.
What made the widow in today’s story stand out for Jesus, I believe, is that he saw in her total act of commitment a reflection of what he himself was being called upon to do. In just four days, he would be teaching the most important lesson of his life to a world that frankly wasn’t ready to hear the truth. But Jesus knew that even if they closed their ears to what he had to say…they would most certainly be watching. They would “see” with their own eyes what a REAL commitment to God looks like. And to that end, God would use such a teaching moment to raise us up to the next level.
And in the end, isn’t that what this life is really all about? Not contrived, not showy, not simply going through the motions for the sake of being “seen” by all the right people. That, in a nutshell, is exactly what Jesus abhorred about the scribes in his day. What God wants from each one of us…frankly…is something that is more REAL. A life that is in a real “relationship” with him…and takes in all of our senses so that we can really “experience” God to the fullest and then “apply” that experience to our day to day living. And finally, a life that is really open to learning about God…with Jesus as our teacher, ‘the one’ who always begins with us right where we are…BUT…who will never, ever, leave us there. Listen…do you hear that sound?
If I didn’t know better…I would say Jesus just whipped out his Polaroid camera and took a few more shots. Only this time around, the question falls to each one of us. ‘Where is Jesus in this picture?’ Look closely. I believe he’s the one telling us…it’s time…to ‘get REAL’. Amen.