The Cold Springer - Week of November 11th, 2018
Sunday, November 11th, 2018 - Morning Prayer
Jesus sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then 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. For 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.”
I wonder how we acquire the notion that it’s in poor taste to talk about money? I suppose not everyone is haunted by this principle of polite society, but it seems a general rule. Maybe it’s just impolite to talk about our own money, because it would seem that talking about other people's’ money is a great pastime in America.
In order for a couple to be married in an Episcopal Church they’ve got to meet with the clergy, usually four times. The conversation is wide ranging, from faith to fighting and forgiveness. I even engage the couple in matters that may be holding some latent (or not so latent!) tension.
I ask them, for instance, “In your parents home, what happened at the dinner table when the subject of money came up?” You need only reflect on your own answer to this question to imagine all the possible responses. But the two most frequent are: “We never talked about it,” and “When money came up, an argument always ensued.”
Somewhere, I suppose, in the heart of these anecdotes we encounter an understanding as to why we avoid talking about money. Quite simply, we don’t know how or we are scared what will happen if we do. I think one of the most challenging things for those of us who are affluent - or relatively affluent - is crossing paths with those whose day to day life is an absolute struggle, in part or in whole, because they have no money. Encountering poverty forces us to ask ourselves difficult questions about the society and systems in which we take part.
When we share the story of the widow’s mite with young children we are right to focus on her generosity of resources and spirit. We can teach our children that it’s not the size of the gift that matters but the love from where it comes. There is an important lesson here about giving from a place of abundance (rooted in God’s grace) verses a place of scarcity (rooted in fear).
As our children age we might broaden the lesson to include the portion of this Sunday’s gospel lesson that calls out the hypocrisy of the scribes who wear fancy clothes and say long prayers for the sake of looking good while acting cruelly and selfishly.
But as adults, we must not turn away from the reality of widow and her situation. That Jesus draws attention to the widow’s generosity places the reality of poverty before our eyes. It reminds us that the poor do not represent parasites who drain society of its resources. This story reminds us that we live in an economy that siphons its resources upward and leaves the vulnerable to face destitution on their own.
One of the benefits of living in a bedroom community is that it affords our families a certain amount of safety. It gives us a sense of security and peace of mind. But it also removes us from the cold hard fact that poverty and destitution are genuine human experiences. When our children don’t have to step over homeless people, then there’s less of a chance that we will have to explain why they are homeless.
It’s imperative to talk about money, in front of our children, in a way that is first and foremost, peaceful and relaxed. Some of us learn from a very early stage that money is equated to anxiety. It doesn’t have to be that way. As the primary teachers in our children’s Christian formation, we must also impart to them that while financial stability demands an attitude of gratitude and a real practice of generosity, it is not the source of unity and peace.
And in light of this Sunday’s lessons, it is crucial that we not shield our children - for too long - from the stark reality of financial disparity in the world. We may discover that their response to these injustices threatens our status quo, leaving us mumbling something like, “It’s just more complicated than that, honey.” We have a lot to learn from the widow, her gift, our children and their offerings.
Yours in Christ!
The Reverend Jesse Lebus
This week those who attend Children’s Chapel will hear the story of the Ark and the Tent. For the Israelites, there’s was a journey both across land and time, but also towards a discovery that God was present.
There are two Hebrew words that we translate into English as “ark.” One word refers to the giant boat that Noah built. The other word refers to the ark of the covenant. This latter was a box or chest that contained at least the tablets of the commandments, and, according to some traditions, the rod of Aaron and a vessel of manna.
Moses experienced God’s presence on the mountain, but also in the tent of meeting. In addition, God’s presence was in – or more likely seated on – a throne above the ark of YHWH. The two traditions of the tent and the ark came together in the tabernacle. The tabernacle was so important that it was described in detail twice, first in Exodus 25-31, as what, on Mt. Sinai, God told Moses to make, and secondly in Exodus 35-40, as a description of what was made following the directions given to Moses.
Elements of Faith
This week we will explore stewardship and the ways we can give from a place of abundance, focusing on the classics: time, talent and treasure. We will review the readings using the Sunday Paper (a comic style broadsheet) and also help create a banner to carry into the church next week.
Sunday, November 18th
Familes, this is our November Family Friday, but it's on Sunday! All families are welcome to join our Rector and Curate and their families for cider pressing (and drinking) at the Rectory. Food, drink and Fellowship! This is a repeat event and a ton of fun. If you are coming, please bring snacks.