Friday, November 16, 2012

Adult Forum Class 11/11/12

Adult Forum class is hosted by Terry and Danese Grandfield at 9:15am Sunday mornings in The Charney Room. All are welcome!

The Joy of Generosity

Two widows, from two very different places in the bible......

These women were the primary topic of our discussion during our study of 1 Kings 17:8-16 and Mark 12:38-44. 

Two simple, unnamed, women, referred to only as "widows"; both left behind by the untimely deaths of their husbands, both obviously living in poverty, both struggling to survive each day on their own.  

The widow of Zarephath is out gathering sticks when the prophet Elijah approaches her. He has just spent time by the brook being fed by ravens until the brook dries up, a direct result of the drought God has pronounced through him to get the attention of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. The prophet is in need of food and water to continue God's work so God leads him explicitly to the widow.

"I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food." (1 Kings 17:9)

The widow has already heard from God- she is not just picking up sticks- she is waiting for God, expecting God to show up. It isn't just Elijah who is hearing clear instructions from the Lord, she is too, and I can imagine as she is finding those sticks she is anticipating something, not quite sure what or how, but knowing in her heart out of her own desperate need God must show up.... or she and her son will die.

God answers in a prolific way, through his most powerful messenger of that day- Elijah. It is Elijah who starts the conversation with the widow, who initiates the beginning of a wonderful relationship which will bring life and hope to both of them.

From the start Elijah treats the widow with respect. The same man who called down fire from heaven doesn't approach the widow by treating her as a slave, he doesn't command her, but instead asks "Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?" (vs 10)

She willingly obliges. I imagine there might be a sense of hope already springing forth in her heart when she first hears his voice. Again, she is waiting. And once she turns to retrieve the water she hears his voice again:

"And bring me, please, a piece of bread."(vs 11)

Does she know who this man is? Does she recognize him as the prophet Elijah? Immediately she shares her situation with him, and at first it sounds like a way to avoid responding to his request, but actually she is allowing a stranger to know her desperate situation.

"As surely as the Lord your God lives I don't have any bread- only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it- and die." (vs 12)

The prophet assures her she doesn't need to be afraid. God sees her need, just as he knows Elijah's need too. Together God uses them to accomplish his plan. The widow agrees to make some bread for Elijah, and as a result she continues to experience God's miraculous provision, saving her life and the life of her son. Elijah not only finds food and water but also something he has sorely lacked, companionship, through both the widow and her son.

From this widow we look at the story of another widow in Mark 12:38-44, one we don't learn much about except this- she caught the attention of Jesus. She is described as "poor" twice in these verses, once by Jesus himself. He is sitting and watching the crowd filing through the Temple, placing their offerings into the treasury when she comes in to make her seemingly small and insignificant offering.

Except it isn't small by God's standards- in fact, it is the most generous offering Jesus observes. So noteworthy he calls his disciples over and states "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything- all she had to live on."

Two very small copper coins..... the equivalent of a fraction of a penny by today's standards..... all she had to live on. That is what she chose to give, because in her heart she knew her survival thus far, and her future, depended solely on her trust in God, on giving everything to God. Her need, both physically and spiritually, compelled her to risk all to see God.

God does see her plight through his son and her story lives on- for even those who are not religious have heard the story of the widow's mite.

We don't know what happened to this woman after she left the Temple, but my guess is she received all that she needed to live each day for the remainder of her life. Maybe like the widow of Zarephath she found her supplies miraculously replenishing themselves each day. Her generous heart enabled her to see and experience God. We can all be grateful for her humble example and what it can teach us today.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:3)

That same God who made provision for the prophet and these two widows sees our needs today. Are we ready, in faith, to offer everything to God, to be generous with our lives, sharing even the little we have with others God sends our way?

The JOY of generosity will certainly fill our hearts if we do. 

Reflection from Living The Good News 

The two parts of today’s gospel are linked by the word widow (12:40, 42). We can only speculate on what motivated her to give “all she had to live on.” But since one valid way to respond to scripture is through the imagination, let’s imagine this woman. 
Perhaps, if you get her talking about her late husband, her eyes glow and her face lights up. Perhaps hers was a rare but precious love story, and she genuinely misses him. He may remain with her in spirit, more present in death than he was in life. She talks with him at his tomb about the day’s events; she listens intently for his response. When she remembers their married life together, a sense of blessing far outweighs a sense of loss. 
She has learned, over the years, to live from a deep pool of gratitude and trust. It wasn’t easy, but as her loves for her husband and for God flowed together, she understood that she already possessed the great treasure. Compared with her deep inner peace, two copper coins seemed like little. And so, wealthy with intangible riches, she approached the temple treasury. She smiled to herself as the money clinked quietly into the box.

We will not be having class this coming Sunday, November 18, 2012, due to Consecration Sunday.
Please join us the following Sunday, November 26th.

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