Last week "the whole community ... began to complain against Moses and Aaron"(Exodus 16:2), and THIS SUNDAYS GOSPEL READING [6: 41 - 51] we find another group complaining. "The Jews...
As it turns out, all this Sundays scriptures make an excellent follow-up on last weeks celebration of All Saints. In that reflection we referred (a) to the fact that on our pilgrimage journey, enthusiasm sometimes wanes, (b) we do not need to make the headlines in order to be saints, and (c) there IS a mountain to be climbed – even if it is the Lords.
Against this background take a look at the OLD TESTAMENT READING [1 KINGS 17: 10 – 16]. The widow had reached a stage far beyond waning enthusiasm. We come face to face with resigned desperation. She had made no headlines, and had indeed attempted to climb a mountain. Yet, would she have died as insignificant? Surely not! THE PSALM [146 or 145] affirms that it is the Lord “who gives bread to the hungry … who sets prisoners free.” Even in desperate and seemingly hopeless situations. God-in-Christ is available to us, responds, and will give new hope and purpose. He provides protection when we feel as if we are strangers to him … he will uphold us.
There is, however, an important proviso – we have to persevere in the face of what may be seen as hopeless. The widow is told to CARRY ON!“Fear not; go and do … the jar of meal shall not be spent, and the pitcher of oil shall not fail.”
This involves real faith – a faith that breeds TRUST. A trust that the Lords concern and response are never spent, never fails. Notice that the widow “went and did as Elijah said, and she and her household ate for many days.” We must never stop doing, Recall from last week that the Beatitudes set out a plan of ACTION, a specific approach to life and living. I am often reminded of Connie ten Boom the famous Dutch Christian who, with her family, sheltered many Jewish people in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation. She was sent to a concentration camp, and only escaped because of a clerical error. This wonderful saint (I believe the Church should make her one of the headlines) said two particular things which have stuck in my mind: (a) “God does not have problems, only plans,” and (b) “there is no pit so deep that Jesus Christ cannot enter.” WOW! Take a good look at the Old Testament widow and see Gods plan, not his problem, and recognise that the widows really deep pit was not too deep for the Lord.
How many of us have been sent to a concentration camp? Then, too often we focus on the problems while making poor efforts (often reluctant) at the plans needed. Recall what I have said so often about the dangers of self pity?!
Here, our extract from the LETTER TO THE HEBREWS [9: 24 –28] provides vital foundations for our motivation to go and do. We are told, very clearly, that Jesus Christ appears “in the presence of God on our behalf,” and he will “appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” Recall last weeks reference those who “eagerly hasten” as they “advance in faith.” We do no advancing in faith, eager or otherwise, when we see only problems – especially when we blame God for their existence, and are unwilling to “go and do.” It is fatal to persist in the approach that we are in a pit so deep that not even God is able to do anything. Worse still, is when we will not recognise that the problem might be a part of the Lords plan for us!? He calls us to focus on the plan, not the problem.
This weeks GOSPEL READING [MARK 12: 38 – 44] brings it all together. At once let us note that Jesus “watched the multitude” … he saw and observed the reality of the situation. He knew what was going on – HE KNOWS WHAT IS GOING ON. The widow of the Gospel did not have to be told to “go and do.” She saw the plan, not the problem. Like the widow in the Old Testament extract she gave her all to the immediate situation … she gave HER LIVING!
Let us give our living to the plan, not the problem.