Where do you go when there is no place to go? Life often places us in some extremely difficult situations. Sometimes life brings you to a place where all the parameters that provided you with meaning and purpose are removed? Where do you go when all the things that provided support, intimacy and hope are ripped away? What happens when your dreams are differed by life’s stormy outburst? Do they dry up like a raisin in the sun?
Today we encounter a Jesus using the life story of a widow to teach us something of tremendous importance. The value of this story is greater for our children who have chosen other pathways on a Sunday rather than to be here to gain the tools for the mess that may be coming down the pipeline; their pipeline, the world’s.
Jesus speaks of a widow. A widow in the gospel stories is the epitome powerlessness. She lives at the mercy of others without any form of protection, income or value. She is often perceived as a threat or a curse based upon her age and outer appearance. Her story represents a life taking an unexpected turn that leads to a dead end. My friends, what happens when you get to a dead end in life?
These readings attempt to capture God’s response to a people who seem to have encountered a dead end. When Jeremiah prophesied to the people of Israel in a time when they were homeless and broken spirited. All the parameters that made them into a wholesome society were broken. The wealthy had neglected their social contract to the poor. The faithful became more religious and less spiritual. Then corruption began to erode the fabric of the society which eventually led to an implosion of a community that was supposed to be the God bearers of the world.
My friends in Christ, when Jesus extoled the power of prayer, it was to his followers who felt totally overwhelmed by the challenges of ministry. In Chapter 17, after the miraculous healing of the leper, Jesus began to teach about the new Kingdom of God that would be created within the hearts and minds of his followers. This was totally different to what the disciples had in mind because they desired a political, worldly kingdom in which they would be able to live out their lives using their earthly powers to prove God as their source of hope and life.
We often times find ourselves in a similar situation in which we prefer to have some tangible evidence the pathway we have chosen is the right one. As human beings we often find ourselves dwelling in a realm of doubt. We have mastered the art of second guessing ourselves in fear of making mistakes when ready answers are not available. We often desire God to grant us earthly powers and blessings not as an avenue to a larger life, but to prove to others the rightness of our choices. My friends, we are called to evangelize when it seems we have no Good News. Our buildings are old, our congregation seem to be aging, my preaching is long and boring and worst yet, we still ask for a free offering collection! This Christian life can at times be challenging, and many of us surrender and walk away.
This, my friends, is such a powerful message to us all. We dwell in a world where affirmation comes with a heavy price. Consumerism is the world’s way of saying to the nine lepers you are okay. The world will hook them up with the right stuff that hides the spots but fails to heal their hearts and minds. Our work of evangelism often times begins in our own homes when we invest time and energy affirming those in our lives of their self-worth and their value are God given and only sin can rob them off it. The biggest con job foisted on us is not that which presently inhabits the White House, but that which bombards us telling us how worthless and unimportant we are.
That is what made the Samaritan leper such a standout. He recognized he was no longer tied to the trappings of having to prove to anyone his worth and value because Jesus gave him a sense of his true self. The leper discovered the power and presence of God at work within himself. The same for the widow in whom all the powerlessness of the world was embedded, and yet there was something within her that led her to defy that thought process. Her faith gave her the courage to say, “I will never surrender! I will never give in because my God is bigger and greater than the sum of all my tribulations!” In Christ we live and move and have my being. Acts 17:28. Therefore, no judge can take away my soul. He may deny my body, he may ignore voice, he may even judge me on my social status, but my soul belongs to God!
Dear people of God, that is the same place in which the disciples found themselves and in a heart wrenching and desperate cry, asked Jesus “where and how, Lord?” Then Jesus responded you got to keep believing. Belief here is not about that which you can see but believe in the power of something greater than yourself. Believe in the power of that which created the universe out of nothing. Believe in a power which is more that life sustaining but can breathe life into death. No power shall prevail against me not even death! Do not fear those who can hurt your body but be concerned about who owns your soul!
My soul belongs to God!