As he taught, Jesus said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’
He 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 love this reading – Jesus says “beware of those who like to walk around in long robes.. and have the best seats….” (I will at this point sit in my large armed chair in the church, in my cassock alb!).
Well, that only seems to apply to one person here, (me) so what does the warning mean for all of us – and particularly on Remembrance Sunday?
Beware.. what exactly? Beware posturing, beware the scramble for honour or glory, beware an attitude to faith or religion or occasion which says ‘look at me!’.
So on Remembrance Sunday, beware the sort of pomp that becomes more about who’s there, who’s seen, who’s important enough to have a front row seat. Beware turning this day into a glorification of people’s position in society or importance or even, God forbid, the glorification of war.
And having warned his followers about those who will posture and glorify only themselves, and grab power and influence, Jesus turns their attention to …an insignificant widow.
Widows in Jesus’ times had little power, little influence, often little money. That’s why he criticizes the scribes for fleecing widows.
A widow, a poor woman, the opposite of the scribes with their position and their power, puts her tiny gift into the temple treasury. It is tiny compared to the other gifts, but Jesus says it is all she has to live on – she gives everything she’s got – she sacrifices her own livelihood in order to respond to God with thanks.
Jesus invites us to contrast the pompous and the self-serving with the humble and the self-sacrificing. Jesus invites us to think about how we use our lives – to glorify ourselves or to serve other people? And Jesus invites us to celebrate those who lives are lived for others rather than those who seek recognition.
Today is about remembering. Remembering the sacrifice, remembering the loss, remembering those who still today offer their all to protect the rights and peace of others.
As we remember and celebrate we also dedicate ourselves to the cause of peace and justice. Let us pray for the strength to give our all to be used by God in his wisdom for the good of others.
In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.