What does it take to change the world?
What does Jesus give for the sake of our lives and the world?
Just like the widow in today’s Gospel story, who puts everything she has into the temple coffer, Jesus holds back nothing when it comes to this world. The teaching and healing of his earthly journey - Jesus says, “I give them to you.” My last breath from the cross and first breath after I am raised from the dead - Jesus says, “I give them to you.”
And Jesus does this not expecting anything in return!
How unlike the world we live in, this Jesus is. How unlike this world where people often assume you must give something to get something and do something to receive something. But this is not the nature of our Savior’s love.
In God’s realm grace and love are freely given, not because they are deserved; not because we were born into the right family or the right nation; not because of how we look or who we love; not because of what we accomplish or how much we give to the church and other non profit organizations. God freely lavishes grace and love because it is God’s nature to love without strings attached. So much so that God humbled God’s self to die for all of us who are trying to live well as well as for those who couldn’t care less.
It sort of offends one’s sensibilities I think, to consider such abundantly given, no strings attached love.
God, what do you mean you will save the widow and her son, who we heard about in our first lesson? Shouldn’t she have planned better and made sure to have a pension and sufficient savings in case of emergency?
God, what do you mean you’ll help the Israelites – they were refugees in the wilderness – travel to the Promised Land? Sure they were enslaved in Egypt, but they were fed there. Shouldn’t they have been content with their lot in life? But God in God’s love without strings attached is always seeking to lead people to a better life, irrespective of national boundaries and human perceptions.
Clearly God’s ways of love and grace, mercy and complete sacrifice are not our ways.
At least, we are not born with the capacity to live and love with such complete and single-minded devotion. Yet God in Christ seeks to carve out pathways of radical loving and self-giving living in us! Giving all of who we are and all of what we have in loving service to God and the world with no strings attached.
This weekend presents us with a confluence of remembrances. Friday night was the anniversary of Kristallnacht, when over a hundred Jewish people were killed in a pogrom carried out by the Nazis in Germany, and more than 30,000 captured and sent to concentration camps. 30,000. Monday is Armistice Day, better known as Veteran’s Day, a day to remember and honor the numerous soldiers who have served and are serving for the sake of keeping our lives as citizens safe. Monday is also the day set aside to remember St. Martin of Tours, a soldier who served in the 4th century Roman army and who at one point declared he could no longer fight and kill other men because he was a soldier for Christ.
This confluence of remembrances reminds us of how we need to remember our soldiers and their families, helping them deal with and recover from the atrocities of war (remembering our soldiers), how the role of soldier can be perverted to evil purposes (Kristallnacht), and how God ultimately calls us to the way of peace (St. Martin of Tours).
We must, with God’s help, be vigilant in making sure that we are building the ways of peace. We must, with God’s help, be vigilant in making sure that we are helping those oppressed and marginalized, those within U.S. borders and those longing to be within U.S. borders.
Christ, who gave everything for us and expects nothing in return, nonetheless hopes and longs for us to be the arms and heart of Christ for the world. Christ hopes and longs that we, like the widow, will give everything for the sake of others. Christ hopes and longs that his gift on the cross will break down our human walls that separate, divide, and vilify.
If we would change the world then with Christ’s help we must be willing to give everything in service to Christ for the sake of justice and building peace and working love.
Did you know that the root word for bread and the root word for war are the same? Yet Martin of Tours came to know that he was not a soldier of war, but a soldier of Christ. We, too, have been made soldiers for Christ by the blood of the everlasting covenant; called and sent to come alongside our wounded soldiers and their families; called to come alongside the poor and the widowed, the migrants and refugees, the marginalized and the outcast, our Jewish sisters and brothers and all who continue to face prejudice and hatred under any banner.
As Christians our banner carries only one slogan and that is the love of God through Jesus Christ for the whole world. No exceptions. No one is outside of that love. And as we come to know that we have been claimed by this love of God through Christ, we, too, can pick up the banner of love. We, too, can choose with God’s help to give everything for the sake of God’s world and God’s people. By grace, our decision to be soldiers for Christ’s love may very well be the tipping point that decides the fate of the today’s world.