November 11, 2012

Today is a day we must think carefuly

about honour, and sacrifice, and of “giving all that one has”…

Such words and ideas cannot be casually handled at any time, but especially today,

when our thought turn towards those whose service in uniform – in times of conflict and in peacetime – have done much to influence our modern definiitons

of “honour”, “sacrifice” and “giving all that one has…”

So it is with great caution that I approach Mark 12: 38-44 on this eleventh of November.

Jesus approval for a woman who has given “everything she had, all she had to live on”

can be too easily turned into an affirmation of a foreign policy

that takes men and women into harms way.

The problem with Jesus is that his ideas sound so radical, that it is easy to turn them into dangerous behaviour “in the name of God”.

On a day full of widow’s stories (Naomi & Ruth and this unnamed woman in Mark)

we cannot ignore the conditions that led to their widowhood.

Poverty and conflict go hand in hand – to the victors, go the spoils,

but the vanquished are left in ruins.

The cost of conflict is greater than expanded millitary budgets and impressive national deficits.

Societies are crippled by fighting –

young men (and women) are killed, families lose breadwinners –

economic hardship is a certainty – and Jesus speaks to the truth of this:

“this woman has put in everything she had…”

On this day, when we recall the sacrifice of those called to take up arms for their countries,

let there be no mistake: a terrible price has been paid by all of us in the name of freedom.

For we have come to believe that there is no other way to secure said freedom

except by force of arms – nation against nation.

The winner in such a contest is not the righteous cause, but rather the most powerful.

And Jesus illustration reminds us that God,

the righteous judge,

holds a different view of sacrifice.

The gift of this powerless, poverty-stricken, anonymous woman

is the gift Jesus would have us notice.

In direct contrast to those “who have the best seats in synagogues, and places of honour at banquets…” she has given willingly, freely and with a trust in God’s grace that frees her from worry.

This is a lesson in love – an example of great faith – a sign of her divine hope –

but it is not about sacrifice – Jesus does not direct us to pursue poverty –

nor to offer up our lives for the sake of our own righteousness;

No – Jesus encourages us to think about justice – peace –

and would surely remind us of an earlier imperative to love our neighbour.

So as we honour those who made difficult personal choices due to complicated international politics,

and as we remember the dead and the returned and those forever changed,

let us also remember the call for change that comes from Scripture –

a call to justice and compassion an invitation to take up the way of peace, and practice war no more.

And may God give us courage and wisdom, that we might quickly answer that call. Amen

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