The Way of Devotion A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny.—Mark 12:42. Jesus was in the temple one day, teaching. It may have been on a Sabbath day. From among the great range of social and economic levels present, Jesus observed a widow deposit two copper coins into the offering. He knew it had to be all the cash she had, possibly her whole livelihood, given her being a widow without support of any kind. He compared her gift to that of the rich people who “put in large sums out of their abundance.”
This story is often used by the churches to shame rich people into giving more. And maybe they need it. He might as well have said that the rich give out of their surplus, an afterthought (as most people do anyway today). It was certainly not the act of devotion for them that it was for the widow.
But I’m personally not sure that was Jesus’ intent. The sense I get from the story is that she gave from her heart. A gift of such proportions has to have come from the heart. That’s the real point I believe. Jesus can’t have been concerned for Temple finances, except that everyone take part in the sustenance of Sabbath observances there.
I myself hope everyone at Eliot Church will participate in the same spirit to our Stewardship Campaign, and to every Sunday offering—from the heart. This story of one person’s act of devotion, though, should put us in mind of the many things people do for love—the extraordinary things we do because we are so devoted to someone or to some cause. Devotion has a way of propelling us right through the demands of ordinary, or extraordinary, life, including the loss, grief and despair this epidemic is inflicting on us now. Examples from the long history of Christian tradition come to mind, like pilgrimages, journeys taken to keep a promise, pay a moral debt, or find one’s personal way.
Let’s keep our heart in the picture—let’s rekindle our devotion. What might that look like for you?
A compelling example comes from a movie titled, “The Way,” with Martin Sheen. It’s about a father who went on a lengthy pilgrimage for his own son. This man’s son, from whom he was alienated, dies at the very outset of his own pilgrimage on the Santiago de Compostela trail (in Spain); he dies accidentally on the first day. The father goes to identify the body and bring it back to the States. But he soon realizes he has to finish the son’s pilgrimage himself, what is a long trek of hundreds of miles. So strong is this strange, involuntary compulsion! By the end of this journey, on foot with backpack and walking stick alongside other pilgrims, he experiences a certain peace, maybe even religion, and a posthumous reconciliation with his estranged son.
An act of devotion resulted in one man’s redemption. I wonder if this involuntary journey we are just beginning if it shouldn’t be thought of as a pilgrimage, too. But for it to be redemptive, it must be an act of devotion, of love. At the same time that we worry and work for our individual and family survival, let’s keep our heart in the picture.
Suddenly this all looks different. None of this is about me; it is about us. is what I believe. --Rev. Richard Chrisman, March 15, 2020