Proper 27 Yr. B: Yield
1 Kings 17:8-16, Mark 12:38-44 Hebrews 9:24-28
Four years, three months and two weeks. An estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilians dead. Why?
I have always found the First World War difficult to understand. The Second World War had clear cut villains and causes. The First World War was sparked by an assassination in the Balkans amid the parched kindling of international suspicion, defensiveness and fear.
So maybe it is not so hard to understand. We humans too often operate out of suspicion of the motives of others, out of defensiveness and fear, never wanting to show any type of vulnerability to one another. Stay on guard. Get back at your enemies. Never give in by offering a humble apology.
World War One ended on this day a century ago. They called it an Armistice. It was a ceasefire, an appeasement, but it brought no real peace nor reconciliation. In fact, it set the table for the next global war.
Just as for us today, those Christian nations needed to be reminded of the nature of their religion.
In Christ, God has offered a true armistice to humanity by the reconciling love of the Cross. And, yet, we cannot maintain peace either on the macro level in international and national affairs nor in the micro affairs of the church, the local community and the family.
Christ has given us the ministry of reconciliation to us. Today is a good day to take stock of what we are doing with that mission.
God sent Jesus into the world to destroy the works of the devil. Reconciling all people to God and each other is the aim of that work. Each disciple is called to participate globally, locally and personally.
We were reminded in the Epistle to the Hebrews, “Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf… he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Jesus did not give himself up to death on the cross simply to give us an after-life insurance policy. He did it to teach us how to live in sacrificial, reconciling love.
Biblical scholar William Barclay writing about the meaning of Christ’s work of atonement on the cross points out that it is not about Jesus pacifying an angry God but that humanity has the chance to be transformed by his Cross. Now our sin can be turned into penitence, our rebellion into surrender, and our “enmity turned to love by the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ upon the cross.”
It is easy to be a combatant in the game of life. It takes no imagination. It requires no maturity. All one needs to remain a combatant are the skills provided by the reptilian (lowest) part of the brain. All that is required is to react, to retaliate. “I know I am but what are you?” Fifth graders are good at that way of living.
Our society currently has an overflow of agitators and aggressors. Wouldn’t it be a good idea for the Church to provide even just a few reconcilers?
But how we ask. How can I give in? How can I allow people to act and think the wrong way? I’ll be darned if anyone is going to get away with offending me!
To be a minister of reconciliation requires the one thing we fear the most. We will need to know when to surrender.
Just as the widow surrendered all common sense to what the prophet of God asked of her and made the cake for Elijah with the last of her food. But because she followed the Word of God her food lasted many days.
We will need to surrender just as the widow at the temple did with her small offering. She gave far more than the powerful and educated scholars and clergy. She surrendered to God long before that day. A widow in ancient Israel would have nothing to lose.
The scholars and clergy have everything to lose in surrendering to anyone even to God. They can study and talk about God but cannot surrender to God because it would mean surrendering their power, pride and social place.
Who of us, then, will take on the greater challenge of becoming reconcilers? Who has the courage to surrender to God by living into the sacrificial love of Jesus? Who among the assembly of disciples has the imagination, wisdom and maturity to take on that task so clearly handed onto us by our Lord Jesus?
Who among us has the courage to live as St. Peter advises in his 1st Epistle:
“Finally, all of you be of one mind, sympathetic, lovers of your fellow believers, compassionate, and modest in your opinion of yourselves. Don’t pay back evil for evil or insult for insult. Instead, give blessing in return. You were called to do this so that you might inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:8-9, CEB)
Reference: New Testament Words by William Barclay
Westminster John Knox Press, KY, 1974, Pp. 164-68