Monday, November 12, 2012

The Widow's Might!

This week I found out that Mabel Isakson died.
I am the only person who that matters to here this morning.
In many ways her death is of no note.
She did not hold any formal titles.
She was never a senator, congresswoman, or president.
In fact, in the time I was her pastor she was never council president, on even on Church council, or even on a committee at church.
She was not a well known religious figure like Martin Luther, Mother Teresa, or St. Francis.
In fact, she was not a pastor, bishop, or pope.
Her passing is not front page news.
She wasn’t rich, but she wasn’t poor either.
She never was on television.
But she was one of the mightiest people I have ever known.
She had a faith that always lifted up my eyes to what was possible.
She was kind and gentle.
Every person who I knew who knew her was affected by her faith and love.

What is it that makes us great?
This is the question that we have been talking about a lot this fall.
As we have read through Mark’s Gospel we have heard Jesus again and again talk about what it really means to be great.
What does it mean to call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ?

Most of the time Jesus has been talking about this in the abstract, but this morning, as Jesus sits in the temple in Jerusalem; we get a real life concrete example.
A widow with nothing to her name puts two small coins into the treasury.
It is hardly noticed by anyone, because the rich and religious are making a show of dropping in tons of money.
They are making a show of how much they have.
And this woman who nobody notices come along and gives what seems like nothing, but is so much more.
Jesus notices her.
What makes her giving so noticeable is that it is a sign of her faith.
By giving all she has to God she is saying that her lot is cast with God.
What would make someone give all their money away?
It is really the act of a mad person.
But this is not merely an act of charity; it is an act of faith.
This widow by her actions has said that her life is in God’s hands.

We often call this story the story of the widow’s mite.
Because the amount of money she puts in is one mite (Not an amount of coin in Jesus’ day, but it was when the King James version of the Bible was written).
But I think it should be the widow’s might, meaning the strength of this woman.
Her faith is strong, and that makes her mighty.

And that was Mable.
She was a small and weak looking person.
But once you got to know her you knew what a strong and mighty person she was.
I could tell you lots of stories about Mabel.
But the one that sticks out is when I really first started to get to know her.
I hadn’t been at that congregation for too long.
I was a young just out of seminary pastor.
I didn’t know much, but I was giving it my best.
You learn a lot of things on the job.
In seminary they teach you theology, Biblical studies, Church history, preaching.
But everything else you make it up as you go along.
Anyway, we had decided to move the altar away from the wall, so that when I presided at communion I could stand behind it and face everyone.
One of the problems was that moving it meant we would no longer have room for a kneeler that was in front of the altar.
After some research someone on the council came and said to me, “Pastor Mabel gave that kneeler in memory of her husband.
I guess we are going to have to keep it there.
Unless pastor you talk to her.”
This made me nervous.
I didn’t want to offend one of the oldest most respected members of the congregation.
I had just gotten there.
After a little while I finally got up the nerve to talk to Mabel about it.
She said to me, “Pastor, I gave that kneeler out of love for my Lord to the Church if you never used it that would have been ok with me.
Of course you can move it.
This isn’t about me.”
She was a mighty woman.
She had might and she gave that might all the time to those around her.

I think about Mabel a lot.
Because she taught me so much about what it meant to have faith in God and what it means to live that faith out every day.
She was the person she was because for Mabel her life was given over to God.
She never claimed that she was better or superior to others.
In fact, I constantly saw her uplift others and let herself go down.
She was a mighty person.

We too can be a mighty person.
Not because we are good or better than others, but because we can cast our lives onto God.
We can give God our lives.

I can’t tell you how many times a day I think to myself.
Ok Lord I am not sure how I am going to get through this, but I am putting myself in your hands.
That is what the widow did when she dropped in her two mites.
Her strength, Mabel’s strength and ours can come from the Lord.

Once Mable was having headaches, and she went to the doctor.
She got a head CT.
The doctor called her on a Friday to tell her that she had a brain tumor and she didn’t have long to live.
She called her family to tell them.
Those who lived out of town made the trip to Long Island to see her thinking it might be the last time.
There were many tears shed.
Of course, the whole time Mabel gracious and at peace knowing she would be with God soon.
On Monday, the doctor called to apologies.
He had made a mistake and read the wrong scan.
Mabel was not dying in fact everything was fine.
What was amazing about the story was that Mabel never switched doctors.
She told me, “Anyone of us could have made that same mistake.”
I said, “But Mabel if I go to a restaurant and the waitress messes up my order I don’t go back.”
Mabel was a mighty woman.
She was able to forgive because of that strong faith she had in God.
That is what faith does for us.
It makes us able to do things that are really crazy and unattainable.
It helps us to forgive even the worst of things, it helps us give even when there is nothing left, it helps us to let go of things that are not that important.
In the end, it helps us to know that the God of the universe is watching and notices those acts that everybody else misses.

We don’t have to be politicians, religious figures, or have lots of money to be important or have influence.
Our faith in God makes us mighty.
It lifts us up and gives us strength we didn’t even know that we had.
As our Psalmist sings this morning, “Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help, whose hope is in the Lord their God.”

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