Jabbok Dawn

Tumbling in the Sand

Handful by handful


© In Touch Ministries. Used with permission.

The texts for Sunday, November 8, 2015 (24nd Sunday after Pentecost): 1 Kings 17:8-16; Psalm 146; Hebrews 9:24-28; and Mark 12:38-44.


A couple of coins.  A handful of meal.  A little oil.
Tiny drops in a vast sea of need —
and yet, from such generosity, sacrifice, and faithfulness,
the reign of God is revealed and advances.
Prophets are fed.
The marginalized are reminded of their dignity.
Community is created and sustained
—day by day
handful by handful
drop by drop.

It would be easy to either see the unnamed widows in our readings
as martyrs and saints, never to be emulated
by us who could never give away
our last meal and risk starving … sooner
us, who have a little sense
or at least a little self preservation that
keeps us from such seemingly impossible sacrifices of generosity.

Either that, or these women’s stories
become for us the ultimate guilt trip —
well, they gave away their last dime, all that they had
—surely you could pony up a bit more.
—surely you could be more generous,
you who trust a bit too much in your own means, your own merit, your own control …

Yeah. Right.

I’m thinking that neither approach will do.

I’ve never been much of a fan of guilt as a motivator.
It is used too often to take from those who have little.
It is too often the weapon of the unscrupulous — religious and otherwise —
to, as Jesus says, devour widow’s houses and make themselves rich.

Guilt always plays the most with those
don’t need any more laid on them —
and those who *may* actually benefit from a little bit of guilt
aren’t generally going to hear it.

Which, is really fine—
because generosity has nothing to do with guilt.

It has nothing to do with getting something from you.
Instead, it is a gift for you.

Generosity has everything to do with what these women’s stories
have to teach us it is about.

And that is …
that generosity is a gift
that prioritizes human dignity
that builds up community
and that is being formed in us from our very beginnings
—our beginnings in these life giving waters of baptism
—the same waters that Aidan just experienced.

Let us look at the widow of Zarepheth
because we know her story the best—

This woman is out gathering wood.
She is unseen
She is alone and isolated.
Her poverty has made her so.

Who knows what she has tried doing along the way
to make ends meet
to make sure there was food on her table
for her son.

But now, there was almost nothing left —
She had become worthless,
her life not worth living in her own mind
— her seeming willingness to eat one last meal and die.
She had become invisible and alone—
so much so that her own community had abandoned her to this fate
… never mind her God.

And, then, out of the wilderness walked this prophet—
a mess of a man—
who had been hiding in the wilderness, fed by birds, for months
And *he* requests something from *her*—

her — who has had nothing to give
her — who seemed useless for life

She could help this man.

And so she did.
And when she did, she heard some amazing words—
that she had not been forgotten
that her life would be sustained
that there was enough — for her, too.

Simply in the asking,
simply in the need of another that could be met,
This widow found dignity and worth.

And in there giving, in her generosity,
she found community and life—
sustained handful by handful
and drop by drop.

The word “generosity”
comes from the same Greek** root that “genesis” comes from—
meaning beginning or origin.

In the Greek world, only those born with money
only those whose origins were wealthy
were expected to be generous.
Only the wealthy could be patrons—
advancing their ideas, their worth, their rule
by distributing money to others with the expectation of something in return.

But the reign of God
the rule of God
invites a different kind of patron
a different understanding of origins, of our genesis, of our generosity.

That is— that we are born
out of water and Spirit
out of the promises of a crazy generous God
who pours out gift upon gift to everyone—
to the orphan and the widow
to the last and the lost
to the first and the found
to the loved and powerful.

God gives
— so that all may have life
— so that all may have community
— so that all may be made whole

And from this, our beginnings, our genesis, our generosity, arises.

From this, we learn our own value,
our own part,
our own gift to give
to sustain and be sustained by a generous God

Whose reign is shown
drop by drop
handful by handful
as hands reach out
and what is, is shared
and lives are valued
and community is grown
and life springs forth where death had seemed to win.



**errata:  it is actually the same Latin root, not Greek root.

Featured Image:  “Coming to the End of Yourself”  by Jeff Gregory. © In Touch Ministries. Used with permission.  Found at his blog:  Jagged Smile: Doodles and Ramblings

2 comments on “Handful by handful

  1. Terri Hass
    November 12, 2015

    Your sermons are food for the soul and food for thought. It is wonderful to be able to read your sermons no matter where you are.


    • jabbokdawn
      November 12, 2015

      Thank you Terri! I’m so glad for this blogging medium that allows me to share.


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