When I worked for the military there was a book I read about US international foreign policy that quoted the David and Goliath chapter. If you do the math translation, Goliath was wearing about 200 pounds of armor and needed additional remote resources (a shield bearer). David rejected armor, was fast and light, all he had to do was stay out of range. The commentator I read was comparing Goliath to the United States and David to Osama bin laden. He was drawing a tactical comparison, not a moral one. Food for thought.
You are unlikely to ever hear me preach Mark 12:41-44 in its most often preached way, as a stewardship text in praise of the widow’s generosity. Mark places it right after Jesus’ condemnation of the religious leaders: “They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers.” I think what “preaches” more into our context here is the part which condemns systems which contribute to poverty and economic oppression. I confess to being so entangled with the institutional and structural sin of our system — and to being a great beneficiary of it. I appreciate this commentary from scholar Henry Langknecht, Associate Professor of Homiletics and Christian Communications at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio on the Working Preacher website:
We’d like to identify ourselves with the widow of verses 41-44, but most of us North American Christians are the scribes of verses 38-40. Even when we live simply, we enjoy products and infrastructures whose provision devours the lives of the poor in the world. And no length of prayers can hide us and our love of what we have and what we’ve accomplished.
I find the Psalms such a gift — because of their expression of the fullness of the life of faith. Even to call it the “life of faith” feels so limiting as my life of faith is so often mixed with confusion, doubt, wonder and awe of both the great and terrible kinds. The Psalms not only give us permission to pray with integrity, with rage, with fear, with words which scold God — but show us how.
Psalm 44 feels like a counter-point to the lovely promises of Psalm 23.
I can imagine this ending of the Psalm as a prayer on the lips of those refugees facing the sea crossing between Africa and Europe, or those mothers on hunger strike in our “family detention center” in Texas in solidarity with their children who are too depressed and confused to eat.
19 Yet you have crushed us in the place where jackals live, and immersed us in shadow dark as death.
20 Had we forgotten the name of our God and stretched out our hands to a foreign god,
21 would not God have found this out, for he knows the secrets of the heart?
22 For your sake we are being massacred all day long, treated as sheep to be slaughtered.
23 Wake, Lord! Why are you asleep? Awake! Do not abandon us for good.
24 Why do you turn your face away, forgetting that we are poor and harrassed?
25 For we are bowed down to the dust, and lie prone on the ground.
26 Arise! Come to our help! Ransom us, as your faithful love demands.
Help me understand this, y’all
Those who, like myself, are participating in First Presbyterian Church of Hightstown’s Bible in a Year project are invited to contribute to this blog. Anything up to and including the current week’s readings is fair game; so is anything else that is on your heart.
We are almost through month 4 so I’m ramping up a bit late, but was really feeling the isolation of working a project like this alone, feeling how many things wanted to be said, and how much I would love the participation of my church brothers and sisters, just as I do in our face to face groups.
Dave Teich, moderator