Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17; Psalm 127; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44
I don’t think any of us would deny that we live in a world of anxiety. And what’s more, we are so often anxious, unconsciously, about the idea we are not enough. We are not capable enough, good-looking enough, thin enough, hard-working enough … we are not enough. And the world does much to feed our anxiety and feelings of “not–enoughness.” Yet, it is actually into this world of feeling like we are not enough, filled with anxiety, that God’s mercy speaks words of abundance into our lives and community: you, we, are enough, because of what God has done. God loves us eternally and we are all that God needs us to be. We are recipients of God’s grace and generosity because of God’s unending love.
The simple story of the widow and the Temple treasury is one of wonderful grace. Jesus sits across from the treasury and, as he sees a poor widow put in two little coins, he calls his disciples to him and tells them that this woman is blessed above all others who put money in. She has given out of her poverty all that she has AND has created, by virtue of her generosity, an aura of enoughness. She is enough and her gift is enough because they are given out of love, with an understanding of being loved. WE cannot gain God’s favor and love by what we do; we can express our awareness of that love by what we do. The giving out to others what we have been blessed by God in Christ with is generosity.
This past week I was at a conference down in Madison where we talked a lot about anxiety and mercy. The presenter David Zahl was from Mockingbird, an organization whose prime objective is to share the good news of Jesus Christ. There is a book, Cherry, by Mary Karr, an adult convert to Roman Catholicism. She writes non-fiction, and I know some of her poetry. Her books tend to be intensely autobiographical and Cherry tells mainly about her young life and adolescence.
Mary grew up with a mother who was a spectacular alcoholic who would sometimes leave home for days at a time with no awareness of where she had gone. In alcohol or depression-fueled episodes her mom would threaten to kill herself in front of her children. Mary Karr’s father would often work double shifts to stay out of the fray but did his share of drinking, too. But, in spite of her parents’ dysfunction, Mary Karr implies and says right out that her parents loved she and her sister and showed it, at least some of the time. Once, Mary intimates, when she was 14 or so, she tried to commit suicide by taking too many pills. She became frightened after taking them and purged them, but felt terribly sick afterward. Her parents arrived home and, not knowing what had happened, took care of her and nourished her. When asked if she could eat something, she said the only thing she could eat was a plum. When she awoke in the am, there was a whole basket of plums sitting there, more than she could ever eat. Her father had driven through the night from east Texas to Arkansas to find a place with plums. That gesture of generosity is something she always remembered, something that saved her at the time, the idea that she was not a failure or loser, but enough to be loved that much by someone.
It is vital for us to name our anxiety and the sources of it. Family? Addictions or illnesses? Work? Technology? Violence? Society? So much threatens to swallow us up. We have so many commitments every day, more than we can do without a lot of anxiety. Clergy have it too. And we feel like we are on a wheel that we cannot get off of without letting something go. We must keep the balls in the air. We can be slaves to our schedules and in it, we still feel that we are not enough: good enough parents or spouses; good enough employees or employers; not strong enough, righteous enough … and, over time, instead of slowing down, we work even harder to cover up the idea that, at some level, after all our efforts, we still feel we come up short. We swim in a world of competition too, where there is a perceived scarcity of resources so we need to always get there first.
It is into this world of anxiety and not–enoughness that God in Christ speaks His truth: you are, we are, enough. Hebrews promises that we have a Savior, a great high priest, who has gone into the holy space that humans cannot go and has sacrificed everything so that we can come before God blameless, without sin. Hebrews reminds us that “he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself.” God in Christ has brought those of us who were far off near to the resurrected grace of Jesus Christ. The world, which is anxiety-filled and rather merciless, has its alternative in the overflowing mercy of God in Christ.
We have a great gift in the Christian community and life. We can step off the hamster wheel of the world in which there are nearly always winners and losers, something to prove, where we feel like we are not enough, and be lifted and loved by the God of all creation in Christ. We can embrace the wondrous rise and fall of the liturgy, the grace offered in the sacraments and the healing offered in the Eucharist to reset ourselves each week. Even the silences, brief though they may be, after the homily, before Eucharist, etc. to breathe in the grace and mercy of God and bask in our enoughness in the presence of God. The church universal has something to offer that the world does not: grace enough for everyone; love enough for all; acceptance of us for who we are and forgiveness, at the end. As the hymn today asks, “What wondrous love is this that cause the Lord of bliss to lay aside his crown for my soul?” The wondrous love of God in Jesus, the Savior, tells us we are enough for God.