Women of the Kingdom

Women of the Kingdom

November 7, 2021———-Rev. Patrick Mecham…………24th Sunday after Pentecost

Ruth 3: 1-5, 4: 13-17—————-Mark 12: 38-44

Think for a moment about what you are willing to invest yourself in wholeheartedly. What is it that you want to put your best effort into? Is it your relationship with your family? How about the development of your career? Or maybe it’s your children’s education that has the absolute commitment of your heart? What exactly is it that you are willing to give your all to?
Back in the 70’s, Star Wars was thrilling audiences all over the country—all over the world—with its epic adventure. There is something universal in its appeal because it deals with many of the issues we face as human beings. The characters are forced to 1. Choose their loyalties and 2. Take risks and 3. Be the people they were meant to be.
I would like you to focus on the character of Han Solo—a space pilot with a fast ship, usually smuggling cargo past Empire cruisers in his nefarious enterprise. Even though Han Solo has a partner, the Wookie “Chewbacca,” Han’s name is particularly appropriate. Solo—it stands for “Me, Myself, and I,” and it fits his attitude. He is only interested in taking care of himself, and when he is challenged to help save Princess Leia, he is only enticed into the venture when he is promised a huge reward.
Eventually, they save the princess, and he is given his reward. In fact, he is loading his money into his spaceship while the rest of the good guys are preparing to launch a desperate attack on the evil Death Star. They cannot convince him to join their cause and fight because his wholehearted commitment is to himself. SOLO.
Those of you who are familiar with the film know that, while young Luke Skywalker is trying to launch his torpedo into an air shaft of the Death Star, Darth Vader and other bad guys are zeroing in on him, ready to blast him out of the sky. Then, suddenly, from behind them, Han Solo shows up and sends Darth Vader spinning off into space! Luke then blows up the Death Star, the good guys win, and Han Solo takes his place on the heroes’ platform.
He has grown up, shifted his loyalties away from his self-centered focus, and has become an other-centered man!
Han Solo is Hollywood’s version of a real hero. But in the Bible, we have record of people who were actual heroes. Today’s texts are about two Women of the Kingdom who are shining examples for us. In humility, they offer themselves whole-heartedly (and without any guarantee of success). Let’s take a look at their situations, their actions, and the results—and then think together about our own situations and what we might be willing to invest ourselves in with our whole hearts.
We’ll start with Ruth.

Ruth the Moabite Outsider
Last week, I introduced Ruth (a woman of Moab) and her mother-in-law, Naomi. They had both lost their husbands and Ruth had sworn her allegiance to Naomi, to Naomi’s people, and to Naomi’s God. Both Ruth and Naomi were in an extremely humble position. Ruth was an outsider from Moab, and she had no husband to provide for her or to protect her. Together, they were desperate enough to glean in the fields—picking up individual grains that fell on the dirt as the fields were being harvested. Naomi urged her to humbly approach Boaz, who was a farmer and a kinsman to Naomi. Ruth could have been taken advantage of as she made her symbolic gesture of humility and service, but she won the heart of Boaz and they were married!
She bore Obed, who became the father of Jesse, who was then the father of David—the shepherd boy who eventually became King! Ruth, a humble outsider from Moab, entered into a male-dominated society and influenced history! And there are other women named in the ancestry of Jesus:
• Boaz’s mother was Rahab—the harlot of Jericho who helped the Israelites take that city;
• Solomon’s mother was Bathsheba (the widow of Uriah the Hittite;
• Way down the line, we have Joseph, a descendant of David, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ (Messiah).
The Poor Widow Who Put All She Had into Temple Offering
Now I’d like to shift to our Gospel reading, and talk about another remarkable humble woman. To appreciate this passage, it is important that you understand the desperate situation of widows in that day. They were dependent on their sons for their physical livelihood, because there was no honorable way in that society for a woman to earn a living. (You’ll notice that the Old Testament—and parts of the New—always demands care for widows and orphans.) This widow is poor in finances, but very rich in faith. She only had two small coins to live on, but she trusted in God’s provision. She wholeheartedly gave all she had and, even though it was tiny, Jesus counted it as MORE than the gifts made by those who gave from their abundance!
The timing couldn’t have been better, because Jesus had been teaching the Disciples about what is of greatest importance. He was warning them about the scribes, who liked:
• Walking around in their long robes;
• Being greeted with respect in the marketplace;
• Having the best seats in the synagogues;
• Having places of honor at banquets.
Then Jesus said, “They devour widows’ houses.” (This is a stinging indictment, and it means that they take advantage of the most vulnerable in their society—widows.) He continues his criticism by saying that they say long prayers for the sake of appearance. And he promises that they will receive the greater condemnation.
Then Jesus praised the faithful widow who gave herself wholeheartedly to God’s work. She would have been considered a very unlikely hero, but Jesus praised her!
There are other unlikely heroes of the faith that appear in the Gospels.

  1. There is a Roman Centurion who asks for healing for a beloved servant. He tells Jesus that it is not necessary for him to come to the Gentile’s house, but that he could just “say the word” and he was confident of the healing. (It is a little embarrassing that a Gentile-ROMAN-Soldier had faith greater than any in Israel!)
  2. Jesus chose another Gentile to be the hero in his story about a Samaritan who wholeheartedly gave of himself for a stranger in need—seeing him as a brother!
  3. God uses those who seem “unlikely” for great purposes; God equips those who respond to God’s call, rather than simply calling those who may seem to be more gifted!
    I’ll finish today by reminding you of one of my favorite films, Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. He plays a self-absorbed TV weatherman who is forced to repeat one single day over and over and over again. Eventually, he gets to know the people in Punxsutawney, the “tiny little town in western Pennsylvania” in which he is trapped. And he grows out of his self-absorption! He gradually learns that life is made richer by investing himself wholeheartedly into the lives of those around him! (He was giving them his heart.)

There’s a wonderful song we often sing at Christmastime. The words were written by Christina Rosetti, and it is called “In the Bleak Midwinter.” The final verse goes, “What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would give a lamb. If I were a wise man, I would do my part. Yet what can I give him: Give my heart.”
Friends, have you figured out just what it is that you are willing to invest yourself in, with all your heart? If so, hallelujah! If not, let’s stay on this journey of discovery together as we approach the season of Advent. After all, this is a time of preparation for celebrating God’s greatest gift to us!


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