He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.’ When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, ‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’
Almost as a tag on line to this intriguing story, Jesus mentions the unimaginable; one day, the Temple – the permanent and literal house of God will be no more. The beautiful work of artisans, the innumerable sacrifices and dedications to God, the holy atmosphere, the historical community focal point, God’s presence, all gone. It’s an unthinkable situation. What would the destruction of the Temple have meant to the woman who gave all that she had to the collection box? Deep sorrow and loss? Bitterness? Relief? Freedom? We don’t know why the woman put in all that she had. Was it because: she loved God; she loved the Temple; she was able to place her well being in God’s hands; or because, whilst being watched by those with plenty, she felt ashamed not to? Can you imagine a time when your church is no more? For many out there this will already be a painful reality, or one close enough to touch. What does church mean for you? Is God’s presence limited to those 4 walls, the beauty in the building, that group of people, the rituals you share together, the weekly meetings and activities, the history of prayers made in that space? In this story we see the frailty of our need for religious security. Whatever reason the woman gave all that she had to the Temple, the resulting vulnerability surely meant that her very life was in God’s hands; perhaps, in her poverty, she already knew strength in that reality. Perhaps the destruction of the Temple would be easier for her to comprehend than for those who measured their very worth by their relation to it. The Temple was eventually destroyed, but around about the same time, word of God’s love in Jesus was spreading to the ends of the earth. God goes before us, each day, into every place. Go out and seek God, seek resurrection in the darkest of places – and maybe even in the Church.
Omnipotent God, was the woman in this story, brave, or foolish, or faithful when she gave all that she had to the Temple? God can you make me all three for you? Brave enough to let go of those physical things I cling to, foolish enough to trust your strength in my vulnerability faithful enough to work out your love in all that I do, Amen
Liz Kam, Church Related Community Worker, Levenshulme Inspire.