On daring to turn our heads // Words for the Journey 3.22.20

by susan on March 24, 2020

These words were shared in our online gathering on 3.22.20 & our based on Mark 12:41-44, 13:1-2:


In this strange & unsettling season, I’m noticing some things that are being brought to the surface in & around me. 

One thing I’ve seen coming to the surface in me is my incessant need to “do” something, anything. That’s my go to response whenever a crisis occurs – to step in wherever & however I can: Super Susan to the rescue – dont’ y’all already feel safer just knowing I’m here?! (I imagine that line fell as flat here as it did in our online gathering 😉 )

It’s good to know it’s not just me though. I’m noticing it in others, too.

Those who tend to be judgmental are now judging everybody’s every move. Are you sure that’s 6 feet?  Those who tend to be know-it-all’s are offering all kinds of unsolicited advice. And those who tend to be germaphobes & clean freeks, well, they started self-quarantining last month. 

It’s not only our tendancies, though, but our deepest fears, our darndest mistakes, our most soul stirring strengths & our most urgent desires that are making their way to the surface. 

There is so much to see, but unlike the latest breaking news, some things require our heads to be turned in order to see them.

Fortunately for us, Jesus was the master head-turner

He was always trying to turn his followers’ attention in a counter-intutitive direction: 

look at the birds, look at this leper, look at the seeds, look here at me.

He was always trying to turn heads & hearts toward the people & the places & the parts of creation that were so often out of sight & out of mind – teh seemingly small & insignificant.

Maybe you feel like you fit that description. 

Like you could be standing in front of the world hair on fire & no one would even glance in your direction. You feel invisible, like you are never really seen. The further into isolation we all go, its inevitable we’ll all feel that way to some degree – but, let’s be honest – some of us will feel it more.

Today we are invited to take some comfort in Mark’s picture of Jesus. There is hope to be found for those feeling an extra measure of isolation right now: 

In Jesus, we are introduced to One who sees the unseen & invites us to see, too.

In a temple full of filthy rich religious leaders coming to offer their spare change on center stage, Jesus looks stage left – away from the shiny & the shimmering, the loud & the proud to the small & quiet & the struggling. 

To a widow who is giving her last two coins. 

She was there doing her best to be faithful in a system built on the rich getting richer while the poor suffered. 

She was literally giving her last
two rolls of toilet paper,
her last two meals,
her last two dollars.

That is what was required of her.

She was a sign of the times – a reminder of what was so broken about the temple & about the way of life that was being fostered there.

The widow giving her last two mites is downright depressing. What could she possibly offer us in this moment?

But Jesus says look here.  This is the real story. Look at this woman. She is not only a beloved child of God – we have something to learn from her presence here. 

I was always told the lesson here is that I need to be more like her, but Jesus never tells us to imitate this poor widowed woman. Jesus never commends her, never applauds her self-sacrifice, or insructs us to follow in her footsteps.  

He simply notices her, and tells his disciples to notice her, too. 

Jesus had just been crituqing the temple system & the unfair practices that were benefiting the rich & exploiting the poor. It’s as though he sees her & says “see”:

Look at what we are doing.
Look at what is happening here. Don’t you see?

And in the very next breath after seeing this woman compliant in a system that told her to sacrifice all she had left to live on, they leave and start going on & on about how grand the temple buildings are & Jesus tells them it will all come crumbling down.

That is an image we are growing familiar with these days.

We have been forced into a strange, unsettling season. Some things have been shut down – others have been crumbling – hopes, plans, predictable routines. 

And some seemingly insignificant people & parts of creation are coming into sight. They too have a lesson for us. They too are a sign of the times. Here are a few I have noticed:

There was a full story devoted to janitors in the NYT this week. Part of it told about a Wells Fargo workplace that was exposed to coronavirus.  The entire building was evacuated. Only no one alerted the janitors who continued cleaning exposed areas.

For the first time in forever, swans were seen swimming in Venice’’s suddenly less polluted canals.

Satellites captured images of drastically reduced air pollution above China’s atmosphere as less cars & factories produce pollution.

In this unprecedented wildnerness place in which we stand, we are invited to look stage left. To the people & places & parts of creation so seemingly insignificant that we have lived as though they do not matter.

We are invited to see & to learn & in so doing, we may just hear an invitation to re-order our lives & to reconnect with what matters most.

Would we dare to have our heads turned right now? 

To see what so desparately needs to be seen.
To see that another world is possible.
To see that another way of life is necessary.

I know there is much to be afraid of right now. I’m afraid, too. But there is also hope here. God sees us in our darkest moments & God invites us to see, too.


Artwork: “The Widow’s Mite” by Gustav Dore, ca. 1880.

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