Read the text here: Luke 21:1-4
Do you feel fragmented? Do you feel as though the different parts of your life stand apart from each other and do not relate? This is a common experience for many of us. Our lives are fragmented and divided, and we are the ones who have done the dividing up? So then this question comes back at us - How is your life divided? What are the different parts and how do you manage them? Also, how much time and money, percentagewise, do you alot to these different activities and priorities? For example, we have our work, leisure activities such as sports, concerts and restaurants, hobbies, family and probably many other categories and then we have our faith and church. And. it is hard to balance all of that stuff, isn’t it? At times it can begin to feel overwhelming as we begin to feel like we are split up into bits and pieces trying to hold it all together. But this is life in the 21st century for us. Our society has developed in a way that does not encourage or even support a more integrated lifestyle.
Of course, this kind of lifestyle fragmentation is not an exclusively modern phenomenon. We see it hinted at in our text today from St. Luke. Jesus has entered into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (chapter 19) and during the following week, before the events of the Passion begin on Thursday, Jesus spends time in the temple debating (arguing) and teaching. At one point in the midst of his teaching Jesus looks up and sees a stream of people going to the collection boxes in the temple. Now these were actually built into the building. They were openings in the wall where you were expected to put in your temple offerings. Jesus watches and sees, for the most part, the wealthy and connected placing their financial gifts into the collection. But then he sees an old women, a widow, come to the collection and he sees her put in a couple of copper coins. And Jesus is impressed. “Everyone else,” he says to the disciples, “give out of their abundance.” What does that mean? It’s as if they are saying, “I have this extra money here and I can spare some of it to give away to the temple. And it will not effect in anyway anything I else I want to do or buy!”
We do that too, don’t we? I have this extra money so I will throw it in the plate; or I have a little extra time so I can volunteer for this one thing and so on. And this works, because it doesn’t impact or affect any other activities or purchases. I can give this money to the church and I can still go to this, or buy this new, expensive thing or …. (you can fill in the blank!) Or try this exercise - add up your fast food expenses, or all your entertainment expenses for a month and compare the total to your giving to the church. How would they compare? And you can do the same exercise with time too? So, if you were to compare all the time you spend on your faith, time spent at church at worship, bible study, participating in a specific ministry, and add in also the private time you spend studying the bible and praying and then compare that with the time you spend in leisure or entertainment activities or watching television how would it compare? Then ask yourself this question - Are you giving out of your abundance?
Back to our Gospel story: Jesus sees this old woman, a widow – someone who is on the fringe of society and so poor that they can barely survive – putting two copper coins into the collection. Now, on a monetary basis what the widow is contributing is pretty small, compared to the large amounts that some of the others have contributed. But, for Jesus, it is not about amount, it is about what the gift represents. Jesus says to the disciples that this woman “… out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.” But this is a slight mistranslation – what the Greek says is this: “…but she out of her poverty has thrown in all her life.” In other words, rather than dividing up life into compartments, like the Pharisees and like we often do, Jesus is pointing to this woman as a model of a life that is not fragmented. Her poverty has forced an integration of her life so that what she gives of herself in any way impacts every other dimension of her life. And this integration is then held up as a model for the disciples, and for us by Jesus.
Now, Jesus is not suggesting that we need to give of ourselves in such a way that we do not have enough resources to provide for our own and our family’s basic needs. But what I think this text is lifting up is a lifestyle that does not compartmentalize the various parts of our lives but rather sees everything we do and everything we give – both time and talent – as part of a whole. So, for example, if I make a commitment to give 10% of my financial income for the ministry of the church one of the results is that I will need to choose to eat out less frequently. If I make a commitment to teach Sunday School or participate in bible study or help out in the food pantry and it may require that I might have to give up a particular activity in order to meet the commitment. If I make a commitment to be at worship every week, in order to experience the presence of Christ in the Sacrament this may mean that I need to give up activities that interfere with this.
And the implications for living an integrated life even go beyond just church activities and church support. It means that we might need to set boundaries on how much we let our work or other interests interfere with our family life, for example. It means that we take our calling to be good stewards of all that God has given us seriously – so that we take care of ourselves physically and emotionally, we make quality time for our family, we do Faith5 every night. And not only that but this integration extends also to our approach to our environment and our relationships with others as well. For we are called to reach out to care for others – to forgive and love! To forgive and to love means you have to be willing to give something of yourself! We are also called to cherish and treasure the gifts of creation! What does it mean for our lifestyle if we take seriously our responsibility to care for our environment. As we begin to take this calling seriously, as we begin to work on this and prayerfully struggle with these issues and questions we will find that the fragments of our lives will slowly come together. And the glue that holds it together is non other than Christ, himself. For God, through Jesus offers us his very life to us – and calls on us to do the same!