Sunday, February 18, 2018

The rainbow and the cross

God's protection and peace be with you wherever you go this week.  What a week it has been. One that may have provoked questions like these: How can you believe in a Good God when the world is so bad?  The chaos, cruelty, violence, and injustice point away from a benevolent creator.  What sort of a God creates this and then threatens his creatures with the possibility of hell after death? As if this isn’t bad enough.  The best we can say is that the worst hasn’t yet happened to me or to those I love.  But it sometimes feels like I’m waiting for that to happen.  There is a capricious randomness to the whole thing.  After another mass shooting at a public school and the subsequent rage, sorrow, and powerlessness that follows, I wonder how long.  How long until it gets me or how long must we live under the pall of violence and death? Do we hunker down?  Protect our own? Lock the doors, arm the ushers?  Should all of us be trained gunmen? This doubtful cynicism is symptomatic of a culture of death, violence, and powerlessness.  And it is spiritually dangerous, because it perpetuates the dehumanizing effect of violence and makes it acceptable, even necessary.  It leads us to wilderness survival against the threats around us.

In other news, in a scene of gruesome poetic justice, an infamous South African poacher was attacked and eaten by lions.  Which suggests that the whole animal kingdom is hardwired toward violent retribution.  All that remained was his rifle and ammunition.  The world is deadly enough without those manmade killing machines.  We’ve just become more efficient at it.  The most efficient killers the earth has ever seen.  When will there be peace?  How do we make it?

The Noah story with its rainbows and doves, is the most beloved of the bible stories.  You’ll never find a children’s first bible without it.  And yet it is the deadliest.  The flood, the ark, the animals, Noah and his family, the rainbow.  Benign images in a picture book.  We forget that the purpose of the flood was to cleanse the earth of the violence, cruelty, and chaos of humanity.  The creator’s original blessing and intent for creation had been rejected and distorted by the image-bearing creatures, who saw God in themselves and decided to take that literally.  Argument erupts over power, who’s in charge, who’s the most right, the greatest, the highest ranking.  Fighting and killing ensues. Brother against brother, we’re told. A civil war among God’s first children. So, God takes action and puts an end to the violence with one violent, destructive, death-dealing act of power---a mighty flood.  But, God rescues Noah and his family and all the animals.  And then the God of the bible does a radical, unprecedented, and misunderstood thing.  God makes a unilateral covenant with Noah.  Now a covenant is a binding legal agreement, a partnership relationship, a quid pro quo.  In the ancient near east covenants ended violence between warring tribes or bound two families together in mutual agreement over land or women.  Typically, a covenant is conditional and requires both sides to agree to some compromise arrangement.  Give and take.  But this covenant is different.

The almighty, powerful creator binds Himself to his creation with an unconditional promise.  Never again will I destroy the earth with a flood.  God will not be responsible for the destruction of the earth and its creatures.  God binds himself to them as protector and savior, not violent dictator or destructive overlord.  The rainbow is a reminder, not to us, but to God. This covenant is unconditional and eternal.  God will not use violence as a means to achieve peace. Ever.  God will use patient forebearance and forgiveness as that means.  In fact, at the right time God will descend and walk the earth, literally entering the wilderness, the chaos, cruelty, and violence of human civilization in order to rescue us from it.  In Jesus Christ, God continues to live out the Noah covenant—coming not as a military messiah or powerful destroyer of evil, but as a teacher and healer and forgiver of sins.  In Jesus, God floods the earth with life and love.  And the wood that built the ark will also build a cross.  Just as the ark once saved Noah, so the cross saves us. Jesus’ death is life for us. It is symbol of God’s devotion to our lives, God’s protection, God’s promise not to abandon or forsake us.  I believe that Jesus Christ was present in that school, is present in every school and nightclub and concert venue and city street and abusive home and refugee camp and prison.  Jesus joins our journey through the violent wilderness that is civilization as we’ve made it, in order to remake it “on earth as it is in heaven.” The God of the bible has not given up on this project to make a peaceful home with us.  And the good news is that God continues to act.       

I believe that the rain, the snowfall is not God’s destructive power any more.  I believe they are God’s tears.  And that God’s hope is that we will be moved by those tears to stand against the violence and the suffering and the chaos.  God has given us what we need to bring peace.  God has bought us time, taught us a way to walk in love and compassion with neighbors and enemies.  Commanded us not to be afraid.  Sent the Spirit to give us power and wisdom and courage to act for justice, to do what is right, to cry out against this culture of violence and death.  This culture that idolizes guns and protects the rights of those who want to use them to commit murder, so that the best justice the culture can offer is the death penalty or life in prison or death by cop or suicide for the perpetrator of the crime.  Death is what we have to offer.  We can stand against this culture of violence and death.  We must be rainbow people—promising never again to act with violence and anger toward one another.  We must seek to understand trauma and anger and disconnection and alienation---the sin that tears the human family apart.  We must enter more deeply into the suffering of others, into their stories, their grief, their shame, their fears, their despair.  And we must affirm the covenant relationship—that God in God’s mercy and love has chosen to become vulnerable and human, in order to draw near to us, to show us love, to heal us, and to lead us toward the rainbow of non-violence.  Lent begins with the Noah covenant of protection and non-violent peace-making, with the God who enters the wilderness with us. The rainbow and the cross.  May they be for us talisman of hope and the promise of a new creation that is yet to be born, one for which we long with all our hearts and work towards with all the tenacity and courage we can muster as the covenant people of God.  Amen.                 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Last Christmas Eve

Welcome, friends, guests, neighbors, family, people of peace and goodwill.  You have come here tonight to worship Jesus, to hear the story again, to sing the carols, to join in fellowship around the one table, to pray for peace during a time of war, violence, and suffering; you have come here to participate in this annual pilgrimage from your home and streets and neighborhood to the manger, to the little town of Bethlehem, to the site of a holy birth, to the surrounding hills and valleys where sheep graze and shepherds watch and angels sing.  You have come to be transported to another place and time.  And though we cannot physically go there tonight, the words we hear and sing move us there in our minds and hearts.   Perhaps because you are in need of some nostalgia or an escape from the real world.  Perhaps your soul hungers and your heart grieves. Perhaps you are weighed by the heaviness of recent world events, elections, attacks, overt public acts of discrimination and hate.  You are concerned about places like Aleppo, Syria or Afghanistan or Cairo, or Chicago or Berlin.  Places where people live and suffer unjustly, live with perpetual war or fear of violence.  Perhaps you are work weary or fighting illness or grieving a loss. Maybe you are eager to feel the presence of God or taste the goodness of the Lord.  Maybe you just love this night. The anticipation of the children.  The beauty and majesty of candlelight and silent night.  Maybe you are here by invitation or obligation.  Someone else wanted you or needed you here.  So here you are.    We welcome you here.  There is a place for you, wherever you are in your life circumstances.  We only ask that you be present with us in the activity, the work of worship.  Your presence is appreciated.  Thank you for coming.  There is always room here for you. 

There was no room for them in the inn, Luke said.  Internally displaced by the occupying governments of imperial Rome, because emperors like to register religious groups as a form of intimidation and social control, they traveled 100 miles on foot from Nazareth to Bethlehem---a hard journey.   A system of oppression was in place that forced the young couple to travel far from their village and family.  Forced to deliver her baby in a distant town, they will be forced to flee to another country to avoid violent persecution by their own governing rulers.  This new family will become refugees, until a change in government allows them to return to their home town of Nazareth.  These people experience rejection, homelessness, and internal displacement.  As do an unprecedented number of people in the world today.  Some 60 million people are displaced.  1 in 100 people on the planet.  60 % of all Syrians have been forced from their homes.  They experience what Mary and Joseph and Jesus did; no room in the inn.  It is to an inhospitable world that he comes.  According to Luke, there was no room in the kataluma, or guest room.  Many homes had a guest room, prepared for travelers to rest.  Customary hospitality would have prohibited the residents, likely Joseph’s extended family, from turning them away, especially because she was in labor, even if the guest room was already occupied.  Instead, they would’ve made space for them with the animals on the side of the house.  Sort of like the garage, connected to the main quarters of the home.   Family members, villagers, animals, and shepherds would have surrounded the very public birth.  It was not a private, silent night in a solitary cattle shed in a field.  It was downtown Bethlehem, during a time of forced migration.  Jesus is born under these circumstances, received by strangers and extended family. When we welcome the displaced, the refugee, the single mother and child, those experiencing poverty and systemic injustice, we welcome Jesus.        

We have heard so much bad news, so much fake news, so little good news that we find it hard to believe.  Don’t we?  This year has left many of us feeling anxious, afraid, and disturbed by what we have seen and heard on the news.  So, listen to the angels and sing what they sang. For to you has been born on this day in the city of David, a savior, who is Christ the Lord.  So many of us see the need for a savior, a rescuing helper, a divine intervention in the world’s crises.  We have seen refugees drown and children die in war.  We have seen shooting violence and racism; heard of islamophobia and the denigration of immigrants.  Dehumanizing.  Cruel.  Sad.  We may feel powerless, defeated by forces of injustice and evil.  We see the widening gulf between the rich and the poor.  This ugliness on the news leaves us jaded and cynical.  Can anything get better?  Can anyone help?  Angels says, to you is born a savior.  While emperors threaten and power is displayed through violence, peace maintained through war---a prince of peace is born to peasants in an ancient Palestinian village.   He comes to save us from our sins, from our worst selves.  More than ever the world needs angels, messengers of good news to announce a savior’s birth and a promise of peace and goodwill toward all humankind.  We are invited to join the angels and the shepherds, and tell others the good news of what God has done.  If we don’t the world will not know it.  Perhaps nothing gets better, as long as we remain silent.  As you go home tonight, ponder these things in your heart.  His birth says that God comes to us.  God abides with us.  God seeks us.  God comes near.  God is present.  In space and time.  Present to us.   

Far from home, he comes to dwell among people and animals.  This is the good news.  Received, but not welcomed.  He comes to this world beset by violence, forced migration and displacement.  According to the story, Jesus is God with us, God in the flesh dwelling among us.  No doubt you are making room for guests this weekend as extended family gather to celebrate.  If you must travel and become a guest, remember the story. If you receive guests, may your hospitality be received with gratitude.  And may you be blessed by your guests, as if the holy family were present. May the presence of the savior be made known to you in the breaking of the bread.  Bethlehem literally means house of flesh or house of bread and reminds us that wherever the bread is broken and eaten, Jesus is present to save.  May you experience his loving presence in this place and in all the places you find yourselves this holy season. Amen. 

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Mark 14. The last Days

Mark 14

It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus* by stealth and kill him; for they said, ‘Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.’
 While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,* as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, ‘Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii,* and the money given to the poor.’ And they scolded her. But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news* is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’

Reflection Questions:

Why did they want to arrest and kill Jesus?
Anointing oil was used for healing, for burial of the dead, and for crowning a King.
When have you seen or experienced extravagance, generosity, and/or real physical care?
What does the woman's action teach about the body?
What does Jesus mean by: "You will always have the poor with you...?"

MARK 14, continued

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
 On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’ So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
 When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.’ They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, ‘Surely, not I?’ He said to them, ‘It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread* into the bowl* with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.’

Reflection Questions:

In your own life, what would betrayal look like?  How have you experienced betrayal?  To whom are you most loyal? What does loyalty require?

What does it mean that Jesus' betrayer is one of the twelve, sitting at table with him?
What does it mean that the others at table question their own loyalty by asking, "Surely not I?"

MARK 14, continued
While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’

Reflection Questions:
To whom have you given your life?  Your body?  Your blood?  Your tears?  Your sweat?  Your allegiance?  Your entire being?
Who has given the same to you?
Why does Jesus give them a physical expression of his gift, in the form of a simple meal?  Why Bread and wine?  

A prayer against the violence

Another violent act in which your children fall.
Another invisible man with more guns---automatic killing machines-- and enough ammunition to kill or wound hundreds of bodies.
Another crippling sense of national grief, anger, and intransigence.
Another argument about rights, privileges, responsibility, and guilt.
Another search for heroes, sacrificial lambs, compassionate helpers, protectors, and survivors.
Another prayer into the grief and horror.
Another day of work and grocery shopping, and television watching, and homework, and vacation planning, and commuting, and ordinary routines.
Another moment in which fear, mistrust, and insecurity threaten to tear us apart.
Another, in the liturgy of perpetual violence against human bodies that we witness, experience, receive, and mourn.
Bodies bleeding on the ground.  From wounds inflicted.  By self or other.
A war rages on here.  Unending.  Eternal.
Generating fear and hate and more violence.  And more fear.  

And You, declaring, "Fear not."
You, warning us against greed, idolatries, and apathy toward life.
You, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.
You, life-giver.  You, death destroyer.  You, raiser of the dead.
You, willing victim of violence.  Crucified.  Shot.  Bleeding.  Dying. On the streets.  In the crowd.
You, among us, your falling children.
Promising to lift us up.
You, peacemaker. Forgiver of sins. Deliverer of justice.  Promiser of salvation.
Dare we to believe this?  In the face of so much constant violence?
Dare we to trust you?
We, who dare, need your help to stand and walk forward.
We grieve.  We struggle. We wait.  With hope and cynicism.
Come in peace.  Come in love.  Come in mercy. Come in power that effects change and brings down systems and leaders that protect the violent and permit harm.
Come and heal us.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Mark 13 and Stay Woke

Keep awake, Jesus said.  Keep awake. Pay attention to the times and the seasons.  Movements require that its leaders pay attention, because there is a rhythm to the work of building a just and peaceful world.  Some describe it as a step forward and a step back, or the ebb and flow of a rising tide. Compassionate justice has eluded the world.  Is the world safer, cleaner, fairer than it was in the past?  Are we making progress?
My wife is helping to teach the UN Millennium Development Goals as part of her school's LA curriculum. Check them out at  Are the goals attainable?  Are they progressive?  Are they inclusive?   Who are the winners and the losers?

StayWoke is a paraphrase that has found its way into urban vernacular and the resistance work of current anti-racism organizing groups, like Black Lives Matter. It suggests that resisters must be vigilant in our efforts to advocate for just policies and safe communities. Check out  Stay Woke is about policing the police in black communities where racial bias and profiling endangers young black kids daily.  Stay Woke is about becoming aware of internalized oppression and the ways in which black and brown communities continue to struggle because of the trauma of history.

For Christians, it means that we are paying attention for the cross--the places in which power is abused, the weak are oppressed, and the poor are trampled upon.  We must watch out for those who are vulnerable, risking vulnerability ourselves to do so. We are paying attention to the ways that the powerful assess threats to their power and use their wealth and influence to mitigate those threats, by further disadvantaging poor communities.

It is also a call to wake up from our own complacency with, comfort in, and conformity to the status quo dominant culture.  In what ways do we benefit from a system that favors white, educated, males and puts women and people of color at a disadvantage?

Stay Woke might mean to take a stand, to protest, to march, to oppose hatred and prejudice.  It might mean to take action in your community for your neighbor.

Jesus expects us to be vigilant, to pay attention to the news and politics of the day.  Because we will see the cross there.  In mass incarceration, in cuts to health care and food for the hungry, in anti-immigration policies, and in policies that benefit the wealthiest few.

Maybe this gospel is a Kairos moment for you---you've been unaware of the bigger implications of Jesus' mission.  Its not just about "saving souls" one person at a time.  It's not even about random acts of kindness and "being a good person."  It's about massive change, moving history in a direction, building a world around God's intentions--and not ours.  Jesus came to confront and destroy evil, hatred, bigotry, religious extremism, and political hegemony.  He came to rule as a King who dies for his people.

 Keep Watch.  In the midst of the darkness, the shitstorm, the ugliness and suffering, God is demonstrating love--on the cross.        

Mark 13. Wake Up!

As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!’ Then Jesus asked him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.’
 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, ‘Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?’ Then Jesus began to say to them, ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, “I am he!”* and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.
 ‘As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. And the good news* must first be proclaimed to all nations. When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
 ‘But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; someone on the housetop must not go down or enter the house to take anything away; someone in the field must not turn back to get a coat. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that it may not be in winter. For in those days there will be suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, no, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut short those days. And if anyone says to you at that time, “Look! Here is the Messiah!”* or “Look! There he is!”—do not believe it. False messiahs* and false prophets will appear and produce signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be alert; I have already told you everything.
 ‘But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
   and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
   and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
 ‘From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he* is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
 ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert;* for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.’

Reflection questions:
What do you think about those who predict "the end of the world"?
The Bible says that there is a beginning and an end.  What do you think about that?
As we come to the end of the gospel story, of what are you more aware as a result of this journey with Jesus?  To what or to whom are you paying more attention?
What is the hope you see in this chapter?
How are we supposed to respond to the course of human events?  

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Where there is love

 "All you need is love".  It may sound cliché and an oversimplification, but that is what he said.  When asked about the commandments, Jesus named two.  The first one is very typically the response of an orthodox Jewish Rabbi.  He quotes the Shema from Deuteronomy 6; Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  But, then he quotes Leviticus 19, 'Love your neighbor as yourself."  The first one seems easier.  Pray, worship, trust that God is God.  The second one seems more daunting if you think about it.
  Together, he said, these summarize all the law and the prophets.  Wanna know what God intends for us?  Love God and your neighbor as yourself.  Simple right?
What if your neighbor is a single mom, about to be evicted, with no job, no family support, no money, and no place to go?  What if she comes to you for help?
What if your neighbor is a "snowflake" liberal or a Trump Republican?  What if he's a racist?  What if she's a Lesbian?  What If he's an abusive alcoholic?  What if your neighbor is mentally ill, with guns in the house?  What if your neighbor is Muslim?
What if your neighbor needs more than you are capable of giving her?  What if your neighbor is unfriendly, angry, mean, or rude?
In Mark 12, Jesus is addressing his opponents.  First, lets acknowledge this.  For all the good Jesus did--healing, feeding, confronting the demons, welcoming outcasts---he was not universally loved and adored.  His actions and words threatened the status quo, the leaders, who benefited from a certain level of privilege and status.  So, if your church's actions and words do not present a problem or a challenge to those who benefit from the way things currently are you might wonder if they're actually following Jesus.  
For example, Jesus begins with a parable.  It is evident that he is talking about the religious leaders.  He doesn't win them over by suggesting that they are like evil tenants, who have claimed possession of something that is not theirs.  Namely, God's vineyard---Israel itself! He suggests that Israel is not their possession.  It belongs to God, not to them.  And God intends for the vineyard to be fruitful, to benefit others. H expects the tenants to share.  Israel exists to serve and bless the world.  But they (the religious leaders) were treating Israel like a treasure they have been given for themselves.  If your church's building and property are too precious to give to those in the community who need it, you might consider Jesus' parable of the tenants. We are made to share.
On the question of whether it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, Jesus says "Give to God what is Gods and Caesar what is Caesars."  Some religious leaders suggested that you could not be a righteous Jew and pay Caesar's tax.  Jesus did not give them permission to pay the tax.  He reframed the question entirely.  What belongs to Caesar that does not also belong to God?  Is Caesar a god?  Is it a matter of competition?  NO.  We must learn to operate in the world, in order to win the world.  How?  It is possible to be a citizen of Rome and a member of the church.  They are not mutually exclusive. And we dare not confuse the two either.  Either/or and black or white choices rarely consider the whole matter of a thing.  Don't get hung up in this or that.  Its more often both/and.  Two seemingly contradictory things held in tension.  Like I am a sinner and a saint. We are made to embrace paradox.
Jesus goes on to suggest that in the resurrection, there will be no marriage.  Why does this matter?  He claims that men and women will be equals on the day of the Lord.  The kingdom of God does not treat women like second class humans.  Women are not possessions to be passed down or inherited.  Women are co-heirs of the Kingdom of God.  Men are not greater than women.  In one thought, Jesus elevates the status of women.  All will be like angels in heaven in the resurrection.  We, men and women, are made to be equal partners.
And by the way, God is all about life and living things and being alive. How do we know?  God only talks to living people.  And through them, to us.  Therefore, though things living die.  God can make dead things alive again, and in fact insists on it.  Watch the end of Jesus' story.  We are made to live.      
 Finally, Jesus identifies the richest person in the temple. A poor widow with one mite.  (Like a nickel).  She gives 100% to the temple offering.  Therefore she is the most generous person there.  Wealth is not what makes a person rich.  Generosity makes one rich.  She embodies faith, a full and complete trust in God for her life.  We contribute out of our abuundance.  She gave all that she had.  Jesus acknowledges, also , that the poorest among us also have gifts and a desire to give.  Its called human dignity.  
Jesus asks us to give all that we have, to hold on loosely to possessions, lest they possess us.   He teaches us to avoid petty, speculative, religious arguments.  He teaches us to question either/or, black or white kinds of choices. Jesus wants us to have hope.  Life is stronger than death.  What does love look and sound like?  Generosity.  Equality. Community-sharing. Dignity.  Look for a church that practices and proclaims these things.  You'll find love there. And where there is love, God is.

Mark 12

Then he began to speak to them in parables. ‘A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watch-tower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. And again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted. Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” But those tenants said to one another, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this scripture:
“The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the cornerstone;*
this was the Lord’s doing,
   and it is amazing in our eyes”?’
 When they realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowd. So they left him and went away.
 Then they sent to him some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. And they came and said to him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?’ But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, ‘Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.’ And they brought one. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they were utterly amazed at him.
 Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, saying, ‘Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man* shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children; and the second married her and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died. In the resurrection* whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her.’
 Jesus said to them, ‘Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.’
 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that “he is one, and besides him there is no other”; and “to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength”, and “to love one’s neighbour as oneself”,—this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.’ When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ After that no one dared to ask him any question.
 While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, ‘How can the scribes say that the Messiah* is the son of David? David himself, by the Holy Spirit, declared,
“The Lord said to my Lord,
‘Sit at my right hand,
   until I put your enemies under your feet.’
David himself calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?’ And the large crowd was listening to him with delight.
 As he taught, he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’
 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’

Reflection: How would you describe Jesus in this chapter?
How would you describe his listeners?  His opponents?
What does Jesus teach about money and property?