Jesus sat across from the collection box for the temple treasury and observed how the crowd gave their money. Many rich people were throwing in lots of money. One poor widow came forward and put in two small copper coins worth a penny. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, "I assure you that this poor widow has put in more than everyone who's been putting money in the treasury. All of them are giving out of their spare change. But she from her hopeless poverty has given everything she had, even what she needed to live on." - Mk 12:41-44, CEB
Every Tuesday and Thursday, the bar seating section of a local diner is our site for Bible Breakfast, where we read the lectionary passages for the coming worship and pry into their message and meaning. There's almost always more going on than meets the eye.
Take this one: the story sometimes referred to as The Widow's Mite. The widow and her two copper coins are certainly an important part of the story — but probably aren't the focus of Jesus' attention. So at the diner one of us might ask: "If the object of the story is somebody or something other than the widow, what could that be?"
Which will usually be followed by everybody getting focused on their eggs or coffee.
But then comes the meat of the meal: "Does it have to do with the rich people who give what they won't even notice has gone missing?" Pause. "She was in hopeless poverty. How did that happen?" "And if she's so poor, is anyone helping her?" Pause. "What's with the temple treasury? Was there some expectation that even a poor widow had to contribute?" Pause. "If there were, I'm guessing Jesus would have been critical."
That's a distilled version of the conversation. Often we jump off on tangents until someone says, "Okay, back to the Bible." But most weeks, we discover there is more going on in the text than any of us had first thought. We are fed: by a server who has all our orders memorized; by fellow students who are eager to listen and willing to speak; by the prayer that blesses the meal and the conversation; by the shared, Living Word.
Holy One, we praise you for the Word that keeps revealing new perspectives on the richness of life with you, the warnings of life without you, and the companions who help uncover what you are saying to us today. Amen.
John A. Nelson is the Pastor of the Niantic Community Church (UCC/UMC) in Niantic, Connecticut.