The Context of The Widow’s Mite

Luke 20.47; 21.2-4, 6
They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely…
He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.””…
“As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”…

Reflection: The Context of The Widow’s Mite
By John Tillman

Many lessons about the widow’s mite focus on how beautiful her faith is. 

The widow’s faith is beautiful because it is centered on God, not on an institution that is corrupted by sinful leadership. Her gift is beautiful because it shows how deep her faith goes—all the way down to her last pennies. Her gift is beautiful because it shows where her treasure truly lies.

We should praise the widow’s faith, as Jesus did, but taken in context, this scripture has more to say about unscrupulous religious leaders than about generous poor people. It tells us that judgment is coming on leaders who take advantage of the poor. 

In Luke and in Mark, the widow enters in the middle of a scene where Christ is confronting the religious leaders’ materialism and hypocrisy and, just afterward, tells his disciples that the Temple they value so much will be torn down and destroyed.

Luke includes the detail that Jesus “looked up” and saw the widow’s deed in the midst of his teaching. The words just off of his lips are ones of judgement on religious leaders who “devour widows’ houses.” When Jesus points out the widow, he is showing us that his meaning is not metaphorical. The widow’s story gives us someone to emulate in faith, but also points out someone we should serve with action.

Scripture doesn’t tell us what happened to the widow. Some propose that God would miraculously provide for her. If forced to conjecture, I pray that one of Christ’s disciples, being as concerned about the destruction of the widow’s life as about the destruction of the Temple, would take her in. Often miracles are simply disciples taking practical action. (I like to imagine that perhaps it was Mark.)

The bright light of the widow’s faith shines within the darkness of hypocrisy and abuse. What does the Spirit of Christ speak to you in the light of her faith? 

Are we like the religious leaders? Are we projecting piety while living extravagantly?

Are we like the rich? Are we giving because it looks good or until we feel good?

Are we like the disciples? Are we over impressed with wealth and success, equating it with God’s favor?

Can we learn to live like the widow? Are we able to live in faith, despite our systematic victimization, despite our poverty, and despite the existence of corruption? 

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Let your loving-kindness be my comfort, as you have promised to your servant. Let your compassion come to me, that I may live, for your law is my delight. — Psalm 119.76-77

Today’s Readings
Exodus 19 (Listen – 4:04)
Luke 22 (Listen – 7:58)

This Weekend’s Readings
Exodus 20 (Listen – 3:21), Luke 23 (Listen – 6:39)
Exodus 21 (Listen – 4:44), Luke 24 (Listen – 6:16)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more from A Cry to God for the Poor from Zimbabwe :: Worldwide Prayer
It grieves us and must grieve you that so many defenseless people live without shelter, clean water, primary healthcare, education, food. Help us, Lord Jesus, to care and share with the less privileged the material resources you have graciously blessed us with.

Read more about Good News to the Poor
Our manifestation of Christ will be in direct proportion to our acknowledgement of needing him more than we need our comforts, our possessions, our luxuries, or even our daily bread.

Fasting Uncovers Our Hearts

Luke 21.34-36
“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

Reflection: Fasting Uncovers Our Hearts
By John Tillman

As we continue through Lent we will focus often on the fasting component of the season. 

Our fasting in Lent is often compared to Christ’s fasting in the wilderness prior to his testing by the Devil. One of the chief temptations involved in public fasts such as Lent is to defend them publically or engage in them privately by citing supposed worldly benefits. 

We can focus too much on how we might lose weight by constraining our consumption of certain foods or gain time by constraining our consumption of digital content or entertainment. But our physical gains and losses are of little spiritual consequence. If all we get from fasting is a measurable, earthly ROI, we will be unlikely to reap a spiritual benefit.

Richard Foster, in his devotional classic, Celebration of Discipline makes it clear that we must engage in fasting only with our eyes focused on heavenly, not worldly benefits:

“God questioned the people in Zechariah’s day, “when ye fasted…did ye at all fast unto me, even to me?” 

If our fasting is not unto God, we have failed. Physical benefits, success in prayer, the enduing with power, spiritual insights —these must never replace God as the center of our fasting. John Wesley declares, “First, let it [fasting] be done unto the Lord with our eye singly fixed on Him. Let our intention herein be this, and this alone, to glorify our Father which is in heaven…” That is the only way we will be saved from loving the blessing more than the Blesser.

Once the primary purpose of fasting is firmly fixed in our hearts, we are at liberty to understand that there are also secondary purposes in fasting. 

More than any other discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. this is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface. If pride controls us, it will be revealed almost immediately. David writes, ‘I humbled my soul with fasting” 9ps. 69.10).

Anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife, fear—if they are within us, that will surface during fasting. At first we will rationalize that our anger is due to our hunger; then we will realize that we are angry because the spirit of anger is within us. We can rejoice in this knowledge because we know that healing is available through the power of Christ.”

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Send forth your strength, O God; establish, O God, what you have wrought for us. — Psalm 68.28

Today’s Readings
Exodus 18 (Listen – 3:54)
Luke 21 (Listen – 4:18)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about Rend Your Hearts
It is our heart that we must rend in mourning and confession, because God looks at the heart, not our outward appearance. When we rend our heart in community with others, we invite God’s power to work in us for redemption and restoration.

Read more about Fasting According to our Lusts :: Throwback Thursday
There are, alas! many blind men, who practise their castigation, whether it be fasting, watching or labor, only because they think these are good works, intending by them to gain much merit.

Beauty from Ashes :: Guided Prayer

Luke 20.37-38
But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

Reflection: Beauty from Ashes :: Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Ashes used in Ash Wednesday services are often made from palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebrations. This is one of the beautiful synchronicities of the liturgical year—reminding us that the cycles of sin, repentance, mercy, resurrection, and commission are ever-ongoing.

Today, whether you are a part of a faith tradition that observes Ash Wednesday services or not, follow this guided prayer experience.

Meditate on the visual pictures and the scriptures and pray in your own words.

Ashes symbolize sorrow.
We are probably most familiar with ashes as a symbol of sorrow. They can symbolize our sorrow over our personal sins or a personal loss, or sorrow over the sins or loss suffered by our community or nation.

In ashes we mourn both the catastrophes that naturally happen in our broken world and the ones we, ourselves, orchestrate through our lusts and misguided selfishness.

What is planted in your life that is not of God? Are you watering and fertilizing weeds instead of the good seed of the gospel? Lent is a time to gather up the tares among your wheat—gather them to be burned to ash.

“Repent and believe the gospel” (The Roman Missal: Chapel Edition)

Ashes symbolize destruction and death.
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (The Roman Missal: Chapel Edition)

In cultivating our faith, we must go through seasons of destruction. Our fields must be burned. The ashes tilled under.

What is God tilling under the soil in your life? What is he burning down? Let it go. Let it burn.

“Fire will test the quality of each person’s work.” (1 Corinthians 3.13)

Ashes symbolize rebirth.
In worship at the temple, some ashes were used in ceremonies of cleansing and purification.

Burning leads to purification, restoration, renewal. The soil that is burned and turned is fertilized for replanting.

Lent can be a time of burning, in which God prepares us for new growth.

Ask the Holy Spirit to walk with you through the burnt field of your life, through the burnt field of your work. Ask the Spirit, during the time of burning, to reveal to you what He will plant next.

God will bring us…”a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning”… (Isaiah 61.1-3)

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Let your loving-kindness, O Lord, be upon us, as we have put our trust in you — Psalm 33.22

Today’s Readings
Exodus 17 (Listen – 2:30)
Luke 20 (Listen – 5:07)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about Recalling the Failures
The failures of the past year, or any year, are not our end, but our beginning. Jesus brings hope to our aftermath.

Read more about Called to Unmovable Joy :: Readers’ Choice :: TBT
Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
Such a Way, as gives us breath:
Such a Truth, as ends all strife:
Such a Life, as killeth death
— George Herbert

The Untied Donkey

Luke 19.30-34
“Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

From John:
Today, Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday, is the end of Ordinary time that began following Epiphany and is the gateway to Lent. Today it also corresponds in our Bible reading plan to Luke’s account of Christ’s triumphal entry to Jerusalem. Today’s reflection from Alan Rudnick concerns the Triumphal Entry and references Palm Sunday, near the end of Lent, but we will enjoy it here in anticipation of the joys to come in the Lenten season.

Reflection: The Untied Donkey
By Alan Rudnick

This donkey was born for Jesus’ wonderful work. It had not been used or ridden by anyone else. This donkey was tied up so that it could not wander away or be taken by someone else. It was waiting for Jesus to climb on to ride.

The colt (polos) has royal associations. Jesus’ riding the donkey echoes Zechariah’s prophecy. Nevertheless, to modern readers the donkey seems to be an unlikely and surprising device for Jesus’ use. That is because we see donkeys primarily as work animals capable of carrying heavy loads, or as docile creatures used for children’s rides, but certainly not as the animals of choice to transport triumphant kings.

In the ancient world, however, donkeys were used for ceremonial purposes. Whereas horses were symbols of war, donkeys were symbols of peace and often used to enact treaties.

This donkey was created for a purpose and was meant for Jesus. It was tied; it needed to be untied. Why does Luke emphasize this several times? There is an insight here.

We are often tied aren’t we? We are tied down by many things—by guilt, anxiety, and concern. Some of us are tied down with the need to forgive, but we cannot bring ourselves to do it. Others are tied down to obsessions or chemical dependence. We may be tied down to our smartphones and tablets, and be unable to put those devices down. Some need to let go and not be afraid to show love, peace, faith, joy, or the gospel to others. As Christians, we need to be untied from what weighs us down.

We need to be free to experience Jesus in our lives. We are meant to ride with Jesus: to follow him on his journey to Jerusalem, the Holy City, the city where God dwells. We were created with a purpose: to love God and love each other.

We cannot fully commit to God when we are tied. We must be released. We must surrender our burdens and our weights to God, much like the owner who surrendered his donkey to the two disciples.

By relinquishing our own burdens, we can praise and worship God freely. When we are untied, we can live a life of faith free from the pressure of trying to hold things up. When we are free, we can praise God without any hindrance.

*Selections quoted and edited for length from Lessons from a Donkey, in Christian Reflection.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. — Psalm 92.12

Today’s Readings
Exodus 16 (Listen – 5:02)
Luke 19 (Listen – 5:29)

Read more about The Community of Lent
Because we have been justified by faith we have the joy of entering into a season of reflection by God’s mercy. Together we fast. Together we engage. Together we serve.

Read more about Cultivation Starts With Destruction
The first step of cultivating faith is destruction. And we must start in the field of our own heart, not pointing across the fence at someone else.


Preparing for Joy

Luke 18-11-14
The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

From John:
As we move into the season of Lent this week, we will look at selections from Christian writers about Lent and fasting. May we enter Lent together—expectant, hopeful, humble, and…joyful.

Reflection: Preparing for Joy
By Norman Wirzba

In Orthodox theological traditions, Christians are invited into the season of Lent as a time to prepare for joy. Lenten worship instructs us to begin with rejoicing:

“Let us begin the Fast with joy.
Let us give ourselves to spiritual efforts.
Let us cleanse our souls.
Let us cleanse our flesh.
Let us fast from passions as we fast from foods,
taking pleasure in the good works of the Spirit
and accomplishing them in love
that we all may be made worthy to see the passion of Christ our God
and His Holy Pascha, rejoicing with spiritual joy.” (from the vespers liturgy for Forgiveness Sunday)

This emphasis on joy may surprise us, and perhaps even strike some of us as perverse, because we are accustomed to think of Lenten observance as a time of deprivation, a time when we give up or say “No” to a host of things and activities we otherwise love. How can we be expected to rejoice in the giving up of things that give us joy?

Lent can be our preparation for joy because it is the concentrated and disciplined time when we work together to root out the blindness and deception that prevent us from receiving each other as gracious gifts from God. It is a necessary time for Christians because without it we run the risk of experiencing what can only be termed a false joy, a ‘joy’ that has been rendered false by the anxiety, hubris, and destruction that make it possible. True joy is freedom from fear and alienation. Real joy is knowing that we are loved and nurtured. Lenten practices like fasting prepare us for joy because they turn our self-serving into self-offering ways that nurture, celebrate, and share the gifts of God.

Lent teaches us that far too often we live a counterfeit life. It shows us that we have settled for a poor and degraded version of the real thing, which is life in its vibrant freshness and abundance. In the face of a culture that encourages us to neglect, degrade, and abuse each other, Lent invites us to see ourselves and our world clearly, humbly, and truly. Moved beyond the stifling scope of our worry, fear, and petty desires, we can finally be opened to receive the blessings of God.

*Selections quoted from Preparing for Joy in Christian Reflection.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
O Lord, my God, my Savior, by day and night I cry to you. Let my prayer enter into your presence. — Psalm 88.1-2

Today’s Readings
Exodus 15 (Listen – 4:11)
Luke 18 (Listen – 5:27)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about Binging on Fasting
In a culture obsessed with consumption, lack of it, even for a short period, stands out. But just because our culture recognizes that fasting is a spiritual practice doesn’t mean we understand it.

Read more about Joy in The Way of the Cross
The book is full of joy, I know, but it is also full of pain, and pain is taken for granted. “Think it not strange. Count it all joy.” We are meant to follow his steps, not avoid them.

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