One Sunday afternoon, Pastor Bob, Peggy and I walked up 47th Street in Sunset Park, Brooklyn to enjoy the 5th Avenue Festival. We loved exploring the diversity of the people and the culture in the neighborhood. Sunset Park was a predominately Puerto Rican and Dominican neighborhood. We had all come to Brooklyn with some form of Minnesota roots.
As we walked down 5th Ave, I noticed two police officers staring at us. Their stare was intense and unending. Finally, I couldn’t take it any longer. I went up to the police officers and in a harsh voice said, “Can I help you?” Immediately, they started apologizing and felt embarrassed. It dawned on them how long they had been staring at us. Then after a short a pause, they sheepishly asked, “Are you from this neighborhood?” When I asked why, he said, “Well…you look like you’re from Minnesota or something.” We started laughing and walked away.
We wanted to blend into the neighborhood, to feel like we belonged. The cops question exposed us. Yet, it didn’t make me feel excluded. Actually, I felt safe. They were noticing the intimate details of life in the neighborhood. It felt good to know someone was watching and noticing what was taking place.
Today’s reading is about a poor widow giving out of her poverty. We tend to read this story in a way that feeds our sense of insecurity. If the lesson is about giving more, then even God thinks we should be doing better. This type of reading exposes our failures and blinds us from seeing what God is doing in our life.
The meaning of this text is not in the words, but the placement. Right before it, Jesus criticizes the scribes for “devouring widow’s houses.” Then predicts the destruction of the Temple in the following story. The story is not about your giving, but Jesus seeing. He sees the afflictions, challenges and struggles of everyday people. God is watching over you.
We desperately try to hide our poverty, even blaming ourselves for its presence. This poverty has a multitude of expressions from a poverty of spirit and hope to a poverty of wealth. Open your heart to see what God is doing in your life. God not only watches over you, God comes to turn your poverty into new life.
What is the poverty you try to hide from sight? How do you hide it from God? How do you respond to the statement, God is watching over you? What part of your life can God bring you healing today?