Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon? It's an amazing thing it really is and if you have you know that as you get up to the edge you just have to look over and you lean and you lean and it's like the awesome nature of a valley like you've never seen before is pulling you in towards it. The same could be said if you were walking down the street in New York City and spotted the Empire State Building up ahead your jaw just kind of naturally drops and you can't help but gaze upward and forward and move towards it. When you go to the beach UC the beautiful white sand up ahead the crystal blue water after that and it's like there's a magnet inside your body that lures you towards the awesome nature of the ocean and the warmth. There is a term for this kind of magnetism what draws us towards the things that Inspire off the term is the mysterium tremendum. The mysterium tremendum pulls us towards things so amazing so great so revered that we cannot help but move forward.
The people to whom Jesus is speaking on this Tuesday of holy week, have this kind of magnetism toward the scribes. The text tells us that the scribes would walk around in their robes. They had robes for official functions These robes or decorated to show things like Rancor experience and somewhere along the way describes began to where these robes all the time. It would be similar to seeing people wear academic garb from graduations at the grocery store. It sounds a little silly to us but 2 people who lived in a time before entertainment or news or celebrities whose days were largely ordered the same something like seeing a scribe in the marketplace dressed in an ornate robe would have inspired the mysterium tremendum. The one thing that everyone knew for sure was that God was expecting them to follow the law and the scribes were the experts in the law. So maybe of a person was good to the scribes they could have an upper hand before God. And so this mysterium tremendum type of response play doubt as scribes were given major gifts from wealthy people and always given seats of honor at every local banquet whether they were invited or not.
The people are absolutely in awe of the scribes and then Jesus creates quite a chink in their armor. He tells everyone who can hear, which certainly included scribes themselves, that the scribes, who were given a legal authority to represent widows who had no family would routinely take advantage of the widows and Rob them of their finances. Jesus warns all the people against being drawn towards those who would abused the church for selfish game.
Yesterday I read a news story about a church in Canada who was all wrapped up in a lawsuit over their pastor. What happened was about three years ago the pastor confessed to being an atheist. You would expect that the next step would be shock amongst the faithful in the congregation, and there was. Then the pastor would resign and move on to a more suitable career. But she did not. A lawsuit was filed to force the denomination to remove her. The Canadian government ruled that it would be discrimination to fire an employee for religious belief and the lawsuit went on. It was resolved last week with the pastor being allowed to remain in her position and the denomination agreeing to defend her against attack on her position.
In this broken world, the focus of God’s people is all too often shifted for selfish gain by people within the church. Jesus is warning us today about what happens when we or congregations, or pastors, or denominations abandon His Word. Jesus is warning us about the mysterium tremendum drawing us away from Him and towards the things of the world.
Then Jesus turns his attention toward the place where the offerings were given. There it says that many rich people brought their offerings. Now there was not a paper money and thus bringing this kind of offering would be quite a spectacle and the people who did this they knew it and where it really goes badly, they used it to show off and it worked. The people would have had a mysterium tremendum type of reaction drawing them to revere these people as if this spectacle was showing the ultimate way to be right before God.
We know what this looks like too. We’ve all seen people, we’ve all been people who like to show off about how great they are. This is when someone talks about just how much they've done to support that one charity. This is when someone talks about how they always put everyone else first. We’ve all done it. We’ve all rolled our eyes at it. We’ve all been in awe of it.
In this text Jesus uses a word for money who’s translation gets lost. Jesus uses a word for money that means literally, That which we have faith or trust in” Jesus uses this opportunity to tell all these people wrapped up in the mysterium tremendum of the trappings of this world and directs them and us focus to what really matters: Faith in God.
Then comes a widow. She quietly walks up with the smallest of small offerings. Some exchange rates I found put it between a day’s wages for a low income job, and as low as a fourth of one cent. No show, no mysterium tremendum, no one is drawn to her, she is ignored and forgotten. Jesus most likely had to say something like, “you see that woman?” “the one over there” “come on guys” “ the short one who came by herself.” The world has forgotten her. The world forgets her but Jesus sees her. When the world forgets you. When you feel invisible. When you feel broken. Jesus sees you too.
Just three days from this text, Jesus goes to his death because he sees your brokenness. Jesus goes to his death to forgive your sins. Jesus goes to his death to leave us the foundation for our faith.
Faith in the Lord Jesus and the death he would endure just three days later would be the only thing that matters to God. Faith that creates a mysterium tremendum toward the cross. Faith that seeks Gods will in the world. Faith that cannot help but give back to God and serve our neighbor. Faith that becomes a mysterium tremendum that draws us right from this world and onto the next by his power alone.