In the Lectionary

November 11, Ordinary 32B (Mark 12:38-44; 1 Kings 17:8-16)

By middle-class American standards, the widow's decision is questionable.

Little painted river rocks started turning up around our town last year, nestled in among tree roots and tucked under park benches. The rocks were inscribed with messages, like lithic fortune cookies: “You’re beautiful!” “Have a nice day!” And, of course, “You rock!” Our son’s fourth-grade class took up the project and created their own message stones. We discovered his particular bit of basalt encouragement plonked on the kitchen counter: “Survive.”

It’s less bubblegum bromide than grit-your-teeth reality check. Of course, “survive” might be just the encouragement some people need. It works for me about three-sevenths of the time. Dig in, retrench, hang on by your fingernails.

And yet, we want more than survival. We long for meaning, purpose, a sense that our lives contribute to a good greater than ourselves. We recognize, somewhere deep down, that hanging on by our fingernails does not the good life make.