Most of us have times when we feel like crying out, with Joseph Smith, “O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?” We can wonder why, if God is good, oppressors prevail; we plead for justice, our cries rooted in the firm belief that God our Creator stirs with compassion for his suffering saints.
In such moments we may feel like Elijah in the desert, watching the tiny stream upon which we depend for water diminish to a trickle—or, given the responsibility for the well-being of others that attends our membership in the body of Christ, we may feel more like the widow nearby in Zarephath, watching a beloved person in our care shrink with the supply of nourishment we are able to offer. Elijah didn’t have anything much material to give, and neither did the widow and her son, who had not even enough food left to sustain their own lives, but God sent Elijah to the widow’s house to show that when people who have nothing come together in the name of the Lord, God will feed his sheep.
That is the sort of miracle that Jesus loves to perform. Mark’s gospel places the story of the widow casting her two copper coins into the temple treasury right after the part where Jesus condemns the scribes who love to walk in long robes and devour widow’s houses, all the while demanding respect from the public. The power of God, though, is manifest in weak and simple people, the least of us, when we offer what we have to the service of the kingdom. Usually, the kingdom means the other weak and simple people around us. Sometimes their sorrow is a gaping chasm of pain, and all we have to offer is a lowly hug and a listening ear, yet in such moments a loving God can multiply our gifts beyond measure. Jesus is the reason that God can multiply our humble offerings, for he became the one man who bore the sins of many. God multiplied Jesus’s burden, thereby multiplying the comfort that only Jesus can give.
When storms rage around us or people we love, it can be hard to see the way forward or to know what gift we even have to give. In these moments, God often leaves us, like the Brother of Jared, to look within the scanty things available to us for a source to light the way. This, too, is a divine gift, for it teaches us to see ourselves anew, to recognize the divine in our own weakness and apparent lack of resources. Thus endowed, we are empowered to shine a similar light into the lives of people around us, helping them to see the face of God amidst their own spiritual poverty.
Let us therefore join with the Psalmist by lifting our whole souls in praises to the Lord, that God who, more than the vaunted breath of mortal princes, grants justice to the oppressed, feeds the hungry, sets the prisoners free, and tenderly watches over the widow and the stranger. Praise be to God for such a deliverer!
The Collect: O God our creator, who out of things formless and void shaped a glorious world: we give thanks for your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, who descended from his throne at your right hand to commune with us and to consecrate our weakness as a holy offering; we give thanks for the Holy Spirit, whose intercessions give form to our unutterable prayers and bear them to your heart; and we pray that you will grant us the sacred communion of weak things, that we together may become one people as you are One God. Amen.
For the music, here are Yo Yo Ma and Alison Krauss performing the Shaker hymn “Simple Gifts”:[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOx9quc-iow]