In Matthew, Mark and Luke's gospels, in the days before Jesus' Passion, he begins to warn his disciples about a time that is coming when they too will face their own trials. The technical language is that this is Jesus' apocalypse - a word that means an "uncovering of hidden knowledge". This is Jesus' prophesy of what is coming for his Church.
It's odd then isn't it that the warning are preceded in this chapter with the story of the "Widow's pence"? The setting is the courtyard of the Temple. According to historical accounts of Herod's temple, people would put their offerings into the treasury by placing them in "trumpets bells" which would then funnel the coins into the storehouse. The more money you placed in the bell, the louder the racket. Generous givers would be easily recognized by the crowds. The contrast of a widow placing two small coins in the funnels and the clatter and noise of the larger gifts is what Jesus is drawing our attention toward.
I struggled with this story for a long time. If you read it out of context then it would seem that Jesus is telling people that they need to give everything they have to the Temple - an institution who's financial doings Jesus has already strongly condemned. It's one thing to encourage the very rich to give away what they have, but why commend a woman who has just impoverished herself to support a corrupt system?
It's when this story is read in the context of the rest of the chapter that I can make sense of what is happening. This widow has just given away everything and is trusting that God will provide what she now needs. It's her faith that Jesus is commending, not her support of the Temple. Because it's faith in God, he warns his disciples by pointing out this vignette to them, that will allow them to pass through the trials that are coming for God's people.
All of the dangers and horrors that are coming must be seen, through the eyes of faith, as signs that our redemption is drawing near. Trying to save ourselves or trying to avoid what is coming is going to be impossible. But we are not to lose heart because even though we have nothing but God's promise to sustain us, it will be enough. That's the faith he's asking us to have when he seems to be distant from us.
I wish I could tell you that I had such faith. I don't know that I've met many people who have. I've met many who are trying to though.
Maybe today, this Saturday in the beginning of March, it's enough to know that we are trying to make our way to a place of such faith. Plant a flag on a distant hill - and as you make your way forward - try to move closer to the flag whenever you can. Set this goal for yourself, to move toward enough faith in God that you don't worry as much about the future, that you can on occasion make decisions based on faith rather than fear.
Look at the weather. There's no snow this weekend. Spring is coming. God is at work in creation and we shall see new life even after a winter of storms and cold.