I’m a big fan of birthdays, particularly my birthday. It started as a joke a while back when I declared that I would be celebrating a birth month.
(I will be celebrating my birthday all month long, I have a very patient wife)
It may have been because I had two older brothers and simply liked a day that was “all mine” or it may have been that I liked the opportunity for my family to gather together. It was never really about the presents for me, I liked them and all but I was never a child who wanted much. My mom would always ask what I wanted and every year I would respond with “ there isn’t anything I need”. Today’s reading made me think of that conversation.
Luke 20:45-21:4 (NRSV)
In the hearing of all the people he said to the disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”
This reading is often quoted and the message is usually somewhere along the lines of give generously based on what you have. I always worry about that message because it usually is received with some guilt based on wishing there were more to give. When I hear that reading it makes me think of a particularly memorable gift I received. I was going off to seminary and for the fist time moving away from home. I had always been something of a big brother to my cousin who was nine and he had always been the little brother I never had, we spent a lot of time together. When I was getting ready for the move he gave me a going away peasant, a beta fish which he had named after himself so that he would be able to go with me at least in fish form. When I think of the widow and her coin I think of Mitch the fish, a gift that mattered because of what it was as well as what it meant.
(fun fact this is a picture of my cousin not the fish)
perhaps we can all take a lesson from this, that when we are giving to God the most important gift we can give is a piece of ourselves.
God help me to give good gifts. AMEN
Epilogue: I went through many Mitch the fishes throughout seminary and even now 9 years later, he has changed gender and species he is currently a female cichlid who the pet store owner informed me is eating her own hatchlings , the real Mitch has not changed gender or species and does not eat his hatchlings. I still think of him when I look at my fish tank.