Mark 12:38-44 Teaching in the temple, Jesus said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and 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 sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
Reflection Please imagine with me; we are looking through a wide angle lens at a rolling French countryside. It is 1959. Winter grey is melting as the camera zooms in to view a sluggish French village, then wisks us along a cobbled rue, across the plaza and into a stained stone church. Inside drowsy congregants nod as the young preacher utters with no note of conviction, “The season of Lent is upon us. It is a time of abstinence, reflection and penitence…” It will be awhile before we discover the hard-hearted historian and mayor of the village actually writes the preacher’s sermons to insure the village culture of torpor and tranquilite’ is maintained to his benefit.
Meanwhile, a strong north wind is blowing. Clad in brilliant red capes the winsome Vienne and her young daughter are literally blown into town where they rent the Patisserie and open a Chocolat shop. The charismatic Vienne offers extravagant hospitality to the outcasts, sweets to the bitter, comfort to the disconsolate and bountiful food to the hungry. This of course puts her cross-ways with the preening mayor who insists the people keep a strict Lenten fast. But the comfort of chocolat and the promise of delight attracts the people to Vienne. In the end, even the major is overcome by his desire for comfort and chocolat.
Much as the scribes in today’s gospel text, “…who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces…” and “devour widows' houses…” the mayor in Chocolat exercised power over the people and “devoured their houses” by oppressing them and stripping them of joy. Like Jesus, Vienne blows into town and turns the status quo upside down by offering the people an alternate reality; the gratuitous experience of hospitality, healing and joy given to any and everyone, unconditionally.
I believe this is the kind of “turning the world upside down” about which our new Presiding Bishop Michael Curry (PB) preached at his installation on November 1st. Curry bellows from the pulpit, “The Way of Jesus turns the world upside down, which is actually right side up.” He continues; and the way to turn the world upside down is for each of us to live the world shaking Way of Jesus, which means, love God and love our neighbors. No fluff. No doctrine. No equivocation, Curry underscores his point. “If it is not about love it is not about God.” Which makes me think that our new PB and the heroine of Chocolat are two flavors of a single slice of Chocolat.
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