The Might of the Widow’s Mite – Memorial for Nancy Monger

Luke 21:1-4

21: And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, 2 and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. 3 So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; 4 for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”
The Widow’s Might

I have titled my remarks “The Widows Might.”

I have engaged in a bit of a pun by spelling the word “mite” not as M-I-T-E (which accentuates the poverty of the lady referenced in the story), but rather as “might” – spelled M-I-G-H-T– referring not only to the strength and resource of the woman in the biblical story, but also the strength and resources of the one we remember this afternoon in this memorial gathering.

Just a few Sunday’s ago, Nancy led the “children’s sermon” portion of worship at Patterson Avenue Baptist Church.  She gave each of the children a facsimile of a “mite” – a small Hebraic coin,  worth only a few pennies in today’s wages, which the woman in the biblical story gave as her offering to God.

Jesus commends this woman’s faith.  He indicates that her gift was more highly valued than the other who were contributing large amounts of money because they were giving out of their abundance, but the woman was giving all she had.  Her gift was one of tremendous faith because by giving all she had she was expressing the MIGHT of her confidence in God as her provider and protector.

Nancy spoke of these things with the children as they gathered attentively as her feet.  She was always a big fan of the children in our fellowship.  Her lesson for the children – and for each of us today – is that whether we have been blessed with a little or a lot, life’s true value in life comes from God who blesses us with His amazing and loving grace.

Moments after hearing about Nancy’s death, I started thinking about Nancy’s children’s sermon.  She was so intent on sharing this message with the children.  It was really a bit odd.  Nancy was always willing to do anything asked of her in the ministry of the church.  Yet it was unlike her to volunteer to serve – especially if that involved speaking in front of the congregation.

I remember Nancy and a group of other ladies helping me in the kitchen as we prepare 1500 hotdogs for people attending one of our community wide “festivals.”   I had an assembly line of ladies cooking hotdogs, stuffing them in buns, wrapping them in foil, and taking them to festival attendees.  It was not an easy job – but Nancy was right there with her friends, working hard, and finding reasons to smile along the way.

But it was not like Nancy to volunteer to be out in front of the crowd.  Yet this was something Nancy had a great passion to do before her surgery.

Nancy’s family shared with me several stories of things Nancy felt the need to accomplished before her surgery.  Did she have a premonition that this day was coming?  I don’t know.  At the age of 87 Nancy knew that her surgery carried the potential for some serious complications.  So I feel certain that she was setting things in order while expressing one time the faith and confidence she had in God’s grace and provisions.

Based on what I know about Nancy and the stories shared by her family.  I think there were some qualities in Nancy’s life that were probably similar to those of the woman in the biblical story.

To begin, I imagine that the poor widow in the biblical story was rather frugal.  When you are living life in poverty, you often learn how to makes ends meet with the income is limited.

Nancy (later in life) wasn’t rich, but she had ample resources to take care of her needs.  Still, she had lived through the times of the Great Depression and had learn frugality.  Her sons both told me that she could rub a few pennies together and squeeze out a dollar.

I was told about an occasion when she went with a part of her family to visit a beach resort.   At the beach chairs were being rented for $10 a pop.  She refuse to pay $10 for a chair on which to sit.  Instead, she “borrowed” other family members chairs when they were out in the water.  As the day wore on, she went to get a bottle of water but was appalled by the $4 price tag and refuse to buy a bottle of water for that price – but she was perfectly willing to drink water purchased for her by her son for at $4 a bottle.

Nancy was tight fisted when it came to spending money – especially when it came to spending it on herself.  He family share their believe that the whole “extreme couponing” movement was invented by Nancy.  Wherever they went and whatever they did, Nancy always seemed to have a coupon handy to save a few dollars.

Yet while being frugal spending money on herself, Nancy was also very generous caring for the needs of others.  I have noticed that those who have lived through having little tend to have the most compassion and generosity when it comes to helping others.  When the poor widow gave her few mites, she trusted that the money would help the poor who came to the Temple in poverty – poverty that she knew herself firsthand.

Nancy was very frugal spending her money on herself, but generous when caring for the needs of others.  I heard several stories from family and friends about Nancy buying bags of groceries for one person or helping out another by putting $50 dollars in their hands.

Nancy had lived through times of great want and need.  She knew was it was like to be poor.  So when she had the resources and saw others down on their luck, she was always willing to express her love and generosity.

Along with her generosity came the heart of a caregiver.  Nancy has taken care of more family members, friends, and neighbors than you can count using all the fingers of both hands.

She was there as a resources for both her parents when they grew old and infirmed and needed somebody to provide care.

She was there with her sisters.  I know that Betty, in particular, has been a beneficiary of much of Nancy’s care giving love over the last few years.  Nancy would sometimes say to me, “I am not sure how much more I can do at my age and in my current health .”  Then she would find a little more she could do to be of help.

Nancy was also very grateful to kindness shown.

Her daughter-in-law shared with me how grateful Nancy was that she did not have to face the surgery and time of recovery along.

“I do not know what people do when they do not have family like you all,” she said, when they were helping Nancy recover after her recent surgery.

I know Nancy was grateful beyond just those moments of attention she received over the last week before her death.  Over the last several years I have had many conversations with her about her family.  She’s been appreciative of both her sons, her grand-children, and great-grand children.  She spoke often about her love and appreciation for the people you had become and were becoming.

When I sat with her son’s on Sunday afternoon, each of them said something like:  “I would have never imagined we’d be here talking about Momma’s death.”

Nancy’s death came as a shock to all of us – family, friends, and church members.  The knee surgery had been so successful.  We anticipated Nancy being and better than ever in just a few months.

But Nancy was ready to die whenever that time came.  She had her affairs in order.  She had engaged in one final act of ministry during the children’s sermon, sharing with those young people her confidence in the provisions of God’s grace.  Many years ago she had given her life over to the salvation achieved for her through Jesus Christ.  Nancy was ready to go, even if many of us were not ready for her to leave.

Nancy knew that her “mite” M-I-T-E was her  “might” M-I-G-H-T.  Nancy had found in God’s grace a strength and resource that was beyond herself…and by that grace, Nancy is safe today in God’s embrace.

I have with me today one of those “widows mites” Nancy gave to the children.  She gave me one as well.  I do not think I will ever read this story from the Bible again without thinking of Nancy.  Like the woman in the story, Nancy offered her whole self over to God in faith and confidence.  And as she did, Jesus was right there commending her faith and welcoming her into the embrace of the Kingdom.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

into the embrace of the Kingdom. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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