Dust floated through the shafts of sunlight coming through the window in her small home. Her gnarled fingers gripped her broom as she continued her morning routine. She thought, I might not have much, but what I have I will tend to with care.
Mother Moriah could hear the soft chatter and laughter of the men and women who walked past her home on their way to the temple for morning worship. She sighed remembering the happy years of making the daily walk to the temple with her husband and their three fine sons. It was hard to believe they had all been gone for so long.
In all the years of hardship, in every sorrow, Moriah’s greatest comfort and pride had been that she lived in Jerusalem and could worship daily at the temple of the one true God. Every single time she walked toward the towering temple structure, her heart would soar in gratitude to be one of God’s chosen people. YHWH, the great “I AM,” lived in her neighborhood.
Surveying her one room home, Moriah looked around in satisfaction. Everything was in its place.
Carefully, she reached up to her top shelf to take hold of the jar in which she kept her money. The jar was extremely light today. Giving it a gentle shake, the joyful pinging jingle of the coins seemed to stand in contrast to message the sound heralded: she was nearly out of money.
Three coins. Only mites, just worth a few cents. Moriah looked at the three small coins and began to sing softly to herself, “I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121, NIV)”
Mother dropped the coins in the pocket hidden in the folds of her robe, took one last look around the room and set out for the temple.
Her short, bent frame seemed to get lost in the river of people walking toward the blasting shofar. The younger and stronger families carried on their light-hearted conversations while they swerved around the hunched old woman who crept along.
For Moriah the walk seemed almost as sacred as worship in the temple itself. She quietly hummed the Songs of Ascent and recalled the stories of her ancestors making the journey to Jerusalem for the festivals many times each year. She remembered coming as a child and loving the last mile of the journey even though it was uphill and strenuous. She loved it because she could at last see the beautiful temple on the hill. She was nearly there—nearly in God’s neighborhood.
Today, she hardly seemed to notice the aroma of the fresh bread in the market, nor the jumble of noise and banter in the marketplace for sacrificial animals. Mother Moriah walked steadily forward, humming the Psalms and preparing her heart. It never once occurred to her to use her last three mites for nourishment that day. For Mother there was only one place they belonged.
She soon arrived at the smooth, stone steps of the temple. The bent old woman took each step, one at a time, careful to have a sure footing of both her feet before she went on. Step by step, she came closer to her Beloved. Had anyone stopped to listen they would have heard her soft yet sure voice singing, “He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”
As she mounted the top step, Mother made her way through the women’s gate trying to find a path through the crowd of women and children. None of the richly clad women seemed to notice the gentle, hunched, humming figure as she brushed past them in the crowd.
A good portion of the courtyard was shaded by the tall shelter of the temple’s outer wall, but the only section available to Mother was already baking in the morning sun. Moriah’s song continued, “The LORD watches over you—the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.”
As one more blast of the shofar signaled the start of the ceremony, Mother Moriah felt the well-known mixture of calm and exhilaration in Yaweh’s presence. She closed her eyes to listen to the music and the familiar words. Around her she could hear the gentle swoosh of women’s robes as they brushed the ground around her.
Still with her eyes closed, Mother Moriah slipped her right hand into her pocket and mindlessly fingered the three tiny coins. Her left hand lay at her side but she soon felt a tiny hand wrap itself around her knotted old one. Moriah opened her eyes and found Orpah, the beggar girl, by her side. Soon the waif of a child had her matted, dusty head leaning affectionally against Mother’s hip.
The two forgotten figures stood in the blistering sunlight completely unaware of the discomfort of the heat. Instead they seemed to revel in every note and syllable of the daily worship. They leaned into one another finding comfort and companionship, if only for few minutes.
As the service came to a close, Orpah started to pull away from Mother Moriah. Before she could slip away, Mother took one of her coins and quickly pressed it into Orpah’s palm. Orpah looked up in surprise and then clasped Mother’s hand in gratitude before she vanished between the skirts of the women around them.
Mother followed the flow of women and children back out through the gate, still with her right hand in her pocket holding what was now only two small coins. Once past the outer gate she made her way along the wall to the temple treasury.
With her heart full of the songs and words of the prophets from the morning worship, the bent figure didn’t even notice the group of a dozen or so men sitting opposite the treasury box quietly talking with their Teacher. However, the Teacher clearly noticed her. He continued to converse with His followers while He kept His eyes on the old widow waiting in line to give her offering.
Boisterous, loud men and shrill, richly robed women each took their turns throwing in their large and numerous coins which clattered and clanged as they landed in the treasury. Mother Moriah patiently and quietly waited for her turn. For a moment, an anxious thought bullied its way into her mind making her hesitate and think about the hunger that may lay ahead of her. She shook her head and took up her song again, “The LORD will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life…”
When it was her turn at the temple treasury, all of heaven seemed to stand still as she dropped her small offering into the box. She thought, He is worthy of everything I own, little though it may be.
She did not notice the Teacher sitting opposite of the treasury who stopped talking in mid-sentence to watch her—almost as if He were listening to her thoughts.
No sooner did she hear the two soft pings of her coins hitting the mound of money in the box, than she began to sing again, “The LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”
As Mother Moriah slowly made her way down the smooth stone steps to the street below, the Teacher gestured to her and spoke eagerly to His companions. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on. (Mark 12:43-44, NIV)”
The old, bent widow walked home that day, with a heart full of hope and sense of adventure as she wondered how God would provide for her this time. Her heart brimmed with gratitude for the gift of living in God’s neighborhood without at all being conscious that, on that day, He had actually moved into hers.
Later that afternoon as the sun began its descent in the sky, Mother Moriah bent over the small bag of mending work she did for hire. Though her fingers were stiff and slower than they used to be, she carefully stitched and made old things seem new.
Her stomache rumbled reminding her of the coins she had offered to God that morning. She chuckled to herself, “I guess I offered Him my lunch too.” She whispered a prayer and began to sing once more, “I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from?”
Just then, there was soft knock on her door. She stood to her feet, walked to the door and opened it. Standing on her doorstep was the Teacher holding a small loaf of bread and some cheese. Mother Moriah looked into His kind and gentle eyes and somehow knew this man was a gift to her people. Inviting Him in her humble home, she began to sing again, “My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash