Pentecost 2C 2010 –

The inevitability of death lies heavy both the Hebrew text and the Gospel this morning.

Elijah will have more dealings with death before his time in Zarephath is finished, but for now,

we are faced with his unreasonable certainty that everything is going to be just fine.

From our position – as people of faith –

with an understanding of the great Scriptural narrative

that shows God’s redeeming grace

in the face of otherwise impossible human circumstances –

we should not be surprised by Elijah’s conviction.

As a congregation of a Christian church –

people whose lives have been changed by the Resurrection /

by the gospel of New life, free and abundant –

we should share those convictions.

God’s power will overcome your present misery, ma’am.

Don’t fret, just believe.

There is no easy pathway to belief, however.

The evidence of the present is too real – too heavy – too desperate

to let us see the truth of God that people like Elijah seem to take for granted.

It is hard to e in the presence of people like Elijah –

for whom faith seems second nature, and God seems so present.

Elijah encourages an almost wasteful action in this lonely and discouraged woman

Go – use up what little you have left – and feed me – and all will be well.

Easy for him to say, having committed himself to God’s care in the wilderness.

He knows something that she (and we) do not know.

He has evidence that he’s not willing to share.

He possesses a confidence that is hard to come by.

The miracle is not that the oil and flour never failed –

but that this woman was able to believe that God might act according to this man’s word.

Let’s think about Elijah for a moment.

He is brought quickly on the scene –

we have no sacred story surrounding his call to be a prophet;

no stories of his early struggles with his prophetic mission.

He is launched into action at the beginning of chapter 17.

He comes into the presence of the King – Ahab –

announces the judgement of the Lord – there will be no rain –

then is urged by God to hide in the desert from the wrath of the King –

“Leave and go across the Jordan River so you can hide near Cherith Creek.

You can drink water from the creek, and eat the food I’ve told the ravens to bring you.”

Elijah obeyed the LORD and went to live near Cherith Creek. (1Kings 17:3-5)

Throughout the story of this ancient prophet,

our attention is drawn first to the overwhelming goodness of God,

and only later to the obedient actions of Elijah the Tishbite.

And that is how it should be.

In our encounters with the great pioneers of the faith.

we should notice God in them, before we notice them in God’s service.

In our efforts to witness to the gospel in our current times,

we should be prepared to sacrifice any notice of our own efforts,

in order to point people to the activity of God in the Risen Christ

It seems to me that we have made it impossible to live faithfully

by holding up the activities and habits of our favourite characters from Scripture

as examples of HOW to live,

when what is needed is the reminder of their encounters with the Living God

to remind us WHY we live.

I can’t deny that there are some good habits for living described in Scripture

there are also some examples that none of us would consider appropriate:

David as a model for marital fidelity, for example…

but from the collective bravery and bumbling

of those who bring us the story of God’s encounter with humanity,

we will ultimately discover that the constant, faithful, providential figure

in this long running narrative, is, was, and ever shall be – God.

It is no power of Elijah’s at work here – he has no place – no food – no prospects,

and is on the run from a vindictive king.

The power is not in the woman, who has lost all hope,

and seeks only to claim death on her own terms.

The power is in and from God –

who is active and alive though the countryside is plagued by drought and famine

Elijah points to God – calling our attention away from the desperation of the day

and points to God in hope

The power is in and from God – whom we manage to push to the edge of our awareness,

while convincing ourselves of our powerlessness and poverty.

Until Jesus comes and meets us as we are, and calls us to remember

God’s endlessly faithful love for us – love that calls us from death to life

The power is – was and ever shall be God’s.

It is to this truth that the Scriptures witness

drawing our attention to a different reality

where there is always enough;

where there is compassion in the midst of misery;

where there is love and life, abundant and amazing.

Thanks be to God –


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