by the Rev. Dr. John Fairless
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1 Kings 17:8-16, (17-24)
Elijah is moved by “the word of the LORD.” Interesting.
Is such a movement limited only to biblical prophets and patriarchs? Or, does God’s word still speak to “the people in the pews?”
There are multiple purposes on display through this narrative. Elijah needs a place to chill for a while and will need to eat and drink. It doesn’t seem that a poor widow’s house would be the best choice for this abode, but that’s where God sends him.
The widow’s faith is tested, as it is plain to see she doesn’t have enough food for herself and her son, much less for the man of God. Is God crazy? Why not send Elijah to the home of a rich person? Of course, God’s goodness and ability to provide in even the most difficult of circumstances is demonstrated. Good story…let’s move on.
But wait…there’s more! (I feel a bit like a Ronco commercial here. 🙂
The “rest of the story” is about a miraculous resurrection (or, resuscitation, at least.) Has God perhaps intended this from the very beginning? Was Elijah sent here for such a time as this?
There is, of course, a significant tie to the gospel account for today, as Jesus will also raise a widow’s son from death. Jesus is very much like Elijah — a prophet of Israel. But, he’s also very different from the testy Tishbite, who tends to see things according to the way they will affect him.
Good thing God can use even whiners and complainers to deliver God’s message!
The psalm stands alone as brilliant praise for God; it also coordinates with today’s readings, as v.4 touches the issue of what happens when our “breath departs.” We also have v.7 in which we are assured that God watches over “the orphan and the widow” — and God does lots of other cool stuff in this psalm, as well.
Psalm 30 also has ties to the other lessons; it is ultimately God who redeems us all, bringing our souls up from Sheol.
Verse 5 is often quoted (and rightly so): “God’s anger is but for a moment, but his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” This verse speaks of the longer working of God — a deeper part of wisdom comes from realizing that the events of any particular day must be seen against the backdrop of a lifetime.
Both joy and sorrow will come — as surely as day follows night. God is present in both (or, in all.)
What does it mean for us to consider that, like Paul, we were “set apart” by God before we were born? How has God’s grace been evident as we look back over our lifetimes? What do these things mean for our futures?
Jesus was bold enough to interrupt a funeral. Nobody asked him to display his power. He just did it.
Evidently, the compassion he felt at the moment was an irresistible force — he couldn’t stop himself. There was no logic by which he could justify not acting. Sometimes, you just gotta’ do what you can to help a sister (or a brother — or both) out!
Of course, as Luke is building his story about Jesus in the gospel, this account serves to tie him to the prophetic ministry of Elijah (see commentary above — and, if you don’t mind me saying so, give the Lectionary Lab Live podcast a listen for some extended conversation about how these two lessons are connected.)
by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton
It is difficult to know what to make of such stories. While the Elijah text is a bit open-ended, never really saying the young man was dead, only that “the breath had gone out of him,” Luke is very clear and straight-forward: the man was dead. So dead, in fact, that the people were on their way out of the city to bury him. Coming out of the gates of the town, the body is preceded by a group of professional mourners, playing on cymbals and wailing like Banshees.
Jesus and his followers would have been expected to step aside, to clear the way, one last act of respect for the dead and for those who mourn them. But they didn’t. They didn’t because something happened to Jesus, something Luke tells us about in a few spare words – “He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; . . when the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ ”
A sonless widow in that time and that place was facing a life of poverty. With no man to provide for her and no social security or life insurance or inheritance or employability, she was dependent upon the kindness of strangers. Her future looked desperate, perhaps hopeless.
Jesus reached out and touched the funeral bier, the platform on which the dead man was being carried. By doing so he broke religious and cultural rules; seriously shocking, scandalizing and confusing all those around.Not stopping there, he broke the rules of science and common sense by commanding the young man to get up, to come to life, to return from the dead; and miracle of miracles, he did.
After Jesus’ Baptism, the Spirit drove him into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. One of his struggles was to resist the temptation to use his powers to fix the world’s physical problems; represented by turning stone into bread to feed the world.
Throughout his ministry opportunities for healings came to Jesus, but he didn’t go looking for them. Every time he worked a miracle it happened because of those three little words:
“he had compassion.”
In the Gospel lesson, when Jesus worked his miracle, the immediate response of the crowd is anxious fear. The text says “Fear seized all of them . . .”
And in the midst of this, there are many people who are afraid of God. Or who believe that God is indifferent to the human plight. Or believe there is no God to help us.
In this bog of sadness, sorrow and unbelief; we are called to be like Jesus and break the world’s rules and sometimes our own rules in order to shatter this cycle of fear and violence with words and deeds of compassion and healing.