Elijah from Tishbe, who was one of the settlers in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As surely as the LORD lives, Israel’s God, the one I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain these years unless I say so.”
Then YHWH’s word came to Elijah: Go from here and turn east. Hide by the Cherith Brook that faces the Jordan River. You can drink from the brook. I have also ordered the ravens to provide for you there. Elijah went and did just what YHWH said. He stayed by the Cherith Brook that faced the Jordan River. The ravens brought bread and meat in the mornings and evenings. He drank from the Cherith Brook. After a while the brook dried up because there was no rain in the land.
YHWH ‘s word came to Elijah: Get up and go to Zarephath near Sidon and stay there. I have ordered a widow there to take care of you. Elijah left and went to Zarephath. As he came to the town gate, he saw a widow collecting sticks. He called out to her, “Please get a little water for me in this cup so I can drink.” She went to get some water. He then said to her, “Please get me a piece of bread.”
“As surely as YHWH your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any food; only a handful of flour in a jar and a bit of oil in a bottle. Look at me. I’m collecting two sticks so that I can make some food for myself and my son. We’ll eat the last of the food and then die.”
Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go and do what you said. Only make a little loaf of bread for me first. Then bring it to me. You can make something for yourself and your son after that. This is what Israel’s God, YHWH, says: The jar of flour won’t decrease and the bottle of oil won’t run out until the day YHWH sends rain on the earth.” The widow went and did what Elijah said. So the widow, Elijah, and the widow’s household ate for many days. The jar of flour didn’t decrease nor did the bottle of oil run out, just as YHWH spoke through Elijah.
After these things, the son of the widow, who was the matriarch of the household, became ill. His sickness got steadily worse until he wasn’t breathing anymore. She said to Elijah, “What’s gone wrong between us, man of God? Have you come to me to call attention to my sin and kill my son?”
Elijah replied, “Give your son to me.” He took her son from her and carried him to the upper room where he was staying. Elijah laid him on his bed. Elijah cried out to YHWH, ” YHWH my God, why is it that you have brought such evil upon the widow that I am staying with by killing her son?” Then he stretched himself over the boy three times and cried out to YHWH, ” YHWH my God, please give this boy’s life back to him.” YHWH, listened to Elijah’s voice and gave the boy his life back. And he lived. Elijah brought the boy down from the upper room of the house and gave him to his mother. Elijah said, “Look, your son is alive!”
“Now I know that you really are a man of God,” the woman said to Elijah, “and that YHWH’s word is truly in your mouth.” — 1 Kings 17:1-24
What is God?
Who is God?
Islam has the 99 names of God. Hinduism has over a million gods. Judaism has Elohim, YWHW, The Great “I Am”, Jehovah, Adonai, HaShem, and El to name a few. Christians have the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Buddhism seeks to free you of gods and liberate ones mind from the constrains of any divine calling our attention to the impermanence of life.
In our text today we witness YHWH, the God of Israel, withholding rain from the Israelites and sending the prophet Elijah out in to the wilderness. Elijah is told to go hide in the brush at the edge of a brook near the River Jordan. He is not to move or be seen. That ravens will bring him food and he may sneak drinks of water from the brook but he must remain hidden.
Elijah did what YHWH told him to do. He went and hid in the brush along a brook near the River Jordan and waited as ravens brought him food and snuck water from the brook. But then the brook dried up because God was withholding rain from the Land of Israel.
Elijah got another word from YHWH. “Get up and go…I have a widow prepared to care for you.” So out of the bushes Elijah goes and sets off towards this widow. He finds her and discovers she has little to nothing to eat, let alone offer to him. She is exceedingly morose and troubled. The lack of rain has affected her. She is already marginalized and exploited in this male dominated society.
We bring this widow in to 2012 she’s the young black mother trying to break free of the systemic injustice of poverty. She is the middle-aged mother of four, whose husband died in Iraq. She is the undocumented woman working below minimum wage in the fields picking the produce on our dinning tables. She is the college aged woman navigating a world in which she is taught how to ovoid being raped.
This world teeters on the edge of insanity. It is full of naysayers and doomsday preppers. We have a fascination with zombies, apocalypse, and the political election. Then there are the folks with signs on the streets says, “The End of the World is Near.” The bumper stickers, “Jesus is coming. Hurry, look busy.”
God is capable of miracles. God is the fashioner of all life, the Creator of all creation. Then why does it feel like God is withholding the rain?
I don’t know about you but I wrestle with God a lot these days. Gone are the salad days of yesterday. Middle class dreams eroding away and being swept in to the ocean of lost hope. Economic woes complicate the life we envision for ourselves, for our children. Things are tough all over.
Why is the “Last Shall Be First” line always the shortest? Being last is the epitome of failure in the US. It screams in the face of the American Dream. It has no place in anyone’s vision of recovery but Gods. With the political attack ads running 24/7, in the twilight of the end of this election and half of the nation ready to mourn we are in a giant mess. Have the racist, sexist, homophobic, elitist systems ever departed our national hearts?
I am woefully disappointed in what is going on in the emergency response of God to this world. For as long as I can remember I have been deeply concerned with faith, particularly my faith. I went to seminary to discover a language for faith and to gain the ability to share that language in relationship with others. It is no secret to most folks that I have not felt called to serve the church in the traditional fashion. I am not called to parish ministry. I am at my best outside the Christian walls, outside of Christian convention.
This past week I was back home and realized why this is. I do not believe much of what Christianity teaches. In simplistic terms, I am an agnostic. I do not believe or know enough of God to definitively express an allegiance to any specific doctrine, confession, or creed. I like a lot of creeds, confessions, and doctrines but cannot align myself with any without understanding them fully.
I can align myself with loving others, meeting folks where they are at, and humbly living a life that honors those I encounter. I am willing to left my uncertainty be occupied with Gods mystery. For me this is a faithful space to be, even as a minister.
God does not guarantee certainty. God sent Elijah Ravens to care for him. Where are our ravens? God raised the widow’s son from death. Where is our resurrection? What is certain about God is that God is God and we are not. God withheld the rains from Israel and God can and will withhold the rains from us.
In a drought who is God or what is God becomes less important and is replaced with when will God. When will God send the ravens? When will God deliver death and resurrection? When will God release the rains?
I do not know when God will do any of this. I do now that God is capable of doing it and has done it in the past and will do it again.