Third Sunday of Easter, 2016
by Deacon Lawrence N. Kaas June 5, 2016
I have chosen to speak to you today on our first reading, from 1st Kings. In part because I couldn't believe that a part of the story I hadn't read before, and if I have, I have forgotten it.
The story comes from the time of Elijah the prophet. It was a difficult time in Israel's history. The kingdom had fallen into idolatry. Baal worship had become the official state religion. And there was a terrible drought and famine in the land. Food was scarce, and Elijah the prophet was on the run from the King and his wicked wife, Queen Jezebel. The Lord led Elijah to a brook where he could drink, but soon it dried up. And thus the word of the Lord came to him: "go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there."
Zarephath was located on the Mediterranean coast between Sidon and Tyre in the heart of pagan territory. In fact, it was not far from where Queen Jezebel's home town is located. It was a most unlikely place for Elijah to hide from Ahab and his henchmen. Then God said something else to Elijah that was equally as unlikely: "I have directed a widow there to supply you with food."
This sounds counter-intuitive because nobody struggles more mightily during a time of drought and famine then do widows unless they have grown children to provide for them. The government certainly didn't do it. Their neighbors didn't do it either, as they were probably in as bad a shape as the widow. As Elijah made his journey to is Zarephath , he was certainly thinking that a pagan town and a widow and her young son with little resources could not be of very much help but he went where God told him to go.
This appears to be the first secret, of course, of a fulfilling life. If God tells you to do something or to go somewhere, then get a move on.
There's story about a weak and sickly man who was unable to afford a doctor. He lived in the deep backwoods in a log cabin. In front of his cabin was a huge boulder. One night he had a vision in which God told him to go out and push on the rock in front of his home, all day long, day after day, until God was to tell him to stop. The man got up early in the morning and did as he was told. He pushed on the rock as long as he could. After rest he pushed more. Each day pushed a little harder and a little longer. Day after day he pushed. Days rolled on to weeks, and weeks into months, as he faithfully pushed against this rock.
After several months of pushing this rock, however, the man was getting tired. He began to doubt that his vision came from God. He decided to measure how far he had been able to move the rock during those months, and he discovered that it had not budgeted all.
The man was disappointed and in despair. He sat on his porch and cried, because he had invested so much time and effort for nothing. This day the sun was setting, and Jesus came and sat down next to the man. Jesus asked, "son, why are you so sad?"
The man replied," Lord, you know how weak I am, and the vision you gave me built up false hope. I have pushed with all that was within me for many months and that old rock is right where it was when I started."
Jesus said to him, "I never told you to go move the rock, I told you to push against the rock." Then Jesus told him to step in front of the mirror and look at himself. The man did so and was amazed. He had been so sickly and weak, but now what he saw in the mirror was a strong muscular man. And it dawned on him that he had been feeling better the last two months and it was all because he had been pushing the rock. Suddenly the man understood that the plan of God was not to change the position of the rock, but to change him. That's how obedience to God works. Our task is not to understand what God is seeking to accomplish. Our task is simply to obey.
Later we will see the blessings that will flow due to our obedience.
Elijah then, heard the word of the Lord that he was to go to the town is Zarephath were God had instructed a widow to supply them with food. Elijah did as he was told even though the plan seemed to be misguided. When he come to the gate of the city, he encountered a widow who was gathering sticks. Since this was Baal territory, we may assume that this woman had been raised to worship idols. Yet she was a giving person, a kind person. Elijah called to the window and asked, "would you bring me a little water so that I may have a drink?" Amazingly she did as he asked, even though there was little water to go around. And, as basic as his request for water was, she was going to get it, Elijah called after her and said, "and bring me, please, a piece of bread."
She and her son were on the verge of starvation yet she honored the request of Elijah, as Elijah says to her, "don't be afraid."
I'm sure you all remember the story very well for the oil and flour that she used for baking just never seemed to run dry.
The part of the story that I have to admit I just did not remember and is the part of the story where her son becomes gravely ill and dies in her lap. She was concerned that she was being punished for her sin by having her son taken away from her.
How sad it is that we too sometimes have the same concern.
Yet Elijah picks the boy up from her lap and takes him in his arms carries him upstairs to his room and lays them on the bed. Then he cries out to the Lord, "Lord my God, have you brought tragedy on this poor widow that I'm staying with, by causing her son to die?" You think because Elijah is a prophet that he has life all figured out. But he has no idea how this widows son is dead or at least on the verge of death. After all, he had stopped breathing, so Elijah stretched himself on the boy three times cried out to the Lord, "Lord my God that this boy's life my returned to him!" And so it happened and Elijah picks up the boy and return him to his mother's arms alive.
Similarly is the story in the Gospel where Jesus restores the son of a widow lady on the way to his burial place. Jesus, "says, young man, I tell you, arise!"
How can we wrap ourselves around these stories unless we have the firm belief that when God speaks, it is. Plus!, When God speaks we are, not only to listen but to get busy and do.
One final comment: don't tell God He can't do that! Listen and believe!
You all be Good, be Holy, preached the Gospel always using Words and Holy Actions!.
'Thank you' to Deacon Kaas, for letting me post his reflection here.