Today’s Old Testament lesson is about faith.
Elijah was God’s man in Israel
standing up against the King.
Fighting the powers that be can get you into trouble,
so Elijah soon found himself a fugitive.
Then the Lord said to Elijah,
“Go stay with a widow in the village of Zarapheth in Sidon.”
Nowadays, a widow is apt to have Social Security, Medicare,
perhaps an annuity fund and a paid off house.
But that wasn’t the situation in 700 B.C.
Widows were flat broke.
To bring it up to our day, you’d have to imagine
that the Lord told Elijah to go stay with
a homeless bag lady
and she would take care of him.
To make things worse, she wasn’t even a Jew.
She was from Sidon, a neighboring country
which was not a friend.
Not only was she a widow
without a penny to her name,
she was another race, another religion, another nationality.
She had no natural obligation to lift a finger for Elijah.
But Elijah did as the Lord told him.
He went to Sidon, found the widow, and begged for food.
She said, “I have only enough to prepare a single dish of food,
about one good tortilla.
My son and I will eat it and then die.”
But Elijah said, “Feed me first.”
And you know what, she did.
That Elijah should hike all the way to Sidon
to throw himself on the mercy of a foreign widow
he had never met is amazing.
What’s even more amazing is that she gave
what she thought was her last meal
and her little boy’s last meal, to this stranger.
Is it possible either one of them was that sure of the other?
I don’t think so.
But they were both willing to put their lives
in God’s hands.
It was a good bet.
God saved them all.
God miraculously and unforeseeably provided for them.
That’s how they lived.
Something has been really clear to me the past few weeks.
It has been clear and on my heart in a good way.
Every breath I take is a gift of God.
I have no claim on this life of mine.
I have not earned it. I have no right to it.
If anything, I have failed to use my life
to God’s glory so often,
that it is only by God’s compassion and mercy,
that I have been given this new day.
I have no right to this life.
I have no guarantee of a future.
But, God’s generous heart keeps giving me
sunrise after sunrise, sunset after sunset,
and people to share it all with.
I have not a clue why God does this.
All I know is that God is like that.
God does this sort of thing.
God does it for me. God does it for you.
“I am the vine and you are the branches,” Jesus said.
Our life comes from him.
Without our connection to Jesus,
we wither inside.
We may keep putting one foot in front of another,
but it isn’t real life.
The loving energy, the creative spark, isn’t there.
But when we put our trust -- not in our own power --
but in his generosity and mercy,
then we are strong.
Then we can work wonders in the name of Jesus
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
“I am the vine. You are the branches,” he says,
Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit.”
To abide in Jesus means to trust in his love,
not our own cleverness, charm, and hard work,
to sustain us in life.
Do we have some money? It’s easily lost.
Are we strong? Someone else is stronger.
Are we smart? No one is smart enough.
The psalmist says, “Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.”
We cannot make ourselves safe.
It is not in our power.
But the steadfast love of the Lord abides forever.
“Though the mountains fall and the hills turn to dust” Isaiah says,
“the love of the Lord endures.”
“Surely it is God who saves me.
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
for that Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense
and he will be my Savior.”
This is a completely different way of being in the world.
It is free from fear,
so it is free from greedy craving,
free from gnawing jealousy,
free from violent grasping.
When we trust God instead of our possessions
for our well being,
we are free to be generous.
We are free with our time,
free with our attention,
free with our compassion and delight.
Faith is the fount of freedom.
Without faith, we are all prisoners of fear.
But with faith, we can fly.
“For freedom Christ has set us free,” Paul said.
All it takes to know the peace of God
which passes all understanding
is to trust in him, and him alone, for our life.