FIRST LESSON: I Kings 17:8-24
SECOND LESSON Luke 7:11-17
"When elephants fight, the grass suffers." So goes an old African proverb. The elephants in question here, Yahweh and Baal - gods competing for a nation's allegiance with the original weapons of mass destruction: drought and disaster. A widow and her son, were caught in this cosmic struggle between fruitfulness and famine.
As this story begins we meet one of faith's greatest heroes, Elijah. He gets no introduction other than the fact that he is from an obscure northern village called Tishbe, but there is no question whose side he is on; his name means Yahweh is my God.
When he meets this woman, she is at the end of her rope – or at least at the end of her food, and she expects she and her son will die soon of starvation.
Trusting in God is fine, as long as it is something you believe He can do. It’s funny that sometimes we find ourselves content to let God handle the ordinary things in life like giving us an opportunity to do well on a job interview or score well on a test. But, when it really comes to the hard things, the things that really seem impossible and we have little if any faith that they will ever happen, we are often tempted to trust our own means rather than give the problem up to God. Being content to wait on the Lord for the impossible is something that many of us just have a hard time doing.
Why are we so reluctant to give God the impossible things and then sit back and wait for an answer? We know that God has done the impossible in the past. He the cosmos from nothing. How impossible can you get? Even the simpler things like parting the waters of the Red Sea and sending manna and quail to His children in the desert were accomplished without so much as a bat of a Holy eyelash. Yet, when it comes to our impossible, the things that have us so stymied that we are at a total loss for a solution, we often find ourselves thinking that we know God could do it, but it seems so far-fetched that He would. So we fight on alone, trusting that somehow luck or pluck will get the job done.
Perhaps it’s just because we might feel we don’t want to bother God with hard tasks. Perhaps it’s because we feel foolish asking for really “big” things. More likely, however, it’s because we have a schedule for things to happen and the hard things, the impossible things, need to be gotten out of the way quickly so that we can move on with our lives. We know that God has a solution for every problem in life. The problem is we often find ourselves reluctant to match our schedules with His timetable. And we often are reluctant to trust the way in which God handles our troubles.
In World War II, a soldier was separated from his unit and was trapped behind enemy lines. The enemy knew he was there and that he had little chance of escape. He found a cave and hid. He knew that it was just a matter of time before they found the cave, too.
He prayed to God, “God if you can, please save me, but I trust your will. If I’m to die, let me die bravely, and take care of my family. Amen.”
He lifted his head and saw a spider busily building a web over the opening of the cave. Back and forth she went. “Silly spider,” he thought. “We’re both going to be blasted to bits. I need a brick wall and I get a spider web?”
He heard the crunch of boots and loud talking in a language he didn’t understand. But he did understand two words. “Spider web.”
As the enemy soldiers walked away, he realized that because the mouth of the cave was covered with a spider web they thought no one was in the cave. The spider web had been as strong as a brick wall. God may not give us what we want. But he gives us what we need.
Walter Brueggemann, professor emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, sees as a recurring theme throughout the Old Testament the conflict between the “liturgy of abundance” and the “myth of scarcity.”
The Bible starts out in Genesis 1 with a liturgy declaring God’s abundant blessing on all creation. At the end of each day God declares that day’s work to be “good.” It is not until we get to Genesis 47 that we encounter scarcity. Then Pharaoh organizes a plan to save up food for a coming famine. Even in the wilderness, God provides Israel with enough. But the people are frequently fearful that there will not be enough.
Brueggemann sees Americans functioning in the world today much the way Pharaoh did in Genesis. We, the richest people of the world, are the main coveters. “We never feel that we have enough,” says Brueggemann. “We have to have more and more, and this insatiable desire destroys us. Whether we are liberal or conservative Christians, we must confess that one of the central problems of our lives is that we are torn apart by the conflict between our attraction to the good news of God’s abundance and the power of our belief in scarcity — a belief that too often makes us greedy, mean and unneighborly. We spend our lives trying to sort out that ambiguity.
—religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=533. Retrieved December 6, 2006.
The end intention of the gospel is just this: to release earthlings from the egocentric anxieties of life, over economy, over death, over grief and sin, from the petty defenses of a legalistic way of life and from callous insensitivity to ethical reality. These are the kinds of anxiety the gospel aims to release us from. The gospel aims to release us to a concern for the welfare of others, to an eager preference of one another before each other, and to the adoration of the Lord Jesus Christ.
An optimist believes we live in the best of all possible worlds. A pessimist fears this is true. Winners know that so-called luck is the intersection of preparation and opportunity. If an individual is not prepared, he or she simply does not see or take advantage of a situation. Opportunities are always around, but only those who are prepared utilize them effectively.
The greatest miracle we have is that God came to us in Jesus Christ to show us how much God loves us and to make sure we know that we are forgiven people. And ultimately that . . . is enough.