I Kings 17, 17-24
- The widow’s son fell sick. His sickness grew more severe until he stopped breathing. Here
is a miracle story involving the great prophet Elijah.
- She said to Elijah, Why have you done this to me, o man of
God? Her words tumble out in a sustained wail, and I would be mistaken to
say them in anger. Her ‘why’ says it all; her ‘why’ in
my mouth might speak for millions of widows in Darfur, Iraq, Colombia. Have you come to call attention to my guilt? I would say that she
is grieving, and she is blaming herself for her son’s coma.
- So Elijah realizes that, in his role as man of God he is bearing the wrong message. He has to get to work, taking him, carrying him, laying him on the bed, calling out to the Lord, stretching himself out
upon the child three times. The pace of my reading can indicate his strenuous
labor, and the responsibility he feels for the boy’s condition. Let me
stretch the word ‘stretched’ as I read it.
- I hear the story move toward resolution. Twice ‘kill’ is spoken at the beginning, and then ‘life breath’ twice as the child
regains consciousness. My apprehension in the beginning changes to relief as
life prevails over death.
- The word of the Lord
comes truly from your mouth. The
last sentence refers to the prophet, but I wonder if the assembly would have such expectations of my ministry. Not for me to make such a claim! Let me shun self-consciousness.
- Climax: Now indeed I
know that you are a man of God. How did the people of the ancient Middle East tell a true from a false prophet? Perhaps because
he achieved results from prayer, or because what she told came to pass.
- Message for our assembly: We rely on men and women of God, but
do we give them our attention when like Elijah they break into our lives?
- I will challenge myself: To reflect the grief of the widow and
the pleading of the prophet. So much is at stake.
Isn’t God especially present at such times?
Galatians 1, 11-19
- The gospel preached by me is not of human origin. This is the nearest to a professional resumé we will get from the apostle.
- It begins with a revelation of Jesus Christ. The narrative will move back and forth between consultations with the apostles and calls from God. My delivery should reflect the difference between the two. I know fairly well how meetings between people happen, but when I say that God set me apart and called me through his grace, I want it to sound definitive and full of quiet assurance.
- I did not receive it, nor was I taught it. There is a difference and I should make it obvious in my reading.
‘Received’ means a tradition taken and appropriated by a church.
‘Taught’ means further instruction in what the church has received.
- You heard of my former way of life in Judaism. The apostle speaks frankly and without regret. I will read
it now so as to let it all hang out.
- I did not immediately consult flesh and blood. Why is this detail important? He wanted to emphasize the personal
revelation he received, to make clear that it did not originate in the Jerusalem
church. The key words are ‘not immediately.’
- After three years I went up to Jerusalem to confer with Kephas. Let me not read back into Paul’s time the obsession with orthodoxy that characterizes
our own church. Simon Peter, of course, was an eyewitness of Jesus. And Paul wants his publication refereed, as it were: Is this message consistent with yours?
- Central point: God revealed his Son to me, so that I might
proclaim him to the Gentiles. This is the current position in his resumé,
as it were.
- The message for our assembly: What would our Christian resumé look like? Not
our positions in the church or our many confessions of ‘Lord,’ and certainly not our honors, but our labors in
this world on behalf of the Kingdom.
- I will challenge myself: To move easily between the flesh and blood contacts
and the responses to the God who set me apart and called me.
Luke 7, 11-17
- Jesus journeyed to a city called Nain. This story only appears in this Gospel. It sounds very much
like the miracle story of Elijah that we already heard.
- His disciples and a large crowd accompanied him. My expansive voice will help to convey the idea of the large crowd.
- A man who had died was being carried out. Let me read the details of the funeral procession with the human interest of a reporter who pities the
widow. I note that a second large crowd
from the city is now in the story. Most of my listeners have walked in funeral
processions, and everyone has at least seen one of these massive displays on television.
That is what I intend to evoke now.
- When the Lord saw her he was moved with pity for her. I hear the echoes of the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarepath. I also hear the word ‘Lord’ that Luke uses so often.
The divine is already present in its fullness. The proof?
- The dead man sat up and began to speak. The boy helped by Elijah was only unconscious, but this man was dead.
A greater than Elijah is here. We do not control life and death, even
though we think we can with our technologies. My voice should be incredulous,
filled with the fear that seized them all.
- Exclaiming, A great prophet has arisen in our midst, and God
has visited his people. Let me recapture my excitement as an eyewitness to
a record-breaking performance, or as an attendee of a conference by a great man or woman.
- Climax: Young man, I tell you, arise!
Say it as I would say it to someone bound by lifelong demons or by some addiction.
Say it with faith in Jesus the Lord.
- Message for our assembly: Do we see signs like this in our own times that fill us with fear and the inspiration to
- I will challenge myself: To convey the pity of Jesus and his gift of life.
From Word to Eucharist: A prophet’s
words are no more empty than God’s Word is. They promise and deliver life,
abundant life. As we join in the communion feast today, do we expect great changes
in our lives, and do we earnestly pray for them?