There IS Enough to Go Around….
Preached from the Pulpit of Good Shepherd Church, June 9, 2013:
Throughout this month, the Sunday readings are filled with stories that tell of powerful and miraculous acts. Often, we will learn, however, that a significant aspect of a story is the radical nature of who is included in these miracles. This morning, it is a starving widow and her son, but we will also hear in the coming weeks of a man possessed by demons and a despised foreigner. Not your typical heroes.
These stories remind us that every one, absolutely every one, can be a vessel for God’s working and bounty. While our own beneficence may be limited, it not so with God. We have seen it here with Elijah and the Widow.
Last week, we heard about the angry Elijah, today, we see the compassionate side of the man.
We know from last week’s text that Elijah hides from Ahab and Jezebel after he prophesies a famine as punishment for the worship of Baal. The famine spreads to Sidon in Phoenicia where Elijah ends up. God sends him to a widow for something to eat. The land is suffering from famine, and yet, God sends Elijah to widow for a meal. As we have heard, he sees a widow gathering sticks outside the gates of the city – she’s gathering kindling for a fire – and asks her for bread and water. The widow admits that as God lives, she has very little and what she has she will make a last meal of it for her son and herself. They are close to death from hunger. But, she is also a woman of faith. And now we see as she gives up the certain – the certainty of death – for the uncertain – Elijah’s promise through God that the jar of meal and the jug of oil will not be empty as long as the drought remains – and makes the little cakes for Elijah, her son, and herself. Her faith and Elijah’s prophecy keep them alive.
We have our limits, but God doesn’t. We are, however, given the means to act so that our limits can be widened. We can follow in the footsteps of the prophets and use our own, twenty-first century prophetic voices to call out those who wield power and control to look beyond their own greed and want and do something revolutionary: think about the Kingdom of Heaven and the people who live in it. Make here and now a place of equality in all things. Jesus called out the Pharisees; we can call out our elected officials and remind them they work for the people, not corporations.
This weekend in Washington, people are gathering to address the continuing issue of hunger around the globe and especially here, in our own country, and what can be done within our means to stop it. It is an annual conference where like minds meet to find solutions and engage our legislators in conversations about what our true priorities should be. The theme of the conference hosted by Bread for the World is “A Place at the Table.” The title comes from the belief that all are welcome at this table and wherever a meal is offered. Jesus said that when we feed the hungry we feed him. We know it is true for our table and our life of worship and action here, why should it not be so in our communities beyond Sunday mornings and church walls?
We live in a country that is one of the wealthiest on the globe, and yet, Americans go to bed hungry every night. Children go to bed hungry every night. Why is this happening today?
It’s a question of priorities and the problem of limited scope of vision.
On Capitol Hill, we see efforts to limit access to programs to the poor, or, what some people call the “deserving poor.” No one deserves to be poor. No one is undeserving of a meal, or warm place to sleep at night, a chance at a better life.
Some of our elected leaders want to reduce funding for services available to those who struggle to make ends meet, or make to the end of the pay period, struggle with their own demons, and narrowly define who is worthy of living in our country. Some members of Congress use scripture to bolster their arguments for restricting eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). “The poor you will always have with you.”
Jesus did say that, but he also said that whenever we fed the hungry, we ministered to him. We lived out what he expected of us. Jesus also called out those who could not look past the norm of society, those who put rules ahead of God’s righteousness and the greater good.
Fed at Christ’s Table, we, the faithful, work and serve in a world where sharing our resources, our ministries, is one way to express our willingness to believe, to take chances against the norm and live and proclaim the Gospel.
What we should note here in this morning’s Hebrew scripture is not only the miraculous feeding of a widow and her son, but the call to action and mission.
Perhaps the miracle is that when we trust in the love of God through Christ, completely give ourselves over to that love, we can make things that seem impossible very real in our lives and the lives of those we touch.
From the last bit of meal and oil a Widow makes three little cakes and from that comes a promise of plenty in a time of need. We are in a time of need. There is enough of God’s bounty to go around.