2 Corinthians 8:1-6

March 25, 2019

We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.

For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints— and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us, so that we might urge Titus that, as he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous undertaking among you. 2 Corinthians 8:1-6

I decided to be a church visitor yesterday. We have an experiment in congregational life going on in Houston called Kindred. The core of their community life revolves around Dinner Church on Sundays at 5:30 PM. They do several creative things during worship, including a note to download the Tithe.ly app to my phone so that I could give to the ministry. That was a new one for me.

I can’t remember the last time I took a quick break from worship to download, install, and sign up for an app on my phone – in the midst of a worship experience. But it worked. Since I’m in that uncomfortable week before pay day I’m not rolling in the dough. So I decided that I would feel good about giving $50. Actually a little more because I clicked “Cover the service charge” so, in the end, it cost me $51.46 so that Kindred would get $50. (Quick break to do the math. That is a 2.92% markup. Normal, I guess, for credit cards and certainly a sweet deal for Tithe.ly.)

At the end of the day, and from the very beginning of the Christian movement, it costs money to be a Christian community. Because it costs money to do everything we do. As I have said previously, the money that flows through our hands is a means of exchange, not an end in itself. Giving money last night during worship wasn’t about buying anything, not even about paying for the privilege of gathering in a comfortable room. It was an act of worship.

Who knows what the Apostle Paul would say about spur of the moment high tech electronic giving to support ministry? My guess is that he would think it a sweet deal. He could raise money without worrying about shipwrecks. Personally, I was grateful. Because I don’t carry cash anymore and it allowed me to give anyway. (It also, immediately, gave me the opportunity to give automatically in the future. Good for Kindred. GREAT for Tithe.ly)

Here are the high points of these first verses from 2 Corinthians. The Macedonian Jesus followers were extremely poor. Their lives were brutally hard. They were dedicated to following Jesus. They were more than willing to share what little they had with the struggling church in Jerusalem. Their faith, and their generosity, were far more impactful on Paul than the amount of their gift. The Macedonians recognized that it was a privilege to support another ministry. Yes, it is.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, help us be good stewards of all your gifts to us. Give us generous hearts to share what we have to keep your ministry of love active and alive in our world today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Advertisements

Deuteronomy 26:16-19

March 22, 2019

This very day the Lord your God is commanding you to observe these statutes and ordinances; so observe them diligently with all your heart and with all your soul.

Today you have obtained the Lord’s agreement: to be your God; and for you to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, his commandments, and his ordinances, and to obey him.

Today the Lord has obtained your agreement: to be his treasured people, as he promised you, and to keep his commandments; for him to set you high above all nations that he has made, in praise and in fame and in honor; and for you to be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised. Deuteronomy 26:16-19

How did we get to here from there?

As we finish up the 26th chapter of Deuteronomy, we reach the end of this description of the covenantal relationship between God and the people whom God has chosen to carry God’s name and message into the world. Such covenantal relationships were a common feature in the ancient world. What made this one distinctive is how it is rooted in love, not in power. God took the initiative in the relationship. Unlike the other gods out there in the world who expected to be fed first, God gave first.

This peculiar covenantal relationship reached back to the promise given to Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 12, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

I will bless you, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. That’s the heart of the relationship. That is the purpose of God’s gifts to us – that we bless the world. That promise is NOT about “we’re so special because we’re God’s people” (although the tension is always there, hence “for him to set you high above all nations that he has made, in praise and in fame and in honor…) It IS about modeling, sharing, and living in a way that will always be countercultural to a sinful “it’s all about me”, “I’m going to get, and keep, mine so you can’t get it from me” way of doing life.

So how did we get from there to here?

How is it that the public face, the loudest voices, of the Christian movement are about demonizing people who are different, stereotyping and scapegoating other religions, seeking safety in guns, scaring the hell out of people to get them to heaven? How did we get to a place where churches get in the news because pastors abuse children or buy their own planes so they can “pray in peace” while they travel?

How did we get to a place where Christianity is less known for righteousness and more known for self-righteousness?

How did we get to a place where the average Christian gives less than 2% of their income to the work of the church? Where the highest percentage of income is given by the poorest people? Where less than 20% of a congregation’s members are in worship each weekend and some just never bother?

I don’t know. But that’s where we are. But that is not the whole church.

For there are millions of quiet Christians who continue to see the faith as one of living in life-giving relationships with God and others, for the good of all. Millions of Christians who remain willing to pay the price of time, money, and passion to obey God and love the world. Our hope remains in God and it is in such people that we continue to see God at work.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, this morning we recommit ourselves to the promises of our baptisms and the shape of a life rooted in following you. Take our hearts, our minds, our souls, our strength, and use them as you will, always for your glory, and the welfare of the world you love. Let us never surrender to discouragement. In all things, our trust rests in you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Deuteronomy 26:12-15

March 21, 2019

When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce in the third year (which is the year of the tithe), giving it to the Levites, the aliens, the orphans, and the widows, so that they may eat their fill within your towns, then you shall say before the Lord your God: ‘I have removed the sacred portion from the house, and I have given it to the Levites, the resident aliens, the orphans, and the widows, in accordance with your entire commandment that you commanded me; I have neither transgressed nor forgotten any of your commandments:

I have not eaten of it while in mourning; I have not removed any of it while I was unclean; and I have not offered any of it to the dead. I have obeyed the Lord my God, doing just as you commanded me. Look down from your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless your people Israel and the ground that you have given us, as you swore to our ancestors—a land flowing with milk and honey.’ Deuteronomy 26:12-15

The Bible opens with two different creation stories. They are different stories but together, they tell a whole story. The first story (Genesis 1:1-2:3) says there is an order and purpose to life, that life makes sense. The second (Genesis 2:4-3:24) says that life is broken, things are messed up. Both stories feel like our lives. And both stories assume that the purpose of people is to tend to the creation around them. This is where stewardship (managing the gifts of God well) starts.

Stewardship is about far more than what we give, it is about how we live.

At this point in Deuteronomy 26, the writer moves from how the gifts given to God were used to meet the needs of the most needy ones in the community – the Levites, the aliens, the orphans, and the widows – to reassurance that God’s gifts have not been abused. They were used as intended. They were used always in accord with God’s commandments.

Then comes the request from the people to God that God keep his side of the bargain. That God bless both the land and the people. I don’t know why I find this fishy but I do.

For any number of reasons, I find myself getting very uncomfortable when I hear people talk about how God will abundantly return to us what we have given to God. It reminds me of the TV preachers exhorting people to “plant a seed” by sending them money – and then to watch how God would repay their gift with blessing upon blessing. To me, this always feels crass and manipulative.

But that IS what the Bible says. “Look down from your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless your people Israel and the ground that you have given us.”

I read 2 Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9, by far the clearest words in the New Testament about the role of financial giving in Christian discipleship and I am all about its call to joyful, sacrificial, and proportionate giving. I just get uncomfortable with the part that says “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity…”

I don’t think we need to expect some kind of quid pro quo from God for our generosity. Maybe it is more like eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly – the blessing is inherently attached to the behavior. Generosity plays life forward.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, keep us mindful of the blessings attached to using your gifts to us as intended. May we find ourselves, not in what we possess, but in being possessed by your love for us. Never let us grow comfortable with a world that leaves children hungry, parents desperate, or widows bereft and alone. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Deuteronomy 26:8-11

March 20, 2019

The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.”

You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God. Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house. Deuteronomy 26:8-11

So what ultimately happens with the gifts that are offered to God? The people have a party! I’ll bet you didn’t expect that!!!

Now, I suppose a skeptic could point out how selfish those people are for taking what has been offered to God and using it for their own pleasure. In the same way, skeptics freely criticize Christians today for asking people to give their money. Who can forget – click here if you haven’t seen it before, just know the language will be harsh – George Carlin making fun of the idea that God needs our money? That ALL God wants from us in our money.

How about let’s put that one to rest forever? God doesn’t want or need our money, God wants US, our whole lives, to flourish in healthy relationships with God and the world around us. And, in this world, EVERYTHING except love costs money. Why? Because money is a means of exchange. It is a symbolic representation of the good that people do in the world for one another. Certainly we twist money into evil just like we twist everything else but that isn’t money’s fault. EVERYTHING costs SOMEONE SOMETHING. That is just the way it is and the way it will always be….unless we return to the days of our hunter/gatherer ancestors and live off the land. (Not for me. I like running water that isn’t in a river.)

So yes, the church needs money just like the grocery store, the gas station, the cable service, the government, and your local barber. So how about we quit with the guilt about the church asking for money?

Back now to the party….

Look carefully at who gets invited: “Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you…” You, I imagine, refers to those bringing their first fruit gifts to the place where they worship God. They get to stay for the party. The “Levites” are the priestly order whose job it is to oversee all things “worship.” No surprise there. That’s what we would expect. But then look at the next names on the guest list – the aliens who reside among you. The ALIENS who reside among you? Yes, the ALIENS who RESIDE among YOU!

There is no secretive Bible vocabulary going on here. We all know what “aliens” means. No, aliens doesn’t mean “little green men.” Aliens means “outsiders”, “strangers”, “foreigners.” God’s people are supposed to set a place at the table for aliens. This is basic Christianity 101.

The truth is, God has ALWAYS wanted a place at God’s table for EVERYONE. WE are the ones who are picky about our guest lists. WE are the ones who are threatened by differences, terrified that some stranger is going to show up and steal our stuff. God has ALWAYS called God’s people to share their stuff, to make a place at the table, for aliens, for strangers, for foreigners, for outsiders, for “them”, and not just for us.

(Because, and I throw this in lest we forget, all stuff is God’s stuff, all tables are God’s tables, all people are created, and loved, by God. Period. Unless you choose to quit believing this. At that point, you can no longer rightly call yourself a Christian. You actually become an insult to the faith. This isn’t my opinion. Jesus, not me, said “you shall love your neighbor as you love yourself.” 1 John 4:20 says, “Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.”

How do we then rightly use the gifts that are presented to God by God’s people? Simple, we pay whatever it costs to throw a party to which everyone is invited.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, you continue to give us everything we need, always inviting us to share what we have with others. You invite us, each and every week, to practice what you teach. To gather around a table. To eat bread. To drink wine. That in those gatherings we might see all of our lives, and the people with whom we share our lives, with a renewed sense of solidarity and love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Deuteronomy 26:4-7

March 19, 2019

When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the Lord your God, you shall make this response before the Lord your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. Deuteronomy 26:4-7

If you were blessed to be a parent, do you remember how your life used to change with every year of school? I remember those days well. But I also remember how God prepared us for those days from the moment we realized that we had a baby on the way.

The various ways that women suffer during pregnancy – the tiredness, the body changes, the morning sickness – are all preparations for life with a newborn. Then, as the baby grows, each chapter brings new joys and new challenges – from laying to crawling to walking, from nursing to formula to baby food to table food. Then there all of the extra trips in the car! All the equipment babies need! Play dates and all the sickness children bring home from school.

While we’re in it, there are times when we feel we are in it over our heads. But we make it through each stage. We’re grateful to God that we make it through each stage. And later, we look back at the hardest times, and we realize that those were the times that God carried us.

In the Bible’s telling of God’s story, there are plenty of references to hard times, to suffering, to disappointment. As a matter of fact, most of the stories include challenges and struggles and resistance and rejection. But through it all, God is relentless in God’s love. God never quits. God never gives us. God never casts the people aside. We know that is true. Not only because we read about it in the Bible but also because that is our life experience.

So it is that the writer of Deuteronomy, in instructing the people to return to God the first fruits of their labor, he also says that those are the occasions to remember where they came from, to remember all that God brought them through.

Unlike those long ago characters in the Bible, our lives today are actually pretty easy. We have electricity and indoor plumbing. Our temptation is to get too big for our britches. To take personal credit for everything good in our lives while blaming someone else for the stuff that isn’t. We’re tempted to leave God out of the equation of our lives and think it is all about us.

I know two guys who make music together as “Trout Fishing in America.” Their music is always fun and clever. One of my favorite songs they do is called “No Matter What Goes Right“. In it they sing, “I’ll still keep loving you, no matter what goes right.” There is our question – will we keep loving, honoring, and following God no matter what goes right?

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, thank you again today for reminding us that you are always there, even through the hardest times and experiences of our lives. Thank you for using those times to shape us and help us grow. Thank you for walking through all the stages of our lives. May we never forget the lessons you teach us along the way and may we always respond with gratitude and generosity. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Deuteronomy 26:1-3

March 18, 2019

When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, “Today I declare to the Lord your God that I have come into the land that the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.” Deuteronomy 26:1-3

Our little congregation on the corner of Bellaire Blvd. and Avenue B is in the middle of raising money. We want to pay off our mortgage. This is debt that the congregation accumulated from doing things that congregations sometimes need to do. We rebuilt our school after Hurricane Ike destroyed it. We made some changes in our sanctuary to do things like offer alternative music, live stream our worship services to anyone who wants to watch from wherever they are. We replaced air conditioning. Resurfaced our parking lot. The normal stuff that congregations do that cost a lot of money.

We also want to participate in the capital campaign with our partners in ministry, the Christian Community Service Center (CCSC). CCSC is a coalition of 40+ congregations that have banded together to build an organization that helps feed and clothe people who have more month than money. They offer assistance with rent and utilities. They help people find jobs. They train people to run their own small businesses. They provide school supplies and Christmas presents. And they too are digging out of losing their central building to yet another hurricane.

And finally, we know that there will be other costs to come in taking care of our physical buildings so we want to get ahead of the game by establishing a fund that we can draw from rather than borrowing money in the future.

We’re just doing what congregations do. And all of these things require money beyond the costs of our day to day work. Where will that money come from? The writer of Deuteronomy would have us be crystal clear on that point – all that we have, all that we are, and all that we need, comes from God. Everything we have is a gift from God. As the people of God, we recognize that by giving back a portion of what we have received. Out of gratitude, not obligation. Out of recognizing what God has already done for us, not paying God off for future services.

Such recognition then becomes how we look at life. When a pipe breaks and floods a classroom, we can pray to God for help. And God shows up in the person of a plumber. That the plumber does her work with excellence is a reflection of her character. That she charges us for her services is a necessity for her to continue providing such services to others. She may or may not see the holiness in her work. But we do. Because we are the people of God and this is how we look at things.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, we give to you and your work in the world what you have first given us. Thank you for all that we have and all that we are. And thank you for the good news that you will never quit helping us become all that we can be. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

1 Kings 17:8-16

March 15, 2019

This week’s devotions were written by Kathy Patrick, a member of Faith Lutheran Church.

The Widow of Zarephath, Part 3

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he set out and went to Zarephath.

When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.” As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”

Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied, and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.”

She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah. 1 Kings 17:8-16

We’ve studied this story for four days, but we’ve not mentioned one important person:  the son of the Widow of Zarephath. You can learn more about him by reading the rest of 1 Kings 17, but as we have it in this part of the story, we know only that he is still at home with his mother and that he is just as desperately poor as is she. We don’t know how they’ve come to be so poor or why they have nothing left to eat but a bit of meal. Are they starving, perhaps, because of the drought—the one Elijah warned Ahab would be the consequence of his idolatry—the same Elijah who has now asked the boy’s mother to share her last meal on earth with him?

What does the boy see? What does he know about Elijah?

We can speculate, but we know this much:  The boy sees his mother share their last morsel of food with a stranger. He sees her generosity. He sees her share food that was meant to sustain him with a refugee neither of them knows. And he sees, too, that the consequence of her generosity is not death—it is life. There is enough. Her generous act is met with abundance. The text reports that the widow, as well as Elijah and her household (including her son) ate for many days, because the jar of meal was not emptied, and the jug of oil did not run dry. (1 Kings 17:15-16).

Prayer:  Holy Spirit, when we bring the children of our church to be baptized, we promise to place the Scriptures in their hands and teach them the stories of our faith. Children learn from what they see us do. May the children of our church, like the son of the Widow of Zarephath, see us respond generously when you call us to give. Help them—and us—to understand that generosity is the very essence of life, so that as you have given generously to us, we may give generously, too. Amen.

1 Kings 17:8-16

March 14, 2019

This week’s devotions were written by Kathy Patrick, a member of Faith Lutheran Church.

The Widow of Zarephath, Part 2

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he set out and went to Zarephath.

When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.” As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”

Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied, and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.”

She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah. 1 Kings 17:8-16

The widow is starving. She and her son are dying. She has gathered her meagre strength and resources like the sticks she is gathering, in the hope that she and her son can have one last meal—together—before they die.

And into the midst of her suffering and dying comes the voice of a strange God, telling her to feed Elijah. Did she think she was hallucinating as she neared death? We know she must have thought the voice she heard was strange, perhaps even cruel, because she responds to Elijah’s request for food, saying that what he asks is all but impossible. “As the Lord your God lives,” she says, “I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”

But Elijah responds to her by saying, “Do not be afraid.”  Why is she afraid? There are probably lots of reasons. She’s dying. She may die before her son, leaving him an orphan. The man who appears before her asking for food is a stranger. She doesn’t know his name, but she knows he’s a refugee from another people, whose God is hostile to her own. She’s a woman. He’s a man. And on and on it goes.

Yet somehow his request for help, his dependence on her, touches her heart. She also hears his promise—in her desperate scarcity—that there will be enough, “For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied, and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth,” and it makes a difference to her.

Rather than fleeing or rejecting him, she opens her hand to help him. Will we open our hands to help, too?

Prayer:  Spirit of love, you speak into the midst of our fear, saying, “Trust me. There is enough. There will be enough.” As we hear your call to us to give generously to your church and to those in need, help us to trust that there is enough for us, not only enough for us, but enough to share abundantly with your church, as you have shared with us. Amen.

1 Kings 17:8-16

March 13, 2019

This week’s devotions were written by Kathy Patrick, a member of Faith Lutheran Church.

The Widow of Zarephath, Part 1

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he set out and went to Zarephath.

When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.” As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”

Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied, and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.”

She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah. 1 Kings 17:8-16

As expected, the wadi has dried up. Elijah is again thirsty and hungry, a refugee with nothing to count on but his trust in God. The word of the Lord comes and tells Elijah, ‘Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.’” And the text reports that Elijah, “set out and went to Zarephath.”

There’s a lot going on in those two sentences. A lot. Elijah is an Israelite; the woman to whom he is sent is a gentile. He is a refugee, she is in her home country. He is a man, she is a widow—the most vulnerable, powerless person in all the ancient near east. He has a name, she is nameless, a literal no one. He has been fed by the ravens, she and her son are dying of starvation. He is called by God and obeys; she has heard the command of God to feed him, but the voice she has heard is not the voice of her God. Instead, as she tells Elijah, she has heard the voice of “your God”—a crazy God who doesn’t seem to understand that she is starving and has only enough for one last meal for herself and her son before she dies.

And yet, she feeds him. She feeds him. In the most extreme circumstances, out of her deprivation, she shares what she has—with a refugee, a stranger. Would we do the same?

Prayer:  Lord, the voices around us tell us too often that we should fear those who differ from us. Yet you tell us they, too, are your beloved children. You call us to love them, as you love them. You call us to be generous to them, as you have been generous to us. As we ponder our capital campaign, and the prospect that we could be generous with our gifts to help the Christian Community Service Center, remind us of the Widow of Zarephath. In her example, may we see the promise that—even when we think we don’t have enough—we still have more than enough to be generous to others. Amen.

1 Kings 17:1-7

March 12, 2019

This week’s devotions were written by Kathy Patrick, a member of Faith Lutheran Church.

Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” The word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Go from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the wadi, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.”

So he went and did according to the word of the Lord; he went and lived by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the wadi. But after a while the wadi dried up, because there was no rain in the land. 1 Kings 17:1-7

Yesterday, in 1 Kings 16: 31-34 and 1 Kings 17:1, we met the evil King Ahab and met the prophet Elijah. The prophet, whose name means “Yahweh is my God” has raised his voice to confront Ahab over his idolatry—and, well, Ahab does not react well.  In verse 2, we learn that Ahab is out for Elijah’s life, so “The word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘Go from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan.’”

And so, Elijah flees. He becomes a refugee. Putting his life in God’s hands, he leaves his home heading for a distant land where he will live along the wadi, depending upon the ravens to feed him. But what is Elijah thinking? Surely, he was terrified, for the obvious reason that a king wanted to kill him. But other things were probably terrifying, too. God is sending Elijah to live by a wadi. A wadi is a seasonal stream that appears in a rainy season, but is dry in the dry season—a dry season Elijah knows is coming because he’s just prophesied a drought. Elijah knows he will have to depend on ravens—large, scary, black birds—to bring him food. What if they fly away and never return? And most of all, Elijah knows he must hide. But where will he hide? And for how long?

In every sense, as Elijah flees, he knows he will have nothing to save him but the generous, unexpected, and unlikely gifts of God:  water from a dry stream, food provided by ravens. He has God’s promise, yet he knows he will be utterly dependent on God to follow through, because Elijah cannot save himself.

And yet, Elijah trusts, because “Yahweh is my God.”

Prayer:  Lord, in a world that emphasizes self-reliance and that we can never have enough, teach us to trust in your generous providing. We pray for daily bread, even as we live with so much more food than that. As we ponder the example of your servant Elijah, help us to focus on what is enough for us, to be grateful for the gifts you give us, and to be as generous to your church and your people as you have been to us. Amen.