Sunday June 5th 2016
I Kings 17: 8-24
The truth of God’s Word in your life
When I was working in Victoria I had a very good supervisor who I got on well with. One day she asked me how often I read my bible. I said that I read it often. She went on to say that she believed that the stories in the bible were like fables, stories to help you live a good life, but they were not true, meaning they did not happen, and we can find meaning from other stories outside the bible to help us live life. This Lady had been through Sunday School and knew many of the traditional stories from the bible. However, she took exception to me when I bravely said that I believed that they are true. She could not accept this because to her they were just stories.
Today I am going to preach on the Old Testament reading from 1st kings. When it comes to readings from the Old Testament, I wonder how you think about them. Often it may seem to us, like my supervisor, that we have these lovely stories, that are taught to us in Sunday School about how God worked miracles through Moses and the prophets, but when it comes to living our lives here and now, are these stories of the Old Testament relevant to us at all.
So does this account of the prophet Elijah healing a widow’s son really matter? in the context of our lives in the 21st Century. When I say does it matter I mean in the way that other things in this life matter to us. For example, Does it matter to you what the doctor tells you after you get results of tests back; Does it matter to you what the woman you love will answer you? Is my son or daughter going to be okay? kind of matter… Does the truth of this account matter in this kind of way to you?
For most of you, probably not, but this is only because you aren’t holding a dead child in your arms like this widow from Zarapheth. I wonder if you were to put yourselves in the shoes of this widow. This widow had recently been provided for by God so that her and her son would not starve to death in a period of long drought, God through the prophet had intervened and saved them from certain death. You can imagine how she would have gone from being in total despair to being in a place of hope and joy. And now here she is holding a dead child in her arms, all hope lost. Imagine the turn of events in this widows life.
To be honest for us it is very hard for some of us to imagine this. It is easier to just focus on the good points of the account, to focus on the end part where there is a miracle, than to confront the truth of what this woman was facing. We live in a 21st century world that makes this difficult for us. We don’t like talking about death. In fact, it seems to me, that we spend so much time in life pushing it into the background so that by and large, death remains oblivious to us in our daily lives. We simply try and ignore it.
The widow could not ignore it. She no longer could live the illusion of immortality. The terrifying truth of the death had shattered this illusion. The reality of death hit her hard. No matter how much we try to avoid it, eventually our illusion too, will be shattered.
So what does Elijah do? Well he does not minister to this woman by fluffing over things, repressing or denying the truth, or by telling her that everything will be okay, “God is watching over you”. Rather he said: “Give me your son.” And he stretched himself three times over the body and asked God to raise him. and God listened! Then Elijah gave the boy back to his mother and said: “Look, your son’s alive.” Just like that!
I don’t know about you, but I am often shaped by the culture of our modern world. So when I hear that God preformed this miracle through Elijah, I ask “does God still do miracles like this today?” “Will God intervene in our lives the way the he did for the widow?” “Could it happen again?”
We often ask these questions when reality hits home. When things happen to our loved ones, those we know, or even when things happen to us, that shatter our illusions. When we are suddenly faced with the reality of death, this is when this account reality matters.
As Christians who are aware of the sin in this world and the consequences of sin, we all know deep down that the only solution for the ever-present fear of death is resurrection.
Therapy, goal setting, mindfulness, ignoring, forgetting, won’t really get you and me anywhere. The truth is that the only rescue from death is being raised from it. The only true comfort for this widow was not Elijah’s words, but what God did through him by giving gave her dead son back alive!
How God intervened for that widow, by raising her son from the dead, was a precursor, and pointed to a much more important resurrection: the death and resurrection of God’s own son Jesus. The resurrection of the widow, and of Jesus are much more that Sunday School stories, they are true, they really happened. And this makes all of difference. Instead of being in a place where you have to fear death, you come to the Lord’s Table and receive his life. You see what you believe about Jesus really matters. And it matters like nothing else!
At the end of the today’s reading, the widow says of something strange. She says to Elijah: “Now I know that you are a man of God and the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.” The words: “the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth” are at the very heart of this reading. The woman knew truth when she saw it! Her son was dead, but now he was alive, she knew truth. And her witness to God’s actions in her life continue to call to us throughout time: “The Word of the Lord in your mouth is truth” It is the same Word of the Lord, which spoke through Elijah, that you hear in your Baptism, when God speaks to you and says: you are buried and raised with Christ. You belong to me. It is this same Word of Lord that is spoken at the communion table: “this is my body and blood given for you for the forgiveness of your sins!” It is the same Word of the Lord that you hear in when he says at the beginning of our worship: “your sins are forgiven.” And Yes these words from God to you are truth.
At first glance the account of Elijah and the widow, has nothing to do with us, but the reality is that it does, because the reality of the suffering, and death that this widow faced is the same suffering and death that you and I will have to face, if you have not faced it already. The same need for God to raise this boy to life, to overcome death, is the same need that you and I have. But we know that the same God who raised this boy from the dead, also ultimately raised his Son Jesus from the dead. The same word that was spoken to this widow, speaks to us telling us the truth. Because of Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection, because of our baptism, and because of our faith in him we do not have to fear, like the world around us, when confronted with the reality of death, because we know we too have been raised, and will be raised with Jesus because he has overcome death.
The Word of the Lord is not just accounts of those in scripture, but it is your account too! because the Lord has spoken to, and is speaking to, you as well. And his Word to you is the truth of His and your resurrection. I encourage you to think about what it means that God still speaks this word of truth to you, and how this impacts your everyday life here and now.