Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sermon and Prayer of the Church for 08 November 2009, Proper 27B

The Rev. Paul J Cain

1 Kings 17:8–16

Not Empty

Proper [27] B, Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost, 08 November 2009

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

At the temple, the poor widow put in all she had to live on. Jesus commends her faith. She trusted in the Lord for her daily bread—everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body.

This morning we are introduced to another widow in the Old Testament reading. The Lord uses his servant on the scene to encourage faith in the Lord to provide.

It was a time of famine when the word of the LORD came to Elijah. Famines were relatively common in the ancient world. In Genesis we hear of Abram going to Egypt in a time of famine. Generations later, Joseph was able to provide for all the family of Israel when they came to Egypt. We see the Lord’s hand in providing for His ancient people. Usually, famine tends to bring out the worst in people—hoarding, greed, and despair.

God told Elijah, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” Even in a time of need, the Lord will provide. Even when the cupboard is bare, the Lord knows better than old mother Hubbard. Using earthly wisdom, we would think the Lord would send Elijah to some wealthy landowner, a royal patron—someone of means to help Elijah through the lean times. But He doesn’t. A widow in Zarephath will provide for Elijah. So he arose and went to Zarephath.

And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” Water is hard to come by in a famine. There’s no such thing as “running water” as we know it. That’s a very modern luxury. It used to be—not so long ago—that running water was when someone had to run to get it. You may have used a hand pump. This widow likely used a bucket and a well to get Elijah water.

And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” Water and food? Elijah is sure trusting that the Lord will fulfill His promises. He asks for bread in order to see if this is the widow the Lord told him about.

“As the LORD your God lives,” she says, “I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.”

Sticks. A handful of flour. A little oil. All that she and her son had to live on. No freezer. No pantry. No animals left in the backyard. This family is on the brink of starvation. She is gathering sticks to prepare their last supper. She needs daily bread. She needs some hope.

We know this not only from the situation, but from her words: “As the LORD your God lives,” she says. The woman given up hope in the false gods of her nation. She is a gentile, not of the house of Israel, but she notices that Elijah is of the house of Israel. She may not have known him, his name, or that he is a prophet, but she knows the true God, and she knows that this man serves the Lord.

Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’”

The Lord will provide. That is your comfort this day. The Lord your God will provide you with everything you need—not everything you want—but everything you need and enough to provide for your neighbor in need.

She went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah.

The widow acted in faith. She gave up the certain for the uncertain and trusted the Word of the Lord given through His servant. The Lord gave His promise and He fulfilled it. His Word is trustworthy and sure. The widow provided for the Lord’s servant and she was blessed. They all ate through the Lord’s miraculous provision until rain came again. It took many days, the text says, but it did rain again.

How big is your God? If your “god” is not big enough to provide for you, your family, your prophet, and your congregation, your “god” is not the true Lord of heaven and earth. The Lord your God will provide you with everything you need—not everything you want—but everything you need and enough to provide for your neighbor in need.

In the Small Catechism’s teaching on the Lord’s Prayer, Dr. Luther teaches us that God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray “Give us this day our daily bread” so that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

The Lord also provides you with the bread of heaven for the forgiveness of your sins. The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ will strengthen and preserve you in body and soul to life everlasting. That prepares you for the Day of Resurrection.

There’s more to the story of the widow of Zarephath. Her son dies and Elijah raises Him to life. This points us forward to the ministry and miracles of Jesus. He raised from death Jairus’ daughter, the son of another widow in the town of Nain, and Lazarus, brother of Mary and Martha. We must not forget His own Resurrection from the dead. Because He rose, you also will rise. We pray for restoration of health, but whatever the Lord does not heal in this life, He will heal on Resurrection Day. In that we also take comfort.

The widow provided for Elijah, and the jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah. The Lord provides for you, too. According to His promise, your jar will not become empty, but on the Last Day, your grave will be—just as Jesus’ tomb was on Easter morn. Amen.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Prayer of the Church

Pentecost 23 (Proper 27B)

November 8, 2009

P Almighty God, we give thanks for all Your goodness and bless You for the love that sustains us from day to day. We praise You for the gift of Your Son, our Savior, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. We thank You for the Holy Spirit, the Comforter; for Your holy Church, for the Means of Grace, for the lives of all faithful and just people, and for the hope of the life to come. Help us to treasure in our hearts all that You have done for us, and enable us to show our thankfulness in lives that are wholly given to Your service. Lord, in Your mercy,

C hear our prayer.

P Grant Your wisdom and heavenly grace to all pastors and to those who hold office in Your Church that, by their devoted service, faith may abound and Your kingdom increase. Lord, in Your mercy,

C hear our prayer.

P Send the light of Your truth into all the earth. Raise up faithful servants of Christ to advance the Gospel both at home and in distant lands. Lord, in Your mercy,

C hear our prayer.

P In Your mercy strengthen all newly established congregations, and support them in challenging times. Make them steadfast, abounding in the work of the Lord, and let their faith and zeal for the Gospel refresh and renew the witness of Your people everywhere. Lord, in Your mercy,

C hear our prayer.

P Preserve our nation in justice and honor that we may lead a peaceable life with integrity. Grant health and favor to all who bear office in our land, especially

(USA) the president and congress of the United States, the governor and legislature of this state/commonwealth, and to all those who make, administer, and judge our laws.

(British Commonwealth) Her Majesty the Queen, the governor general, the prime minister and the parliament, the government of this province and all who have authority over us.

Help them to serve this people according to Your holy will. Lord, in Your mercy,

C hear our prayer.

P Sanctify our homes with Your presence, and bless them with joy. Keep our children in the covenant of their Baptism, and enable their parents to bring them up in lives of faith and devotion. Unite the members of all families in a spirit of affection and service that they may show Your praise in our land and in all the world. Lord, in Your mercy,

C hear our prayer.

P By Your Word and Holy Spirit comfort all who are in sorrow or need, sickness or adversity (especially _______). Be with those who suffer persecution for the faith. Have mercy on those to whom death draws near (especially _______). Bring consolation to those in sorrow, and grant to all a measure of Your love, taking them into Your tender care. Lord, in Your mercy,

C hear our prayer.

P We remember with thanksgiving those who have loved and served You in Your Church on earth, and who now rest from their labors (especially _______). Keep us in fellowship with all Your saints, and bring us at last to the joys of Your heavenly kingdom. Lord, in Your mercy,

C hear our prayer.

P All these things and whatever else You know that we need, grant us, Father, for the sake of Him who died and rose again and now lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C Amen.

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