When reading today’s Old Testament passage about Elijah and the window in Eugene Peterson’s The Message, he writes that Elijah tells the window to make him a small biscuit. As a biscuit maker myself, I totally agreed with his choice. They’re in the desert during a terrible drought with very little left to eat and Elijah asks for a biscuit. I say, good choice, Elijah, good choice.
Of course, in this moment, there were very few food choices for those living in Zarephath and the surrounding region as even the brooks were drying up. It would be three years before God would open the heavens and rain to fall. But, despite these dire straits, Elijah and the widow did choose to believe in God and follow his commands. God told Elijah to go to Zarephath and there he would find help because God had instructed a widow to feed him, and Elijah obeyed. The widow appears to be resigned to the fact that she is preparing her last meal and that she and her son will die. Her last meal. Yet, she continued to have faith in God, because she believes what Elijah is telling her. Don’t be afraid, make a small biscuit for me, then make a meal for you and your son with what is left. The Lord will provide. And indeed He did as the widow’s jar of meal and jug of oil were never emptied. The widow is willing to believe and give all that she has.
And, in the passage from Mark we read about another widow who is also willing to give all that she has. Jesus is teaching in the temple, when He observes people putting money in the offertory box. The wealthy are giving large amounts, and then this widow gives all that she has – two coins. And, she too must have had a great faith in God to give all that she had. We don’t know what she was thinking, but maybe it was that she knew just as God watches out for even the smallest sparrow, He will watch out for her too. He will provide.
Friday morning as I was running some errands, I was listening to Marfa Public Radio to the end of a story about the migrants walking from Central America towards the United States. The reporter was in Mexico City interviewing several people about their dire straits – walking miles and miles, with very little money if any, a few clothes, little water, and a hope of a better life. I wish I knew what program was playing at the time, so I could hear the story again because it included a young woman telling about her experience. I don’t remember the exact question he asked her, but it was something about was she scared to keep going and did she think she would make it to the U.S. Her reply was she had faith in God and that is what was getting her through each day. And, it struck me that this young woman was not unlike the widows in today’s passages, she had faith that God will provide. That no matter what happens all will be well. As we read in Psalm 146 – The Lord cares for the stranger; he sustains the orphan and the widow. Indeed He does.
That depth of faith always astounds me – this opening of the heart and soul allowing God’s presence to be the center of every moment. To know that no matter what happens God is with us and all will be well.
And that is a foundation of faith. Whether we are in a horrific situation of violence like the recent shootings in Pittsburgh and Thousand Oaks or the terrible wildfires in California, our faith is what can sustain us. Faith is what sustain and guided Dietrich Bonhoeffer while in prison and in the extermination camp at Flossenburg. Survivors of the camp describe him as a man of God who stood strong for others and his faith sustained him until the end. A prayer was on his lips as he died.
At St. Paul’s we participate in the Prayers for the People – we pray for understanding, peace, people who are ill and those who have died. We pray for strength, faith and thanksgiving. We share God’s peace with one another. We go out into the world to love and serve others. And like the widows, Elijah, the migrant woman, and Bonhoeffer who gave all that they had and continued to walk in faith, it is not that we ask God to provide things but it is to ask God to sustain us in our faith and guide us in the understanding that at the end of each day we believe, we know, in every fiber of our being that, yes, all will be well. “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.” Amen.