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Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service; click on the video camera icon.
August 08, 2021
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
1 Kings 19:4-8
John 6:35, 41-51
Grace and peace to you from God, our Creator, and from our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
In 2019, after much discussion and research and discernment, our congregation made the decision to host the men’s rotating overnight shelter for Congregations for the Homeless (CFH) for the month of March 2020. They arrived one evening on or about March 1st and settled in.
For the first couple of weeks, they arrived at 7pm for an evening meal and to bed down for the night. And they were up and out by 7am the next morning.
And then 2020 did what it did. Within a couple of weeks of arriving here, the men needed a place to stay 24/7 rather than just overnight. And then one month became four.
But in those four months, the men had a place here where they could rest and eat and be cared for as they waited. They couldn’t go to work and the libraries and other public places were closed. So, all many of them could do during much of those four months was eat and rest and wait.
And when the time came for them to move to the next location, they were rested and ready for whatever came next.
I couldn’t help but think of that when I read the story from 1 Kings for today. Because it’s about more than an angel showing up and telling Elijah to eat. It’s about God working through that angel to give Elijah what he needed in order to keep going. At its core, it’s about God caring for Elijah.
In this story, Elijah is coming off his victory at Mount Carmel where he triumphed over the priests of Baal and then slaughtered them all (450 of them). But then Queen Jezebel heard about what happened and wasn’t pleased and vowed to have his head in 24 hours – and she usually got what she wanted. So, Elijah flees to the wilderness where he becomes overwhelmed by despair and tells God to take his life. And then he falls asleep. He’s done.
But God didn’t let Elijah die. Instead, God sent an angel to take care of him and encourage him. God recognized that Elijah was exhausted and needed to eat and to rest in order to continue, because he had to continue. His work wasn’t done yet. There weren’t any promises that it would be easy, only that it was doable, but Elijah needed to get up and eat so that he could keep going.
Stories like this one remind us of a couple of different things. First is that our journey with God is rarely complete when we think it is. Second, and more important, is that God cares about us. God knows that our journeys are long and sometimes daunting. So, God makes sure that we know we’re able to complete them. Because God already knows we can.
For Elijah, it meant God working through an angel to make sure the prophet ate and rested and got some encouragement. The basics, right? The basics are important, though, because without them everything else is a lot harder – even when you know what has to be done.
But it’s in those difficult moments, the ones where we want to say, “I’m done” that God’s care for us becomes tangible. And God’s care moves us from saying, “I’m done” to “Okay, I’m ready for what’s next.”
It’s fair to say that, over the last year and a half, we’ve each had a couple of moments where we’ve said, “You know what? I’m done. I’m done with the pandemic. I’m done with being isolated.” Even now, with the Delta variant, we’ve asked, “When is it going to be done?”
In that time, we experienced a different kind of exhaustion. Instead of losing sleep because there weren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done, we lost sleep because the experience of lockdown was so unfamiliar that we didn’t know what to do with it. Restructuring our days took some effort to figure out. Being in public was different than what we’d been used to. Even just getting groceries had to be planned for.
And now, even though we’re in the process of transitioning into what comes next, things are different than they were before. We still have to rethink how we do certain things, and we pray that we don’t lose any of the ground that we’ve gained.
And all of that’s just where the pandemic is concerned. It doesn’t include the political turmoil, climate change and the extreme weather that comes with it, and all of the life events that don’t even make the news.
As Christians, we know that the sustenance we receive in Jesus keeps us going. But we know, too, there are times we need a sacred moment in our day-to-day lives we can concretely hold onto.
So, sometimes we may find ourselves praying for what Elijah was provided – a simple meal from God’s own hand, strength for whatever comes next, a tangible reminder that God cares about what’s happening to us.
I invite you to remember a time in your life when you said, “I’m done. I don’t want to do this anymore.” Whether it was during the pandemic or another time in your life. A time when even just putting one foot in front of the other felt like too much. Do you have it?
Who was the person, or people, that showed up for you in that moment? The one who said, “Yeah – this is hard. But you’ve got this because God’s got you.” Say their name out loud. If you’re at home, share their name in the chat log.
The Rev. Dr. Janet Hunt calls these people our “Get Up and Eat Angels.” The people who show up right when we need them to. And whether they come bearing food or not, they’re the people who help us find the strength for whatever comes next. The people who are the tangible reminders that God cares about us.
And after a visit from these angels, we find we’re able to keep going and continue the journey that lies ahead.
We know that taking care of one another in this way goes beyond meeting a person’s physical needs. We might need food and a nap to start, but we ultimately have to deal with whatever brought us to that point of exhaustion.
So, the spiritual food we feed one another and the way we nourish each other is every bit as important as physical food and rest. So, we provide space. We listen to one another’s stories. We encourage people to look after themselves and their relationships, we encourage hope and health, we pray with and for one another, and we simply show up.
It may not seem like much. But remember the person who showed up for you and how much that meant to you – and got you through.
Working through these people, God nurtures and sustains us, giving us the strength to continue. Through them, God reminds us how deeply God cares for us. Because our journey isn’t done yet. Thanks be to God! Amen.