1 Kings 17:8-16 (17-24)
The word of the Lord came to Elijah, 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.
[After this, the son of the woman, the mistress of the house at Zarephath, became ill; his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. She then said to Elijah, "What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!" But he said to her, "Give me your son." He took him from her bosom, carried him up into the upper chamber where he was lodging, and laid him on his own bed. He cried out to the Lord, "O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I am staying, by killing her son?" Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried out to the Lord, "O Lord my God, let this child's life come into him again." The Lord listened to the voice of Elijah; the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. Elijah took the child, brought him down from the upper chamber into the house, and gave him to his mother; then Elijah said, "See, your son is alive." So the woman said to Elijah, "Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth."]
Soon after healing the centurion's slave, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother's only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, "Do not weep." Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, rise!" The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has risen among us!" and "God has looked favorably on his people!" This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.
There are a lot of miracles in these readings this week. God speaks to Elijah and sends him to Zarephath to live with a widow and her son. She is very poor and is in fact preparing for her last meal as she has no more food or money to buy it with. Elijah shows up and asks for a meal. She recognizes him as a holy man and she does as he requests, based partly on his assurances that “the jar of meal will not be empty and the jug of oil will not fail.”
Her trust is rewarded and the jars do not empty. One would think that this would be the end of the story but it isn't and her fortune takes a sudden turn when her son dies. Elijah prays to God to bring the boy back to life and God does.
In the Gospel reading there is a similar story. Jesus is entering the town of Nain and he meets a funeral procession. A man has died who is the only son of a widow. He takes compassion on her and brings the son back to life.
In both stories the only son of a widow has died and been brought back to life. In each case the widow would have no means of support and would likely die as well. In each of these stories God shows compassion on these families. Are these just more miracle stories and we read them because they will increase our belief in God? If these miracles were to happen today, what would your reaction be?
Do you believe in miracles? Where does science fit into all of this? If Jesus had not performed all of his miracles, would Christianity be what it is today?
This week was the first week that our sign was up. As I am sure you remember I asked each of you to mark from the list a saying that you especially liked. Bill was the most prolific chooser in the congregation. He chose five so I picked one of his. For those of you who missed it on the way in, it is “ God's promises never expire.” God's promises are the new covenant and covenant implies a relationship.
Religion is about relationships. God may not be working great miracles in our lives but to me the miracle of life is enough. I am grateful to God for the gift of fresh air, reasonably clean water, the relationships I have with all of you. I pray that these miracles are working in your lives as well.