The Lord's Lasting Gift For Frenzied And Worried North Americans

Text:  1 Kings 17:8-16

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

We confess as Christians that we trust the Lord.  We say that we can trust Him to provide for our daily physical and spiritual needs.  We acknowledge that we trust Him to keep us through death and into the kingdom of heaven. 

With that said though, we also worry.  Yes, because we Christians are also tainted with sin in this life, we are full of worry, distrust, and unbelief, which then leads us to ask if God will actually take care of our bodies and souls. 

So, we spend hours upon hours feeding our worry and distrust.  From morning to sundown we spend time pursuing and worrying about what ‘we’ need to do in order to make it in this life: we watch the stock markets, try to give our kids a good start in life, save our money for retirement, buy health insurance and home insurance. And we cannot forget our other forms of worry; we try to outdo our own friends and family, trying to rise above them with our houses and vehicles.  We think to ourselves that if we have better houses and more stuff, we will surely outlast our neighbors if the economy fails.  Furthermore, our worry drives us to be competitors in business or the workplace to see who can make the best living, accumulate the most stuff, become the most secure, and wield the most power in an effort to feel secure.

Once we shore up all these provisions, you would think that our worry would subside; however, nothing changes.  In fact our actions basically create more things for us to worry about.  Dear friends, just think how much of our daily lives are spent in the pursuit of eliminating worry? 

In the midst of our frenzied North American worry, we are confronted by the Old Testament lesson from today.  Look at the widow of Zerephath.  Did not she have a reason to worry?  She had no husband, she was caught in a drought with no means to provide for her house, and she was trying to raise a son as a single mother.  This was a person who had absolutely no control at all.  There was nothing that she could do to change or improve her situation, and she knew it.  The only thing she had control of was accepting that she and her son were going to die. 

Her awful situation stares us in the face and it humbles us.  Should we really be so consumed with worry, when things could be so much worse like the widow of Zerephath?  However, the widow of Zerephath did not have worry.  Yes, she was not worried, for her worry and doubt had given way to hopelessness and despair.

We can hear it in her words to Elijah when he asked her to make him some bread, listen again and hear how helpless and hopeless she felt.  She said, “As the Lord your God lives, 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.”

These are not the words of hope and control.  She was getting ready to make a last meal for herself and her son; just a little bit of bread.  That is certainly not much of a last meal.  She had come to the realization that this was the end.  There was not going to be a government program to help her, there was not anything more she could do to change what was about to happen.  Her pagan gods had not listened to her cries.  And she believed that Elijah’s God – our God – would not listen to her for she was a gentile and not a Jew.

But God had looked upon her situation and had mercy on her, for He had not chosen a woman of Israel but this widow to send His prophet to.  With that stated, we have already heard the rest of the story, she made the bread for many days but the flour and oil never ran out as God promised through the prophet Elijah.

As we consider the Old Testament lesson, I want you to consider the true miracle that we are given here this day.  In other words, it is tempting to look at the flour and oil that is always replenished and marvel.  We might even like to use this passage to offer comfort and say, “See God will always provide.”  However, this is not the miracle!  Yes, it is amazing that God used a little bit of flour and oil for food.  Furthermore, God provides for all of His creation every day; however, the real miracle in today’s Old Testament lesson is that this poor widow who was given into hopelessness and despair – who basically accepted the reality that she was going to die with her son in her arms – was given faith. 

When the prophet Elijah came to the woman he said to her, “Do not fear . . . the Lord God of Israel will see to it that your jar of flour and your jug of oil shall not be empty.” 

Indeed, the real miracle is that the woman was taken from hopelessness and death to faith in the Lord God.  That is the miracle; faith in the promised Word of God is the miracle! 

The widow went in and shared what was to be her last meal with Elijah believing that the flour and oil would not be used up.  This is amazing!

As we consider all of this, I believe it would be fair to say that In the midst of our busy worry, the story of the widow of Zerephath actually shames us.  Does it not?  She has nothing and then when the Word of God comes to her through the prophet of Elijah, she gladly – by faith – cooks up the last of her flour and oil knowing that the Lord was going to take care of her and her son, for the Lord told her not to fear.  She gave the leftover food – everything she had – to Elijah trusting that the Lord would provide and knowing that even if the flour and oil ran out that the Lord had her eternal good taken care of as well. 

Does this describe us this day?  Are we like the widow or do we give of our left overs like the Pharisees, putting whatever we decide we can afford forth without cutting into our pockets too deep?  Do we trust that the Lord will provide for us, even if the check looks small or the farming prices look to low?  Do we trust God above all things?  Do we really believe and understand what is provided for us here in the Word and Sacrament?

The truth is that we are all sinners here today who are consumed with worry.  We are in need of repentance and forgiveness.  And that is where the Gospel comes in for you.  While we are shown our shortcomings in the story of the widow of Zerephath, we are also shown our comfort in this story, for we see the faith of the woman. In other words, apart from the gift of the Spirit the woman could not believe in the true God, let alone have faith in His promise.  Therefore, the faith that we see in the woman is the same faith given to you in your baptisms.  In those waters you have been given true and saving faith by the Holy Spirit.  In those waters you are covered with the blood of Jesus who had perfect faith for you.  He trusted perfectly for all of the times that we do not, and those times are many in this life.  Yet as we come and confess our sins and repent, we stand forgiven anew.  That is the true and lasting gift that God has given you this day.  Forgiveness, life, and salvation that will never run out or will never become empty.  In Christ and His bloody death on the cross you are freed from sin, death, and the devil.

This is what moves the Christian in this life.  This is what frees us from the snare of worry.  This is what moved the widow.  She did not give so that God would reward her and give her even more than she gave.  The widow of Zeraphath did not get 10 jars of flour and 10 jugs of oil because she gave what she had.  We do not give to our Lord because we have to, but because we are blessed to and are freed from worry through the Gospel.  And when we give of all that we have in faith, we can be assured that God will take care of us.  He has promised to care for us!  As a matter of fact He has taken care of you, because God has already given all that He has to you!!!  It is kind of humbling think about and at the same time so wonderful.  We owe everything to God we are the debtors.  We are His enemies by birth, and we often sin against Him in every way.  Yet God has been the most generous giver of all, because He withholds nothing from you, not even His one and only Son.

He gave it all to buy you out of slavery, not to make you His own slave, but to make you His own free child.  In doing so God our Father has already provided for our every need we shall not worry or fear.  Even if all things fail in this world you and I still have the everlasting joy of salvation in Jesus.  There is nothing that can separate you from Him.  You have been crucified with Christ and in Him you have been fed the true bread of Heaven, and also have a part in His resurrection.

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

Note: this sermon is highly indebted to Rev. Kurt Hering’s sermon, “The Best Seats and Places of Honor), preached at Christ Lutheran-Elkhart and Faith Lutheran-Hugoton.  

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