Twenty-Sixth Sunday After Pentecost
November 11, 2018
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
I need your help in putting this sermon together this morning. Let’s put a list together of things of stuff that we would never want to run out of. What would you say? Time? I would never want to run out of time – it always seems that there are more things to do than there is time to accomplish them. Right? Money? I don’t want to run out of money. When I kick the bucket I’m hoping I still have $1.00 to my name. What did you list? Coffee? Friends? Faith?
But, it seems in life, that things run out. That rainy day fund? It rains and rains and rains and pretty soon the fund, ironically, dries up. Health? It can change all too quickly. I don’t think any of us are getting out of here alive. Of all the things that we truly treasure in life it usually doesn’t come with free refills. The hard reality that life brings us is that there is never enough. Time, money, health, or whatever was on your list.
Today’s account is about Elijah and the widow and her son who lived in a non-Jewish town called Zarephath. Elijah is the Jewish prophet who spoke God’s judgment to King Ahab and his lovely wife, Jezebel. (She really was as pretty as a snake, or a spider!!) God told them that it wasn’t going to rain until He decided to bring rain. The drought wasn’t just for weeks, nor for a month, or so, but for 3 ½ years. Elijah, the one who said, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” (I Kings 17:1b) And then for the next 42 months he didn’t talk about the weather!!
And that caused a problem. No food. No water. For everyone in that area, and also for Elijah. That is when he ended up in Zarephath. Elijah, who had a problem because he didn’t have anything to drink or eat, created a real problem when he got to that town.
He finds the widow and asks for some water. And she, kindly, goes to get him some. But then he adds a further request. “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.” But there wasn’t enough. Not just for him but also for this lady and the son that was under her care. “As surely as the Lord your God lives, I don’t have any bread – only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it – and die.” (I Kings 17:12) She must have really been a bad cook!!
And bold Elijah doesn’t sympathize with her problem, but he makes it worse. “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son.” (I Kings 17:13)
What? What about waiting for others to eat first? No, Elijah said that there would be enough. “The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.” (I Kings 17:14)
If I was that lady I would have struggled with what Elijah said. She was responsible for her self and her son, but not for him. There wasn’t enough for two mouths and there certainly wasn’t enough for one more. You know what we always have enough of? Worry!! How are we going to manage? How is this going to come out? How can this situation be reversed? But Elijah demands, “Feed me first, and then you’ll have something.”
Do you know what we always have enough of? I believe it is thinking that we can put everything in order and determine the outcome of the situation. A number of you are amazing planners, making sure, as best you can, that there are no surprises for something that is coming up. Everything in life is going to happen as you have it set. Always enough.
And you know what? If there is always enough it is not because you have it all planned but because God is a gracious provider. There was food every day for that woman and her family, and for Elijah. “For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.” (I Kings 17:16)
Always enough!! Wouldn’t that be good if that is what we experienced in life – in many ways, in all ways? I believe that it is true. I believe that this isn’t just a nice Sunday School story that we leave behind when we get a little older and begin living life, but it is actually replicated thousands of times in our life.
In a prayer that I ran into, it gives these words, “O Lord, may Your past goodness be the assurance for my future.” Do you remember your Catechism days? First Article of the Apostles’ Creed, “He (God) richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.” Always enough. God is faithful to us. Our cup runs over. In speaking about the needs of daily life, Jesus speaks, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (Matthew 6:26,31-32)
You know what He gives us enough of? Faith. It took faith for that woman to give Elijah stuff to eat. There was only a little flour. There was only a little oil. But it never went empty – God provided. But the thought of always having enough is not just having enough money or food or drink, it is having a conviction in God’s goodness on our behalf.
He provides us with a faith in meeting the needs of our soul. Sometimes our sins are small, like nickels and dimes. But they are sins and they mount up, but sometimes our sins are bigger – like the larger bills. They do much harm to us and to others, they cause a great barrier between us and God. But the blood of Christ takes care of all sins, both small and big. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they red like crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18). At the 10:30 service we have sung a song, “Thy grace is enough” a number of times. “Thy grace is enough, Thy grace is enough, Thy grace is enough for me…” David had enough sin to destroy him. Adultery. Deception and lies. Murder. But God provided what was enough to meet his anguish. “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord – and you forgave the guilt of my sin.’” (Psalm 32:5)
When life has taken a terrible turn and all we can do is look and see troubles and questions and find ourselves buried in burdens we must know that our God is always enough to meet us with His strength and hope. Psalm 103, “He redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.” (Verse 4)
Last Sunday was our All Saints’ Day. Some folks who have traveled to other countries tell me that All Saints’ is known as “The Day of The Dead” elsewhere and is a national holiday. No work. Everyone gets on buses and goes to the cemeteries. They pack a picnic and go to the graves of their loved ones. Though we had grief last Sunday, our Lord couples grief with hope. Here is the real truth about death for a believer: “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” (I Thessalonians 4:13-14) We celebrate life, even when it is ended. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 15:55-57)
Always enough. Even more than enough. We are given more than enough and we are called to have enough to share. Give away lots of patience. Give away lots of forgiveness. Let love flow from you to others in great ways. “Always enough” is how we can look at our life both with the things we possess and then the things of our heart and soul and faith. Freely receive from God and freely give to others.
So, I wonder, what would you never want to run out of? How about God? In the final verse of “I Am Trusting Thee, Lord Jesus (LSB 729) the hymn says, “I am trusting Thee, Lord Jesus; never let me fall. I am trusting Thee forever and for all.” We trust Him because our God is always enough. Amen!!