Monday, June 11, 2007

Sermon for the Second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 5), June 10, 2007

I have so much stuff in my life that it seems like I sometimes do not have enough room to put it all away. Studies have been down to show that the size of houses being built are getting larger, while families are getting smaller. Even with these large houses, storage companies are doing fantastic business. We continue to accumulate more and more stuff and we run out of room to keep it all.

We are living in an amazing age. When I think of all the choices I have in life, it is simply astounding. When I open my cupboards at home I'm sometimes overwhelmed by the choices available. I go to the supermarket and can rarely find that which I have been sent to get because there is so much to sort through. It is simply amazing. Sometimes I remember to be grateful for it, but much more often I tend to take it for granted and don’t actually think about it at all. I'm living in the most prosperous nation in the world and I take it for granted. I am one of the most prosperous people in the world and I take that for granted. Yes, I try to remember to thank God on occasion for all I have, but more often than not, I just take it for granted.

The story today in the First Book of Kings challenges me and each one of us on this issue. In a way, like all of us, Elijah is living the easy life. God sent him to a place where he had plenty of food and water as a famine and drought were in the land. His metaphorical cupboards were full to overflowing, much like mine. But then God suddenly decides to move him from this easy life out to where the famine and drought has been ravaging the land. He is called to go to a far country and live where a widow will feed him. Elijah is supposed to leave the easy life he has become accustomed to, and go stay with a widow who would provide him his needs. Now lets face it, Elijah knew full well that widows in his time could rarely provide for themselves, let alone for anyone else.

That would be like God telling me to move to one of the drought stricken areas of Africa where a widow would feed me. I know I would be leaving a lot. I would be leaving all my comforts. I would be leaving all my food. I would be leaving all my clean water. I would be going to a place where I could expect to be hungry all of the time. To me it does not sound like a very attractive call to receive from God.

But what really strikes me about the lesson in First Kings today is the willingness of people to be faithful. I see faithfulness and trust in God at levels I wonder if I would be capable of if called upon by God. I’m reminded of Francis of Assisi a person who also had a pretty good life. He had all that he could have wanted, at least by the standards of the world today. He had wealth and power. Yet he was willing to give it all up to answer the call of God. Like Francis I see in my own life a life of relative wealth and power. My needs are all taken care of. Many of my wants are taken care of as well. Most of us can identify with that.

Elijah was challenged to leave all that behind. In Elijah we find an example of what it means to be obedient to the call of God. Like Elijah we too may often find that the call of obedience to God calls for self-sacrifice and suffering. But as we see in the story, responding positively to the call to obedience is rewarded with blessings from God. Elijah’s needs were miraculously taken care of.

It seems like it is easy to doubt the power of God in our lives at times. The widow, responding to the call of God, gave up what she believed was her last meal with her son in order to feed Elijah because she believed the promise that God would continue to supply her. And God did. No matter how often she dipped into the jars of flour and oil there was always enough there for the next meal. She risked everything to respond to God’s call to service and sacrifice.

Rick Warren in the book “The Purpose Driven Life” believes that there are “three metaphors that teach us God’s view of life.” Life is a test, life is a trust and life is a temporary assignment.

I have no problem with the second two, but the first is problematic to me. Not that I don’t believe that all of us must face tests in our lives, just as Elijah and the widow did. But it is a much different thing to believe that we are sometimes tested in life rather than life is a test. To me that sounds like an unremitting life of test after test.

But I certainly do agree with him that life is both a trust and a temporary assignment. Life is a trust in many things, not the least of which is a trust in God. The challenge for myself and perhaps many of us is how do we live that out in our lives. It is easy to talk about trust in God when we have so much in our lives.

It would be hard to find anyone who disagreed with the fact that life is a temporary assignment. No matter what a person may believe about the hereafter, we all know that our days in this existence are temporary. But do I live my life as if I truly believe it. It is much too easy to live my life as if the here and now is all that there is. Allowing the cares and concerns of life right now interfere with my relationship to the God who created me.

The true test of our character and of our trust and faith is how do we face the “Elijah moments” that may come into our lives? I pray that God gives each of us the strength to respond in faith and trust.

No comments: