TASTE AND SEE THAT THE LORD IS GOOD; BLESSED IS THE MAN WHO TAKES REFUGE IN HIM. (Psalm 34: 8)
WECOME TO OUR SUNDAY MORNING WEB-WORSHIP!
THE OLD TESTAMENT READING: – 1 KINGS 17: 8 – 24
… THE LORD HEARD ELIJAH’S CRY, AND THE BOY’S LIFE RETURNED TO HIM, AND HE LIVED. ELIJAH PICKED UP THE CHILD AND CARRIED HIM DOWN FROM THE ROOM INTO THE HOUSE. HE GAVE HIM TO HIS MOTHER AND SAID, “LOOK, YOUR SON IS ALIVE!” THEN THE WOMAN SAID TO ELIJAH, “NOW I KNOW THAT YOU ARE A MAN OF GOD AND THAT THE WORD OF THE LORD FROM YOUR MOUTH IS THE TRUTH”. (1 Kings 17: 22 – 24)
THE NEW TESTAMENT READING: – LUKE 7: 11 – 17.
…THEN HE (JESUS) WENT UP AND TOUCHED THE COFFIN, AND THOSE CARRYING IT STOOD STILL. HE SAID, “YOUNG MAN, I SAY TO YOU, GET UP!” THE DEAD MAN SAT UP AND BEGAN TO TALK, AND JESUS GAVE HIM BACK TO HIS MOTHER. (Luke 7: 14 – 15)
We all know that in human life, from birth, there is a cycle of dependent relationships. In our Old Testament story Elijah was dependent on the woman who provided him with shelter, the woman was dependent on Elijah, who provided her with food during the famine, and they both were dependent on God, who brought them together and who offered ongoing provision. But suddenly, the woman’s son became ill and died, and the cycle of dependence entered into crisis.
The woman’s newfound stability turned into misfortune, her previous gain into loss, and her sense of favour into despair. When threats come into lives, they always bring accusations. The woman angrily said to Elijah: – Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son? Accusing even God: – What do you have against me, man of God? (verse 18). She did associate the presence of Elijah –the man of God – with God Himself, and – as it is a human habit – she started blaming God for the things that went wrong, blaming also Elijah and herself as well.
We can clearly see that the woman had a selective memory. She interpreted the death of her son as a judgment upon her by God for things she had done in the past, forgetting at the same time all the positive events that she had previously experienced. This is an appalling human practice: – quick to blame God for the bad and slow to thank God for the good. There is also a practicing human art of “taking for granted”. It is possible that the woman associated the presence of Elijah and God with good times of abundance and blessing so that when things changed, she suddenly saw no good in their presence. There is absolutely no indication in the text that the woman and her son deserved the “special treatment” they had received before, so what really had happened through Elijah, was nothing else but the operation of God’s Grace in their lives. In our lives, since birth, we are dependent on a mutually beneficial cycle of relationships, and we are blessed and helped by God, through each other, in the wonderful way of the unconditional love and grace of our Heavenly Father. Therefore – as a Catechism from the 16th century says,- “We can be patient in adversity, thankful in prosperity, and with a view to the future we can have a firm confidence in our faithful God and Father that no creature shall separate us from His love; for all creatures are so completely in His hand that without His will they cannot so much as move” (The Heidelberg Catechism,- 1563, – on the Providence of God). In these testing times of the Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic, an uplifting confession on God’s Providence helps us to RETHINK not only our social and economic, but also spiritual attitude towards the NEW NORMAL that lies ahead.
This story is about the power of God, and it is a matter of life and death that we know the unlimited presence of God and His unconditional love towards those whom He wants to save. We sympathize, and most of us empathize, with the woman’s pain. She had lost her only son, the only family she had. But the accusations that emerged from her pain threatened to cut her off from the only source of help she had: the presence of God through His prophet. Elijah felt that pain too, praying for the reviving of the child. And God answered the prayer. You see, being open to the sustaining, healing, helping Providence of God in our lives requires being open to the fact that God often sustains, heals, and helps us not only in His mysterious ways, but also through the presence and through the touch and prayers of the people who are around us. We dare not cut ourselves off from the help that God wants to give through other people’s faith and love. The fact that God’s providence came through the touch and prayer of Elijah shows how vital is our openness to the support and prayers of those fellow Christians in our cycle of dependence who are interceding for us at God’s throne of grace.
The noblest faith in antiquity was Stoicism. The Stoics believed that the primary characteristic of God was apathy, His incapacity of feeling. This was their argument, conviction and practice. If someone can make another sad or sorry, glad or joyful, it means that he is greater than the other person. Now, no one can be greater than God; therefore, no one can influence God; therefore, God must be incapable of feeling. There still are many Stoics in the world today.
In our New Testament reading we have the story of how Jesus raised a widow’s son in the town of Nain, very close to Zarephath of Sidon, the place of the miracle through Elijah, hundreds of years before. Here, we are presented with the amazing grace of one who was the Son of God. As Jesus approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out – the only son of his mother, and she was a widow…When the Lord saw her, His heart went out to her and He said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother (Luke 7: 12-15). Almost similar miracles, but this time we can see the godly attitude of the compassion of Christ, the incapacity of the Lord to not have feelings. Jesus being moved to the depth of His heart, presents to us the most precious thing about His Father, our Heavenly Father: God’s eternal and unconditional love and grace.
Jesus claimed for the life of a young man who had been marked for death. Jesus is not only the Lord of Life; He is the Lord of death, who Himself triumphed over the grave and who has promised that, because I live, you also will live (John 14: 19). Within all the threat, suffering and grief caused by the present Pandemic all over the world today, by true Christian faith and prayers we will be able to come through these testing times alive and well – because of Jesus Christ our Lord.
LET US PRAY:
Gracious Lord God, hear our prayer for those who suddenly find themselves caught up in the storms of life: despair, fear, sorrow or suffering. Reach out to all who are overwhelmed by trouble, and assure them that, though the clouds hang heavy, the world seems dark, and the wind of dangers beats relentlessly upon them, the Light of Your Love is still shining and will eventually break through once more into their lives. In that promise may we likewise trust when, as they surely will, storms break also upon us. However distant You may sometimes seem, however hopeless life may feel, teach us to trust You, confident that the clouds will break, and Your Light will shine again on us. Gracious God reach out into our bruised and infected world. Where lives are broken, mend them. Where they are ravaged by sickness and disease, heal them. Where they are troubled, calm them. Where they are hurting, relieve them. Where they are sorrowful, comfort them. Pick up the pieces, and through Your healing touch, bring renewal and wholeness, real life deep within. We believe You are a God of love and compassion, yet as we look at the world today, we find it hard to keep faith, for so many find their lives shattered by this tragic Coronavirus Pandemic. Teach us, Lord, that though we can never lift every burden, we can help some to carry theirs more easily. Strengthen our faith, increase our hope and develop our love to be able to live and bring You to others, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.
THE LORD’S PRAYER: – OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN…
– GOD SENT HIS SON, they called Him Jesus; He came to love, heal, and forgive; He lived and died to buy my pardon, an empty grave is there to prove my Saviour lives.
CHORUS: – Because He lives, I can face tomorrow; because He lives all fear is gone; because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives.
How sweet to hold a new-born baby, and feel the pride and joy he gives; but greater still the calm assurance, this child can face uncertain days because He lives. +CHORUS.
And then one day I’ll cross the river; I’ll fight life’s final war with pain; and then as death gives way to victory, I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He lives. +CHORUS.
MAY YOUR UNFAILING LOVE REST UPON US, O LORD, EVEN AS WE PUT OUR HOPE IN YOU. (Psalm 33: 22)
Sandor, your Minister.