The other day as my family sat in front of the tv together, flipping the channels, one of my all time favorite movies happened to be just starting. Evan Almighty, the 2007 movie staring Steve Carrell, Morgan Freeman, and Wanda Sykes. I know that this movie was not a box office hit, but it had all the right things for me. It had animals, lots of animals, it had slapstick humor, and it had God. If you didn’t catch the movie, or weren’t able to be part of our bible study that watched and discussed the movie, or simply don’t remember it. God played by Morgan Freeman wants Steve Carrells’ character (Evan) a recently elected US congressman, to build an ark. That’s right a big boat, for two of all the animals and such to be saved from a flood. But of course this is present day Washington DC, and while Congressman Evan’s slogan was “change the world”, well he didn’t really mean it, especially if it meant changing how he lived.
Evan is a reluctant worker for God, and that’s where some of the comedy comes in. But that’s also where some of the good bible truth comes in as well. Because, well as the saying goes, “no good deed goes unpunished”. For Evan in the movie following God’s call to live faithfully meant well he basically lost his job as a congressman, neighbors laughed at him, at one point his family left him, and because it’s a movie he grew long grey hair, beard, and even wore long flowing robes.
For Elijah, the story is a bit different. First of all, for those of you who were here last Sunday, we read about Elijah doing what? A quiz. Defeating the priests of Baal. That story actually comes after what we read this morning, for whatever reason, the designers of the Lectionary had us read from chapter 18 last week, and now we backtrack to chapter 17 where we first meet the prophet Elijah. Guess it’s like a flashback, you know from the movies.
So getting back to Elijah. As a prophet, Elijah speaks for God, calls the people back to God, not just any people, but in many cases, the king. That’s what’s going on here. The king is Ahab, he marries a foreigner, and more than that starts worshipping her god, something by the name of Baal. Elijah declares that there will be a drought, no rain, equals, not food, so Elijah is not very popular, especially with the powers that be. So, he ends up leaving, not just town, but the country, leaves the promised land and finds his way to stay with a poor widow. That’s where we begin our reading for today.
As this poor woman is gathering the last little sticks, to eat up their last food, facing starvation, Elijah comes and is really looking for a handout. Something that we here are all too familiar with. The widow’s plight, her own poverty doesn’t deter him. He makes a promise to her, and well she gives in, she goes along with him, and welcomes this stranger into her home. She’s done a good deed right?
You would think that she should be rewarded, right? Well, there is enough food. That’s good, until as we read, her son gets sick and dies. It’s not just a grieving mother who complains, but the prophet himself who sees and prays, and complains. This isn’t right. They trusted in God, they did the right things, she welcomed the stranger, she gave practically all she had, and now look pain,death, and loss–is that how they are repaid?
In this instance, not exactly, the prophet is able to plead with The Almighty, and the boys life is restored.
Of course, that doesn’t always happen, and it doesn’t mean we are any less faithful. No one knows why. But sometimes it just seems that even for us, no how about especially for us people of faith no good deed goes unpunished. No wonder we sometimes don’t talk about what we believe, no wonder we don’t open our hearts, even open eyes. We don’t want to see, we don’t want to get involved. I know how it is.
The thing is, the good thing, I mean the really good thing is that God doesn’t make that same choice. God wants to get involved in our world, in our communities, in our families, in our lives. God knows it may not have a Hollywood or Sunday school happy ending. We do a lot of stupid, mean, heartless, and thoughtless things. We’re going to here more about Elijah and his struggles with king Ahab, Jezebel, in the next several weeks but God still wants to get involved. God doesn’t give up on Elijah, the widow, God doesn’t give up on the people. God isn’t giving up on us. So when that opportunity comes along and you can share a word of peace, a word of love or forgiveness, or even call someone to turn from the path of destruction, don’t close down, don’t shut down, don’t pretend to be dead to this world. You know what? You know our God’s in the business of raising the dead, of bring what was empty and lifeless back to vitality and joy. That’s what it’s all about folks new life, in a widow’s home in Zarapheth, in a town called, Nain, to a man who hated the church called Saul, who God turns into a great proclaimer of the Gospel-that’s right Paul– right here on our little corner of Milwaukee, at our community garden, when we walk these streets tomorrow evening, when you are at the grocery store, getting your hair cut, or your nails done, or your blood pressure checked, with your family, your friends remember for each and every one of them, for us, for you. God doesn’t give up. Amen.