1 Kings 17:8-24
Two men, separated by hundreds of years, are walking into a city where they come across a widow. She is destitute because men are the breadwinners in that day and age. We don’t know why her brothers or father haven’t taken her in – perhaps they are dead too. We know her husband is dead. And now, her son – her only child, maybe her only living relative – and her only hope of a future – is dead. She has loss something more precious to her than her life: she has lost her child.
Both men, although separated by hundreds of years, are homeless wanderers who the local government is NOT happy with. Both men have been proclaiming God’s word, God’s Good message for the poor and sorrowful. God’s hard message for those who are comfortable because of resting on the labor of the poor and sorrowful. Both men are in trouble for rocking the boat and challenging the world and the way it is.
Elijah, the first man, we know as one of the greatest prophets and men of God. The Bible says he was sent to proclaim the coming of the Lord. Elijah was the only priest faithful to God left in Israel under King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. His great works, and great words he heard from God, echo through the centuries to our second man: Jesus.
People keep comparing Jesus to Elijah, and wondering: has Elijah returned? For both men are doing the great work of God and speaking the great wisdom of God.
Today, we hear that echo most strongly: Elijah to Jesus. Almost word for word, instance for instance, the stories are the same. Elijah takes up the poor widow’s only son. He is full of compassion and feels the woman’s sorrow. He cries. He prays for God to heal the boy. God answers Elijah’s prayer and the boy comes back to life. At this miraculous sign, the foreign woman proclaims Elijah is truly a man of God.
Jesus touches the poor widow’s only son. He is full of compassion, and sorrow. He encourages her not to weep. Then he commands the dead man to get up. The power of God IN Jesus causes the man to come back to life. At this miraculous sign, the Jews and the foreigners around Jesus proclaim a great prophet is here and God is looking out for us.
In both cases, God works a miracle for someone in the margins, in the outcast group. In both cases, the sign of God’s love is given to people who don’t follow God. Nain is a Gentile town. Sidion is the home area of Jezebel and the god Baal. In both cases, the generous compassion of God and God’s people knows no limits.
The limits we set up: citizen or non-citizen; Christian or non-Christian; sinner or non-sinner…. these limits, God ignores. God’s gracious love again and again pours out on all of God’s people: and God’s people are all of us — every single soul. We’re told God’s Spirit is like the wind: it comes from no where we can point and it goes wherever it will. The Spirit of God blows across the world bringing generous compassion to all people. Moving our hearts to empathize, to sympathize, to react with emotion to other’s plights. God’s Spirit urges us to weep with the sorrowful and rejoice with the joyful. Urges us to pour our generous compassion on all we meet — ignoring whatever categories or limits are set up — because that generous compassion is from God.
God so loves us that NOTHING can separate us from God’s love.
God so loves us – why not we love one another?