HOMILY & IDEAS

1 Kings 19, 4-8; Eph 4:30-5:2; John 6:41-51

Here are some stones I have overturned to see what ideas lay underneath. I hope you can grab hold of something, pull -- and discover that it has some homiletic roots for you.

Elijah went a day's journey into the desert, until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it. He prayed for death: "This is enough, O LORD! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers." He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree, but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat. He looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water. After he ate and drank, he lay down again, but the angel of the LORD came back a second time, touched him, and ordered, "Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!" He got up, ate and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.

This scene occurs immediately after the life of Elijah has been threatened by Jezebel in verse two. However, let us briefly summarize what we know of Elijah beginning with his entrance into Sacred Scripture in chapter 17 where he delivers a prophecy to Ahab about a forthcoming drought.

After delivering the prophesy he is commanded to reside by the Wadi Cherith, east of the Jordon, where ravens deliver to him bread and meat in the morning and in the evening. His hydration needs are met by the stream beside which he resides.

When the stream dries up as a result of the drought, Elijah moves on to Zarephath of Sidon where a jar of flour and a jug of oil from a home in which a widow and her son live become bottomless in regard to providing food for them. When the son of the widow dies from a sickness, Elijah raises him back to life.

Three years after Elijah delivers the prophecy of the drought, Elijah confronts Ahab to inform him that the drought is the result of his family following the Baal and obeying the prophets of Baal. This confrontation leads to the gruesome bloodbath between Elijah and the prophets of Baal where Elijah proves that Yahweh is the one, true God.

Ahab tells Jezebel all that Elijah has done, and as aforementioned, Elijah is threatened by Jezebel and this causes Elijah to flee for his life to Beer-sheeba in southern Judah where he leaves his servant behind. Elijah then journeys a day into the desert and stops at a Broom tree and sits underneath it.

It is important to know what precedes what we read from the Book of Kings today; for one wonders what leads Elijah to such despair -- and one may wonder why God responds to Elijah in the way He does.

Why such despair? At first glance we see a man who is called by God for an important purpose, whose needs are provided for, and who is supported 200% by God in his confrontation with the prophets of Baal. Yet, it seems that Elijah has reached his breaking point.

Now he has isolated himself -- from even his servant -- and is wallowing in pain, fear, and depression in a lonely and seemingly Godforsaken place. He wants his life to end. He has had enough. Why?

Why? Perhaps Elijah became self-aware of his humanity, his sinfulness, his brokenness, his weakness, his mortality, his fatigue, and his human limitations and has lost sight of the glory, the power, the protectiveness, the support, the blessings, and the love of God which he has enjoyed in his ministry.

Sometimes that happens. We focus -- our gaze -- shifts and we suddenly feel cold and in a dark place.

Perhaps Elijah felt the emptiness and quiet that follows any great victory or emotional high and was stunned by the deadly threats of Jezebel and the contrast of perceptions threw him off kilter.

Sometimes that happens.

Perhaps he has realized that by being being consumed by fear and depression he has coincidentally turned his back on a God who had never turned His back on him -- and now he feels ashamed -- which only compounds his depression.

Sometimes that happens.

In the end, we do not know exactly why Elijah feels the way he does -- but his feelings are real and his desire that his life will end is no small indication of the depth of this turmoil. He wishes to be sedentary. The angel must wake him not once, but twice.

The response of God is fascinating -- and very preachable.

Clearly God has made a response; for angels are messengers from God; and although the response utilizes divine power, it is decidedly smaller in scale to the blasts of fire shooting down from heaven which consumed the holocaust earlier. Rather, we see a lone angel nudging Elijah to arise to eat a simple cake and a jug of water. When Elijah lays down again, the angel again nudges him to eat and drink more; for he has yet another mission.

No hosts of angels bearing the fixings of a delectable feast, no chariots, no theophanies of fire, earthquakes or crushing rocks. No deep, booming voice of God. No miraculous appearances of a feather-filled mattress underneath a shade-providing tent.

Instead, a simple meal providing something to eat, something to drink, and another job -- another assignment -- purpose.

What Elijah thought he needed was a quiet, lonely place to die; however, God knew that Elijah needed the simple staples of life and a purpose. There will be a time for theophanies and flaming chariots, but not now.

This all preaches on a couple of levels. First, we would all do well to take note of the occasional spiritual, mental, and physical depression of each other. Depression knows no demographic boundaries. It effects young and old, rich and poor, the learned and the illiterate, and it infiltrates all ethnicities and races. Most of us are not licensed psychologists and psychiatrists, medical doctors, or spiritual directors -- and there is certainly a place for these individuals in the treatment of depression -- but we still have the insight to detect when someone we love is experiencing depression. Perhaps the most effective treatment from us mirrors the treatment of Elijah: to provide the basic, loving staples in life and a purpose: Food, water, affection, a nudge, a hug, kindness, hospitality, a shared prayer, a chore, a project, the opportunity to feel needed, an opportunity to feel the Love of God through another individual. Small things done with great love.

Second, do we ever find ourselves seeking the lonely, quiet place which does nothing for us other than amplify our depression? Do we ever find ourselves leaving behind our loved ones, our closest soul mate, and our daily work knowing that the very thing we need is love and purpose?

Do we lose sight of the love of God in our lives and find our gaze fixed on darker, colder things?

Let us look to this story of Elijah and learn from it. Let us have faith that God gives us what we need. Let us realize that we are oftentimes used as the angels of God here on earth to provide love and purpose for those in need. Let us keep our lives filled with love and purpose -- especially when we feel a dark call to a lonely place.

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