October 30, 2016: 24th Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture Readings: I Kings 17:1-24 and Luke 4:24-26
Five years ago I read a book by Bryce Courtenay called The Power of One. Have any of you read it? When I started to read it I wasn’t quite sure if I would even finish it. It is a story of a little South African boy named PK who is continually bullied in school throughout his young life. He has no sense of belonging as his mother is taken away ill for some years. This novel and today’s reading are both stories of persistence in the face of adversity. What was the ultimate plan for PK? What was the plan for Elijah? Neither knew what was ahead. As PK’s story progresses it is others’ who point out his strengths – intellectual and physical. He turns to boxing in self-defence and rises to become a champion.
PK’s life is somewhat similar to Elijah’s. Both felt alone and isolated. PK does not have “faith” early on. His self-confidence grows through the guidance of other people. PK gains confidence in himself and learns how to conquer his fears with the help of a friend. Elijah also feels alone but knows without a doubt that God is with him. Elijah is committed to God and trusts in God; God is his teacher. Elijah’s self-confidence rises as one learns in first Kings 18 when Elijah triumphs over the priests of Baal.
PK and Elijah are both forced to move, prompted by others. God tells Elijah to hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. Here Elijah is open to listening to God’s guidance. Even when he is told that he will drink out of the brook and be fed by ravens he does not question. You also may have noticed that at this point Elijah is travelling alone; he has no companion. As we follow him on his journey we know that Elijah understands he is being led by God.
Sometime later – we don’t know how much time has passed – Elijah is told to move on to “Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” Elijah goes, once again alone on his journey.
Elijah appears arrogant when he meets the widow and asks her to bring him bread and water. The widow replies and tells him of her limited resources. He tells her, “Don’t be afraid,” then tells her, “The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”
Elijah has absolute faith and confidence when he tells her these things. This time the widow doesn’t question what she hears.
Sometime later, again we don’t know the timeline, the woman’s son dies and Elijah takes the boy upstairs and asks God to return the boy’s life. God does return his life and upon seeing her son alive the woman says 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.” We do not know how strong her faith was before her son’s life was restored. It appears the widow needed to see before she fully believed.
There are people today who need to see to believe. God speaks and Elijah listens, asking no questions. Do we hear God when he speaks to us? We question our instincts; we wonder how the right person showed up in our lives with clarifications or answers to our questions just as we were searching for those answers. Along our journey others join us and we walk together as friends and community. Elijah’s journey now included the widow and her son, he is no longer alone.
Elijah’s leadership qualities include persistence, determination and persuasion. He was fearful at times but did not quit. He led by example. People may have thought he was foolish but he carried on. He had a vision for God’s people and stood firmly on his own when speaking about God. Elijah is an example of the “Power of One.” There are others:
- Mother Teresa (now Saint)
- Muhammad Yunus who founded microcredit and microfinance
- Two young men, Craig & Marc Kielburger who co-founded Me to We.
- John Calvin, born in 1509, instrumental in the formation of the Presbyterian Church.
We can lead like Elijah and John Calvin, we don’t need a title to lead. We can use our influence to lead and to lead change. It starts with us. Elijah had no title. We all have a purpose that only we can fulfil and like Elijah, God provides us with resources. We don’t always hear God’s Word in the way we think we should. We can learn to listen for His Word in our own way; through meditation, song, dance, in nature, prayer, or gathering on a Sunday morning to worship together.
The world has become a complicated place, we have all contributed to its state. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect but he does expect us to fulfil our purpose. It is up to each of us to make a difference and how we accomplish this will be up to you. With God’s help we can start today by changing ourselves. Remember that you are a Power of One. Remember too, that Jesus the Ultimate Power of One goes with you.
Copyright 2016 – Lorraine Wheatley