Eating as an Act of Faith (Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost)

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Elijah had had enough!  He had tried.  He had even succeeded.  But it didn’t seem to matter.  In the end, things were just as they were before.  His hard work hadn’t seemed to pay off.  And he was disgusted with the situation.  He couldn’t see a future that was any better than the present he was living in.  And for sure, if there was a path to a different future, he didn’t think he was capable of leading people there.

And so as today’s first reading begins, he goes out into the wilderness and finds a solitary broom tree with a little bit of shade.  He tells God that’s he’s done! He’s finished!  And he lies down to take a nap.

God lets him nap for a while.  After all, God knows he’s tired.  And, of course, since there are people out there trying to kill Elijah, the stress is real!

But then God sends an angel – not once, but twice – to tell Elijah to get up and eat.  Otherwise, the journey ahead will be too much for him.

It’s sort of a miracle story.  Yet, in this miracle story, the real miracle is not that an angel appears to Elijah.  The miracle isn’t even that bread and water somehow appear out of nowhere.

Instead, the miracle is that Elijah is willing to get up and eat.  After all, we might have expected that Elijah would respond, “Oh, no!  I’m not going anywhere!  There is no more ‘journey’ for me, and I’m done trying to do all this stuff God keeps sending me to do.”

But yet, he gets up and eats – not once, but twice.  And in this story, the simple willingness to get up and eat is a great act of faith.  It might not seem like that at first glance, but by being willing to sit up and eat something, Elijah takes a step of faith that acknowledges that:

  • There is a future that God is calling him towards, even if he can’t envision what that future looks like or how it’s going to come about; and that
  • Somehow, in ways that Elijah also can’t imagine, he’s got a part to play in bringing about that future …

And there are days when I deeply understand how Elijah feels!  Probably, you have those days, too!  For me, those days include days when I feel like I’ve tried hard to make a difference in the life of the world around me, only to open my news feed and see that the problems are getting worse, not better.  Those days include days when I look on social media hoping to simply view pictures of my friends’ vacations, kids, pets, birthday parties and graduations, but instead I get inundated with political vitriol.  And especially, lately, those days include days when after doing everything I was supposed to do to make Covid go away, I’m confronted with the reality that a fair number of people DIDN’T do what they should have. The County reimposed an indoor mask mandate, and it’s now starting to feel like déjà vu all over again!

I just want it to stop!  I want to be done with the mess.  I want to find a nice place to lie down and take a nap.  And please don’t wake me until it’s over!

And yet, like Elijah, God is always calling me – and God is always calling you – to continue our journey of faithfully following Jesus.  And while we sometimes need a little bit of a nap, it’s also true that often the first act of faithful following is a simple thing that doesn’t seem like it’s that big a deal – kind of like getting up and eating.

After all, journeys begin with a single step.  And just as the next stage of Elijah’s journey began with being willing to get up and eat, sometimes the first act of faithfulness for us is the simple willingness – in spite of the mess, and in spite of our disgust with the situations we’re in – to get up and keep going; to eat; to go to work, pay the bills, help out a neighbor, or be there for a friend.

The thing is, in doing those simple things, we open ourselves, like Elijah, to being people who:

  • Are willing to look for to a new and different reality than the one we’re living in right now; it may not be obvious what that new reality will look like, how it will happen, or when we’ll get there; but taking that first step of faithfulness is like saying, “OK, God, I’m willing to take a look at what you want to show me…”
  • Are receptive to the hope that we are not only going to be included in the new reality, but that God has a part for us to play in bringing that reality about; like Elijah, God isn’t simply calling us to sit back and watch, but to get up and be God’s instruments in bringing about the new reality …

Elijah’s first act of faithfulness was simply to get up and eat.  After that, he continued his journey on to Horeb, where through the “still small voice”, God outlined the vision and the part Elijah would play in it.  But the plan was still probably pretty fuzzy to Elijah, and he didn’t know how it would all work out.  But he learned to keep going by starting with a simple act of faithfulness like getting up and eating.

And so sometimes for us, too, the most important acts of faithfulness are the small things we do each day, in response to God’s call in our lives.  They may seem as small as focusing on regular jobs, taking care of that one thing we really didn’t feel like dealing with, or even simply coming forward, extending our hands, and again receiving Jesus, the bread of life.

Those aren’t small things in God’s eyes.  They’re acts of faithful following.  They’re the first steps on a continuing journey.  And they’re the steps that help us recognize and live into the vision of God’s new reality in our lives and the life of the world around us.