Sermons

Summary: Pulpit drama, imaginatively reconstructing Elijah

Elijah: Zarephath! What a lovely town! It’s always good to come to Zarephath. A man wants to feel welcomed, and I find that here. Out there, in some of the towns and villages of Israel, I have to watch my back. King Ahab’s agents are everywhere, and who knows what they will do? In some places they throw sharp stones. In other places they hurl sharp words, which hurt even more than the stones.

But Zarephath is a welcome haven. Here I can always stay with the widow Tivallah. She has a room, just for me, and hot meals and kind words. I look forward to a rest in the home of Tivallah. And not just for the food and the kind words; I love being around her son Shemiah. He’s a perfectly delightful child! So full of life, asking questions, climbing up on my lap, urging me to play games! That Shemiah is all boy. I wonder how he’s doing.

Why, you know, just a few weeks ago there was a crisis in Tivallah’s house, and it was the boy Shemiah who pointed the way out. Tivallah is not wealthy. In fact, she is dirt poor. Her husband died and left her with a little house and a lot of debt. So Tivallah was down to almost nothing, and was talking about how she and Shemiah would soon starve to death. It was awful, the things she said! Stuff about pulling back into her house to die. Garbage about not mattering to anybody.

I didn’t know how to help Tivallah. I tried to think of all the comforting things you say – you know, “It’ll be better tomorrow. Have faith and it’ll all work out. The Lord will provide. Don’t be anxious.” I tried to say some of that stuff, but it felt empty, even blasphemous. I didn’t know what to do.

But the boy – he pushed me where I needed to be pushed! Shemiah piped up and said, “Mr. Elijah, can’t you just pray and ask God for what we need? You’ve said that He will supply our every need. Why don’t we just pray and ask?”

Well, I have to tell you, at first I was put off by the nerve of that kid. Imagine, him telling me what to do! This little boy, not yet dry behind the ears, talking to Rev. Elijah about prayer! I figured he hadn’t even learned to say, “Now I lay me down to sleep”. But he wants to tell me how to pray.

However, he had me in a tough spot. I couldn’t very well ignore what he was asking. You can’t just brush people off when they want you to pray. And his mother was looking at me like, well, like a woman who was ready to give up on everything.

So I prayed. I prayed something like, “Lord, now you know and I know this isn’t possible. These people are in a mess. If it be your will – though I don’t imagine it is – if it be your will, feed them. Get them through this one, and then we can all get on to other things.” That’s about it. I don’t think my prayer will make it into anybody’s hymnbook. I didn’t have much faith – only a little.

But the boy – Shemiah – when I finished, his eyes were shining! He had felt something. He had heard something. And he turned to his mother and shouted out, “We’re going to be all right, Mom. We’re going to be all right. God will take care of us.” And then he ran over and hugged me, gave me the biggest little-boy embrace you can imagine.

I felt like the lowest of the low. A child’s faith, so great. And mine, so small. Tivallah said nothing. Just went and made me a little cake with the last of her meal and oil, and kept quiet.

Would you believe that that jar of meal and that jug of oil never emptied? Never did run dry? Would you believe that I stayed there many days, and we never lacked for food? It was astounding! Beyond belief! But there it was; I couldn’t deny it.

So you can imagine that when I come back to Zarephath, I am always delighted to see young Shemiah. He restores my faith and builds up my hope. I wonder how they are doing – Tivallah with her anxieties, and her son with his bright, childlike faith.

Oh, there’s Tivallah now. God’s peace, Tivallah!

Tivallah: What do you have against me, Elijah? Why have you done this to me? Are you punishing me?

Elijah: What? What are you talking about? I have nothing against you. I care about you, Tivallah. Punishing you? What are you talking about?

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