Any time there is a widow or an orphan in a story, it’s time to pay attention. From the most vulnerable in Scripture, we learn a lot about trust and faithfulness.
In Feasting on the Word Year C Vol. 3, Marsha M. Wilfong does a good job of placing Elijah and the widow in the whole narrative of Elijah being established as a prophet of Israel. It starts with challenging Ahab and the god that brings rain, Baal. Now that the country is in a drought, These three miracles lead the widow to proclaim that Elijah is a prophet of God. Miracles are God’s way of raising up and identifying his prophets. The psalm echoes the faithfulness of both Elijah and the widow.
Paul’s introduction to Galatians will be disturbing to some. In his passionate conversion to Christianity and his vocal opposition to the institutional leaders of the day, passages like this can be used to justify an arrogant attitude towards people of other faiths and towards the institutions which, for good or for ill, the foundations on which we stand. I would hesitate to model Paul’s way of speaking, but his message for leaders and churches that are so bogged down in history they can not see Christ working in their midst is important. This is a case when we need to hear the message in spite of the messenger.
Jesus’ healing of the widow’s son can be read as a reinforcement of the first reading, or can focus on a different message about healing. In this encounter, Jesus is overcome with compassion for the widow, a real compassion that leads to concrete action, the son coming back to life. We live in a society with very formal traditions around death, traditions that minimize the amount of grief that is actually expressed. Those traditions bring important comfort. They can also objectify grief, and distance us from another’s pain. In much of the world death is a loud, uncomfortable, heartbreaking mess. Jesus walks into that and brings healing. It is the compassion that becomes the spring board for God’s healing that I find so compelling here. We can create so many programs, but if our hearts are not moved to share the Good News and be ministers of reconciliation, then we can do nothing.
What will be moving in the hearts of your gathering this Sunday?