Our texts today comes from 1 Kings 17, Galatians 1, and Luke 7. All the texts dealt with transition, which was appropriate as we honored our grads transitioning into higher education or their careers. In addition, we have many in the congregation who have or you are transitioning from their careers into retirement, which I have heard is pretty awesome. And we’re all transitioning closer to death, but we teach about Heaven. Transitions are natural, they are normal, but some are met with excitement and some are met with mourning and grieving because permanent. The end of one chapter begins anew and with it new life. Its quite literally the teaching of death and resurrection.
But, our texts today also have additional gems and we are taught certain things in the United States about what it means to be spiritual or religious, especially Christian. These things have caused theological trauma or spiritual abuse and things that I, to be quite honest, feel the need to debunk.
First, we are taught that we are not to get angry but especially angry at God and we are not to voice it. But, there are many characters, many people in the Bible who do just that including our widow in 1 Kings. She goes to Elijah and God in anger and in grief over the death of her son. If there is ever a being, a power, a person who can handle our unrefined anger and frustration it is God.
Two, we are taught that any unpleasantly and any illness is the result of our sin. The widow in 1 Kings asks ‘why have you brought to remembrance my sin’. She believes that the death of her son is quite literally punishment for her sin. Now it is true that we live in a broken world, that we are sinful critters, and we do have to face the consequences of our actions; but not every unpleasant things and every illness is the result of something that we did or did not do. Sometimes circumstances are out of our control and sometimes its just genetics.
Three, we are taught that if we have enough faith, if we trust enough, if you lead good enough lives and are repentant, and of course if we pray hard enough that all un-pleasantries in our lives will be resolved, all illness will be cured, and sometimes that our material blessings will be multiplied. And yet, we see in Luke 7 that that might not be the case. In Luke 7, Jesus enters into town, a widow is bringing her son out to be buried. Jesus is not prompted but rather is moved by compassion and brings the man back to life. Unprompted, there was no question about faith, there was no merit, there was no prayer.
Many of you may know that for eight years I had chronic pain. I had a lot of female problems, all of which were genetic, so no result of my action or inaction; but I knew by the time I was 16 that I would realistically not have my own children. I voiced my anger to God about that.
My Godfather told me that if I prayed hard enough, Christ would appear before me, tell me to go to my Godfather, we would pray, and I would be cured. Don’t get me wrong, I prayed; I also went to the doctor, I also took medicine, underwent treatments, and surgeries; but shortly before my 23 birthday, I had a total hysterectomy.
Now, if I had believed in such the way that my Godfather believes, I would not be a Lutheran pastor today, because that is not the miracle he was praying for. But, as I spoke with a parishioner after service today, in a sense it was a miracle. Prior to my hysterectomy, life was pretty miserable. I had given up most things I enjoyed and I could not eat a full meal without being sick. Afterward, I was able to renew my life. I was able to live it again. I was able to be active and eat a whole meal again without being sick. Perhaps, that was my miracle.
I guess the summary is, and I want you to listen very closely to this, “It is not all about you”. It is not all about your sin; it is not all punishment. It is not all about your merit and how much you pray. We teach that we are saved by God’s grace and it is that grace inwhich we live and we entrust. And the one thing that we can be sure of is that at the best of the best and the worse of the worse times, God is ever-present with us. And it is that, that I have to say thanks be to God
Scriptures: 1 Kings 17: 17-24 and Luke 7: 11-17.
Originally Preached on 5 June 2016