You can watch the video of Pastor Kris’ reflection, Beloved, Love: Be Fed, HERE.
A show of hands: How many of you would like to get away?
Away from the extra time and effort it takes to navigate each day as we attempt to avoid exposure to the coronavirus?
Away from the influx of messages and overwhelming amounts of information—and disinformation—and political ads—which is just exhausting?
The catchphrase, “Calgon, take me away,” has so many more layers of meaning today than it did as a 1980’s advertising promotion for bubble bath.
And maybe… today… eight months of physically distancing, worshiping virtually, planning for the holidays (fa-la-la), and the election on Tuesday, maybe that is the lesson we can learn from scripture today. There is more stuff packed into this narrative, but… what… if…
What if we need to escape?
To get away?
To be fed?
Not that we need to go to a desert, but is there a life giving, relational, not-your-ordinary-chaos place God is calling us into? The truth is deserts come in many forms, and they can be both re-energizing and life threatening.
We have our own 21st century, midwestern versions of barren, arid places., COVID-19 is a life-threatening turn-the-world-upside-down place of despair. Around the world, people are working to quickly learn more about the virus, how to limit its spread, treat the people who contract it, and to decrease the mortality rate. But there is a sparsity of information. And how will we balance the need to preserve health and safety by staying home as much as possible, with the economic realities of basic financial survival? A recent Pew Research Center study indicated “that, overall, one-in-four adults have had trouble paying their bills since the coronavirus outbreak started…”
In the panacea of all our tech, all our scientific knowledge, all the all that is our consumer culture with ready access to food and goods, I think about all the people who have lost jobs as the pandemic impacts both large and small businesses. People in our community are anxious about losing their homes. Of being tossed out onto the streets as winter approaches. It is here we meet the widow going through the motions of gathering whatever she could on the streets of the city to make a meal for herself and her son. Deep hunger. Isolation. Depression. Giving up. That in itself is a desert.
Then there is the emptiness of not knowing. There is a good chance Tuesday will not provide us with the final ballot count we are waiting for. There are well established protocols and deadlines in place from now through the presidential inauguration on January 20 to work through. But, we have gotten used to instant answers. We can just google it and results pops up right away. We get frustrated when technology does not work as smoothly as we expect. When counting ballots takes longer than we’d like it to. As people of faith, we have a role in telling the story. A narrative of being patient, calm, and honoring the sacredness of every vote.
In these deserts, Elijah’s experiences might just have something to offer us. Unexpected moments of being fed in places where death and despair rage. To whom might God be sending us so that we can be fed—So others can be fed—in the days ahead?
Remember: Elijah has needed to escape into the desert. At this point of the story we have not been told too much about who Elijah is, or how he got access to the king and queen of Israel, but let’s just say things are not going well. In the verses leading up to today’s reading it is revealed that King Ahab is an awful, evil leader of Israel. In fact, he was worse than any kings that had come before (1 Kings 16:30, NRSV). He and his wife Jezebel worship the wrong gods. Elijah is compelled by God to go to them and predict a great drought. Years and years with no rain. Not even a smidgen of dew at dawn. But of course, telling off a tyrant is not a great way to live a carefree life.
Thus, Elijah needs to flee. Belden Lane writes, “The desert kills. But it also gives life… In desert wildness we meet an untamed God who upsets every expectation, destroys all order as we have known it” This is where the ravens come in—in the life-giving unexpectedness. The original listeners of this story would have understood the ravens to be disgustingly unclean birds, reviled! This is where we find Elijah, who represents the word of God, depending on the ravens for food… for his very survival. Who would have guessed?
On the edge of life and death, there is an immediate, second, astonishing twist. Another desert experience. This time, instead of out in the wild, the wasteland is found in a busy urban area. Elijah can’t go back home, so he heads off for Zarephath, “A Phoenician city on the Mediterranean coast.”
Elijah meets a woman, who has been drawn deeply into the hopelessness of the current economic crisis. An improbable conversation ensues. Strangers connect under dire circumstances… which leads to a meal… then another… and then other life-giving faith filled stories in the days and weeks that follow.
So maybe, we ourselves need to step back from the conflict and tension in the world. To hear God’s Still Speaking voice in our own time and place. Where is God stirring you… us… to go… to pause… and to be fed?
For other sacred stories are emerging. We see it in the mass of people lining up to vote. An unexpected… twist during the coronavirus. In all of the challenges confronting our country today, millions and millions of people are finding the faith that they can overcome voter suppression, bigotry, sexism, the ideology of white supremacy, intimidation, and all of the other tools of oppression—believing in all evidence to the contrary they can make a difference. Believing in the power of our collective response to evil that the world can be different. Life giving.
People of God—we serve a God of life. A Holiness which feeds us… and all. When we gather at the Table in a few moments, watch. Watch for the places into which God infuses life. What is the spirit-saving, relational, “fed my people” place God is encouraging us to step into?
I do not have an answer to that question for you this morning. But, this is the challenging, ongoing, holy work into which the Spirit leads us to Be the Church.
For today and tomorrow it is good enough to just “get away.” To make time to breathe, move, taste, smell, touch, listen… and see that God is good.
Take some time in these moments to be fed.
~ Pastor Kris
Reflection on 1 Kings 17:1-16 offered November 1, 2020.
 Rachel Minkin and Jesse Bennett Kim Parker, “Economic Fallout From COVID-19 Continues To Hit Lower-Income Americans the Hardest,” Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project, October 30, 2020, https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/09/24/economic-fallout-from-covid-19-continues-to-hit-lower-income-americans-the-hardest/.
 Belden C. Lane, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 195-6.
 “Sarepta,” Wikipedia (Wikimedia Foundation, August 23, 2020), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarepta.