1 Kings 17:12-13 And she said, "As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a cruse; and now, I am gathering a couple of sticks, that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die." And Elijah said to her, "Fear not; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make for yourself and your son."
Have you ever thought that God was insensitive or uncaring? Why would God ask an offering of starving people? Why should God take food away from people who are preparing to eat their last meal? It may seem insensitive, uncaring, or as though God is demanding too much, and if so it is because we do not understand the nature of God or of the faith he gives.
We live in a world where we tend to believe what seems to be proven. For example there are weather forecasters, and many listen Ė but I have a weather pavement that is always right, if I look at it and it is wet, it is raining Ė if it is covered with snow, it has snowed. Donít they say, seeing is believing -- they may, but it has nothing to do with faith.
The world we live in is filled with suspicion. We do not always trust the weatherman, or the government, or our neighbor. There is also little we believe in, at least from a worldly point of view, except perhaps money in the bank. This after all is America, the land of the rugged individuals, we pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, and take pride that we are self made men.
And that is the real problem, for when we think of faith, it tends to work this way. I do the best I can, and then God makes up the difference. We can boast of ourselves, and acknowledge that we owe some small part to God who saw it through to the end. So worship has a small part to play, but we can always be first. Even for those who are not so puffed up with pride, the like to think that at least we contribute something necessary to our relationship with God. We chose to believe. We chose to follow. We chose to repent. We chose to come to church Ė and that more than many did this morning, that ought to count for something. But what does it really count for?
Consider all the sand on the beach, if you worked your whole life being very good all the time, the most you could possibly contribute would be one grain of sand, could you claim then that you created the beach? And if you were to bring one, how would to prevent carrying even more away, when you came to the beach to bring your one? For when it comes to God and salvation, all has already been accomplished, and there is nothing left to add, and it was so costly there is no way we could ever repay God for the price it cost to free us from sin death, and the devil. Our faith adds nothing to salvation, for the faith itself came from God, and he worked in our heart and in our life to make us a new creation beginning at baptism.
The faith we meet in the gospel and in the old testament lessons today, is a faith in weakness. It empties self of all things and turns to God in hope, trusting in the word of promise. It puts God first, confident that God will supply all that is needed.
You see faith isnít about God finishing what we started. Faith is about beginning in God, and seeing how God brings all to completion. Faith comes from God and leads back to God, and in the path it reveals who God is, who we are, where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. Faith is to be starving because of famine, and to take of your last meal and give the first portion to God. And while we often talk of first fruits giving, it is rare that we notice the real example, which is not the widow, but Christ. Who put others before himself, and put God, and His will first of all. And so Jesus was obedient, obedient even unto death, obedient unto death on a cross for our sins.
But what of faith? This gift of God bears fruit, and is able to trust and grasp the promise. The widow made the cake for Elijah first, and God provided, and the flour and the oil did not empty, but fed Elijah, the widow and he son throughout the famine. God provided, as he always does, but the blessing was not God providing as much as it was to see God at work and so to be able to give thanks and to understand the true nature of faith. And we have this story to encourage us, so that we may not live by sight, or by our reason and strength, but rather that we too might be blessed to live by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.