06.05.16 Sermon (June 5, 2016) “Prophet, Priest, King, Pt.

posted Jul 12, 2016, 8:45 AM by David Hawkins   [ updated Jul 12, 2016, 8:46 AM ]
Old Testament: 1 Kings 17:8-16 (17-24)

Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, "Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you." So he set out and went to Zarephath. 

When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, "Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink." As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, "Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand." 

But 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 jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die." 

Elijah said to her, "Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the LORD sends rain on the earth."

She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah. 

After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill; his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. She then said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!” 

But he said to her, “Give me your son.” He took him from her bosom, carried him up into the upper chamber where he was lodging, and laid him on his own bed. He cried out to the LORD, “O LORD my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I am staying, by killing her son?” Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried out to the LORD, “O LORD my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” The LORD listened to the voice of Elijah; the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. Elijah took the child, brought him down from the upper chamber into the house, and gave him to his mother; then Elijah said, “See, your son is alive.” 

So the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth.”

*New Testament Scripture: Luke 7:11-17

Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother's only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, "Do not weep."

Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, rise!" The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 

Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has risen among us!"and "God has looked favorably on his people!" 

This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.

Sermon: "Prophet, Priest, King, Pt. 1”              Rev. David Hawkins

For the last few weeks, we’ve been thinking about God in terms of the Trinity. As we discovered with the children and the youth, the banners, and the decorations and paraments here in the sanctuary reflect this discussion. 

Our God is one, in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Or, if you prefer, God the Rock, God the Redeemer, God the Friend. For those who would like to take this concept even further, there is the Feminine version, God the Mother, God the Child, and God the Womb. 

No matter how you frame it, the concept of Trinity is a hard one to rationalize, and for me, it is sufficient to say that the main thing to remember is that these three persons of God teach us about the nature of God. That is to say, the person, the work, the ministry of Jesus Christ shows us the nature and the will of God. The Holy Spirit is the movement of God in our midst even today. There is a dance between the three persons of God, a dance that shows us who God really is.

And so, while it may be difficult, if not impossible to precisely say what the Trinity means, for me it is enough to simply confess my own faith in God, and in Jesus, and in the Holy Spirit, in a way that does not divide them or preference one of them over the other. They are the same, after all, each deserving and worthy of our worship and praise. 

Today, we are moving into another 3-fold discussion of the nature of God, this time talking about the person of Jesus Christ. Who was he, to the people of his time, and who is he to us?

For the next few weeks, we will talk about Jesus in terms of his roles as Prophet, Priest, and King, and today, we begin with Jesus as Prophet.

Last week, we looked at two scriptures that seemed to have nothing in common, the story of the Elijah calling fire down from heaven to the mountaintop in a competition with the prophets of Baal, and the story of Jesus healing the servant of a centurion. 

This week, we encounter two stories that seem to have just about everything in common: a widow, a son, a death, and a resurrection.

But they are not quite the same. In our Old Testament lesson, Elijah knows the widow, knows her pretty well. He’s been staying at her house, and they know each other well enough for the widow to really lace into him when her son dies. “Why do you do this to me?” She asks. “You come to me to make me remember my sin, and look what happens – my son dies. What do you have against me?”

It’s a legitimate question. The widow shelters the prophet, does her best within her limited means to provide food and support, and yet, there is nothing in it for her. The one thing she cared about, the one thing she loved, was taken from her, without any sort of help from the man of God living in her own house. 

I think we can understand her anger and her pain. Many of us have lost someone precious to us. We have felt the sense of confusion, the despair, the feeling that we must have done something to deserve this, that we have somehow offended God, or, in our bleakest moments, we have thought that there is no fairness in the universe, there is no sense of justice, no meaning in the events of our lives. 

Many of us have lashed out at God in these times, asking, “What do you have against me? What is my sin, that you would do this to me?” Or, we may have even asked, “Do you even exist, God? If you do, how could you let this happen? What is the meaning of this?”

And to be honest, I don’t have answers to these questions. Some folks think they do, but they really don’t. They have clichés, they have pleasant sounding platitudes, but they don’t have answers. There are not answers to these kinds questions on this side of the veil. 

And the prophet Elijah doesn’t try to answer. He doesn’t defend God, he doesn’t say things like her son is in a better place, or that God needed another angel. Elijah did the one thing that he could do, listen to her pain, then pray his heart out to God. He went to God in anguish, and pled for the life of this boy. 

And God brought the boy back to life.

God heard the prayer of Elijah and brought the widow’s son back to life. 

Now, I wish that I could say that this is all it takes. A heartfelt prayer from a person of faith, and voila, resurrection. But that’s not real life. The Bible is full of stories of men and women of great faith who pray, fervently, faithfully, but who still experience life and death in all its seeming capriciousness and pain. Let us not forget that Jesus himself, on the night on which he was betrayed, prayed for the coming test to be taken from him, that he might not, if were the Father’s will, be put through this crucible of torture and death. 

And so we know that faith and prayer alone don’t guarantee miracles. Elijah didn’t pray with certainty that God would intervene. But he did pray with hope, and he did pray with the sure knowledge that God would hear him. 

And God moved. And the widow’s son was brought back to her. And she recognized Elijah as a prophet, bearing the Word of God.

In our Gospel story, many of the elements are the same. But in this story, Jesus doesn’t know the widow. In the Gospel, we have the incongruous picture of two parades crashing into each other at a crossroads. One parade is the entourage of Jesus and his disciples, fresh from the healing of the centurion’s servant. By this time, Jesus has chosen the twelve, he has healed the man with the withered hand, he’s preached the sermon on the mount; this is a joyful parade, a boisterous, lively, noisy mob of people who just about can’t believe what they’re seeing. 

And they run into the mourning processional of the widow, who had just lost her son. A completely different kind of parade, a parade of death and silence, punctuated by wailing and sobs of grief. A parade of sorrow and loss. 

And when these parades collide, Jesus’ heart is broken. Unlike Elijah, he has no idea who this widow is. He just knows that she is forsaken. And so he reaches out to her, to her son, and he bids him rise, and he does. Not because the widow asked him to. Not because of her faith, or even because of her prayer, but because she was desolate, and Jesus loved her. 

And like Elijah, it’s when Jesus raises her son from the dead, that people recognize him as a prophet, bearing the word of God. 

This is the first office of Jesus Christ: the office of prophet. This was his first job, if you will, to be the bearer of the Word of God. In fact, in the Gospel of John, Jesus doesn’t just bear the Word of God, he is the Word of the God. Jesus is the thought of God, spoken. Jesus is the will of God, enacted. Jesus is the desire of God, lived out among us. 

Jesus is what the Word of God looks like, when it is alive and moving among us:  compassion, love, reaching out, touching, healing, bringing life into the barren places. 

In both of our stories today, the prophets of God are recognized, not by their amazing fortune telling abilities, their willingness to name the anti-Christ among us, or by their scorched earth polices of pointing out the sins of the people, but by their willingness to reach out to those who are hurting and bring healing and life. This is what a prophet looks like, someone who is willing to be with someone else who is in pain, to bear that pain with them, and to offer relief. 

And there is one more component to the prophetic office that Jesus fulfills, and that is an economic one. We can’t forget that in Jesus’ time, widows had literally nothing. A widow was dependent on her deceased husband’s brother for sustenance. If that was not forthcoming, then she was dependent on her father’s support. If that didn’t exist, then she could lean on the assets that her husband left behind, at least, she could as long as she had a male heir. 

If her son had died, all of her assets would revert back to her husband’s family, and she would be left with nothing. She would be shunted off to the margins of society, with no prospects, no way of supporting herself, no help from any quarter. This was the situation that Jesus encountered on his way to Nain. 

It wasn’t just emotional. As horrifying as it was to lose a son, as devastating as that would be, the reality was that for the widow, losing her son also meant that she was losing literally everything else as well. 

And when Jesus sees her, reaches out. He reaches out to this marginalized woman, and in reaching out, he commits an unthinkable sin, he touches the unclean death bed, and brings the widow, and her son, back from the abyss. Not because she did this or that, or said this or that, or believed this or that, or had earned this or that. 

But because he loved her. 

This is what prophecy looks like. The Word of God, actually taking hold, in places of poverty, sickness, and death, and doing amazing things out of love. It’s not about naming current politicians and world events in terms of the apocalypse. It’s not about naming the sins and depravations of the world. Both Jesus and Elijah are recognized as prophets when, by the spirit of God, they bring life to places where life seems to have been lost forever.

And now it all comes full circle. This is what the concept of Trinity teaches us about God. Jesus, in his role as prophet, is doing the will of God when he reaches out to this woman in the power of the Holy Spirit. And in Jesus Christ, God knows all about what it means to lose a son. The meal we are about to eat is that very Word of God, given to us, raised from the dead, that we might also taste what God has in store for each of us. 

There are going to be times in our lives when we are sure that nothing can bring us back from the edge. There will be times in our life when everything is bleak, nothing makes sense, when we feel like life has lost all meaning. During these times, we depend on the prophetic, healing touch of Jesus, through the hands of our friends, our family, our church. We depend on that touch to remember that God stills loves us, still knows us, still cares for us.

And sometimes, we ourselves are that healing touch. It might be simple card, a note, a phone call, a visit, the willingness to listen, a charitable gift at the right time, or speaking a word of truth for those who cannot speak for themselves that brings life back into a lifeless situation. Be ready for that moment. It could come at any time, to anybody. And when the time comes, any one of us, even you or me can be a prophet of God.

How majestic is the name 
of the Lord our God! Amen.