This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
TWO MEDICINS SANS FRONTIERES KILLED IN SOMALIA
1 Kings 17:17-24
17 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. 18She 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!’ 19But 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. 20He 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?’ 21Then 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.’ 22The Lord listened to the voice of Elijah; the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. 23Elijah 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.’ 24So 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.’
We are not just to wonder at Elijah’s apparent knowledge of resuscitation procedure, but even more at his bold reproach to God and his desire to share his own life with the dead child. The Lord is creating a poor reputation for himself and his prophet, Elijah thinks; his prayer and his remedial action are intended for the honour of the Lord as well as the life of the child. If the Lord brings death, what use is he? The issue is particularly acute because the widow is not from Israel-Judah, but from Zareptha in Sidon.
Jesus used this incident to point out to his fellow villagers that God’s prophets had a track record of doing miracles for foreigners rather than fellow Jews and were often more honoured abroad than at home.
Elijah and Jesus shared an urgency about the gift of life, about the vulnerability of widows and about the honour of God.
46 Then he came again to Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum. 47When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.’ 49The official said to him, ‘Sir, come down before my little boy dies.’ 50Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your son will live.’ The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. 51As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. 52So he asked them the hour when he began to recover, and they said to him, ‘Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him.’ 53The father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son will live.’ So he himself believed, along with his whole household. 54Now this was the second sign that Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee.
Jesus expresses his concern that people’s faith may be based on his power to heal rather than his revelation of God. The official’s words jolt him awake: Sir, come down before my little boy dies-this is the authentic voice of human anguish. The official and his boy are people not instances of faith or lack of it. Jesus immediately acts to bring life. Hs action is les comprehensible to the modern reader than Elijah’s; we have no experience of the power to heal at a distance which the Gospel writers attribute to Jesus. No matter. Holy people and Shamans of many peoples were believed to have this power, which demonstrated their spirit’s capacity to act at a distance from their bodies. The message here is that where people trust, as the father does, in the life-giving power of God through his son, life is received.
The God of the Bible is overwhelmingly the God of life; He is also the good of order, goodness, compassion and justice, but these are seen as components of the gift of life. If believers acted in the faith that God is always honoured by the giving of life and is always dishonoured by the taking of life, religion would have a better reputation than it has.
NEW TODAY BUT WORTH WAITING FOR
JESUS HOSTS THE WWJD PROBLEM PAGE
Good evening, beloveds,
ONLY TWO LETTERS THIS WEEK-remember send all emails to my secretary
-BUT MAYBE TWO IS GOOD FOR A FIRST WEEK. I’VE NEVER DONE THIS BEFORE. I GOT THIS FROM MARK OF FINTRY, DUNDEE
Dear Jesus, someone needs to tell my brother and maybe he’ll take it from you since he used to go the B.B. at Fintry Church! My girl friend, Kayleigh, and I were having a tiff and he offered to mediate. But very soon it was clear that he’d taken her away from me-doubtless by telling her lies about me-and they’re now an item. He says there are no rules for love and the heart knows best. I say he’s scum and a traitor. Maybe he’ll listen if you tell him the same.
Dear Mark, I can tell you’re hurt, but I sense you’re more concerned by what you regard as your brother’s treachery than by the loss of Kayleigh whom you barely mention. If I’m right, and you weren’t that committed, then perhaps this loss is a blessing in disguise-for both of you. If she has found happiness with your brother, I’m sure you can find someone who will be precious to you. As I ussed to say to Peter and Andrew, “There are plenty fish in the sea..”
THEN THERE WAS THIS TRICKY ONE FROM SUSPICIOUS, ABERDEEN
Dear Jesus, as I suffered under your secretary’s ministry in Aberdeen, may I say how suspicious I am of this problem page venture. If of course it’s genuine, I’m sorry Lord, but I strongly suspect that your ever-modest secretary will be, shall we say, “ghosting” this column on your behalf, in which he’ll pass off some of his heretical opinions as yours, which is certain to bring you into disrepute. I shudder to think what he may write. Yes, I suppose you may be the real author but please remember I’ll be keeping my eyes on you.
Dear Suspicious, as you know I predicted that evil people would come claiming to speak fo me, and I’ve observed this come true time and again in the history of the church. It’s usually those who are surest of their own righteousnss who make the most ridiculous statements in my name. As you know I am as dependent on human mouths as I am on human hands. I’m always speaking through somebody’s mouth. If you don’t like what I say on this page, why not try speaking for me yourself? You’ll find most of what you need in the four Gospels, which are brief and excellent reading at any time of year.
PLEASE GIVE ME MORE PROBLEMS NEXT WEEK. I’M JUST GETTING INTO MY STRIDE!
-ONLY ON FRIDAY’S AND ONLY HERE, JESUS WRITES FOR YOU!