The Spiritual Discipline of “Standing With”
Tim: This week we’re going to look at what, for me, is one of the greatest stories in the Hebrew Bible, Elijah and the Widow at Zarephath.
Shea: Yes! On the surface it’s a very simple story, but there’s so much going on underneath. There hasn’t been any rain, famine has descended on the region, and God sends the prophet Elijah north into pagan country, where he meets a widow at the city gate. She’s at the end of the road. Her cupboards are bare and she’s gathering sticks so she can make a fire to prepare one last meal before she and her son starve to death. But Elijah stops her and insists that she cook for him first.
Tim: Talk about chutzpah! And we should probably note the famine is the result of a prophecy that Elijah declares against Ahab, the king of Israel. There’s a bit of irony going on: the prophet is instrumental in bringing drought on the land and now he’s turning to a foreign widow for food.
Shea: Added irony: it’s not like he isn’t being provided for. He’s been in the wilderness for some time and God has sent ravens to feed him. And yet he turns to a woman who’s got next to nothing to share with him… who’s concerned about her son… and who has no social or religious obligation to this arrogant holy man from Israel. But she agrees to help and in the process she teaches a powerful lesson about generosity as a spiritual discipline.
Tim: Go on…
Shea: For starters, her own circumstances don’t blind her to others’ needs of others. She doesn’t know that Elijah called for the famine. She doesn’t know that God has already proven faithful to him—he’s not going to go hungry no matter what she does. What she does know is there’s a hungry foreigner at the gate and something inside her can’t be comfortable with that.
Tim: And generosity as a spiritual discipline?
Shea: It’s not charity. Let’s be clear about that. The widow doesn’t give because she can afford it. She’s not writing a check or clicking on a GoFundMe page. She’s showering Elijah with hospitality. She recognizes they’re all hungry. Generosity as a spiritual discipline is rooted in two principles: hospitality and solidarity with the poor, hungry, and marginalized. She is going to stand with him, even though she doesn’t know him.
Tim: So you’re saying Elijah is in worse shape than the widow and her son because he’s an outsider with no one to provide for him.
Shea: Exactly. And she becomes a divine instrument of generosity. There’s more to explore in this story and I can’t wait for us to dig into it this Thursday night!
Tim: I have a strong feeling we’re going to be fed in a very special way this week!
Join us this Thursday, as we continue our study series, “Spiritual Disciplines for Undisciplined Times” at L!VE Café, 163 S. Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park. Doors open at 7:00p, the study begins at 7:30p. If you can’t be with us in person, join us via Facebook Live.
We need your help!
As we think about the future of Gather, please let us know what gifts you bring and would like to share with the community. There are many roles that have to come together to make Gather happen every week. This includes setup, technical support, worship, managing handouts and information, coordinating drinks, and teardown. We need your help. Please let us know what type of service you’d be interested in!
Watch God Work,
Tim & Shea
NEW SERIES BEGINS IN SEPTEMBER
What kinds of spiritual practices and habits work best for us? How do we keep our faith life fresh? What do we do when things we’ve always done feel like they’re not working? How do we stay plugged in to God’s work in us and our community? This fall we’ll look at spiritual disciplines as our means of survival in an increasingly chaotic world.
Join us every Thursday through October 11, as we examine Spiritual Disciplines for Undisciplined Times.
As we prepare to become a vibrant worshipping community, we invite you to enjoy a Spotify playlist that captures the kind of worship we hope to embrace. Give it a spin while you’re driving. Make it your workout jam. Add it to your devotional time. Most of all, feel yourself becoming part of a sacred village of believers who love their God and one another!
Check out the Gather Worship Playlist here.