Elijah, the Get Up and Eat Angel, and God

1 Kings 19:4-8

It seems to me that Elijah under his solitary broom tree is precisely the story I need right now with the angel’s encouragement to get up and eat the simple meal laid out for him, and the reminder that the journey is just beginning. And more than this, that God is in it.

Perhaps this is so for you as well, for I know it is the case for many whom I encounter:

  • We have pushed through this far.
  • We have done more than perhaps we ever thought we could.
  • We have faced down adversaries inside and out.
  • And now we have woken up to realize that we are not nearly done yet.

And maybe along with Elijah, from time to time these days we find ourselves, sitting under our own ‘solitary broom trees’ fighting despair.

For  in this place and time, it is readily apparent that this deadly virus is not nearly done yet.  Again and again we find ourselves needing to rethink how we do things, understandably afraid that whatever ground we had gained may soon be lost.

  • And oh, don’t we all yearn for the visitation of an angel reminding us that God is not done yet?
  • Don’t we all pray for precisely what Elijah was provided — a simple meal from God’s own hand —- and this tangible reminder that we will not be left alone in it and strength for whatever comes next?

Indeed, as I read these short verses in 1 Kings today, I found myself writing a letter to Elijah himself, and then to the angel who came at God’s behest, and finally yes, to God.  I offer these here:

Dear Elijah,

I get it.  I really do — or at least as much as I can given I do not live in your world, haven’t been called to quite the same prophetic work you have been called to, haven’t made the same kind of high profile enemies you have.

Even so, I get it. And I see you now in your exhaustion whose source, no doubt, is a logical result of both the monumental successes and growing fear of your enemies which have been yours.

In fact, sometimes I find myself sitting under that solitary broom tree with you where if I have not found myself contemplating actually dying, I have known what it is to wish for the end of what is with all the pressure bearing down. Where one wishes for a world entirely different from the one you are called to encounter day after day. And where it seems at times as though you are the last one standing.

It seems fitting now that God offers just the basics to you. Just a cake baked on hot stones and some water. But more than that, of course, for with the visitation of an angel, you are reminded that you are not alone after all. And that in spite of all evidence or recent experience to the contrary, there is a larger purpose at play here. Indeed, with a simple meal and an angel to wake you and send you on the next step of your journey, you were reminded that the purpose to which you were called was so much larger than you.

I find myself yearning for the same today. And so I find myself grateful for your story passed along for through it I am reminded that God keeps sending gifts — sometimes as simple as a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. For this is a certain reminder that God is not ever done and that God is not ever done using frail human beings with basic human needs to do the work that needs to be done. For as you were sent strengthened on the next stage of your journey, I wonder how the same will be experienced by those, like me, who understand  you a little better today than ever before…

 

Dear Get Up and Eat Angel,

I have met you countless times, I know, in the form of encouraging ones along the way. In those who make the phone call, or drop the note, or show up with soup or cookies. It may have seemed like a small thing when you urged Elijah to ‘get up and eat,’ but in that moment it was everything he needed. For I’m not certain Elijah would have even been able to see the meal right in front of him had you not tapped on his shoulder, urging him to wakefulness, and invited him to receive these basic, essential gifts.

Perhaps you had no idea then what a difference your simple gesture made for Elijah as he finished out the work God had called him to do. Your presence reminded him that God was not done yet. And oh, I thank God for the countless ones who have done the same for me so many times: often in the simple reminder to eat or drink, to rest a while, to take a walk. Indeed, in ways similar to this, it is powerfully important for my ‘only humanness’ to be pointed out for then I am reminded that we are made to depend on God’s good, sometimes physical gifts, and that as we do so we are strengthened for the journey wherever it may lead.  But as essential as that was for Elijah and for all of us who have been visited by ‘angels’ like you? Even more than that, you are what and who reminds us that God is not done yet and that we are not alone, especially in those times when we think we may just be done.

I don’t know where I would be without my ‘get up and eat’ angels.  I really don’t…

 

Dear God,

I know that we are in the middle of this long late summer cycle where we wonder at the meaning of Jesus as our bread of life. And yet, I am drawn to Elijah now.

For you see, the journey has been hard. And while we, while I, can look back on this last growing longer stretch of time and see some triumphs, our adversaries have been lining up as well, as they surely did for  Elijah. You already know this, of course, but it helps me to lay it out here:

  • We are living and serving in a time of political turmoil. People have been taking sides and often I find myself coming up against those who just don’t see the world as I do. Sometimes, for some of us, these are family members and friends. All of us who are serving your church know that there is a diversity of viewpoints on what is right and wrong in the world these days and unhealthy ways of sorting things out spills over in our life together, often in unhelpful ways.
  • We have experience now with a pandemic which shut our worlds down and where too many, it seems, are more concerned about individual rights or freedoms than about keeping others safe. We are all threatened by a virus which some have taken seriously and which many have not. Many of us have buried beloved ones who died of the virus, or who died of something else, but at least until recently, our normal rituals for grieving were not ours to share. And we have had our eyes opened to the ways in which socioeconomic status, which is too much tied to race, has made a decided difference in terms of who would pay the greatest price in this recent time.  We sense we are called to act in new ways and we are trying to listen for what those new ways are.
  • We are living in a time (like all times but it seems more evident now) where we cannot see what may come next or what will be required of us. We just know now that if the last 18 months are any indication, the challenge is not done yet.

And yes, sometimes the most threatening adversary of all is the one that often resides in my own heart, my own mind: the one that that tempts me to despair, even as Elijah did.

So it is that I am drawn to sit with Elijah now under his solitary broom tree.  For all the reasons I have named and more, I expect I rather understand him in a way I never did before.

A lot of it had been hard. He was exhausted and afraid and from what we hear today, Elijah was just done. In ways similar to how many of us have felt.

Only, God, you have given us Elijah, haven’t you? You drop this story into our midst just when we need it most: this flesh and blood reminder that while the exhaustion is real, so are your gifts along the way. Like cakes baked on hot stones and jars of water, all we have to do is receive them. And yes, it has also been so that I have been given ‘get up and eat angels’ through all this hard time, and what a wonder that has been.

Indeed, just as you did with Elijah, so you have always done and so you continue to do. You keep using frail human beings — flesh and blood creatures who need to pause to eat and drink so as to have enough to continue. Indeed, you keep using all of us, sending us on the strength of your gifts.

The hard work was not done for Elijah. It is clear that it is not yet, perhaps not ever done for us, for me, either.  And while we cannot see what will be required of us next, help us to remember the simple story before us now and to recognize it lived out again and again right before our eyes in the midst of where we are today…

 

I pray that these approaches to these short verses from 1 Kings might give you entry into the text this week. I considered writing a letter from God to me, to us, and then I remembered that God already did so in the story of Elijah and a ‘get up and eat’ angel, and some cakes baked on hot stones and some water.

And so I wonder with you now..

  • If you were to write a letter to Elijah, to the ‘get up and eat’ angel, to God, what would you say?
  • Do you see yourself in Elijah? How does Elijah’s story strengthen you on your own journey now?
  • What hope does it give you that God uses such ‘human’ beings who cannot continue without meeting such basic human needs, to do God’s important work? What does that mean for you in terms of your own call? For what might Gods good gifts be strengthening you?

 

 

3 comments

  1. Beth Olson says:

    Marvelous approach, Janet, and marvelous letters that’ll linger with me this week as I move toward crafting a message. Though it may sound odd, the OT lesson seems much more relevant than the gospel this time around. Then again, I may be scarred by the last round of 5 weeks of Bread of Life in 2018: we were worshiping in the fellowship hall as we underwent a major renovation, and I made a different bread for each week. In any event, thank you for another thoughtful, insightful reflection.

    • Janet Hunt says:

      You’re welcome, Beth. I love the idea of baking all that bread, but what a gift that must have been! I will be curious to hear how Gospel is spoken through you this time around!

  2. Beth A. Olson says:

    Janet, thank you for another insightful, relevant commentary. I’m especially grateful that you wrote about the 1 Kings text because that’s where I was going early in the week as I looked things over. As you say, this is the text many of us need for these days. Blessings as you bring the word to your people–and for the word you so graciously share with the rest of us.

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