The readings for this Sunday include two stories about a widow’s son being raised from the dead. Elijah raises the son of the widow at Zarephath, who has provided for him while he was in hiding. (Both alternatives for the OT reading include this story!) Jesus raises the son of the widow at Nain, a stranger he had never met, but who moved him to perform this act of compassion. These miracles could be interpreted in so many ways for our communities. For starters…

  • It seems that the raising of both these young men was done not for their sake, but for the sake of their mothers. What did the sons think about being brought back from death? We never get to hear their side of the story.
  • Does God have a particular concern for widows? Without these sons, the women could have ended up destitute in a society with minimal rights for women and even fewer employment opportunities. With these miracles, the widows would be cared for and respected because they had a man to look out for them. Or perhaps God’s concern is for powerless people in general?
  • If the widows needed a man to look out for them, according to society’s rules, and God miraculously returned their sons to life, isn’t God just playing in to the sexist rules of society? If God can perform a miracle that brings a dead person back to life, why not perform a miracle that upsets the societal order and gives women a better place in it? mgDyroW
  • The widow at Zarephath cared for Elijah, but when her son dies, she accuses him of being guilty of his death. She demands that Elijah fix it, because she has earned something better than this. So, did she? Does Elijah perform the miracle because she’s worthy enough? And what does it take for someone to be worthy of such a miracle?
  • Jesus had never met the widow at Nain, but was moved by her grief. What was so special about this widow or this funeral?
  • When there’s a death of a young person in our communities, or when someone loses their only remaining family member, why doesn’t God bring about a miracle like these for us?

Perhaps you have other questions about these passages, or a new way to apply these stories to the life of your congregation. Maybe you’re doing a series on Elijah for a few weeks, in which case you may need to explain that the stories come to us a little bit out of order. Or maybe you’re following Galatians, introducing your modern community to this very early Christian community, through Paul’s letter. Maybe you’re turning to the Psalm for some preaching inspiration. Whatever your focus this week, please share your ideas and questions and suggestions below!



canoeistpastor is Katya Ouchakof, co-pastor at Lake Edge Lutheran Church in Madison, WI. She is a contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit, and posts sermons on her blog: Katya enjoys knitting, Star Wars, board games, time with her family, and of course, canoeing.


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11 thoughts on “Revised Common Lectionary: Sons of Widows

  1. I am preaching on Elijah but I am putting the stories into order using Spill The Beans 8 material to do so. My congregation LOVED the story of David last summer from the RCL OT thread and so it made sense to look at Elijah and Elisha this summer for a few weeks. We are starting a week behind so next week we’ll do Ravens and widows and what it means to have hope.


    1. Sounds like great fun, and hopefully you’ll have some enthusiasm leading into it since David went over well last year. Have fun getting to know Elijah and Elisha a bit better!


  2. I’m preaching at a Twelve Step Eucharist for Recovery Sunday at a nearby Episcopal church. I am relating the stories of the sons who had died, to those who are dead to us through alcoholism and addiction but who can be restored to life in recovery through the healing power of God. As a person in long term recovery I know this to have been true for me.


    1. That sounds like a very meaningful connection for the community you’ll be with this weekend. Possibilities for considering what the new life looked like for those young men, and what it looks like for those in recovery… lots of practical application. Blessings in your writing!


  3. Your questions are so helpful. Our church is participating in the Maine UCC Conference-wide “anti-racism reading challenge.” It’s pushing us to talk more–and preach more–about ongoing injustice in the U.S. and ways to address it. So now I’m wondering– is there a way to weave together the story of these grief-stricken mothers and the African-American women who cry for their sons today? And where is the Good News?


    1. There is always a way to preach the good news that God is on the side of the oppressed! The widows in the story could be connected to lamenting mothers today… or you could draw the connection between women who were systematically oppressed in antiquity with race/culture groups who are systematically oppressed today. Whatever your approach, wishing you courage and boldness in your proclamation!


  4. Your note about the poor and powerless has got me thinking. I’m preaching this Sunday (my first as an ordained person and my first in my new congregation…) and we’re located six blocks down from Super InTent City – a tent city that has been going strong since November, advocating for affordable housing in town but has been the focus of increasing concern as of late as conditions have deteriorated in the tent city and it, by all accounts, has become unsafe for many inhabitants and their neighbours (including an elementary school). Compassion has become a missing commodity in many in town whenever conversation shifts to Tent City. I’m now contemplating how the two might be linked…


    1. A Sunday of firsts! Hope all goes well! Something about showing compassion to those in need is easily relatable to the readings and to your local setting. Hoping that you find a good way to tie it all together. And congrats on your ordination!


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