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?
- 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: canoeistpastor.blogspot.com. Katya enjoys knitting, Star Wars, board games, time with her family, and of course, canoeing.
RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.