Even though the land of Israel is dry and parched after 3 long years of drought, even though the hearts of God's people are barren of faith under the rule of King Ahab and his idolatrous wife Jezebel; there is still a glimmer of light, a glimmer of hope that refuses to be snuffed out by the darkness of idolatry.
When Elijah’s water runs out, God once again preserves his prophet by sending him to Sidon, gentile territory north of Israel. There he encountered a widow gathering sticks. A widow was one who was silent, one unable to speak. In a society in which males played the public role and in which women did not speak on their own behalf, the position of a widow was one of extreme vulnerability. If there were no sons, a widow might return to her paternal family if that option were available. Younger widows were often considered a potential danger to the community and urged to remarry.
Left out of the prospect of inheritance by Hebrew law, widows became the stereotypical symbol of the exploited and oppressed. The Bible is full of stories of these women being treated harshly and stories in which they are under the special protection of God.
In our Old Testament lesson Elijah finds himself in Sidon, gentile territory north of Israel. He encounters a woman gathering sticks. A widow. God has told Elijah he would find a widow who would feed him.
When Elijah came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, "Bring me a little water in a vessel that I may drink." And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, "Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand."
And she said, "As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; and now, I am gathering a couple of sticks, that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die."
The woman expects to die the slow and painful death of starvation. She is preparing the last bread for herself and her son. Along comes this stranger from a neighboring country to the South whom she recognizes as a man of God. Maybe it was his voice. Maybe it was his eyes. Maybe it was his dress. Whatever it was, this woman believes Elijah is a holy man – from a different religion than hers -- but nevertheless, a holy man.
And Elijah said to her, "Fear not; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord the God of Israel, 'the jar of meal shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not fail, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth'."
The small loaf that would have kept death at bay a few more hours is given to him. Now all that stands between her and death is God. She trusts him. She gave all she had.
And she went and did as Elijah said; and she, and he, and her son ate for many days. The jar of meal was not spent; neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord which he spoke by Elijah.
Jesus knew the Old Testament and often quoted from it when preaching and teaching. When Jesus returns to his hometown of Nazareth in Luke 4, he stands up in his home synagogue and during the course of his preaching, he reminds his listeners of Elijah's encounter with the widow.
And Jesus said "Truly I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country. But in truth, I tell you, there are many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; and Elijah was sent to none of them, but to another country, to Sidon, to a woman who was a widow."
She gave all she had
She gave all she had. Again, another widow risks giving her last pennies, everything she had her whole living. Out of faith, she completely empties herself before God. Those whom Jesus observed giving great sums out of their abundance are far from being empty and are not willing to risk emptiness. They have too much to lose. The widow empties herself in the faith that now she will be filled with the gift of the Kingdom of God. Her faith tells her that now she can stand empty before God and can receive everything, even eternal life, as God’s gift. She believes she is rich because she gave all she had.
On this Veterans’ Day, we honor with Quilts of Valor three sons of Dave & JoAnn, three sons of Divinity, three sons who gave all they had while serving in our Coast Guard Reserve, Marines, and Army.
Mark, the third son hockey player, joined the Marines and completed his basic training at Paris Island in 2002. Mark did further training in the school of infantry at Camp Lejeune. He describes himself as a “regular old grunt.”
Mark’s division from Brook Park was deployed to the Sunni Triangle in Iraq in 2005 to fight Al Qaeda terrorists. IEP’s along with rocket and mortar attacks took their toll on Mark’s battalion.
Forty-eight were killed in action including Mark’s best friend while another 250 were wounded.
Mark was promoted to sergeant working with operations controlling things like communications and logistics. After his year in Iraq, Mark returned to use his training as a sergeant in the Cleveland Police in the 4th district on the East side.
Mothers worry about their sons. Mark has been blessed with wife Rachel who is with child, giving JoAnn someone to worry with and to help support a man who gave all he had.
John, the fourth son hockey player, was in the Army Reserves for 3 ½ years while attending Baldwin Wallace where his mother was the campus nurse.
In July of 2007, after graduating from B.W., John went to Officers Candidate School in Fort Benning, Georgia and then to Fort Sill, Oklahoma for field artillery school to become an artillery officer.
In July of 2008, John went to Fort Riley, Kansas from where he was deployed to Baghdad as an infantry platoon leader. He had a 25 man platoon with 5 Humvee gun trucks, 5 men in a truck. John said, “Our job was to control streets while looking for bad guys in Baghdad.”
After a 1 year deployment in Baghdad, John returned to Fort Riley for 1 year and 40 days during which a man in his unit introduced John to his stepdaughter whose name is Daisy.
John was deployed in 2010 for another year in Iraq when he was promoted to captain and became a logistics officer whose job was to “get beans and bullets to the guys” which meant being responsible for the movement of troops and supplies.
John returned to Fort Riley in 2011, married Daisy, a smart move before being deployed to South Korea for two years from 2012 to 2014.
John and Daisy came back to Fort Louis in Washington State and after giving all he had for 8 years, he finished up on April 1, 2015. John and Daisy were blessed with the birth of Mila in 2016 and John now works as a manager for OnTrac in Vancouver, Washington.
When TJ Worsencroft, the oldest son Eagle Scout, was in high school, he announced that he wanted to join the Coast Guard. His mother suggested that he first try Baldwin Wallace where he learned quickly how to have a lot of fun.
Between his junior and senior years at B.W., TJ went to boot camp at Camp May, New Jersey. After graduation, he went on active duty in 1998 at the Marquette Station in the Upper Peninsula on Lake Superior.
T.J. went to Yorktown, Virginia to train to be a “police officer on the water.” He then was stationed with the Port Security Unit in Port Clinton.
In 1999, TJ was deployed to Pusang, South Korea and in 2000 to New York City and the harbor where the tall ships were coming to celebrate the 4th of July. TJ’s boat was next to one of the barges from which fireworks were going up and exploding over Lady Liberty’s crown and lights were bouncing off the twin towers and the New York skyline. It left an impression on T.J.
He was deployed to Egypt and then to Bahrain where his unit responded to the terrorist attack on the U.S.S. Cole.
T.J. describes the Muslim lifestyle he experienced where he learned to keep his head down as tensions were increasing just before 9/11.
When he returned, he joined a new unit at Marblehead and became a rescue surface swimmer, using his swimming skills from college to jump off the boat, grab the person, and bring them back to the boat.
T.J’s favorite Marblehead story is when they got intel that Snoop Dog’s yacht was coming into Put-In-Bay. Because the U.S. Coast Guard can board any boat at any time, they boarded his yacht with drug dogs and found no drugs, but plenty of silicone.
After 12 years of service and a third child on the way in 2009, T.J. wisely decided it might be time to help his bride Susan raise the children. T.J.’s eyes were opened to know that the U.S. is the best country in the world and is glad he served.
T.J. blames his mother’s cooking for no longer being able to fit in his uniform, but does not blame his mother for the birth of Saige in 2016, 7 years after the birth of his third child Julia in 2009.
The widow empties herself and gave all she had to Elijah – God’s prophet of old. The widow puts her last coins in the collection plate; she gave all she had, as Jesus watched. Our Veterans gave all they had in serving our great nation.