But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.1 Kings 19:4-9 (NRSV)
I wonder, when you think about being fed and nourished, what comes to mind? Do you think about sitting around the dining table at Thanksgiving with family and friends and eating until you can’t eat anymore? Or maybe you think about spending time with friends, sharing coffee and good conversation? You could even think about sitting down and reading a good book or attending a worship service. The truth is we can be fed and nourished in lots of ways. Sometimes, we feed our minds, sometimes we feed our bodies, and sometimes we feed our spirits.
The Bible is filled with lots of feeding stories. There is the time that God shared manna with Israelites in the wilderness, not only giving them food to eat but the assurance that they were not alone. Or when Jesus fed the five thousand with five loaves and two fish, not only giving them food but filling them with hope and possibility. And Jesus always encourages us to reach out and feed those who are hungry, because as Jesus says, “When you do for the least of these, you have also done for me.” Jesus even shared bread and wine with the disciples that night in the upper room, feeding them physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
The truth is, in order to be healthy and to feel a sense of wholeness, we need to find balance in our lives, and that is not always easy to do. Have you ever experienced a time when you were hungry and you needed to eat something, like a sandwich or a muffin? I think we’ve all experienced that. Or during the pandemic, did you hunger for companionship so that you wouldn’t feel so isolated and lonely? Sometimes, we feel exhausted and overwhelmed when we need to take a break or we hunger for assurance and encouragement. And I think that’s why many of us look forward to our weekly worship.
Friends, not only do we need food to eat, but we need inspiration and hope to help us make it through the day. Because life can be hard, and things don’t always go our way. Sometimes, we need someone or something to remind us there is light at the end of the tunnel, that we can make it, and that we are not alone. I wonder: have you ever had a really tough day? A day when you feel like nothing is going your way and you just can’t win? Or a day when you feel like you’re overwhelmed or you’ve been running nonstop and there is no end in sight? Well, whenever I have a day like that, I like to think of the story of Elijah, because after remembering his story, my day always looks a whole lot brighter!
Scripture says, “But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: ‘It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors. Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep.'” Friends, Elijah was exhausted! He had a tough day, and he needed to be fed in mind, body, and spirit.
Now, I don’t know if you remember Elijah’s story, but Elijah was a prophet. He challenged the priests of Baal to a contest because Elijah knew that they were false prophets who were leading the people of Israel in pagan ways. Well, after winning the contest, and turning the people back to God, Elijah killed the four hundred and fifty priests of Baal for misleading the tribes of Israel. Upon hearing what had happened, King Ahab–who had been convinced to follow the priests of Baal by his wife Jezabel–ran to tell his wife, and let’s just say, she was not happy, to say the least! She sent word to Elijah that she was coming for him and would treat him as he treated the priests of Baal. Sounds like a soap opera doesn’t it!!
Well, today we find Elijah running for his life. But Elijah was a good prophet and God was happy with the work that he had done so God sent an angel to feed and nourish Elijah. Scripture tells us: “Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the LORD came a second time, touched him, and said, ‘Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.’ He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.”
Friends, we all need an angel like that in our lives every once in a while, don’t we? Someone to pick us up when we are down? Or someone to encourage us to keep on going even when the road gets tough? Well, the good news is that we’ve got them! Because not only do we have stories of faith and amazing gifts of grace, but we also have the forgiveness, and the hope, and the promise that our faith brings. And if that’s not enough, we also have an amazing community of faith that encourages us, and helps us, and inspires us!
My friends, the encouragement that Elijah experienced is still experienced today. You’ve experienced it and I’ve experienced it. We have all been touched by someone who reached out to us when we were down or who has gone out of their way to check in on us and make sure that we are okay. The truth is the world is filled with “angels” and people like that. Now, even though we have not been meeting in person for worship, I know that we have angels in our congregation who have been checking in on each other. Through notes and phone calls, texts, and emails, we have done our best to keep each other connected and fed and nourished.
Sure we’ve missed our coffee hours with donuts and gingersnap cookies. We’ve missed our potluck and our pancake suppers. We’ve missed sharing the bread and cup of communion together in our sanctuary. And we have missed singing and praying in the same space. But the good news is our time of waiting is coming closer to an end. Our longing to be reconnected in person is just around the corner. Sure we can worship online, and reach out via text, and email, and phone calls, but in the depths of our hearts, we can’t wait to be back together in person, surrounded by the angels of Oldtown who encourage us and inspire us., who accept us as we are, and who always offer a warm welcome and a smile.
Friends, I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get back to our church building, to be home again after being away for so long. I think we have all had our “Elijah moments” over the last year and a half when we felt lost, alone, and scared, not knowing which way to turn. We have learned a lot about ourselves and our faith, and we have learned about what is truly important to us and what we have really missed.
Our sanctuary will be opening on August 15th. Now I know that not everyone will be ready to come back at that point, so I encourage you all to listen to your heart and take the time that you need. And whether you join us in person or virtually in two weeks, do your best to stay balanced, taking time to tend to your mind, your body, and your soul because that’s the best way to stay fed and nourished.