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.1 Kings 19:4-8 (NRSV)
We began the season of Lent a few weeks ago, with scripture from the gospel of Matthew 11:28-30 as written in Eugene Peterson’s The Message: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Each week since the season of Lent began, we have been asking, “How is your soul?” As we learn more about what it means to live freely and lightly. Now when the season of Lent began, we had no idea that we would be in the situation that we are in right now. We didn’t know the fear and frustration and anxiety that many of us would experience with our regular schedules being turned upside down and our everyday ways of life being changed. But though we didn’t plan for this, somehow the Holy Spirit is guiding us through.
Now for the past three weeks, we have also been trying different spiritual practices for a week at a time, through our daily email devotionals. So far, we have learned the practice of Examen, the practice of worship, and the practice of fasting, all practices that help us to spend a little time with God each day as we pay attention and hopefully notice a little more clearly God’s presence in our lives.
Though we have been talking about how we can live more freely and lightly even in the midst of depression, stress, and busyness, I’m sure if I asked most of you, “How is your soul?” right about now, “Free and light” would probably not be the first answer that you would give. And that’s okay. Each of us is a work in progress and a creation that is constantly in the process of being created. Friends, as human beings, we all experience mountaintop moments and times in the deepest, darkest valleys. But no matter where you find yourself today, and I have a feeling I probably know what your answer is, there is always a light to be found and a glimmer of hope calling our names.
As many of you know, I am strong believer that, in every cloud, there is a silver lining, in every challenge, there is a lesson to be learned, and that even in the darkest moments, there is a flickering light that shines on our path. I have to tell you, I often turn to today’s scripture reading when I am having a tough day because after hearing Elijah’s story, my day usually looks a 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! But Elijah was a good prophet, and God was happy with the work that he had done. So God sent an angel to encourage Elijah.
As scripture says: “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, many of us are exhausted. Many of us are frustrated and stressed because of all that is going on in the world around us right now. We’re worried about work and finances. We’re worried about school and childcare. We’re worried about plans that we had and an illness that we cannot control. And many of us feel like Elijah, under the broom tree. We are ready to raise our hands and say. “Okay, God. Enough! When will this all end?” But my friends, the next part of the story is key. God didn’t change Elijah’s situation. There was no magic wand or quick fix given. Instead, an angel came and touched him and said, “Get up and eat. Get up and eat, or the journey will be too much for you.”
My friends, this week, our new spiritual practice is the practice of taking care of our bodies, and that couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s about eating healthy food and drinking enough water. It’s about exercising our bodies, getting enough rest, and making sure that we wash our hands.
Friends, we have quite a journey ahead of us, and there is no magic wand or quick fix. Of course, God walks the journey with us. For God is always with us, up on the mountain tops, down in the valleys, and everywhere in between. But if we’re going to have the strength to make it through this, we need to take care of ourselves.
Friends, remember that each one of us is part of the body of Christ. If you don’t take care of yourself, the whole body suffers. And folks, the world needs the body of Christ today. It needs a message of hope, actions of compassion, a grace that gives without thinking of what it will get in return, and a sense of unconditional love that works to bring wholeness and healing to our broken world.
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you step out into this next week of uncertainty and ever-changing norms, take care of yourself and those around you. Eat healthy food and drinking enough water; exercising your body, getting enough rest, and making sure that you wash our hands. Because if you don’t, the journey will be too long for you, and we need you! Because you are an important part of the body of Christ!
My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen!