Speaking truth to power

Deacon Erin’s Weekly Lectionary Reflection
1 Kings 21:1-21a
Young people – especially children are especially in tune to what is fair – and when things aren’t fair. Yet they often learn there is not a lot they can do to fix the things around them that aren’t fair. They simply don’t have the power. Sure, sometimes what’s not fair is they have to clean their room instead of watch TV – yet other times children vividly see bullying, or discrimination in everyday places from school to the grocery store.

This week’s Hebrew Bible story tells the story of a King and Queen who used their power to get their way – not at all fair. And the prophet who bravely spoke up against their actions.

 

This is a story with such vivid language that reminds me the bible is not a book for children.

“Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying: 21:18 Go down to meet King Ahab of Israel, who rules in Samaria; he is now in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession. 21:19 You shall say to him, “Thus says the LORD: Have you killed, and also taken possession?” You shall say to him, “Thus says the LORD: In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, dogs will also lick up your blood.” 21:20 Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” He answered, “I have found you. Because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the LORD,

21:21 I will bring disaster on you.”

 

I will bring disaster on you. Not exactly the loving and merciful God I know I like to picture most of the time. There is something raw and angry about this depiction of God –

 

Elijah – a prophet, goes to the King and Queen – the absolute power in Israel, and says this?? God saw what you did, is NOT okay with it, and justice will come.

 

And this works, at least in that King Ahab repents and seeks God’s mercy and forgiveness. One interesting thing about this tale however is that it’s a fairly common thing – for those in power to do whatever they have to do get what they want. What makes this a story – what has kept it being told for thousands of years, is that someone spoke truth to that power.

 

Being prophetic isn’t something that comes easy to any one. Speaking out, especially when it always has a cost, is not a glamorous thing to do. Yet, how can we stay silent when our eyes are opened to injustice?

 

“It’s not fair” a child says. Don’t ever stop saying something when you see something.

 

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Elijah and the Nameless

In seminary I learned how to do a power analysis. We would like to think that in the world, all people’s lives matter – however this is not the reality we live in. Therefore, considering the real power structures in our cities, countries, and even churches helps us to focus our time and attention in ways that get the most done and bring the most good.
This week’s Hebrew Bible story focuses on a little family that is powerless, marginalized, even nameless. A widow and her son. In the scope of things – forgotten about lives, yet known and cared about deeply by God.
Elijah and the widow
Something I LOVE about the scriptures, is that they contain stories of the people of God.  Stories of folks just living lives. Sometimes there is a wedding or a feast. Sometimes there is great tragedy like a drought or death. Sometimes these situations are dealt with with grace and faith that God is good and God is with us. Other times, the stress breaks folks and we wander from the path God has laid out. Weather these are stories of factual people who lived, or stories doesn’t make a difference – they are stories that reveal to us truths about who God is for us.
We worship a God who cares about the people the world doesn’t.
We worship a God who sees and cries with the mothers whose children starve.
We worship a God who is active in the world and whose grace and power is accessible to us!
Yet, not every child of a faithful mother will live again.
We worship a God who is bigger than we know, and who does not promise there won’t be pain – just that God and the people of God will be with us through the pain.
There isn’t a bigger reason for every tragedy. God does not send droughts, storms, or disease. We as humans seeking reasons desperately wanting to understand at times attribute these things to God. Understandable. Yet when we are not in pain, we can look beyond our deep desire to know why, to blame someone, and to consider what that says about God.
We worship a God who is consistently in love with all people. This beautiful story of the widow and her son, not a part of the people of Israel – show us that our differences, our human labels and boundaries are not God’s separations – but our own.
Let us sit with this story this week and work through it. There is a lot there. May God bless the reading and study of this word for you and all who come to it.
Peace,
Deacon Erin