Keep On Pouring

         Keith McFarren

September 15, 2019

2 Kings 4:1-7


 

 

 

 

     One of the worst things that can happen to an individual or to a family is to get so far into debt that it’s almost impossible to get out.  And there are numerous reasons for it.  Maybe it’s because of medical bills, or because of work issues and your weekly bring home paycheck has been cut back substantially.  But then again it could be because you went on a buying spree with a couple of new credit cards or maybe it’s because you just can’t budget your money properly.  You put your “wants” before your “needs” and you over spend from one payday to another trying to “keep up with the Jones’s” down the street or you have to have this or have that to look cool among your peers and you just can’t control your spending. 

     Bad things happen.  Some of us have gotten behind a month or two on this bill or that bill and we’ve experienced the dreaded letter or phone call from a creditor telling us that we’ve missed a couple of monthly payments and they want to know when they are going to get their money.  And there may be some of us who have gotten so far behind that the mortgage company has threatened to foreclose on our home or the bank has threatened to repossess our car.  Any way you look at it, it’s not good to have money problems.

 

     The widow in our scripture this morning is in a whole lot of trouble because she too has money problems.  Her husband had worked with Elisha.  But just because he was a man of God doesn’t really matter because when her husband died, she was left with a financial mess.  She was left with an incredible amount of debt due to money he had borrowed.  We’re not told why he borrowed the money or what it was used for…all we know is that it put her in a financial bind.  And the worst part of it is the creditors want their money. 

     This reminds me of the story about a guy named Jay Black.  Jay Black, of Jay and the Americans, was the leader of a popular singing group back in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  But Jay Black had a problem – he liked to gamble…and he evidently wasn’t very good at it.  I don’t know who he gambled with but whoever it was, they decided they wanted their money and they wanted it now.  With no way to come up with the money, and maybe with his life on the line, depending whom he had been gambling with, he had gotten himself so far in debt that he had to sell the trademark name “Jay and the American’s” (and all the residuals that went with his music) to get enough money to pay off his debts and perhaps keep himself alive. 

     But unlike Jay Black, the woman in our story this morning doesn’t even have the luxury of selling anything because she didn’t have anything to sell.  Instead, because she didn’t have the money to pay off her debts, she faced the possibility of her property being taken and having her two children taken from her and sold into slavery to pay off the debt that her late husband owed.  And according to the Hebrew Law, there was nothing wrong with repossessing property or taking children to be used as slaves to pay off a debt. (Exodus 21:1).

     So put yourself in her shoes for a minute.  She was grieving the loss of her husband; she was saddled with debt that she couldn’t pay, and she was scared to death that she would lose her home and her children to slavery.  It’s no wonder we’re told that she “cried out to Elisha” (v. 1).  If there was ever a person in the Bible who needed a miracle, it was this woman.

 

     Miracle…how would you define a miracle?  My Tyndale Bible Dictionary defines a miracle as “A divine act by which God reveals himself to people…not merely as a ‘wonder’ to inspire awe but as a ‘sign’ to draw people to him” (Walter A. Elwell; Philip W. Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Wheaton, Illinois; Tyndale House Publishers, 2001, 899).

     We find a number of miracles in the Old Testament: there was the great flood, the tower of Babel, the ten plagues, the Exodus, the miracles out in the wilderness and many more.  But never were miracles more prominent then during what is called the prophetic period…during the times of Elijah and Elisha.  It was a time when people were turning to paganism and worshiping of Baal in record numbers.  It was a time when the very existence of the Hebrew religion seemed to be threatened…so extraordinary times called for extraordinary measures.  Thus there are more miracles found during the prophet period, during the  times of Ahab and Jezebel, than any other time in the Old Testament (Ibid, 900). 

     Just in these last few weeks we’ve heard about fire raining down from heaven, ravens bringing food to the prophets along the river, and children being raised from the dead.  Some of these are exciting, hair raising miracles, miracles so unbelievable that they could almost cause us to wonder if what we’ve seen here is really fact or fiction.

 

     But it’s more than just our interpretation or our understanding of these stories.  The deeper question is how these stories might better shape our understanding of God, how they might better shape our understanding of ourselves and how they might better shape our relationship with God today.  How might these stories better help us to experience a miracle from God today?

     If we were to find ourselves in the same predicament as the widow, our only hope might be that it would rain money down from the sky…or maybe all the creditors, for some unknown reason, would find a soft spot in their heart and forgive us of all our debts.  Or maybe, we could get lucky and win the Hebrew Powerball lottery or go to the local casino and hit it big…and take care of all our problems.

     To be desperate means that we have come to the end of ourselves – we have come to the end of our rope.  We’re out of resources and we’re out of places to turn.  Sometimes we respond to our desperation by doing things we never thought we would do…to suck it up, to go that last mile, or maybe even to sacrifice the last bit of energy we have to get whatever it is we need the most.  Sometimes, desperation means running completely out of all that we have and all that we are…it means hitting rock bottom and with nothing left and in total desperation we find ourselves turning to God.

     Take a look at what Jesus did for those who turned to him when there was nowhere else to turn.  He demonstrated the presence and power of God by turning water into wine at a wedding party that was on the verge of being ruined.  He healed all kinds of sick people who, after running out of options, turned to him.  He calmed a killer storm with his words, opened the eyes of the blind, and he even raised the dead when all seemed lost.

     These are all stories about the divine power of God, but they are also stories about human desperation.  Every time we see a miracle performed, whether through God in the Old Testament or by Jesus in the New Testament, we get a glimpse into someone’s desperation…desperation that comes in all different shapes and sizes…a desperation that opens us up to not only show us our desperate need for God…but it also shows us the dramatic power of God.

 

     But nothing happened.  It didn’t rain money down from heaven and the creditors kept on knocking and once again her Hebrew Powerball number was a loser.  And if she went to the casino, she came back empty handed.  But a miracle did occur…a miracle that allows us to open our eyes and go beyond our limited views of how God can work in our lives…it just didn’t happen the way we would expect it.

     First, it was a miracle that required the woman’s full participation.  She couldn’t just sit there and wait for it to happen.  She had to be an active participant.  She had to take an inventory of her home, and all she had was a jar of oil.  And once she found it she had to be an active participant and pour the oil exactly as Elisha told her.

     Second, this was a miracle that required a community of people to actively step up and take part and come to the aid of the woman by opening their hearts and opening their homes to her by allowing her to take as much as she needed. “I don’t need just a few, I need as many as you have, as many as I can carry” she would say, because her faith was being measured by the number of jars she could collect.  Maybe she knew her neighbors and maybe she didn’t, but her faith caused her to act. 

     And her neighbor’s reply would be, “Take as many as you need.”  Each vessel, no matter how big or how small, symbolized not only the widows faith, but it also symbolized the love and the concern of every neighbor, whether she knew them or not, simply because they wanted to do their part to help her.  So not only would she have to take action on her own, but she would also need to rely on the help of her neighbors.

     Finally, I like to think that she wasn’t the only one who received the benefits of this miracle.  I like to think that the miracle brought blessings to her neighbors as well, because in their caring and in their compassion they opened their lives up and gave all that they had to someone in dire need.  In other words, because of her willingness to participate and because the community did so much to support her, a miracle was done not only to her but through her as well.

     She saved her home and she saved her family.  But since our faith is not just about us but about community, I like to think that this miracle was used to bring the woman and her neighbors closer together to form a much stronger community of faith. 

 

     Miracles happen in ways we don’t always expect.  But when we are open to them, when we are willing to actively participate in them, and when we are willing to come together as a community of faith to make them happen, then we can use that miracle to not only change our own lives but we can also use it to change the world around us.

     Back in 1942, Christian author Clarence Jordan and his wife were so troubled over the racism and the moral decay that was taking place in the Deep South that they decided to form a new kind of community…a community called the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farm in Americus, Georgia.  It was a community based on the biblical values of treating all humans with dignity and respect, of choosing love over violence, of living a simply life and being good stewards of the land and all of our natural resources.

     Some twenty one years later, in 1963, Millard and Linda Fuller visited some friends at Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farms during a family vacation.  While there they began a relationship with Clarence Jordan, a relationship that eventually led to the creation of Habitat for Humanity.

     With a desire to help the poor, and believing that what the poor needed was capital rather than charity, Jordan and Fuller and the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) community developed a revolving monetary fund called “Fund for Humanity” that would use monetary donations for purchasing building supplies and building materials to help build simple homes.  Volunteer laborers and the future homeowners, would be used to construct simple, decent housing for families that would eventually own their own home by repaying the “Fund for Humanity” for the cost of the materials used to build their home.  This was done with the idea that the repaid money would be used to buy new materials for additional homes.

     Do miracles still happen?  Sure they do…but you have to open your hearts and your minds and even your eyes to see them.  Not all miracles are big ones.  Some miracles, like pouring oil into a container, and the idea of caring for the needs of others, start off small and seemingly impossible, but like Habitat for Humanity, end up affecting a whole lot of people by building and strengthening a community of faith.

 

     Believing in the impossible makes things possible…that’s what our faith is all about.  If we open ourselves up to the idea of a little bit of oil being inexhaustible, or a little bit bread and fish being multiplied to feed a crowd of thousands, or even a dead person being raised to life, then maybe we can open ourselves up to some other incredible miracles:

     Like showing our compassion by supporting and helping the poorest and the most needy of our neighbors.

     Like believing that peace throughout the world is possible and that working together in cooperation as a community of faith rather than being in competition with each other can be seen as a mutual benefit for all.

     And maybe, in the same way Elisha embraced the widow and Jesus embraced the outcasts, we too can welcome others into our churches and into our lives regardless of what one looks like, believes in or where one comes from…and maybe, just maybe, we can change their lives.

 

     Proclaiming the word of God involves being proactive and it involves being reactive if we are going to give hope in the form of miracles to others.  It’s like James said, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, ‘Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well’ – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing.  What good does that really do?” (James 2:15-16).

     In a world where revenge and retribution is the norm and grace and forgiveness are the exception, maybe the greatest miracle in our lives is the decision we have made to follow Jesus and to follow the examples that he sets for us…and that includes expecting miracles in our daily lives and in our community of faith.

     Once we start believing in miracles, both as individuals and as a faith community, and start opening our hearts to others, there is no telling where those miracles will lead us and whose lives we will be able to change.

    

    

 

    

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep On Pouring

         Keith McFarren

September 15, 2019

2 Kings 4:1-7


 

 

 

 

     One of the worst things that can happen to an individual or to a family is to get so far into debt that it’s almost impossible to get out.  And there are numerous reasons for it.  Maybe it’s because of medical bills, or because of work issues and your weekly bring home paycheck has been cut back substantially.  But then again it could be because you went on a buying spree with a couple of new credit cards or maybe it’s because you just can’t budget your money properly.  You put your “wants” before your “needs” and you over spend from one payday to another trying to “keep up with the Jones’s” down the street or you have to have this or have that to look cool among your peers and you just can’t control your spending. 

     Bad things happen.  Some of us have gotten behind a month or two on this bill or that bill and we’ve experienced the dreaded letter or phone call from a creditor telling us that we’ve missed a couple of monthly payments and they want to know when they are going to get their money.  And there may be some of us who have gotten so far behind that the mortgage company has threatened to foreclose on our home or the bank has threatened to repossess our car.  Any way you look at it, it’s not good to have money problems.

 

     The widow in our scripture this morning is in a whole lot of trouble because she too has money problems.  Her husband had worked with Elisha.  But just because he was a man of God doesn’t really matter because when her husband died, she was left with a financial mess.  She was left with an incredible amount of debt due to money he had borrowed.  We’re not told why he borrowed the money or what it was used for…all we know is that it put her in a financial bind.  And the worst part of it is the creditors want their money. 

     This reminds me of the story about a guy named Jay Black.  Jay Black, of Jay and the Americans, was the leader of a popular singing group back in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  But Jay Black had a problem – he liked to gamble…and he evidently wasn’t very good at it.  I don’t know who he gambled with but whoever it was, they decided they wanted their money and they wanted it now.  With no way to come up with the money, and maybe with his life on the line, depending whom he had been gambling with, he had gotten himself so far in debt that he had to sell the trademark name “Jay and the American’s” (and all the residuals that went with his music) to get enough money to pay off his debts and perhaps keep himself alive. 

     But unlike Jay Black, the woman in our story this morning doesn’t even have the luxury of selling anything because she didn’t have anything to sell.  Instead, because she didn’t have the money to pay off her debts, she faced the possibility of her property being taken and having her two children taken from her and sold into slavery to pay off the debt that her late husband owed.  And according to the Hebrew Law, there was nothing wrong with repossessing property or taking children to be used as slaves to pay off a debt. (Exodus 21:1).

     So put yourself in her shoes for a minute.  She was grieving the loss of her husband; she was saddled with debt that she couldn’t pay, and she was scared to death that she would lose her home and her children to slavery.  It’s no wonder we’re told that she “cried out to Elisha” (v. 1).  If there was ever a person in the Bible who needed a miracle, it was this woman.

 

     Miracle…how would you define a miracle?  My Tyndale Bible Dictionary defines a miracle as “A divine act by which God reveals himself to people…not merely as a ‘wonder’ to inspire awe but as a ‘sign’ to draw people to him” (Walter A. Elwell; Philip W. Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Wheaton, Illinois; Tyndale House Publishers, 2001, 899).

     We find a number of miracles in the Old Testament: there was the great flood, the tower of Babel, the ten plagues, the Exodus, the miracles out in the wilderness and many more.  But never were miracles more prominent then during what is called the prophetic period…during the times of Elijah and Elisha.  It was a time when people were turning to paganism and worshiping of Baal in record numbers.  It was a time when the very existence of the Hebrew religion seemed to be threatened…so extraordinary times called for extraordinary measures.  Thus there are more miracles found during the prophet period, during the  times of Ahab and Jezebel, than any other time in the Old Testament (Ibid, 900). 

     Just in these last few weeks we’ve heard about fire raining down from heaven, ravens bringing food to the prophets along the river, and children being raised from the dead.  Some of these are exciting, hair raising miracles, miracles so unbelievable that they could almost cause us to wonder if what we’ve seen here is really fact or fiction.

 

     But it’s more than just our interpretation or our understanding of these stories.  The deeper question is how these stories might better shape our understanding of God, how they might better shape our understanding of ourselves and how they might better shape our relationship with God today.  How might these stories better help us to experience a miracle from God today?

     If we were to find ourselves in the same predicament as the widow, our only hope might be that it would rain money down from the sky…or maybe all the creditors, for some unknown reason, would find a soft spot in their heart and forgive us of all our debts.  Or maybe, we could get lucky and win the Hebrew Powerball lottery or go to the local casino and hit it big…and take care of all our problems.

     To be desperate means that we have come to the end of ourselves – we have come to the end of our rope.  We’re out of resources and we’re out of places to turn.  Sometimes we respond to our desperation by doing things we never thought we would do…to suck it up, to go that last mile, or maybe even to sacrifice the last bit of energy we have to get whatever it is we need the most.  Sometimes, desperation means running completely out of all that we have and all that we are…it means hitting rock bottom and with nothing left and in total desperation we find ourselves turning to God.

     Take a look at what Jesus did for those who turned to him when there was nowhere else to turn.  He demonstrated the presence and power of God by turning water into wine at a wedding party that was on the verge of being ruined.  He healed all kinds of sick people who, after running out of options, turned to him.  He calmed a killer storm with his words, opened the eyes of the blind, and he even raised the dead when all seemed lost.

     These are all stories about the divine power of God, but they are also stories about human desperation.  Every time we see a miracle performed, whether through God in the Old Testament or by Jesus in the New Testament, we get a glimpse into someone’s desperation…desperation that comes in all different shapes and sizes…a desperation that opens us up to not only show us our desperate need for God…but it also shows us the dramatic power of God.

 

     But nothing happened.  It didn’t rain money down from heaven and the creditors kept on knocking and once again her Hebrew Powerball number was a loser.  And if she went to the casino, she came back empty handed.  But a miracle did occur…a miracle that allows us to open our eyes and go beyond our limited views of how God can work in our lives…it just didn’t happen the way we would expect it.

     First, it was a miracle that required the woman’s full participation.  She couldn’t just sit there and wait for it to happen.  She had to be an active participant.  She had to take an inventory of her home, and all she had was a jar of oil.  And once she found it she had to be an active participant and pour the oil exactly as Elisha told her.

     Second, this was a miracle that required a community of people to actively step up and take part and come to the aid of the woman by opening their hearts and opening their homes to her by allowing her to take as much as she needed. “I don’t need just a few, I need as many as you have, as many as I can carry” she would say, because her faith was being measured by the number of jars she could collect.  Maybe she knew her neighbors and maybe she didn’t, but her faith caused her to act. 

     And her neighbor’s reply would be, “Take as many as you need.”  Each vessel, no matter how big or how small, symbolized not only the widows faith, but it also symbolized the love and the concern of every neighbor, whether she knew them or not, simply because they wanted to do their part to help her.  So not only would she have to take action on her own, but she would also need to rely on the help of her neighbors.

     Finally, I like to think that she wasn’t the only one who received the benefits of this miracle.  I like to think that the miracle brought blessings to her neighbors as well, because in their caring and in their compassion they opened their lives up and gave all that they had to someone in dire need.  In other words, because of her willingness to participate and because the community did so much to support her, a miracle was done not only to her but through her as well.

     She saved her home and she saved her family.  But since our faith is not just about us but about community, I like to think that this miracle was used to bring the woman and her neighbors closer together to form a much stronger community of faith. 

 

     Miracles happen in ways we don’t always expect.  But when we are open to them, when we are willing to actively participate in them, and when we are willing to come together as a community of faith to make them happen, then we can use that miracle to not only change our own lives but we can also use it to change the world around us.

     Back in 1942, Christian author Clarence Jordan and his wife were so troubled over the racism and the moral decay that was taking place in the Deep South that they decided to form a new kind of community…a community called the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farm in Americus, Georgia.  It was a community based on the biblical values of treating all humans with dignity and respect, of choosing love over violence, of living a simply life and being good stewards of the land and all of our natural resources.

     Some twenty one years later, in 1963, Millard and Linda Fuller visited some friends at Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farms during a family vacation.  While there they began a relationship with Clarence Jordan, a relationship that eventually led to the creation of Habitat for Humanity.

     With a desire to help the poor, and believing that what the poor needed was capital rather than charity, Jordan and Fuller and the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) community developed a revolving monetary fund called “Fund for Humanity” that would use monetary donations for purchasing building supplies and building materials to help build simple homes.  Volunteer laborers and the future homeowners, would be used to construct simple, decent housing for families that would eventually own their own home by repaying the “Fund for Humanity” for the cost of the materials used to build their home.  This was done with the idea that the repaid money would be used to buy new materials for additional homes.

     Do miracles still happen?  Sure they do…but you have to open your hearts and your minds and even your eyes to see them.  Not all miracles are big ones.  Some miracles, like pouring oil into a container, and the idea of caring for the needs of others, start off small and seemingly impossible, but like Habitat for Humanity, end up affecting a whole lot of people by building and strengthening a community of faith.

 

     Believing in the impossible makes things possible…that’s what our faith is all about.  If we open ourselves up to the idea of a little bit of oil being inexhaustible, or a little bit bread and fish being multiplied to feed a crowd of thousands, or even a dead person being raised to life, then maybe we can open ourselves up to some other incredible miracles:

     Like showing our compassion by supporting and helping the poorest and the most needy of our neighbors.

     Like believing that peace throughout the world is possible and that working together in cooperation as a community of faith rather than being in competition with each other can be seen as a mutual benefit for all.

     And maybe, in the same way Elisha embraced the widow and Jesus embraced the outcasts, we too can welcome others into our churches and into our lives regardless of what one looks like, believes in or where one comes from…and maybe, just maybe, we can change their lives.

 

     Proclaiming the word of God involves being proactive and it involves being reactive if we are going to give hope in the form of miracles to others.  It’s like James said, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, ‘Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well’ – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing.  What good does that really do?” (James 2:15-16).

     In a world where revenge and retribution is the norm and grace and forgiveness are the exception, maybe the greatest miracle in our lives is the decision we have made to follow Jesus and to follow the examples that he sets for us…and that includes expecting miracles in our daily lives and in our community of faith.

     Once we start believing in miracles, both as individuals and as a faith community, and start opening our hearts to others, there is no telling where those miracles will lead us and whose lives we will be able to change.

    

    

 

    

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

Keep On Pouring

         Keith McFarren

September 15, 2019

2 Kings 4:1-7


 

 

 

 

     One of the worst things that can happen to an individual or to a family is to get so far into debt that it’s almost impossible to get out.  And there are numerous reasons for it.  Maybe it’s because of medical bills, or because of work issues and your weekly bring home paycheck has been cut back substantially.  But then again it could be because you went on a buying spree with a couple of new credit cards or maybe it’s because you just can’t budget your money properly.  You put your “wants” before your “needs” and you over spend from one payday to another trying to “keep up with the Jones’s” down the street or you have to have this or have that to look cool among your peers and you just can’t control your spending. 

     Bad things happen.  Some of us have gotten behind a month or two on this bill or that bill and we’ve experienced the dreaded letter or phone call from a creditor telling us that we’ve missed a couple of monthly payments and they want to know when they are going to get their money.  And there may be some of us who have gotten so far behind that the mortgage company has threatened to foreclose on our home or the bank has threatened to repossess our car.  Any way you look at it, it’s not good to have money problems.

 

     The widow in our scripture this morning is in a whole lot of trouble because she too has money problems.  Her husband had worked with Elisha.  But just because he was a man of God doesn’t really matter because when her husband died, she was left with a financial mess.  She was left with an incredible amount of debt due to money he had borrowed.  We’re not told why he borrowed the money or what it was used for…all we know is that it put her in a financial bind.  And the worst part of it is the creditors want their money. 

     This reminds me of the story about a guy named Jay Black.  Jay Black, of Jay and the Americans, was the leader of a popular singing group back in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  But Jay Black had a problem – he liked to gamble…and he evidently wasn’t very good at it.  I don’t know who he gambled with but whoever it was, they decided they wanted their money and they wanted it now.  With no way to come up with the money, and maybe with his life on the line, depending whom he had been gambling with, he had gotten himself so far in debt that he had to sell the trademark name “Jay and the American’s” (and all the residuals that went with his music) to get enough money to pay off his debts and perhaps keep himself alive. 

     But unlike Jay Black, the woman in our story this morning doesn’t even have the luxury of selling anything because she didn’t have anything to sell.  Instead, because she didn’t have the money to pay off her debts, she faced the possibility of her property being taken and having her two children taken from her and sold into slavery to pay off the debt that her late husband owed.  And according to the Hebrew Law, there was nothing wrong with repossessing property or taking children to be used as slaves to pay off a debt. (Exodus 21:1).

     So put yourself in her shoes for a minute.  She was grieving the loss of her husband; she was saddled with debt that she couldn’t pay, and she was scared to death that she would lose her home and her children to slavery.  It’s no wonder we’re told that she “cried out to Elisha” (v. 1).  If there was ever a person in the Bible who needed a miracle, it was this woman.

 

     Miracle…how would you define a miracle?  My Tyndale Bible Dictionary defines a miracle as “A divine act by which God reveals himself to people…not merely as a ‘wonder’ to inspire awe but as a ‘sign’ to draw people to him” (Walter A. Elwell; Philip W. Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Wheaton, Illinois; Tyndale House Publishers, 2001, 899).

     We find a number of miracles in the Old Testament: there was the great flood, the tower of Babel, the ten plagues, the Exodus, the miracles out in the wilderness and many more.  But never were miracles more prominent then during what is called the prophetic period…during the times of Elijah and Elisha.  It was a time when people were turning to paganism and worshiping of Baal in record numbers.  It was a time when the very existence of the Hebrew religion seemed to be threatened…so extraordinary times called for extraordinary measures.  Thus there are more miracles found during the prophet period, during the  times of Ahab and Jezebel, than any other time in the Old Testament (Ibid, 900). 

     Just in these last few weeks we’ve heard about fire raining down from heaven, ravens bringing food to the prophets along the river, and children being raised from the dead.  Some of these are exciting, hair raising miracles, miracles so unbelievable that they could almost cause us to wonder if what we’ve seen here is really fact or fiction.

 

     But it’s more than just our interpretation or our understanding of these stories.  The deeper question is how these stories might better shape our understanding of God, how they might better shape our understanding of ourselves and how they might better shape our relationship with God today.  How might these stories better help us to experience a miracle from God today?

     If we were to find ourselves in the same predicament as the widow, our only hope might be that it would rain money down from the sky…or maybe all the creditors, for some unknown reason, would find a soft spot in their heart and forgive us of all our debts.  Or maybe, we could get lucky and win the Hebrew Powerball lottery or go to the local casino and hit it big…and take care of all our problems.

     To be desperate means that we have come to the end of ourselves – we have come to the end of our rope.  We’re out of resources and we’re out of places to turn.  Sometimes we respond to our desperation by doing things we never thought we would do…to suck it up, to go that last mile, or maybe even to sacrifice the last bit of energy we have to get whatever it is we need the most.  Sometimes, desperation means running completely out of all that we have and all that we are…it means hitting rock bottom and with nothing left and in total desperation we find ourselves turning to God.

     Take a look at what Jesus did for those who turned to him when there was nowhere else to turn.  He demonstrated the presence and power of God by turning water into wine at a wedding party that was on the verge of being ruined.  He healed all kinds of sick people who, after running out of options, turned to him.  He calmed a killer storm with his words, opened the eyes of the blind, and he even raised the dead when all seemed lost.

     These are all stories about the divine power of God, but they are also stories about human desperation.  Every time we see a miracle performed, whether through God in the Old Testament or by Jesus in the New Testament, we get a glimpse into someone’s desperation…desperation that comes in all different shapes and sizes…a desperation that opens us up to not only show us our desperate need for God…but it also shows us the dramatic power of God.

 

     But nothing happened.  It didn’t rain money down from heaven and the creditors kept on knocking and once again her Hebrew Powerball number was a loser.  And if she went to the casino, she came back empty handed.  But a miracle did occur…a miracle that allows us to open our eyes and go beyond our limited views of how God can work in our lives…it just didn’t happen the way we would expect it.

     First, it was a miracle that required the woman’s full participation.  She couldn’t just sit there and wait for it to happen.  She had to be an active participant.  She had to take an inventory of her home, and all she had was a jar of oil.  And once she found it she had to be an active participant and pour the oil exactly as Elisha told her.

     Second, this was a miracle that required a community of people to actively step up and take part and come to the aid of the woman by opening their hearts and opening their homes to her by allowing her to take as much as she needed. “I don’t need just a few, I need as many as you have, as many as I can carry” she would say, because her faith was being measured by the number of jars she could collect.  Maybe she knew her neighbors and maybe she didn’t, but her faith caused her to act. 

     And her neighbor’s reply would be, “Take as many as you need.”  Each vessel, no matter how big or how small, symbolized not only the widows faith, but it also symbolized the love and the concern of every neighbor, whether she knew them or not, simply because they wanted to do their part to help her.  So not only would she have to take action on her own, but she would also need to rely on the help of her neighbors.

     Finally, I like to think that she wasn’t the only one who received the benefits of this miracle.  I like to think that the miracle brought blessings to her neighbors as well, because in their caring and in their compassion they opened their lives up and gave all that they had to someone in dire need.  In other words, because of her willingness to participate and because the community did so much to support her, a miracle was done not only to her but through her as well.

     She saved her home and she saved her family.  But since our faith is not just about us but about community, I like to think that this miracle was used to bring the woman and her neighbors closer together to form a much stronger community of faith. 

 

     Miracles happen in ways we don’t always expect.  But when we are open to them, when we are willing to actively participate in them, and when we are willing to come together as a community of faith to make them happen, then we can use that miracle to not only change our own lives but we can also use it to change the world around us.

     Back in 1942, Christian author Clarence Jordan and his wife were so troubled over the racism and the moral decay that was taking place in the Deep South that they decided to form a new kind of community…a community called the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farm in Americus, Georgia.  It was a community based on the biblical values of treating all humans with dignity and respect, of choosing love over violence, of living a simply life and being good stewards of the land and all of our natural resources.

     Some twenty one years later, in 1963, Millard and Linda Fuller visited some friends at Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farms during a family vacation.  While there they began a relationship with Clarence Jordan, a relationship that eventually led to the creation of Habitat for Humanity.

     With a desire to help the poor, and believing that what the poor needed was capital rather than charity, Jordan and Fuller and the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) community developed a revolving monetary fund called “Fund for Humanity” that would use monetary donations for purchasing building supplies and building materials to help build simple homes.  Volunteer laborers and the future homeowners, would be used to construct simple, decent housing for families that would eventually own their own home by repaying the “Fund for Humanity” for the cost of the materials used to build their home.  This was done with the idea that the repaid money would be used to buy new materials for additional homes.

     Do miracles still happen?  Sure they do…but you have to open your hearts and your minds and even your eyes to see them.  Not all miracles are big ones.  Some miracles, like pouring oil into a container, and the idea of caring for the needs of others, start off small and seemingly impossible, but like Habitat for Humanity, end up affecting a whole lot of people by building and strengthening a community of faith.

 

     Believing in the impossible makes things possible…that’s what our faith is all about.  If we open ourselves up to the idea of a little bit of oil being inexhaustible, or a little bit bread and fish being multiplied to feed a crowd of thousands, or even a dead person being raised to life, then maybe we can open ourselves up to some other incredible miracles:

     Like showing our compassion by supporting and helping the poorest and the most needy of our neighbors.

     Like believing that peace throughout the world is possible and that working together in cooperation as a community of faith rather than being in competition with each other can be seen as a mutual benefit for all.

     And maybe, in the same way Elisha embraced the widow and Jesus embraced the outcasts, we too can welcome others into our churches and into our lives regardless of what one looks like, believes in or where one comes from…and maybe, just maybe, we can change their lives.

 

     Proclaiming the word of God involves being proactive and it involves being reactive if we are going to give hope in the form of miracles to others.  It’s like James said, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, ‘Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well’ – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing.  What good does that really do?” (James 2:15-16).

     In a world where revenge and retribution is the norm and grace and forgiveness are the exception, maybe the greatest miracle in our lives is the decision we have made to follow Jesus and to follow the examples that he sets for us…and that includes expecting miracles in our daily lives and in our community of faith.

     Once we start believing in miracles, both as individuals and as a faith community, and start opening our hearts to others, there is no telling where those miracles will lead us and whose lives we will be able to change.

    

    

 

    

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

Keep On Pouring

         Keith McFarren

September 15, 2019

2 Kings 4:1-7


 

 

 

 

     One of the worst things that can happen to an individual or to a family is to get so far into debt that it’s almost impossible to get out.  And there are numerous reasons for it.  Maybe it’s because of medical bills, or because of work issues and your weekly bring home paycheck has been cut back substantially.  But then again it could be because you went on a buying spree with a couple of new credit cards or maybe it’s because you just can’t budget your money properly.  You put your “wants” before your “needs” and you over spend from one payday to another trying to “keep up with the Jones’s” down the street or you have to have this or have that to look cool among your peers and you just can’t control your spending. 

     Bad things happen.  Some of us have gotten behind a month or two on this bill or that bill and we’ve experienced the dreaded letter or phone call from a creditor telling us that we’ve missed a couple of monthly payments and they want to know when they are going to get their money.  And there may be some of us who have gotten so far behind that the mortgage company has threatened to foreclose on our home or the bank has threatened to repossess our car.  Any way you look at it, it’s not good to have money problems.

 

     The widow in our scripture this morning is in a whole lot of trouble because she too has money problems.  Her husband had worked with Elisha.  But just because he was a man of God doesn’t really matter because when her husband died, she was left with a financial mess.  She was left with an incredible amount of debt due to money he had borrowed.  We’re not told why he borrowed the money or what it was used for…all we know is that it put her in a financial bind.  And the worst part of it is the creditors want their money. 

     This reminds me of the story about a guy named Jay Black.  Jay Black, of Jay and the Americans, was the leader of a popular singing group back in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  But Jay Black had a problem – he liked to gamble…and he evidently wasn’t very good at it.  I don’t know who he gambled with but whoever it was, they decided they wanted their money and they wanted it now.  With no way to come up with the money, and maybe with his life on the line, depending whom he had been gambling with, he had gotten himself so far in debt that he had to sell the trademark name “Jay and the American’s” (and all the residuals that went with his music) to get enough money to pay off his debts and perhaps keep himself alive. 

     But unlike Jay Black, the woman in our story this morning doesn’t even have the luxury of selling anything because she didn’t have anything to sell.  Instead, because she didn’t have the money to pay off her debts, she faced the possibility of her property being taken and having her two children taken from her and sold into slavery to pay off the debt that her late husband owed.  And according to the Hebrew Law, there was nothing wrong with repossessing property or taking children to be used as slaves to pay off a debt. (Exodus 21:1).

     So put yourself in her shoes for a minute.  She was grieving the loss of her husband; she was saddled with debt that she couldn’t pay, and she was scared to death that she would lose her home and her children to slavery.  It’s no wonder we’re told that she “cried out to Elisha” (v. 1).  If there was ever a person in the Bible who needed a miracle, it was this woman.

 

     Miracle…how would you define a miracle?  My Tyndale Bible Dictionary defines a miracle as “A divine act by which God reveals himself to people…not merely as a ‘wonder’ to inspire awe but as a ‘sign’ to draw people to him” (Walter A. Elwell; Philip W. Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Wheaton, Illinois; Tyndale House Publishers, 2001, 899).

     We find a number of miracles in the Old Testament: there was the great flood, the tower of Babel, the ten plagues, the Exodus, the miracles out in the wilderness and many more.  But never were miracles more prominent then during what is called the prophetic period…during the times of Elijah and Elisha.  It was a time when people were turning to paganism and worshiping of Baal in record numbers.  It was a time when the very existence of the Hebrew religion seemed to be threatened…so extraordinary times called for extraordinary measures.  Thus there are more miracles found during the prophet period, during the  times of Ahab and Jezebel, than any other time in the Old Testament (Ibid, 900). 

     Just in these last few weeks we’ve heard about fire raining down from heaven, ravens bringing food to the prophets along the river, and children being raised from the dead.  Some of these are exciting, hair raising miracles, miracles so unbelievable that they could almost cause us to wonder if what we’ve seen here is really fact or fiction.

 

     But it’s more than just our interpretation or our understanding of these stories.  The deeper question is how these stories might better shape our understanding of God, how they might better shape our understanding of ourselves and how they might better shape our relationship with God today.  How might these stories better help us to experience a miracle from God today?

     If we were to find ourselves in the same predicament as the widow, our only hope might be that it would rain money down from the sky…or maybe all the creditors, for some unknown reason, would find a soft spot in their heart and forgive us of all our debts.  Or maybe, we could get lucky and win the Hebrew Powerball lottery or go to the local casino and hit it big…and take care of all our problems.

     To be desperate means that we have come to the end of ourselves – we have come to the end of our rope.  We’re out of resources and we’re out of places to turn.  Sometimes we respond to our desperation by doing things we never thought we would do…to suck it up, to go that last mile, or maybe even to sacrifice the last bit of energy we have to get whatever it is we need the most.  Sometimes, desperation means running completely out of all that we have and all that we are…it means hitting rock bottom and with nothing left and in total desperation we find ourselves turning to God.

     Take a look at what Jesus did for those who turned to him when there was nowhere else to turn.  He demonstrated the presence and power of God by turning water into wine at a wedding party that was on the verge of being ruined.  He healed all kinds of sick people who, after running out of options, turned to him.  He calmed a killer storm with his words, opened the eyes of the blind, and he even raised the dead when all seemed lost.

     These are all stories about the divine power of God, but they are also stories about human desperation.  Every time we see a miracle performed, whether through God in the Old Testament or by Jesus in the New Testament, we get a glimpse into someone’s desperation…desperation that comes in all different shapes and sizes…a desperation that opens us up to not only show us our desperate need for God…but it also shows us the dramatic power of God.

 

     But nothing happened.  It didn’t rain money down from heaven and the creditors kept on knocking and once again her Hebrew Powerball number was a loser.  And if she went to the casino, she came back empty handed.  But a miracle did occur…a miracle that allows us to open our eyes and go beyond our limited views of how God can work in our lives…it just didn’t happen the way we would expect it.

     First, it was a miracle that required the woman’s full participation.  She couldn’t just sit there and wait for it to happen.  She had to be an active participant.  She had to take an inventory of her home, and all she had was a jar of oil.  And once she found it she had to be an active participant and pour the oil exactly as Elisha told her.

     Second, this was a miracle that required a community of people to actively step up and take part and come to the aid of the woman by opening their hearts and opening their homes to her by allowing her to take as much as she needed. “I don’t need just a few, I need as many as you have, as many as I can carry” she would say, because her faith was being measured by the number of jars she could collect.  Maybe she knew her neighbors and maybe she didn’t, but her faith caused her to act. 

     And her neighbor’s reply would be, “Take as many as you need.”  Each vessel, no matter how big or how small, symbolized not only the widows faith, but it also symbolized the love and the concern of every neighbor, whether she knew them or not, simply because they wanted to do their part to help her.  So not only would she have to take action on her own, but she would also need to rely on the help of her neighbors.

     Finally, I like to think that she wasn’t the only one who received the benefits of this miracle.  I like to think that the miracle brought blessings to her neighbors as well, because in their caring and in their compassion they opened their lives up and gave all that they had to someone in dire need.  In other words, because of her willingness to participate and because the community did so much to support her, a miracle was done not only to her but through her as well.

     She saved her home and she saved her family.  But since our faith is not just about us but about community, I like to think that this miracle was used to bring the woman and her neighbors closer together to form a much stronger community of faith. 

 

     Miracles happen in ways we don’t always expect.  But when we are open to them, when we are willing to actively participate in them, and when we are willing to come together as a community of faith to make them happen, then we can use that miracle to not only change our own lives but we can also use it to change the world around us.

     Back in 1942, Christian author Clarence Jordan and his wife were so troubled over the racism and the moral decay that was taking place in the Deep South that they decided to form a new kind of community…a community called the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farm in Americus, Georgia.  It was a community based on the biblical values of treating all humans with dignity and respect, of choosing love over violence, of living a simply life and being good stewards of the land and all of our natural resources.

     Some twenty one years later, in 1963, Millard and Linda Fuller visited some friends at Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farms during a family vacation.  While there they began a relationship with Clarence Jordan, a relationship that eventually led to the creation of Habitat for Humanity.

     With a desire to help the poor, and believing that what the poor needed was capital rather than charity, Jordan and Fuller and the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) community developed a revolving monetary fund called “Fund for Humanity” that would use monetary donations for purchasing building supplies and building materials to help build simple homes.  Volunteer laborers and the future homeowners, would be used to construct simple, decent housing for families that would eventually own their own home by repaying the “Fund for Humanity” for the cost of the materials used to build their home.  This was done with the idea that the repaid money would be used to buy new materials for additional homes.

     Do miracles still happen?  Sure they do…but you have to open your hearts and your minds and even your eyes to see them.  Not all miracles are big ones.  Some miracles, like pouring oil into a container, and the idea of caring for the needs of others, start off small and seemingly impossible, but like Habitat for Humanity, end up affecting a whole lot of people by building and strengthening a community of faith.

 

     Believing in the impossible makes things possible…that’s what our faith is all about.  If we open ourselves up to the idea of a little bit of oil being inexhaustible, or a little bit bread and fish being multiplied to feed a crowd of thousands, or even a dead person being raised to life, then maybe we can open ourselves up to some other incredible miracles:

     Like showing our compassion by supporting and helping the poorest and the most needy of our neighbors.

     Like believing that peace throughout the world is possible and that working together in cooperation as a community of faith rather than being in competition with each other can be seen as a mutual benefit for all.

     And maybe, in the same way Elisha embraced the widow and Jesus embraced the outcasts, we too can welcome others into our churches and into our lives regardless of what one looks like, believes in or where one comes from…and maybe, just maybe, we can change their lives.

 

     Proclaiming the word of God involves being proactive and it involves being reactive if we are going to give hope in the form of miracles to others.  It’s like James said, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, ‘Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well’ – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing.  What good does that really do?” (James 2:15-16).

     In a world where revenge and retribution is the norm and grace and forgiveness are the exception, maybe the greatest miracle in our lives is the decision we have made to follow Jesus and to follow the examples that he sets for us…and that includes expecting miracles in our daily lives and in our community of faith.

     Once we start believing in miracles, both as individuals and as a faith community, and start opening our hearts to others, there is no telling where those miracles will lead us and whose lives we will be able to change.

    

    

 

    

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

Keep On Pouring

         Keith McFarren

September 15, 2019

2 Kings 4:1-7


 

 

 

 

     One of the worst things that can happen to an individual or to a family is to get so far into debt that it’s almost impossible to get out.  And there are numerous reasons for it.  Maybe it’s because of medical bills, or because of work issues and your weekly bring home paycheck has been cut back substantially.  But then again it could be because you went on a buying spree with a couple of new credit cards or maybe it’s because you just can’t budget your money properly.  You put your “wants” before your “needs” and you over spend from one payday to another trying to “keep up with the Jones’s” down the street or you have to have this or have that to look cool among your peers and you just can’t control your spending. 

     Bad things happen.  Some of us have gotten behind a month or two on this bill or that bill and we’ve experienced the dreaded letter or phone call from a creditor telling us that we’ve missed a couple of monthly payments and they want to know when they are going to get their money.  And there may be some of us who have gotten so far behind that the mortgage company has threatened to foreclose on our home or the bank has threatened to repossess our car.  Any way you look at it, it’s not good to have money problems.

 

     The widow in our scripture this morning is in a whole lot of trouble because she too has money problems.  Her husband had worked with Elisha.  But just because he was a man of God doesn’t really matter because when her husband died, she was left with a financial mess.  She was left with an incredible amount of debt due to money he had borrowed.  We’re not told why he borrowed the money or what it was used for…all we know is that it put her in a financial bind.  And the worst part of it is the creditors want their money. 

     This reminds me of the story about a guy named Jay Black.  Jay Black, of Jay and the Americans, was the leader of a popular singing group back in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  But Jay Black had a problem – he liked to gamble…and he evidently wasn’t very good at it.  I don’t know who he gambled with but whoever it was, they decided they wanted their money and they wanted it now.  With no way to come up with the money, and maybe with his life on the line, depending whom he had been gambling with, he had gotten himself so far in debt that he had to sell the trademark name “Jay and the American’s” (and all the residuals that went with his music) to get enough money to pay off his debts and perhaps keep himself alive. 

     But unlike Jay Black, the woman in our story this morning doesn’t even have the luxury of selling anything because she didn’t have anything to sell.  Instead, because she didn’t have the money to pay off her debts, she faced the possibility of her property being taken and having her two children taken from her and sold into slavery to pay off the debt that her late husband owed.  And according to the Hebrew Law, there was nothing wrong with repossessing property or taking children to be used as slaves to pay off a debt. (Exodus 21:1).

     So put yourself in her shoes for a minute.  She was grieving the loss of her husband; she was saddled with debt that she couldn’t pay, and she was scared to death that she would lose her home and her children to slavery.  It’s no wonder we’re told that she “cried out to Elisha” (v. 1).  If there was ever a person in the Bible who needed a miracle, it was this woman.

 

     Miracle…how would you define a miracle?  My Tyndale Bible Dictionary defines a miracle as “A divine act by which God reveals himself to people…not merely as a ‘wonder’ to inspire awe but as a ‘sign’ to draw people to him” (Walter A. Elwell; Philip W. Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Wheaton, Illinois; Tyndale House Publishers, 2001, 899).

     We find a number of miracles in the Old Testament: there was the great flood, the tower of Babel, the ten plagues, the Exodus, the miracles out in the wilderness and many more.  But never were miracles more prominent then during what is called the prophetic period…during the times of Elijah and Elisha.  It was a time when people were turning to paganism and worshiping of Baal in record numbers.  It was a time when the very existence of the Hebrew religion seemed to be threatened…so extraordinary times called for extraordinary measures.  Thus there are more miracles found during the prophet period, during the  times of Ahab and Jezebel, than any other time in the Old Testament (Ibid, 900). 

     Just in these last few weeks we’ve heard about fire raining down from heaven, ravens bringing food to the prophets along the river, and children being raised from the dead.  Some of these are exciting, hair raising miracles, miracles so unbelievable that they could almost cause us to wonder if what we’ve seen here is really fact or fiction.

 

     But it’s more than just our interpretation or our understanding of these stories.  The deeper question is how these stories might better shape our understanding of God, how they might better shape our understanding of ourselves and how they might better shape our relationship with God today.  How might these stories better help us to experience a miracle from God today?

     If we were to find ourselves in the same predicament as the widow, our only hope might be that it would rain money down from the sky…or maybe all the creditors, for some unknown reason, would find a soft spot in their heart and forgive us of all our debts.  Or maybe, we could get lucky and win the Hebrew Powerball lottery or go to the local casino and hit it big…and take care of all our problems.

     To be desperate means that we have come to the end of ourselves – we have come to the end of our rope.  We’re out of resources and we’re out of places to turn.  Sometimes we respond to our desperation by doing things we never thought we would do…to suck it up, to go that last mile, or maybe even to sacrifice the last bit of energy we have to get whatever it is we need the most.  Sometimes, desperation means running completely out of all that we have and all that we are…it means hitting rock bottom and with nothing left and in total desperation we find ourselves turning to God.

     Take a look at what Jesus did for those who turned to him when there was nowhere else to turn.  He demonstrated the presence and power of God by turning water into wine at a wedding party that was on the verge of being ruined.  He healed all kinds of sick people who, after running out of options, turned to him.  He calmed a killer storm with his words, opened the eyes of the blind, and he even raised the dead when all seemed lost.

     These are all stories about the divine power of God, but they are also stories about human desperation.  Every time we see a miracle performed, whether through God in the Old Testament or by Jesus in the New Testament, we get a glimpse into someone’s desperation…desperation that comes in all different shapes and sizes…a desperation that opens us up to not only show us our desperate need for God…but it also shows us the dramatic power of God.

 

     But nothing happened.  It didn’t rain money down from heaven and the creditors kept on knocking and once again her Hebrew Powerball number was a loser.  And if she went to the casino, she came back empty handed.  But a miracle did occur…a miracle that allows us to open our eyes and go beyond our limited views of how God can work in our lives…it just didn’t happen the way we would expect it.

     First, it was a miracle that required the woman’s full participation.  She couldn’t just sit there and wait for it to happen.  She had to be an active participant.  She had to take an inventory of her home, and all she had was a jar of oil.  And once she found it she had to be an active participant and pour the oil exactly as Elisha told her.

     Second, this was a miracle that required a community of people to actively step up and take part and come to the aid of the woman by opening their hearts and opening their homes to her by allowing her to take as much as she needed. “I don’t need just a few, I need as many as you have, as many as I can carry” she would say, because her faith was being measured by the number of jars she could collect.  Maybe she knew her neighbors and maybe she didn’t, but her faith caused her to act. 

     And her neighbor’s reply would be, “Take as many as you need.”  Each vessel, no matter how big or how small, symbolized not only the widows faith, but it also symbolized the love and the concern of every neighbor, whether she knew them or not, simply because they wanted to do their part to help her.  So not only would she have to take action on her own, but she would also need to rely on the help of her neighbors.

     Finally, I like to think that she wasn’t the only one who received the benefits of this miracle.  I like to think that the miracle brought blessings to her neighbors as well, because in their caring and in their compassion they opened their lives up and gave all that they had to someone in dire need.  In other words, because of her willingness to participate and because the community did so much to support her, a miracle was done not only to her but through her as well.

     She saved her home and she saved her family.  But since our faith is not just about us but about community, I like to think that this miracle was used to bring the woman and her neighbors closer together to form a much stronger community of faith. 

 

     Miracles happen in ways we don’t always expect.  But when we are open to them, when we are willing to actively participate in them, and when we are willing to come together as a community of faith to make them happen, then we can use that miracle to not only change our own lives but we can also use it to change the world around us.

     Back in 1942, Christian author Clarence Jordan and his wife were so troubled over the racism and the moral decay that was taking place in the Deep South that they decided to form a new kind of community…a community called the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farm in Americus, Georgia.  It was a community based on the biblical values of treating all humans with dignity and respect, of choosing love over violence, of living a simply life and being good stewards of the land and all of our natural resources.

     Some twenty one years later, in 1963, Millard and Linda Fuller visited some friends at Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farms during a family vacation.  While there they began a relationship with Clarence Jordan, a relationship that eventually led to the creation of Habitat for Humanity.

     With a desire to help the poor, and believing that what the poor needed was capital rather than charity, Jordan and Fuller and the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) community developed a revolving monetary fund called “Fund for Humanity” that would use monetary donations for purchasing building supplies and building materials to help build simple homes.  Volunteer laborers and the future homeowners, would be used to construct simple, decent housing for families that would eventually own their own home by repaying the “Fund for Humanity” for the cost of the materials used to build their home.  This was done with the idea that the repaid money would be used to buy new materials for additional homes.

     Do miracles still happen?  Sure they do…but you have to open your hearts and your minds and even your eyes to see them.  Not all miracles are big ones.  Some miracles, like pouring oil into a container, and the idea of caring for the needs of others, start off small and seemingly impossible, but like Habitat for Humanity, end up affecting a whole lot of people by building and strengthening a community of faith.

 

     Believing in the impossible makes things possible…that’s what our faith is all about.  If we open ourselves up to the idea of a little bit of oil being inexhaustible, or a little bit bread and fish being multiplied to feed a crowd of thousands, or even a dead person being raised to life, then maybe we can open ourselves up to some other incredible miracles:

     Like showing our compassion by supporting and helping the poorest and the most needy of our neighbors.

     Like believing that peace throughout the world is possible and that working together in cooperation as a community of faith rather than being in competition with each other can be seen as a mutual benefit for all.

     And maybe, in the same way Elisha embraced the widow and Jesus embraced the outcasts, we too can welcome others into our churches and into our lives regardless of what one looks like, believes in or where one comes from…and maybe, just maybe, we can change their lives.

 

     Proclaiming the word of God involves being proactive and it involves being reactive if we are going to give hope in the form of miracles to others.  It’s like James said, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, ‘Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well’ – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing.  What good does that really do?” (James 2:15-16).

     In a world where revenge and retribution is the norm and grace and forgiveness are the exception, maybe the greatest miracle in our lives is the decision we have made to follow Jesus and to follow the examples that he sets for us…and that includes expecting miracles in our daily lives and in our community of faith.

     Once we start believing in miracles, both as individuals and as a faith community, and start opening our hearts to others, there is no telling where those miracles will lead us and whose lives we will be able to change.

    

    

 

    

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

Keep On Pouring

         Keith McFarren

September 15, 2019

2 Kings 4:1-7


 

 

 

 

     One of the worst things that can happen to an individual or to a family is to get so far into debt that it’s almost impossible to get out.  And there are numerous reasons for it.  Maybe it’s because of medical bills, or because of work issues and your weekly bring home paycheck has been cut back substantially.  But then again it could be because you went on a buying spree with a couple of new credit cards or maybe it’s because you just can’t budget your money properly.  You put your “wants” before your “needs” and you over spend from one payday to another trying to “keep up with the Jones’s” down the street or you have to have this or have that to look cool among your peers and you just can’t control your spending. 

     Bad things happen.  Some of us have gotten behind a month or two on this bill or that bill and we’ve experienced the dreaded letter or phone call from a creditor telling us that we’ve missed a couple of monthly payments and they want to know when they are going to get their money.  And there may be some of us who have gotten so far behind that the mortgage company has threatened to foreclose on our home or the bank has threatened to repossess our car.  Any way you look at it, it’s not good to have money problems.

 

     The widow in our scripture this morning is in a whole lot of trouble because she too has money problems.  Her husband had worked with Elisha.  But just because he was a man of God doesn’t really matter because when her husband died, she was left with a financial mess.  She was left with an incredible amount of debt due to money he had borrowed.  We’re not told why he borrowed the money or what it was used for…all we know is that it put her in a financial bind.  And the worst part of it is the creditors want their money. 

     This reminds me of the story about a guy named Jay Black.  Jay Black, of Jay and the Americans, was the leader of a popular singing group back in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  But Jay Black had a problem – he liked to gamble…and he evidently wasn’t very good at it.  I don’t know who he gambled with but whoever it was, they decided they wanted their money and they wanted it now.  With no way to come up with the money, and maybe with his life on the line, depending whom he had been gambling with, he had gotten himself so far in debt that he had to sell the trademark name “Jay and the American’s” (and all the residuals that went with his music) to get enough money to pay off his debts and perhaps keep himself alive. 

     But unlike Jay Black, the woman in our story this morning doesn’t even have the luxury of selling anything because she didn’t have anything to sell.  Instead, because she didn’t have the money to pay off her debts, she faced the possibility of her property being taken and having her two children taken from her and sold into slavery to pay off the debt that her late husband owed.  And according to the Hebrew Law, there was nothing wrong with repossessing property or taking children to be used as slaves to pay off a debt. (Exodus 21:1).

     So put yourself in her shoes for a minute.  She was grieving the loss of her husband; she was saddled with debt that she couldn’t pay, and she was scared to death that she would lose her home and her children to slavery.  It’s no wonder we’re told that she “cried out to Elisha” (v. 1).  If there was ever a person in the Bible who needed a miracle, it was this woman.

 

     Miracle…how would you define a miracle?  My Tyndale Bible Dictionary defines a miracle as “A divine act by which God reveals himself to people…not merely as a ‘wonder’ to inspire awe but as a ‘sign’ to draw people to him” (Walter A. Elwell; Philip W. Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Wheaton, Illinois; Tyndale House Publishers, 2001, 899).

     We find a number of miracles in the Old Testament: there was the great flood, the tower of Babel, the ten plagues, the Exodus, the miracles out in the wilderness and many more.  But never were miracles more prominent then during what is called the prophetic period…during the times of Elijah and Elisha.  It was a time when people were turning to paganism and worshiping of Baal in record numbers.  It was a time when the very existence of the Hebrew religion seemed to be threatened…so extraordinary times called for extraordinary measures.  Thus there are more miracles found during the prophet period, during the  times of Ahab and Jezebel, than any other time in the Old Testament (Ibid, 900). 

     Just in these last few weeks we’ve heard about fire raining down from heaven, ravens bringing food to the prophets along the river, and children being raised from the dead.  Some of these are exciting, hair raising miracles, miracles so unbelievable that they could almost cause us to wonder if what we’ve seen here is really fact or fiction.

 

     But it’s more than just our interpretation or our understanding of these stories.  The deeper question is how these stories might better shape our understanding of God, how they might better shape our understanding of ourselves and how they might better shape our relationship with God today.  How might these stories better help us to experience a miracle from God today?

     If we were to find ourselves in the same predicament as the widow, our only hope might be that it would rain money down from the sky…or maybe all the creditors, for some unknown reason, would find a soft spot in their heart and forgive us of all our debts.  Or maybe, we could get lucky and win the Hebrew Powerball lottery or go to the local casino and hit it big…and take care of all our problems.

     To be desperate means that we have come to the end of ourselves – we have come to the end of our rope.  We’re out of resources and we’re out of places to turn.  Sometimes we respond to our desperation by doing things we never thought we would do…to suck it up, to go that last mile, or maybe even to sacrifice the last bit of energy we have to get whatever it is we need the most.  Sometimes, desperation means running completely out of all that we have and all that we are…it means hitting rock bottom and with nothing left and in total desperation we find ourselves turning to God.

     Take a look at what Jesus did for those who turned to him when there was nowhere else to turn.  He demonstrated the presence and power of God by turning water into wine at a wedding party that was on the verge of being ruined.  He healed all kinds of sick people who, after running out of options, turned to him.  He calmed a killer storm with his words, opened the eyes of the blind, and he even raised the dead when all seemed lost.

     These are all stories about the divine power of God, but they are also stories about human desperation.  Every time we see a miracle performed, whether through God in the Old Testament or by Jesus in the New Testament, we get a glimpse into someone’s desperation…desperation that comes in all different shapes and sizes…a desperation that opens us up to not only show us our desperate need for God…but it also shows us the dramatic power of God.

 

     But nothing happened.  It didn’t rain money down from heaven and the creditors kept on knocking and once again her Hebrew Powerball number was a loser.  And if she went to the casino, she came back empty handed.  But a miracle did occur…a miracle that allows us to open our eyes and go beyond our limited views of how God can work in our lives…it just didn’t happen the way we would expect it.

     First, it was a miracle that required the woman’s full participation.  She couldn’t just sit there and wait for it to happen.  She had to be an active participant.  She had to take an inventory of her home, and all she had was a jar of oil.  And once she found it she had to be an active participant and pour the oil exactly as Elisha told her.

     Second, this was a miracle that required a community of people to actively step up and take part and come to the aid of the woman by opening their hearts and opening their homes to her by allowing her to take as much as she needed. “I don’t need just a few, I need as many as you have, as many as I can carry” she would say, because her faith was being measured by the number of jars she could collect.  Maybe she knew her neighbors and maybe she didn’t, but her faith caused her to act. 

     And her neighbor’s reply would be, “Take as many as you need.”  Each vessel, no matter how big or how small, symbolized not only the widows faith, but it also symbolized the love and the concern of every neighbor, whether she knew them or not, simply because they wanted to do their part to help her.  So not only would she have to take action on her own, but she would also need to rely on the help of her neighbors.

     Finally, I like to think that she wasn’t the only one who received the benefits of this miracle.  I like to think that the miracle brought blessings to her neighbors as well, because in their caring and in their compassion they opened their lives up and gave all that they had to someone in dire need.  In other words, because of her willingness to participate and because the community did so much to support her, a miracle was done not only to her but through her as well.

     She saved her home and she saved her family.  But since our faith is not just about us but about community, I like to think that this miracle was used to bring the woman and her neighbors closer together to form a much stronger community of faith. 

 

     Miracles happen in ways we don’t always expect.  But when we are open to them, when we are willing to actively participate in them, and when we are willing to come together as a community of faith to make them happen, then we can use that miracle to not only change our own lives but we can also use it to change the world around us.

     Back in 1942, Christian author Clarence Jordan and his wife were so troubled over the racism and the moral decay that was taking place in the Deep South that they decided to form a new kind of community…a community called the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farm in Americus, Georgia.  It was a community based on the biblical values of treating all humans with dignity and respect, of choosing love over violence, of living a simply life and being good stewards of the land and all of our natural resources.

     Some twenty one years later, in 1963, Millard and Linda Fuller visited some friends at Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farms during a family vacation.  While there they began a relationship with Clarence Jordan, a relationship that eventually led to the creation of Habitat for Humanity.

     With a desire to help the poor, and believing that what the poor needed was capital rather than charity, Jordan and Fuller and the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) community developed a revolving monetary fund called “Fund for Humanity” that would use monetary donations for purchasing building supplies and building materials to help build simple homes.  Volunteer laborers and the future homeowners, would be used to construct simple, decent housing for families that would eventually own their own home by repaying the “Fund for Humanity” for the cost of the materials used to build their home.  This was done with the idea that the repaid money would be used to buy new materials for additional homes.

     Do miracles still happen?  Sure they do…but you have to open your hearts and your minds and even your eyes to see them.  Not all miracles are big ones.  Some miracles, like pouring oil into a container, and the idea of caring for the needs of others, start off small and seemingly impossible, but like Habitat for Humanity, end up affecting a whole lot of people by building and strengthening a community of faith.

 

     Believing in the impossible makes things possible…that’s what our faith is all about.  If we open ourselves up to the idea of a little bit of oil being inexhaustible, or a little bit bread and fish being multiplied to feed a crowd of thousands, or even a dead person being raised to life, then maybe we can open ourselves up to some other incredible miracles:

     Like showing our compassion by supporting and helping the poorest and the most needy of our neighbors.

     Like believing that peace throughout the world is possible and that working together in cooperation as a community of faith rather than being in competition with each other can be seen as a mutual benefit for all.

     And maybe, in the same way Elisha embraced the widow and Jesus embraced the outcasts, we too can welcome others into our churches and into our lives regardless of what one looks like, believes in or where one comes from…and maybe, just maybe, we can change their lives.

 

     Proclaiming the word of God involves being proactive and it involves being reactive if we are going to give hope in the form of miracles to others.  It’s like James said, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, ‘Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well’ – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing.  What good does that really do?” (James 2:15-16).

     In a world where revenge and retribution is the norm and grace and forgiveness are the exception, maybe the greatest miracle in our lives is the decision we have made to follow Jesus and to follow the examples that he sets for us…and that includes expecting miracles in our daily lives and in our community of faith.

     Once we start believing in miracles, both as individuals and as a faith community, and start opening our hearts to others, there is no telling where those miracles will lead us and whose lives we will be able to change.

    

    

 

    

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep On Pouring

         Keith McFarren

September 15, 2019

2 Kings 4:1-7


 

 

 

 

     One of the worst things that can happen to an individual or to a family is to get so far into debt that it’s almost impossible to get out.  And there are numerous reasons for it.  Maybe it’s because of medical bills, or because of work issues and your weekly bring home paycheck has been cut back substantially.  But then again it could be because you went on a buying spree with a couple of new credit cards or maybe it’s because you just can’t budget your money properly.  You put your “wants” before your “needs” and you over spend from one payday to another trying to “keep up with the Jones’s” down the street or you have to have this or have that to look cool among your peers and you just can’t control your spending. 

     Bad things happen.  Some of us have gotten behind a month or two on this bill or that bill and we’ve experienced the dreaded letter or phone call from a creditor telling us that we’ve missed a couple of monthly payments and they want to know when they are going to get their money.  And there may be some of us who have gotten so far behind that the mortgage company has threatened to foreclose on our home or the bank has threatened to repossess our car.  Any way you look at it, it’s not good to have money problems.

 

     The widow in our scripture this morning is in a whole lot of trouble because she too has money problems.  Her husband had worked with Elisha.  But just because he was a man of God doesn’t really matter because when her husband died, she was left with a financial mess.  She was left with an incredible amount of debt due to money he had borrowed.  We’re not told why he borrowed the money or what it was used for…all we know is that it put her in a financial bind.  And the worst part of it is the creditors want their money. 

     This reminds me of the story about a guy named Jay Black.  Jay Black, of Jay and the Americans, was the leader of a popular singing group back in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  But Jay Black had a problem – he liked to gamble…and he evidently wasn’t very good at it.  I don’t know who he gambled with but whoever it was, they decided they wanted their money and they wanted it now.  With no way to come up with the money, and maybe with his life on the line, depending whom he had been gambling with, he had gotten himself so far in debt that he had to sell the trademark name “Jay and the American’s” (and all the residuals that went with his music) to get enough money to pay off his debts and perhaps keep himself alive. 

     But unlike Jay Black, the woman in our story this morning doesn’t even have the luxury of selling anything because she didn’t have anything to sell.  Instead, because she didn’t have the money to pay off her debts, she faced the possibility of her property being taken and having her two children taken from her and sold into slavery to pay off the debt that her late husband owed.  And according to the Hebrew Law, there was nothing wrong with repossessing property or taking children to be used as slaves to pay off a debt. (Exodus 21:1).

     So put yourself in her shoes for a minute.  She was grieving the loss of her husband; she was saddled with debt that she couldn’t pay, and she was scared to death that she would lose her home and her children to slavery.  It’s no wonder we’re told that she “cried out to Elisha” (v. 1).  If there was ever a person in the Bible who needed a miracle, it was this woman.

 

     Miracle…how would you define a miracle?  My Tyndale Bible Dictionary defines a miracle as “A divine act by which God reveals himself to people…not merely as a ‘wonder’ to inspire awe but as a ‘sign’ to draw people to him” (Walter A. Elwell; Philip W. Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Wheaton, Illinois; Tyndale House Publishers, 2001, 899).

     We find a number of miracles in the Old Testament: there was the great flood, the tower of Babel, the ten plagues, the Exodus, the miracles out in the wilderness and many more.  But never were miracles more prominent then during what is called the prophetic period…during the times of Elijah and Elisha.  It was a time when people were turning to paganism and worshiping of Baal in record numbers.  It was a time when the very existence of the Hebrew religion seemed to be threatened…so extraordinary times called for extraordinary measures.  Thus there are more miracles found during the prophet period, during the  times of Ahab and Jezebel, than any other time in the Old Testament (Ibid, 900). 

     Just in these last few weeks we’ve heard about fire raining down from heaven, ravens bringing food to the prophets along the river, and children being raised from the dead.  Some of these are exciting, hair raising miracles, miracles so unbelievable that they could almost cause us to wonder if what we’ve seen here is really fact or fiction.

 

     But it’s more than just our interpretation or our understanding of these stories.  The deeper question is how these stories might better shape our understanding of God, how they might better shape our understanding of ourselves and how they might better shape our relationship with God today.  How might these stories better help us to experience a miracle from God today?

     If we were to find ourselves in the same predicament as the widow, our only hope might be that it would rain money down from the sky…or maybe all the creditors, for some unknown reason, would find a soft spot in their heart and forgive us of all our debts.  Or maybe, we could get lucky and win the Hebrew Powerball lottery or go to the local casino and hit it big…and take care of all our problems.

     To be desperate means that we have come to the end of ourselves – we have come to the end of our rope.  We’re out of resources and we’re out of places to turn.  Sometimes we respond to our desperation by doing things we never thought we would do…to suck it up, to go that last mile, or maybe even to sacrifice the last bit of energy we have to get whatever it is we need the most.  Sometimes, desperation means running completely out of all that we have and all that we are…it means hitting rock bottom and with nothing left and in total desperation we find ourselves turning to God.

     Take a look at what Jesus did for those who turned to him when there was nowhere else to turn.  He demonstrated the presence and power of God by turning water into wine at a wedding party that was on the verge of being ruined.  He healed all kinds of sick people who, after running out of options, turned to him.  He calmed a killer storm with his words, opened the eyes of the blind, and he even raised the dead when all seemed lost.

     These are all stories about the divine power of God, but they are also stories about human desperation.  Every time we see a miracle performed, whether through God in the Old Testament or by Jesus in the New Testament, we get a glimpse into someone’s desperation…desperation that comes in all different shapes and sizes…a desperation that opens us up to not only show us our desperate need for God…but it also shows us the dramatic power of God.

 

     But nothing happened.  It didn’t rain money down from heaven and the creditors kept on knocking and once again her Hebrew Powerball number was a loser.  And if she went to the casino, she came back empty handed.  But a miracle did occur…a miracle that allows us to open our eyes and go beyond our limited views of how God can work in our lives…it just didn’t happen the way we would expect it.

     First, it was a miracle that required the woman’s full participation.  She couldn’t just sit there and wait for it to happen.  She had to be an active participant.  She had to take an inventory of her home, and all she had was a jar of oil.  And once she found it she had to be an active participant and pour the oil exactly as Elisha told her.

     Second, this was a miracle that required a community of people to actively step up and take part and come to the aid of the woman by opening their hearts and opening their homes to her by allowing her to take as much as she needed. “I don’t need just a few, I need as many as you have, as many as I can carry” she would say, because her faith was being measured by the number of jars she could collect.  Maybe she knew her neighbors and maybe she didn’t, but her faith caused her to act. 

     And her neighbor’s reply would be, “Take as many as you need.”  Each vessel, no matter how big or how small, symbolized not only the widows faith, but it also symbolized the love and the concern of every neighbor, whether she knew them or not, simply because they wanted to do their part to help her.  So not only would she have to take action on her own, but she would also need to rely on the help of her neighbors.

     Finally, I like to think that she wasn’t the only one who received the benefits of this miracle.  I like to think that the miracle brought blessings to her neighbors as well, because in their caring and in their compassion they opened their lives up and gave all that they had to someone in dire need.  In other words, because of her willingness to participate and because the community did so much to support her, a miracle was done not only to her but through her as well.

     She saved her home and she saved her family.  But since our faith is not just about us but about community, I like to think that this miracle was used to bring the woman and her neighbors closer together to form a much stronger community of faith. 

 

     Miracles happen in ways we don’t always expect.  But when we are open to them, when we are willing to actively participate in them, and when we are willing to come together as a community of faith to make them happen, then we can use that miracle to not only change our own lives but we can also use it to change the world around us.

     Back in 1942, Christian author Clarence Jordan and his wife were so troubled over the racism and the moral decay that was taking place in the Deep South that they decided to form a new kind of community…a community called the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farm in Americus, Georgia.  It was a community based on the biblical values of treating all humans with dignity and respect, of choosing love over violence, of living a simply life and being good stewards of the land and all of our natural resources.

     Some twenty one years later, in 1963, Millard and Linda Fuller visited some friends at Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farms during a family vacation.  While there they began a relationship with Clarence Jordan, a relationship that eventually led to the creation of Habitat for Humanity.

     With a desire to help the poor, and believing that what the poor needed was capital rather than charity, Jordan and Fuller and the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) community developed a revolving monetary fund called “Fund for Humanity” that would use monetary donations for purchasing building supplies and building materials to help build simple homes.  Volunteer laborers and the future homeowners, would be used to construct simple, decent housing for families that would eventually own their own home by repaying the “Fund for Humanity” for the cost of the materials used to build their home.  This was done with the idea that the repaid money would be used to buy new materials for additional homes.

     Do miracles still happen?  Sure they do…but you have to open your hearts and your minds and even your eyes to see them.  Not all miracles are big ones.  Some miracles, like pouring oil into a container, and the idea of caring for the needs of others, start off small and seemingly impossible, but like Habitat for Humanity, end up affecting a whole lot of people by building and strengthening a community of faith.

 

     Believing in the impossible makes things possible…that’s what our faith is all about.  If we open ourselves up to the idea of a little bit of oil being inexhaustible, or a little bit bread and fish being multiplied to feed a crowd of thousands, or even a dead person being raised to life, then maybe we can open ourselves up to some other incredible miracles:

     Like showing our compassion by supporting and helping the poorest and the most needy of our neighbors.

     Like believing that peace throughout the world is possible and that working together in cooperation as a community of faith rather than being in competition with each other can be seen as a mutual benefit for all.

     And maybe, in the same way Elisha embraced the widow and Jesus embraced the outcasts, we too can welcome others into our churches and into our lives regardless of what one looks like, believes in or where one comes from…and maybe, just maybe, we can change their lives.

 

     Proclaiming the word of God involves being proactive and it involves being reactive if we are going to give hope in the form of miracles to others.  It’s like James said, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, ‘Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well’ – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing.  What good does that really do?” (James 2:15-16).

     In a world where revenge and retribution is the norm and grace and forgiveness are the exception, maybe the greatest miracle in our lives is the decision we have made to follow Jesus and to follow the examples that he sets for us…and that includes expecting miracles in our daily lives and in our community of faith.

     Once we start believing in miracles, both as individuals and as a faith community, and start opening our hearts to others, there is no telling where those miracles will lead us and whose lives we will be able to change.

    

    

 

    

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

Keep On Pouring

         Keith McFarren

September 15, 2019

2 Kings 4:1-7


 

 

 

 

     One of the worst things that can happen to an individual or to a family is to get so far into debt that it’s almost impossible to get out.  And there are numerous reasons for it.  Maybe it’s because of medical bills, or because of work issues and your weekly bring home paycheck has been cut back substantially.  But then again it could be because you went on a buying spree with a couple of new credit cards or maybe it’s because you just can’t budget your money properly.  You put your “wants” before your “needs” and you over spend from one payday to another trying to “keep up with the Jones’s” down the street or you have to have this or have that to look cool among your peers and you just can’t control your spending. 

     Bad things happen.  Some of us have gotten behind a month or two on this bill or that bill and we’ve experienced the dreaded letter or phone call from a creditor telling us that we’ve missed a couple of monthly payments and they want to know when they are going to get their money.  And there may be some of us who have gotten so far behind that the mortgage company has threatened to foreclose on our home or the bank has threatened to repossess our car.  Any way you look at it, it’s not good to have money problems.

 

     The widow in our scripture this morning is in a whole lot of trouble because she too has money problems.  Her husband had worked with Elisha.  But just because he was a man of God doesn’t really matter because when her husband died, she was left with a financial mess.  She was left with an incredible amount of debt due to money he had borrowed.  We’re not told why he borrowed the money or what it was used for…all we know is that it put her in a financial bind.  And the worst part of it is the creditors want their money. 

     This reminds me of the story about a guy named Jay Black.  Jay Black, of Jay and the Americans, was the leader of a popular singing group back in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  But Jay Black had a problem – he liked to gamble…and he evidently wasn’t very good at it.  I don’t know who he gambled with but whoever it was, they decided they wanted their money and they wanted it now.  With no way to come up with the money, and maybe with his life on the line, depending whom he had been gambling with, he had gotten himself so far in debt that he had to sell the trademark name “Jay and the American’s” (and all the residuals that went with his music) to get enough money to pay off his debts and perhaps keep himself alive. 

     But unlike Jay Black, the woman in our story this morning doesn’t even have the luxury of selling anything because she didn’t have anything to sell.  Instead, because she didn’t have the money to pay off her debts, she faced the possibility of her property being taken and having her two children taken from her and sold into slavery to pay off the debt that her late husband owed.  And according to the Hebrew Law, there was nothing wrong with repossessing property or taking children to be used as slaves to pay off a debt. (Exodus 21:1).

     So put yourself in her shoes for a minute.  She was grieving the loss of her husband; she was saddled with debt that she couldn’t pay, and she was scared to death that she would lose her home and her children to slavery.  It’s no wonder we’re told that she “cried out to Elisha” (v. 1).  If there was ever a person in the Bible who needed a miracle, it was this woman.

 

     Miracle…how would you define a miracle?  My Tyndale Bible Dictionary defines a miracle as “A divine act by which God reveals himself to people…not merely as a ‘wonder’ to inspire awe but as a ‘sign’ to draw people to him” (Walter A. Elwell; Philip W. Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Wheaton, Illinois; Tyndale House Publishers, 2001, 899).

     We find a number of miracles in the Old Testament: there was the great flood, the tower of Babel, the ten plagues, the Exodus, the miracles out in the wilderness and many more.  But never were miracles more prominent then during what is called the prophetic period…during the times of Elijah and Elisha.  It was a time when people were turning to paganism and worshiping of Baal in record numbers.  It was a time when the very existence of the Hebrew religion seemed to be threatened…so extraordinary times called for extraordinary measures.  Thus there are more miracles found during the prophet period, during the  times of Ahab and Jezebel, than any other time in the Old Testament (Ibid, 900). 

     Just in these last few weeks we’ve heard about fire raining down from heaven, ravens bringing food to the prophets along the river, and children being raised from the dead.  Some of these are exciting, hair raising miracles, miracles so unbelievable that they could almost cause us to wonder if what we’ve seen here is really fact or fiction.

 

     But it’s more than just our interpretation or our understanding of these stories.  The deeper question is how these stories might better shape our understanding of God, how they might better shape our understanding of ourselves and how they might better shape our relationship with God today.  How might these stories better help us to experience a miracle from God today?

     If we were to find ourselves in the same predicament as the widow, our only hope might be that it would rain money down from the sky…or maybe all the creditors, for some unknown reason, would find a soft spot in their heart and forgive us of all our debts.  Or maybe, we could get lucky and win the Hebrew Powerball lottery or go to the local casino and hit it big…and take care of all our problems.

     To be desperate means that we have come to the end of ourselves – we have come to the end of our rope.  We’re out of resources and we’re out of places to turn.  Sometimes we respond to our desperation by doing things we never thought we would do…to suck it up, to go that last mile, or maybe even to sacrifice the last bit of energy we have to get whatever it is we need the most.  Sometimes, desperation means running completely out of all that we have and all that we are…it means hitting rock bottom and with nothing left and in total desperation we find ourselves turning to God.

     Take a look at what Jesus did for those who turned to him when there was nowhere else to turn.  He demonstrated the presence and power of God by turning water into wine at a wedding party that was on the verge of being ruined.  He healed all kinds of sick people who, after running out of options, turned to him.  He calmed a killer storm with his words, opened the eyes of the blind, and he even raised the dead when all seemed lost.

     These are all stories about the divine power of God, but they are also stories about human desperation.  Every time we see a miracle performed, whether through God in the Old Testament or by Jesus in the New Testament, we get a glimpse into someone’s desperation…desperation that comes in all different shapes and sizes…a desperation that opens us up to not only show us our desperate need for God…but it also shows us the dramatic power of God.

 

     But nothing happened.  It didn’t rain money down from heaven and the creditors kept on knocking and once again her Hebrew Powerball number was a loser.  And if she went to the casino, she came back empty handed.  But a miracle did occur…a miracle that allows us to open our eyes and go beyond our limited views of how God can work in our lives…it just didn’t happen the way we would expect it.

     First, it was a miracle that required the woman’s full participation.  She couldn’t just sit there and wait for it to happen.  She had to be an active participant.  She had to take an inventory of her home, and all she had was a jar of oil.  And once she found it she had to be an active participant and pour the oil exactly as Elisha told her.

     Second, this was a miracle that required a community of people to actively step up and take part and come to the aid of the woman by opening their hearts and opening their homes to her by allowing her to take as much as she needed. “I don’t need just a few, I need as many as you have, as many as I can carry” she would say, because her faith was being measured by the number of jars she could collect.  Maybe she knew her neighbors and maybe she didn’t, but her faith caused her to act. 

     And her neighbor’s reply would be, “Take as many as you need.”  Each vessel, no matter how big or how small, symbolized not only the widows faith, but it also symbolized the love and the concern of every neighbor, whether she knew them or not, simply because they wanted to do their part to help her.  So not only would she have to take action on her own, but she would also need to rely on the help of her neighbors.

     Finally, I like to think that she wasn’t the only one who received the benefits of this miracle.  I like to think that the miracle brought blessings to her neighbors as well, because in their caring and in their compassion they opened their lives up and gave all that they had to someone in dire need.  In other words, because of her willingness to participate and because the community did so much to support her, a miracle was done not only to her but through her as well.

     She saved her home and she saved her family.  But since our faith is not just about us but about community, I like to think that this miracle was used to bring the woman and her neighbors closer together to form a much stronger community of faith. 

 

     Miracles happen in ways we don’t always expect.  But when we are open to them, when we are willing to actively participate in them, and when we are willing to come together as a community of faith to make them happen, then we can use that miracle to not only change our own lives but we can also use it to change the world around us.

     Back in 1942, Christian author Clarence Jordan and his wife were so troubled over the racism and the moral decay that was taking place in the Deep South that they decided to form a new kind of community…a community called the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farm in Americus, Georgia.  It was a community based on the biblical values of treating all humans with dignity and respect, of choosing love over violence, of living a simply life and being good stewards of the land and all of our natural resources.

     Some twenty one years later, in 1963, Millard and Linda Fuller visited some friends at Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farms during a family vacation.  While there they began a relationship with Clarence Jordan, a relationship that eventually led to the creation of Habitat for Humanity.

     With a desire to help the poor, and believing that what the poor needed was capital rather than charity, Jordan and Fuller and the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) community developed a revolving monetary fund called “Fund for Humanity” that would use monetary donations for purchasing building supplies and building materials to help build simple homes.  Volunteer laborers and the future homeowners, would be used to construct simple, decent housing for families that would eventually own their own home by repaying the “Fund for Humanity” for the cost of the materials used to build their home.  This was done with the idea that the repaid money would be used to buy new materials for additional homes.

     Do miracles still happen?  Sure they do…but you have to open your hearts and your minds and even your eyes to see them.  Not all miracles are big ones.  Some miracles, like pouring oil into a container, and the idea of caring for the needs of others, start off small and seemingly impossible, but like Habitat for Humanity, end up affecting a whole lot of people by building and strengthening a community of faith.

 

     Believing in the impossible makes things possible…that’s what our faith is all about.  If we open ourselves up to the idea of a little bit of oil being inexhaustible, or a little bit bread and fish being multiplied to feed a crowd of thousands, or even a dead person being raised to life, then maybe we can open ourselves up to some other incredible miracles:

     Like showing our compassion by supporting and helping the poorest and the most needy of our neighbors.

     Like believing that peace throughout the world is possible and that working together in cooperation as a community of faith rather than being in competition with each other can be seen as a mutual benefit for all.

     And maybe, in the same way Elisha embraced the widow and Jesus embraced the outcasts, we too can welcome others into our churches and into our lives regardless of what one looks like, believes in or where one comes from…and maybe, just maybe, we can change their lives.

 

     Proclaiming the word of God involves being proactive and it involves being reactive if we are going to give hope in the form of miracles to others.  It’s like James said, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, ‘Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well’ – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing.  What good does that really do?” (James 2:15-16).

     In a world where revenge and retribution is the norm and grace and forgiveness are the exception, maybe the greatest miracle in our lives is the decision we have made to follow Jesus and to follow the examples that he sets for us…and that includes expecting miracles in our daily lives and in our community of faith.

     Once we start believing in miracles, both as individuals and as a faith community, and start opening our hearts to others, there is no telling where those miracles will lead us and whose lives we will be able to change.

    

    

 

    

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

Keep On Pouring

         Keith McFarren

September 15, 2019

2 Kings 4:1-7


 

 

 

 

     One of the worst things that can happen to an individual or to a family is to get so far into debt that it’s almost impossible to get out.  And there are numerous reasons for it.  Maybe it’s because of medical bills, or because of work issues and your weekly bring home paycheck has been cut back substantially.  But then again it could be because you went on a buying spree with a couple of new credit cards or maybe it’s because you just can’t budget your money properly.  You put your “wants” before your “needs” and you over spend from one payday to another trying to “keep up with the Jones’s” down the street or you have to have this or have that to look cool among your peers and you just can’t control your spending. 

     Bad things happen.  Some of us have gotten behind a month or two on this bill or that bill and we’ve experienced the dreaded letter or phone call from a creditor telling us that we’ve missed a couple of monthly payments and they want to know when they are going to get their money.  And there may be some of us who have gotten so far behind that the mortgage company has threatened to foreclose on our home or the bank has threatened to repossess our car.  Any way you look at it, it’s not good to have money problems.

 

     The widow in our scripture this morning is in a whole lot of trouble because she too has money problems.  Her husband had worked with Elisha.  But just because he was a man of God doesn’t really matter because when her husband died, she was left with a financial mess.  She was left with an incredible amount of debt due to money he had borrowed.  We’re not told why he borrowed the money or what it was used for…all we know is that it put her in a financial bind.  And the worst part of it is the creditors want their money. 

     This reminds me of the story about a guy named Jay Black.  Jay Black, of Jay and the Americans, was the leader of a popular singing group back in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  But Jay Black had a problem – he liked to gamble…and he evidently wasn’t very good at it.  I don’t know who he gambled with but whoever it was, they decided they wanted their money and they wanted it now.  With no way to come up with the money, and maybe with his life on the line, depending whom he had been gambling with, he had gotten himself so far in debt that he had to sell the trademark name “Jay and the American’s” (and all the residuals that went with his music) to get enough money to pay off his debts and perhaps keep himself alive. 

     But unlike Jay Black, the woman in our story this morning doesn’t even have the luxury of selling anything because she didn’t have anything to sell.  Instead, because she didn’t have the money to pay off her debts, she faced the possibility of her property being taken and having her two children taken from her and sold into slavery to pay off the debt that her late husband owed.  And according to the Hebrew Law, there was nothing wrong with repossessing property or taking children to be used as slaves to pay off a debt. (Exodus 21:1).

     So put yourself in her shoes for a minute.  She was grieving the loss of her husband; she was saddled with debt that she couldn’t pay, and she was scared to death that she would lose her home and her children to slavery.  It’s no wonder we’re told that she “cried out to Elisha” (v. 1).  If there was ever a person in the Bible who needed a miracle, it was this woman.

 

     Miracle…how would you define a miracle?  My Tyndale Bible Dictionary defines a miracle as “A divine act by which God reveals himself to people…not merely as a ‘wonder’ to inspire awe but as a ‘sign’ to draw people to him” (Walter A. Elwell; Philip W. Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Wheaton, Illinois; Tyndale House Publishers, 2001, 899).

     We find a number of miracles in the Old Testament: there was the great flood, the tower of Babel, the ten plagues, the Exodus, the miracles out in the wilderness and many more.  But never were miracles more prominent then during what is called the prophetic period…during the times of Elijah and Elisha.  It was a time when people were turning to paganism and worshiping of Baal in record numbers.  It was a time when the very existence of the Hebrew religion seemed to be threatened…so extraordinary times called for extraordinary measures.  Thus there are more miracles found during the prophet period, during the  times of Ahab and Jezebel, than any other time in the Old Testament (Ibid, 900). 

     Just in these last few weeks we’ve heard about fire raining down from heaven, ravens bringing food to the prophets along the river, and children being raised from the dead.  Some of these are exciting, hair raising miracles, miracles so unbelievable that they could almost cause us to wonder if what we’ve seen here is really fact or fiction.

 

     But it’s more than just our interpretation or our understanding of these stories.  The deeper question is how these stories might better shape our understanding of God, how they might better shape our understanding of ourselves and how they might better shape our relationship with God today.  How might these stories better help us to experience a miracle from God today?

     If we were to find ourselves in the same predicament as the widow, our only hope might be that it would rain money down from the sky…or maybe all the creditors, for some unknown reason, would find a soft spot in their heart and forgive us of all our debts.  Or maybe, we could get lucky and win the Hebrew Powerball lottery or go to the local casino and hit it big…and take care of all our problems.

     To be desperate means that we have come to the end of ourselves – we have come to the end of our rope.  We’re out of resources and we’re out of places to turn.  Sometimes we respond to our desperation by doing things we never thought we would do…to suck it up, to go that last mile, or maybe even to sacrifice the last bit of energy we have to get whatever it is we need the most.  Sometimes, desperation means running completely out of all that we have and all that we are…it means hitting rock bottom and with nothing left and in total desperation we find ourselves turning to God.

     Take a look at what Jesus did for those who turned to him when there was nowhere else to turn.  He demonstrated the presence and power of God by turning water into wine at a wedding party that was on the verge of being ruined.  He healed all kinds of sick people who, after running out of options, turned to him.  He calmed a killer storm with his words, opened the eyes of the blind, and he even raised the dead when all seemed lost.

     These are all stories about the divine power of God, but they are also stories about human desperation.  Every time we see a miracle performed, whether through God in the Old Testament or by Jesus in the New Testament, we get a glimpse into someone’s desperation…desperation that comes in all different shapes and sizes…a desperation that opens us up to not only show us our desperate need for God…but it also shows us the dramatic power of God.

 

     But nothing happened.  It didn’t rain money down from heaven and the creditors kept on knocking and once again her Hebrew Powerball number was a loser.  And if she went to the casino, she came back empty handed.  But a miracle did occur…a miracle that allows us to open our eyes and go beyond our limited views of how God can work in our lives…it just didn’t happen the way we would expect it.

     First, it was a miracle that required the woman’s full participation.  She couldn’t just sit there and wait for it to happen.  She had to be an active participant.  She had to take an inventory of her home, and all she had was a jar of oil.  And once she found it she had to be an active participant and pour the oil exactly as Elisha told her.

     Second, this was a miracle that required a community of people to actively step up and take part and come to the aid of the woman by opening their hearts and opening their homes to her by allowing her to take as much as she needed. “I don’t need just a few, I need as many as you have, as many as I can carry” she would say, because her faith was being measured by the number of jars she could collect.  Maybe she knew her neighbors and maybe she didn’t, but her faith caused her to act. 

     And her neighbor’s reply would be, “Take as many as you need.”  Each vessel, no matter how big or how small, symbolized not only the widows faith, but it also symbolized the love and the concern of every neighbor, whether she knew them or not, simply because they wanted to do their part to help her.  So not only would she have to take action on her own, but she would also need to rely on the help of her neighbors.

     Finally, I like to think that she wasn’t the only one who received the benefits of this miracle.  I like to think that the miracle brought blessings to her neighbors as well, because in their caring and in their compassion they opened their lives up and gave all that they had to someone in dire need.  In other words, because of her willingness to participate and because the community did so much to support her, a miracle was done not only to her but through her as well.

     She saved her home and she saved her family.  But since our faith is not just about us but about community, I like to think that this miracle was used to bring the woman and her neighbors closer together to form a much stronger community of faith. 

 

     Miracles happen in ways we don’t always expect.  But when we are open to them, when we are willing to actively participate in them, and when we are willing to come together as a community of faith to make them happen, then we can use that miracle to not only change our own lives but we can also use it to change the world around us.

     Back in 1942, Christian author Clarence Jordan and his wife were so troubled over the racism and the moral decay that was taking place in the Deep South that they decided to form a new kind of community…a community called the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farm in Americus, Georgia.  It was a community based on the biblical values of treating all humans with dignity and respect, of choosing love over violence, of living a simply life and being good stewards of the land and all of our natural resources.

     Some twenty one years later, in 1963, Millard and Linda Fuller visited some friends at Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farms during a family vacation.  While there they began a relationship with Clarence Jordan, a relationship that eventually led to the creation of Habitat for Humanity.

     With a desire to help the poor, and believing that what the poor needed was capital rather than charity, Jordan and Fuller and the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) community developed a revolving monetary fund called “Fund for Humanity” that would use monetary donations for purchasing building supplies and building materials to help build simple homes.  Volunteer laborers and the future homeowners, would be used to construct simple, decent housing for families that would eventually own their own home by repaying the “Fund for Humanity” for the cost of the materials used to build their home.  This was done with the idea that the repaid money would be used to buy new materials for additional homes.

     Do miracles still happen?  Sure they do…but you have to open your hearts and your minds and even your eyes to see them.  Not all miracles are big ones.  Some miracles, like pouring oil into a container, and the idea of caring for the needs of others, start off small and seemingly impossible, but like Habitat for Humanity, end up affecting a whole lot of people by building and strengthening a community of faith.

 

     Believing in the impossible makes things possible…that’s what our faith is all about.  If we open ourselves up to the idea of a little bit of oil being inexhaustible, or a little bit bread and fish being multiplied to feed a crowd of thousands, or even a dead person being raised to life, then maybe we can open ourselves up to some other incredible miracles:

     Like showing our compassion by supporting and helping the poorest and the most needy of our neighbors.

     Like believing that peace throughout the world is possible and that working together in cooperation as a community of faith rather than being in competition with each other can be seen as a mutual benefit for all.

     And maybe, in the same way Elisha embraced the widow and Jesus embraced the outcasts, we too can welcome others into our churches and into our lives regardless of what one looks like, believes in or where one comes from…and maybe, just maybe, we can change their lives.

 

     Proclaiming the word of God involves being proactive and it involves being reactive if we are going to give hope in the form of miracles to others.  It’s like James said, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, ‘Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well’ – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing.  What good does that really do?” (James 2:15-16).

     In a world where revenge and retribution is the norm and grace and forgiveness are the exception, maybe the greatest miracle in our lives is the decision we have made to follow Jesus and to follow the examples that he sets for us…and that includes expecting miracles in our daily lives and in our community of faith.

     Once we start believing in miracles, both as individuals and as a faith community, and start opening our hearts to others, there is no telling where those miracles will lead us and whose lives we will be able to change.

    

    

 

    

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

Keep On Pouring

         Keith McFarren

September 15, 2019

2 Kings 4:1-7


 

 

 

 

     One of the worst things that can happen to an individual or to a family is to get so far into debt that it’s almost impossible to get out.  And there are numerous reasons for it.  Maybe it’s because of medical bills, or because of work issues and your weekly bring home paycheck has been cut back substantially.  But then again it could be because you went on a buying spree with a couple of new credit cards or maybe it’s because you just can’t budget your money properly.  You put your “wants” before your “needs” and you over spend from one payday to another trying to “keep up with the Jones’s” down the street or you have to have this or have that to look cool among your peers and you just can’t control your spending. 

     Bad things happen.  Some of us have gotten behind a month or two on this bill or that bill and we’ve experienced the dreaded letter or phone call from a creditor telling us that we’ve missed a couple of monthly payments and they want to know when they are going to get their money.  And there may be some of us who have gotten so far behind that the mortgage company has threatened to foreclose on our home or the bank has threatened to repossess our car.  Any way you look at it, it’s not good to have money problems.

 

     The widow in our scripture this morning is in a whole lot of trouble because she too has money problems.  Her husband had worked with Elisha.  But just because he was a man of God doesn’t really matter because when her husband died, she was left with a financial mess.  She was left with an incredible amount of debt due to money he had borrowed.  We’re not told why he borrowed the money or what it was used for…all we know is that it put her in a financial bind.  And the worst part of it is the creditors want their money. 

     This reminds me of the story about a guy named Jay Black.  Jay Black, of Jay and the Americans, was the leader of a popular singing group back in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  But Jay Black had a problem – he liked to gamble…and he evidently wasn’t very good at it.  I don’t know who he gambled with but whoever it was, they decided they wanted their money and they wanted it now.  With no way to come up with the money, and maybe with his life on the line, depending whom he had been gambling with, he had gotten himself so far in debt that he had to sell the trademark name “Jay and the American’s” (and all the residuals that went with his music) to get enough money to pay off his debts and perhaps keep himself alive. 

     But unlike Jay Black, the woman in our story this morning doesn’t even have the luxury of selling anything because she didn’t have anything to sell.  Instead, because she didn’t have the money to pay off her debts, she faced the possibility of her property being taken and having her two children taken from her and sold into slavery to pay off the debt that her late husband owed.  And according to the Hebrew Law, there was nothing wrong with repossessing property or taking children to be used as slaves to pay off a debt. (Exodus 21:1).

     So put yourself in her shoes for a minute.  She was grieving the loss of her husband; she was saddled with debt that she couldn’t pay, and she was scared to death that she would lose her home and her children to slavery.  It’s no wonder we’re told that she “cried out to Elisha” (v. 1).  If there was ever a person in the Bible who needed a miracle, it was this woman.

 

     Miracle…how would you define a miracle?  My Tyndale Bible Dictionary defines a miracle as “A divine act by which God reveals himself to people…not merely as a ‘wonder’ to inspire awe but as a ‘sign’ to draw people to him” (Walter A. Elwell; Philip W. Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Wheaton, Illinois; Tyndale House Publishers, 2001, 899).

     We find a number of miracles in the Old Testament: there was the great flood, the tower of Babel, the ten plagues, the Exodus, the miracles out in the wilderness and many more.  But never were miracles more prominent then during what is called the prophetic period…during the times of Elijah and Elisha.  It was a time when people were turning to paganism and worshiping of Baal in record numbers.  It was a time when the very existence of the Hebrew religion seemed to be threatened…so extraordinary times called for extraordinary measures.  Thus there are more miracles found during the prophet period, during the  times of Ahab and Jezebel, than any other time in the Old Testament (Ibid, 900). 

     Just in these last few weeks we’ve heard about fire raining down from heaven, ravens bringing food to the prophets along the river, and children being raised from the dead.  Some of these are exciting, hair raising miracles, miracles so unbelievable that they could almost cause us to wonder if what we’ve seen here is really fact or fiction.

 

     But it’s more than just our interpretation or our understanding of these stories.  The deeper question is how these stories might better shape our understanding of God, how they might better shape our understanding of ourselves and how they might better shape our relationship with God today.  How might these stories better help us to experience a miracle from God today?

     If we were to find ourselves in the same predicament as the widow, our only hope might be that it would rain money down from the sky…or maybe all the creditors, for some unknown reason, would find a soft spot in their heart and forgive us of all our debts.  Or maybe, we could get lucky and win the Hebrew Powerball lottery or go to the local casino and hit it big…and take care of all our problems.

     To be desperate means that we have come to the end of ourselves – we have come to the end of our rope.  We’re out of resources and we’re out of places to turn.  Sometimes we respond to our desperation by doing things we never thought we would do…to suck it up, to go that last mile, or maybe even to sacrifice the last bit of energy we have to get whatever it is we need the most.  Sometimes, desperation means running completely out of all that we have and all that we are…it means hitting rock bottom and with nothing left and in total desperation we find ourselves turning to God.

     Take a look at what Jesus did for those who turned to him when there was nowhere else to turn.  He demonstrated the presence and power of God by turning water into wine at a wedding party that was on the verge of being ruined.  He healed all kinds of sick people who, after running out of options, turned to him.  He calmed a killer storm with his words, opened the eyes of the blind, and he even raised the dead when all seemed lost.

     These are all stories about the divine power of God, but they are also stories about human desperation.  Every time we see a miracle performed, whether through God in the Old Testament or by Jesus in the New Testament, we get a glimpse into someone’s desperation…desperation that comes in all different shapes and sizes…a desperation that opens us up to not only show us our desperate need for God…but it also shows us the dramatic power of God.

 

     But nothing happened.  It didn’t rain money down from heaven and the creditors kept on knocking and once again her Hebrew Powerball number was a loser.  And if she went to the casino, she came back empty handed.  But a miracle did occur…a miracle that allows us to open our eyes and go beyond our limited views of how God can work in our lives…it just didn’t happen the way we would expect it.

     First, it was a miracle that required the woman’s full participation.  She couldn’t just sit there and wait for it to happen.  She had to be an active participant.  She had to take an inventory of her home, and all she had was a jar of oil.  And once she found it she had to be an active participant and pour the oil exactly as Elisha told her.

     Second, this was a miracle that required a community of people to actively step up and take part and come to the aid of the woman by opening their hearts and opening their homes to her by allowing her to take as much as she needed. “I don’t need just a few, I need as many as you have, as many as I can carry” she would say, because her faith was being measured by the number of jars she could collect.  Maybe she knew her neighbors and maybe she didn’t, but her faith caused her to act. 

     And her neighbor’s reply would be, “Take as many as you need.”  Each vessel, no matter how big or how small, symbolized not only the widows faith, but it also symbolized the love and the concern of every neighbor, whether she knew them or not, simply because they wanted to do their part to help her.  So not only would she have to take action on her own, but she would also need to rely on the help of her neighbors.

     Finally, I like to think that she wasn’t the only one who received the benefits of this miracle.  I like to think that the miracle brought blessings to her neighbors as well, because in their caring and in their compassion they opened their lives up and gave all that they had to someone in dire need.  In other words, because of her willingness to participate and because the community did so much to support her, a miracle was done not only to her but through her as well.

     She saved her home and she saved her family.  But since our faith is not just about us but about community, I like to think that this miracle was used to bring the woman and her neighbors closer together to form a much stronger community of faith. 

 

     Miracles happen in ways we don’t always expect.  But when we are open to them, when we are willing to actively participate in them, and when we are willing to come together as a community of faith to make them happen, then we can use that miracle to not only change our own lives but we can also use it to change the world around us.

     Back in 1942, Christian author Clarence Jordan and his wife were so troubled over the racism and the moral decay that was taking place in the Deep South that they decided to form a new kind of community…a community called the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farm in Americus, Georgia.  It was a community based on the biblical values of treating all humans with dignity and respect, of choosing love over violence, of living a simply life and being good stewards of the land and all of our natural resources.

     Some twenty one years later, in 1963, Millard and Linda Fuller visited some friends at Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farms during a family vacation.  While there they began a relationship with Clarence Jordan, a relationship that eventually led to the creation of Habitat for Humanity.

     With a desire to help the poor, and believing that what the poor needed was capital rather than charity, Jordan and Fuller and the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) community developed a revolving monetary fund called “Fund for Humanity” that would use monetary donations for purchasing building supplies and building materials to help build simple homes.  Volunteer laborers and the future homeowners, would be used to construct simple, decent housing for families that would eventually own their own home by repaying the “Fund for Humanity” for the cost of the materials used to build their home.  This was done with the idea that the repaid money would be used to buy new materials for additional homes.

     Do miracles still happen?  Sure they do…but you have to open your hearts and your minds and even your eyes to see them.  Not all miracles are big ones.  Some miracles, like pouring oil into a container, and the idea of caring for the needs of others, start off small and seemingly impossible, but like Habitat for Humanity, end up affecting a whole lot of people by building and strengthening a community of faith.

 

     Believing in the impossible makes things possible…that’s what our faith is all about.  If we open ourselves up to the idea of a little bit of oil being inexhaustible, or a little bit bread and fish being multiplied to feed a crowd of thousands, or even a dead person being raised to life, then maybe we can open ourselves up to some other incredible miracles:

     Like showing our compassion by supporting and helping the poorest and the most needy of our neighbors.

     Like believing that peace throughout the world is possible and that working together in cooperation as a community of faith rather than being in competition with each other can be seen as a mutual benefit for all.

     And maybe, in the same way Elisha embraced the widow and Jesus embraced the outcasts, we too can welcome others into our churches and into our lives regardless of what one looks like, believes in or where one comes from…and maybe, just maybe, we can change their lives.

 

     Proclaiming the word of God involves being proactive and it involves being reactive if we are going to give hope in the form of miracles to others.  It’s like James said, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, ‘Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well’ – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing.  What good does that really do?” (James 2:15-16).

     In a world where revenge and retribution is the norm and grace and forgiveness are the exception, maybe the greatest miracle in our lives is the decision we have made to follow Jesus and to follow the examples that he sets for us…and that includes expecting miracles in our daily lives and in our community of faith.

     Once we start believing in miracles, both as individuals and as a faith community, and start opening our hearts to others, there is no telling where those miracles will lead us and whose lives we will be able to change.

    

    

 

    

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

Keep On Pouring

         Keith McFarren

September 15, 2019

2 Kings 4:1-7


 

 

 

 

     One of the worst things that can happen to an individual or to a family is to get so far into debt that it’s almost impossible to get out.  And there are numerous reasons for it.  Maybe it’s because of medical bills, or because of work issues and your weekly bring home paycheck has been cut back substantially.  But then again it could be because you went on a buying spree with a couple of new credit cards or maybe it’s because you just can’t budget your money properly.  You put your “wants” before your “needs” and you over spend from one payday to another trying to “keep up with the Jones’s” down the street or you have to have this or have that to look cool among your peers and you just can’t control your spending. 

     Bad things happen.  Some of us have gotten behind a month or two on this bill or that bill and we’ve experienced the dreaded letter or phone call from a creditor telling us that we’ve missed a couple of monthly payments and they want to know when they are going to get their money.  And there may be some of us who have gotten so far behind that the mortgage company has threatened to foreclose on our home or the bank has threatened to repossess our car.  Any way you look at it, it’s not good to have money problems.

 

     The widow in our scripture this morning is in a whole lot of trouble because she too has money problems.  Her husband had worked with Elisha.  But just because he was a man of God doesn’t really matter because when her husband died, she was left with a financial mess.  She was left with an incredible amount of debt due to money he had borrowed.  We’re not told why he borrowed the money or what it was used for…all we know is that it put her in a financial bind.  And the worst part of it is the creditors want their money. 

     This reminds me of the story about a guy named Jay Black.  Jay Black, of Jay and the Americans, was the leader of a popular singing group back in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  But Jay Black had a problem – he liked to gamble…and he evidently wasn’t very good at it.  I don’t know who he gambled with but whoever it was, they decided they wanted their money and they wanted it now.  With no way to come up with the money, and maybe with his life on the line, depending whom he had been gambling with, he had gotten himself so far in debt that he had to sell the trademark name “Jay and the American’s” (and all the residuals that went with his music) to get enough money to pay off his debts and perhaps keep himself alive. 

     But unlike Jay Black, the woman in our story this morning doesn’t even have the luxury of selling anything because she didn’t have anything to sell.  Instead, because she didn’t have the money to pay off her debts, she faced the possibility of her property being taken and having her two children taken from her and sold into slavery to pay off the debt that her late husband owed.  And according to the Hebrew Law, there was nothing wrong with repossessing property or taking children to be used as slaves to pay off a debt. (Exodus 21:1).

     So put yourself in her shoes for a minute.  She was grieving the loss of her husband; she was saddled with debt that she couldn’t pay, and she was scared to death that she would lose her home and her children to slavery.  It’s no wonder we’re told that she “cried out to Elisha” (v. 1).  If there was ever a person in the Bible who needed a miracle, it was this woman.

 

     Miracle…how would you define a miracle?  My Tyndale Bible Dictionary defines a miracle as “A divine act by which God reveals himself to people…not merely as a ‘wonder’ to inspire awe but as a ‘sign’ to draw people to him” (Walter A. Elwell; Philip W. Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Wheaton, Illinois; Tyndale House Publishers, 2001, 899).

     We find a number of miracles in the Old Testament: there was the great flood, the tower of Babel, the ten plagues, the Exodus, the miracles out in the wilderness and many more.  But never were miracles more prominent then during what is called the prophetic period…during the times of Elijah and Elisha.  It was a time when people were turning to paganism and worshiping of Baal in record numbers.  It was a time when the very existence of the Hebrew religion seemed to be threatened…so extraordinary times called for extraordinary measures.  Thus there are more miracles found during the prophet period, during the  times of Ahab and Jezebel, than any other time in the Old Testament (Ibid, 900). 

     Just in these last few weeks we’ve heard about fire raining down from heaven, ravens bringing food to the prophets along the river, and children being raised from the dead.  Some of these are exciting, hair raising miracles, miracles so unbelievable that they could almost cause us to wonder if what we’ve seen here is really fact or fiction.

 

     But it’s more than just our interpretation or our understanding of these stories.  The deeper question is how these stories might better shape our understanding of God, how they might better shape our understanding of ourselves and how they might better shape our relationship with God today.  How might these stories better help us to experience a miracle from God today?

     If we were to find ourselves in the same predicament as the widow, our only hope might be that it would rain money down from the sky…or maybe all the creditors, for some unknown reason, would find a soft spot in their heart and forgive us of all our debts.  Or maybe, we could get lucky and win the Hebrew Powerball lottery or go to the local casino and hit it big…and take care of all our problems.

     To be desperate means that we have come to the end of ourselves – we have come to the end of our rope.  We’re out of resources and we’re out of places to turn.  Sometimes we respond to our desperation by doing things we never thought we would do…to suck it up, to go that last mile, or maybe even to sacrifice the last bit of energy we have to get whatever it is we need the most.  Sometimes, desperation means running completely out of all that we have and all that we are…it means hitting rock bottom and with nothing left and in total desperation we find ourselves turning to God.

     Take a look at what Jesus did for those who turned to him when there was nowhere else to turn.  He demonstrated the presence and power of God by turning water into wine at a wedding party that was on the verge of being ruined.  He healed all kinds of sick people who, after running out of options, turned to him.  He calmed a killer storm with his words, opened the eyes of the blind, and he even raised the dead when all seemed lost.

     These are all stories about the divine power of God, but they are also stories about human desperation.  Every time we see a miracle performed, whether through God in the Old Testament or by Jesus in the New Testament, we get a glimpse into someone’s desperation…desperation that comes in all different shapes and sizes…a desperation that opens us up to not only show us our desperate need for God…but it also shows us the dramatic power of God.

 

     But nothing happened.  It didn’t rain money down from heaven and the creditors kept on knocking and once again her Hebrew Powerball number was a loser.  And if she went to the casino, she came back empty handed.  But a miracle did occur…a miracle that allows us to open our eyes and go beyond our limited views of how God can work in our lives…it just didn’t happen the way we would expect it.

     First, it was a miracle that required the woman’s full participation.  She couldn’t just sit there and wait for it to happen.  She had to be an active participant.  She had to take an inventory of her home, and all she had was a jar of oil.  And once she found it she had to be an active participant and pour the oil exactly as Elisha told her.

     Second, this was a miracle that required a community of people to actively step up and take part and come to the aid of the woman by opening their hearts and opening their homes to her by allowing her to take as much as she needed. “I don’t need just a few, I need as many as you have, as many as I can carry” she would say, because her faith was being measured by the number of jars she could collect.  Maybe she knew her neighbors and maybe she didn’t, but her faith caused her to act. 

     And her neighbor’s reply would be, “Take as many as you need.”  Each vessel, no matter how big or how small, symbolized not only the widows faith, but it also symbolized the love and the concern of every neighbor, whether she knew them or not, simply because they wanted to do their part to help her.  So not only would she have to take action on her own, but she would also need to rely on the help of her neighbors.

     Finally, I like to think that she wasn’t the only one who received the benefits of this miracle.  I like to think that the miracle brought blessings to her neighbors as well, because in their caring and in their compassion they opened their lives up and gave all that they had to someone in dire need.  In other words, because of her willingness to participate and because the community did so much to support her, a miracle was done not only to her but through her as well.

     She saved her home and she saved her family.  But since our faith is not just about us but about community, I like to think that this miracle was used to bring the woman and her neighbors closer together to form a much stronger community of faith. 

 

     Miracles happen in ways we don’t always expect.  But when we are open to them, when we are willing to actively participate in them, and when we are willing to come together as a community of faith to make them happen, then we can use that miracle to not only change our own lives but we can also use it to change the world around us.

     Back in 1942, Christian author Clarence Jordan and his wife were so troubled over the racism and the moral decay that was taking place in the Deep South that they decided to form a new kind of community…a community called the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farm in Americus, Georgia.  It was a community based on the biblical values of treating all humans with dignity and respect, of choosing love over violence, of living a simply life and being good stewards of the land and all of our natural resources.

     Some twenty one years later, in 1963, Millard and Linda Fuller visited some friends at Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farms during a family vacation.  While there they began a relationship with Clarence Jordan, a relationship that eventually led to the creation of Habitat for Humanity.

     With a desire to help the poor, and believing that what the poor needed was capital rather than charity, Jordan and Fuller and the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) community developed a revolving monetary fund called “Fund for Humanity” that would use monetary donations for purchasing building supplies and building materials to help build simple homes.  Volunteer laborers and the future homeowners, would be used to construct simple, decent housing for families that would eventually own their own home by repaying the “Fund for Humanity” for the cost of the materials used to build their home.  This was done with the idea that the repaid money would be used to buy new materials for additional homes.

     Do miracles still happen?  Sure they do…but you have to open your hearts and your minds and even your eyes to see them.  Not all miracles are big ones.  Some miracles, like pouring oil into a container, and the idea of caring for the needs of others, start off small and seemingly impossible, but like Habitat for Humanity, end up affecting a whole lot of people by building and strengthening a community of faith.

 

     Believing in the impossible makes things possible…that’s what our faith is all about.  If we open ourselves up to the idea of a little bit of oil being inexhaustible, or a little bit bread and fish being multiplied to feed a crowd of thousands, or even a dead person being raised to life, then maybe we can open ourselves up to some other incredible miracles:

     Like showing our compassion by supporting and helping the poorest and the most needy of our neighbors.

     Like believing that peace throughout the world is possible and that working together in cooperation as a community of faith rather than being in competition with each other can be seen as a mutual benefit for all.

     And maybe, in the same way Elisha embraced the widow and Jesus embraced the outcasts, we too can welcome others into our churches and into our lives regardless of what one looks like, believes in or where one comes from…and maybe, just maybe, we can change their lives.

 

     Proclaiming the word of God involves being proactive and it involves being reactive if we are going to give hope in the form of miracles to others.  It’s like James said, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, ‘Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well’ – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing.  What good does that really do?” (James 2:15-16).

     In a world where revenge and retribution is the norm and grace and forgiveness are the exception, maybe the greatest miracle in our lives is the decision we have made to follow Jesus and to follow the examples that he sets for us…and that includes expecting miracles in our daily lives and in our community of faith.

     Once we start believing in miracles, both as individuals and as a faith community, and start opening our hearts to others, there is no telling where those miracles will lead us and whose lives we will be able to change.

    

    

 

    

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   


Keep On Pouring

         Keith McFarren

September 15, 2019

2 Kings 4:1-7


 


 


 


 


     One of the worst things that can happen to an individual or to a family is to get so far into debt that it’s almost impossible to get out.  And there are numerous reasons for it.  Maybe it’s because of medical bills, or because of work issues and your weekly bring home paycheck has been cut back substantially.  But then again it could be because you went on a buying spree with a couple of new credit cards or maybe it’s because you just can’t budget your money properly.  You put your “wants” before your “needs” and you over spend from one payday to another trying to “keep up with the Jones’s” down the street or you have to have this or have that to look cool among your peers and you just can’t control your spending. 


     Bad things happen.  Some of us have gotten behind a month or two on this bill or that bill and we’ve experienced the dreaded letter or phone call from a creditor telling us that we’ve missed a couple of monthly payments and they want to know when they are going to get their money.  And there may be some of us who have gotten so far behind that the mortgage company has threatened to foreclose on our home or the bank has threatened to repossess our car.  Any way you look at it, it’s not good to have money problems.


 


     The widow in our scripture this morning is in a whole lot of trouble because she too has money problems.  Her husband had worked with Elisha.  But just because he was a man of God doesn’t really matter because when her husband died, she was left with a financial mess.  She was left with an incredible amount of debt due to money he had borrowed.  We’re not told why he borrowed the money or what it was used for…all we know is that it put her in a financial bind.  And the worst part of it is the creditors want their money. 


     This reminds me of the story about a guy named Jay Black.  Jay Black, of Jay and the Americans, was the leader of a popular singing group back in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  But Jay Black had a problem – he liked to gamble…and he evidently wasn’t very good at it.  I don’t know who he gambled with but whoever it was, they decided they wanted their money and they wanted it now.  With no way to come up with the money, and maybe with his life on the line, depending whom he had been gambling with, he had gotten himself so far in debt that he had to sell the trademark name “Jay and the American’s” (and all the residuals that went with his music) to get enough money to pay off his debts and perhaps keep himself alive. 


     But unlike Jay Black, the woman in our story this morning doesn’t even have the luxury of selling anything because she didn’t have anything to sell.  Instead, because she didn’t have the money to pay off her debts, she faced the possibility of her property being taken and having her two children taken from her and sold into slavery to pay off the debt that her late husband owed.  And according to the Hebrew Law, there was nothing wrong with repossessing property or taking children to be used as slaves to pay off a debt. (Exodus 21:1).


     So put yourself in her shoes for a minute.  She was grieving the loss of her husband; she was saddled with debt that she couldn’t pay, and she was scared to death that she would lose her home and her children to slavery.  It’s no wonder we’re told that she “cried out to Elisha” (v. 1).  If there was ever a person in the Bible who needed a miracle, it was this woman.


 


     Miracle…how would you define a miracle?  My Tyndale Bible Dictionary defines a miracle as “A divine act by which God reveals himself to people…not merely as a ‘wonder’ to inspire awe but as a ‘sign’ to draw people to him” (Walter A. Elwell; Philip W. Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Wheaton, Illinois; Tyndale House Publishers, 2001, 899).


     We find a number of miracles in the Old Testament: there was the great flood, the tower of Babel, the ten plagues, the Exodus, the miracles out in the wilderness and many more.  But never were miracles more prominent then during what is called the prophetic period…during the times of Elijah and Elisha.  It was a time when people were turning to paganism and worshiping of Baal in record numbers.  It was a time when the very existence of the Hebrew religion seemed to be threatened…so extraordinary times called for extraordinary measures.  Thus there are more miracles found during the prophet period, during the  times of Ahab and Jezebel, than any other time in the Old Testament (Ibid, 900). 


     Just in these last few weeks we’ve heard about fire raining down from heaven, ravens bringing food to the prophets along the river, and children being raised from the dead.  Some of these are exciting, hair raising miracles, miracles so unbelievable that they could almost cause us to wonder if what we’ve seen here is really fact or fiction.


 


     But it’s more than just our interpretation or our understanding of these stories.  The deeper question is how these stories might better shape our understanding of God, how they might better shape our understanding of ourselves and how they might better shape our relationship with God today.  How might these stories better help us to experience a miracle from God today?


     If we were to find ourselves in the same predicament as the widow, our only hope might be that it would rain money down from the sky…or maybe all the creditors, for some unknown reason, would find a soft spot in their heart and forgive us of all our debts.  Or maybe, we could get lucky and win the Hebrew Powerball lottery or go to the local casino and hit it big…and take care of all our problems.


     To be desperate means that we have come to the end of ourselves – we have come to the end of our rope.  We’re out of resources and we’re out of places to turn.  Sometimes we respond to our desperation by doing things we never thought we would do…to suck it up, to go that last mile, or maybe even to sacrifice the last bit of energy we have to get whatever it is we need the most.  Sometimes, desperation means running completely out of all that we have and all that we are…it means hitting rock bottom and with nothing left and in total desperation we find ourselves turning to God.


     Take a look at what Jesus did for those who turned to him when there was nowhere else to turn.  He demonstrated the presence and power of God by turning water into wine at a wedding party that was on the verge of being ruined.  He healed all kinds of sick people who, after running out of options, turned to him.  He calmed a killer storm with his words, opened the eyes of the blind, and he even raised the dead when all seemed lost.


     These are all stories about the divine power of God, but they are also stories about human desperation.  Every time we see a miracle performed, whether through God in the Old Testament or by Jesus in the New Testament, we get a glimpse into someone’s desperation…desperation that comes in all different shapes and sizes…a desperation that opens us up to not only show us our desperate need for God…but it also shows us the dramatic power of God.


 


     But nothing happened.  It didn’t rain money down from heaven and the creditors kept on knocking and once again her Hebrew Powerball number was a loser.  And if she went to the casino, she came back empty handed.  But a miracle did occur…a miracle that allows us to open our eyes and go beyond our limited views of how God can work in our lives…it just didn’t happen the way we would expect it.


     First, it was a miracle that required the woman’s full participation.  She couldn’t just sit there and wait for it to happen.  She had to be an active participant.  She had to take an inventory of her home, and all she had was a jar of oil.  And once she found it she had to be an active participant and pour the oil exactly as Elisha told her.


     Second, this was a miracle that required a community of people to actively step up and take part and come to the aid of the woman by opening their hearts and opening their homes to her by allowing her to take as much as she needed. “I don’t need just a few, I need as many as you have, as many as I can carry” she would say, because her faith was being measured by the number of jars she could collect.  Maybe she knew her neighbors and maybe she didn’t, but her faith caused her to act. 


     And her neighbor’s reply would be, “Take as many as you need.”  Each vessel, no matter how big or how small, symbolized not only the widows faith, but it also symbolized the love and the concern of every neighbor, whether she knew them or not, simply because they wanted to do their part to help her.  So not only would she have to take action on her own, but she would also need to rely on the help of her neighbors.


     Finally, I like to think that she wasn’t the only one who received the benefits of this miracle.  I like to think that the miracle brought blessings to her neighbors as well, because in their caring and in their compassion they opened their lives up and gave all that they had to someone in dire need.  In other words, because of her willingness to participate and because the community did so much to support her, a miracle was done not only to her but through her as well.


     She saved her home and she saved her family.  But since our faith is not just about us but about community, I like to think that this miracle was used to bring the woman and her neighbors closer together to form a much stronger community of faith. 


 


     Miracles happen in ways we don’t always expect.  But when we are open to them, when we are willing to actively participate in them, and when we are willing to come together as a community of faith to make them happen, then we can use that miracle to not only change our own lives but we can also use it to change the world around us.


     Back in 1942, Christian author Clarence Jordan and his wife were so troubled over the racism and the moral decay that was taking place in the Deep South that they decided to form a new kind of community…a community called the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farm in Americus, Georgia.  It was a community based on the biblical values of treating all humans with dignity and respect, of choosing love over violence, of living a simply life and being good stewards of the land and all of our natural resources.


     Some twenty one years later, in 1963, Millard and Linda Fuller visited some friends at Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farms during a family vacation.  While there they began a relationship with Clarence Jordan, a relationship that eventually led to the creation of Habitat for Humanity.


     With a desire to help the poor, and believing that what the poor needed was capital rather than charity, Jordan and Fuller and the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) community developed a revolving monetary fund called “Fund for Humanity” that would use monetary donations for purchasing building supplies and building materials to help build simple homes.  Volunteer laborers and the future homeowners, would be used to construct simple, decent housing for families that would eventually own their own home by repaying the “Fund for Humanity” for the cost of the materials used to build their home.  This was done with the idea that the repaid money would be used to buy new materials for additional homes.


     Do miracles still happen?  Sure they do…but you have to open your hearts and your minds and even your eyes to see them.  Not all miracles are big ones.  Some miracles, like pouring oil into a container, and the idea of caring for the needs of others, start off small and seemingly impossible, but like Habitat for Humanity, end up affecting a whole lot of people by building and strengthening a community of faith.


 


     Believing in the impossible makes things possible…that’s what our faith is all about.  If we open ourselves up to the idea of a little bit of oil being inexhaustible, or a little bit bread and fish being multiplied to feed a crowd of thousands, or even a dead person being raised to life, then maybe we can open ourselves up to some other incredible miracles:


     Like showing our compassion by supporting and helping the poorest and the most needy of our neighbors.


     Like believing that peace throughout the world is possible and that working together in cooperation as a community of faith rather than being in competition with each other can be seen as a mutual benefit for all.


     And maybe, in the same way Elisha embraced the widow and Jesus embraced the outcasts, we too can welcome others into our churches and into our lives regardless of what one looks like, believes in or where one comes from…and maybe, just maybe, we can change their lives.


 


     Proclaiming the word of God involves being proactive and it involves being reactive if we are going to give hope in the form of miracles to others.  It’s like James said, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, ‘Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well’ – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing.  What good does that really do?” (James 2:15-16).


     In a world where revenge and retribution is the norm and grace and forgiveness are the exception, maybe the greatest miracle in our lives is the decision we have made to follow Jesus and to follow the examples that he sets for us…and that includes expecting miracles in our daily lives and in our community of faith.


     Once we start believing in miracles, both as individuals and as a faith community, and start opening our hearts to others, there is no telling where those miracles will lead us and whose lives we will be able to change.


    


    


 


    


    


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


   


Keep On Pouring

         Keith McFarren

September 15, 2019

2 Kings 4:1-7


 


 


 


 


     One of the worst things that can happen to an individual or to a family is to get so far into debt that it’s almost impossible to get out.  And there are numerous reasons for it.  Maybe it’s because of medical bills, or because of work issues and your weekly bring home paycheck has been cut back substantially.  But then again it could be because you went on a buying spree with a couple of new credit cards or maybe it’s because you just can’t budget your money properly.  You put your “wants” before your “needs” and you over spend from one payday to another trying to “keep up with the Jones’s” down the street or you have to have this or have that to look cool among your peers and you just can’t control your spending. 


     Bad things happen.  Some of us have gotten behind a month or two on this bill or that bill and we’ve experienced the dreaded letter or phone call from a creditor telling us that we’ve missed a couple of monthly payments and they want to know when they are going to get their money.  And there may be some of us who have gotten so far behind that the mortgage company has threatened to foreclose on our home or the bank has threatened to repossess our car.  Any way you look at it, it’s not good to have money problems.


 


     The widow in our scripture this morning is in a whole lot of trouble because she too has money problems.  Her husband had worked with Elisha.  But just because he was a man of God doesn’t really matter because when her husband died, she was left with a financial mess.  She was left with an incredible amount of debt due to money he had borrowed.  We’re not told why he borrowed the money or what it was used for…all we know is that it put her in a financial bind.  And the worst part of it is the creditors want their money. 


     This reminds me of the story about a guy named Jay Black.  Jay Black, of Jay and the Americans, was the leader of a popular singing group back in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  But Jay Black had a problem – he liked to gamble…and he evidently wasn’t very good at it.  I don’t know who he gambled with but whoever it was, they decided they wanted their money and they wanted it now.  With no way to come up with the money, and maybe with his life on the line, depending whom he had been gambling with, he had gotten himself so far in debt that he had to sell the trademark name “Jay and the American’s” (and all the residuals that went with his music) to get enough money to pay off his debts and perhaps keep himself alive. 


     But unlike Jay Black, the woman in our story this morning doesn’t even have the luxury of selling anything because she didn’t have anything to sell.  Instead, because she didn’t have the money to pay off her debts, she faced the possibility of her property being taken and having her two children taken from her and sold into slavery to pay off the debt that her late husband owed.  And according to the Hebrew Law, there was nothing wrong with repossessing property or taking children to be used as slaves to pay off a debt. (Exodus 21:1).


     So put yourself in her shoes for a minute.  She was grieving the loss of her husband; she was saddled with debt that she couldn’t pay, and she was scared to death that she would lose her home and her children to slavery.  It’s no wonder we’re told that she “cried out to Elisha” (v. 1).  If there was ever a person in the Bible who needed a miracle, it was this woman.


 


     Miracle…how would you define a miracle?  My Tyndale Bible Dictionary defines a miracle as “A divine act by which God reveals himself to people…not merely as a ‘wonder’ to inspire awe but as a ‘sign’ to draw people to him” (Walter A. Elwell; Philip W. Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Wheaton, Illinois; Tyndale House Publishers, 2001, 899).


     We find a number of miracles in the Old Testament: there was the great flood, the tower of Babel, the ten plagues, the Exodus, the miracles out in the wilderness and many more.  But never were miracles more prominent then during what is called the prophetic period…during the times of Elijah and Elisha.  It was a time when people were turning to paganism and worshiping of Baal in record numbers.  It was a time when the very existence of the Hebrew religion seemed to be threatened…so extraordinary times called for extraordinary measures.  Thus there are more miracles found during the prophet period, during the  times of Ahab and Jezebel, than any other time in the Old Testament (Ibid, 900). 


     Just in these last few weeks we’ve heard about fire raining down from heaven, ravens bringing food to the prophets along the river, and children being raised from the dead.  Some of these are exciting, hair raising miracles, miracles so unbelievable that they could almost cause us to wonder if what we’ve seen here is really fact or fiction.


 


     But it’s more than just our interpretation or our understanding of these stories.  The deeper question is how these stories might better shape our understanding of God, how they might better shape our understanding of ourselves and how they might better shape our relationship with God today.  How might these stories better help us to experience a miracle from God today?


     If we were to find ourselves in the same predicament as the widow, our only hope might be that it would rain money down from the sky…or maybe all the creditors, for some unknown reason, would find a soft spot in their heart and forgive us of all our debts.  Or maybe, we could get lucky and win the Hebrew Powerball lottery or go to the local casino and hit it big…and take care of all our problems.


     To be desperate means that we have come to the end of ourselves – we have come to the end of our rope.  We’re out of resources and we’re out of places to turn.  Sometimes we respond to our desperation by doing things we never thought we would do…to suck it up, to go that last mile, or maybe even to sacrifice the last bit of energy we have to get whatever it is we need the most.  Sometimes, desperation means running completely out of all that we have and all that we are…it means hitting rock bottom and with nothing left and in total desperation we find ourselves turning to God.


     Take a look at what Jesus did for those who turned to him when there was nowhere else to turn.  He demonstrated the presence and power of God by turning water into wine at a wedding party that was on the verge of being ruined.  He healed all kinds of sick people who, after running out of options, turned to him.  He calmed a killer storm with his words, opened the eyes of the blind, and he even raised the dead when all seemed lost.


     These are all stories about the divine power of God, but they are also stories about human desperation.  Every time we see a miracle performed, whether through God in the Old Testament or by Jesus in the New Testament, we get a glimpse into someone’s desperation…desperation that comes in all different shapes and sizes…a desperation that opens us up to not only show us our desperate need for God…but it also shows us the dramatic power of God.


 


     But nothing happened.  It didn’t rain money down from heaven and the creditors kept on knocking and once again her Hebrew Powerball number was a loser.  And if she went to the casino, she came back empty handed.  But a miracle did occur…a miracle that allows us to open our eyes and go beyond our limited views of how God can work in our lives…it just didn’t happen the way we would expect it.


     First, it was a miracle that required the woman’s full participation.  She couldn’t just sit there and wait for it to happen.  She had to be an active participant.  She had to take an inventory of her home, and all she had was a jar of oil.  And once she found it she had to be an active participant and pour the oil exactly as Elisha told her.


     Second, this was a miracle that required a community of people to actively step up and take part and come to the aid of the woman by opening their hearts and opening their homes to her by allowing her to take as much as she needed. “I don’t need just a few, I need as many as you have, as many as I can carry” she would say, because her faith was being measured by the number of jars she could collect.  Maybe she knew her neighbors and maybe she didn’t, but her faith caused her to act. 


     And her neighbor’s reply would be, “Take as many as you need.”  Each vessel, no matter how big or how small, symbolized not only the widows faith, but it also symbolized the love and the concern of every neighbor, whether she knew them or not, simply because they wanted to do their part to help her.  So not only would she have to take action on her own, but she would also need to rely on the help of her neighbors.


     Finally, I like to think that she wasn’t the only one who received the benefits of this miracle.  I like to think that the miracle brought blessings to her neighbors as well, because in their caring and in their compassion they opened their lives up and gave all that they had to someone in dire need.  In other words, because of her willingness to participate and because the community did so much to support her, a miracle was done not only to her but through her as well.


     She saved her home and she saved her family.  But since our faith is not just about us but about community, I like to think that this miracle was used to bring the woman and her neighbors closer together to form a much stronger community of faith. 


 


     Miracles happen in ways we don’t always expect.  But when we are open to them, when we are willing to actively participate in them, and when we are willing to come together as a community of faith to make them happen, then we can use that miracle to not only change our own lives but we can also use it to change the world around us.


     Back in 1942, Christian author Clarence Jordan and his wife were so troubled over the racism and the moral decay that was taking place in the Deep South that they decided to form a new kind of community…a community called the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farm in Americus, Georgia.  It was a community based on the biblical values of treating all humans with dignity and respect, of choosing love over violence, of living a simply life and being good stewards of the land and all of our natural resources.


     Some twenty one years later, in 1963, Millard and Linda Fuller visited some friends at Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farms during a family vacation.  While there they began a relationship with Clarence Jordan, a relationship that eventually led to the creation of Habitat for Humanity.


     With a desire to help the poor, and believing that what the poor needed was capital rather than charity, Jordan and Fuller and the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) community developed a revolving monetary fund called “Fund for Humanity” that would use monetary donations for purchasing building supplies and building materials to help build simple homes.  Volunteer laborers and the future homeowners, would be used to construct simple, decent housing for families that would eventually own their own home by repaying the “Fund for Humanity” for the cost of the materials used to build their home.  This was done with the idea that the repaid money would be used to buy new materials for additional homes.


     Do miracles still happen?  Sure they do…but you have to open your hearts and your minds and even your eyes to see them.  Not all miracles are big ones.  Some miracles, like pouring oil into a container, and the idea of caring for the needs of others, start off small and seemingly impossible, but like Habitat for Humanity, end up affecting a whole lot of people by building and strengthening a community of faith.


 


     Believing in the impossible makes things possible…that’s what our faith is all about.  If we open ourselves up to the idea of a little bit of oil being inexhaustible, or a little bit bread and fish being multiplied to feed a crowd of thousands, or even a dead person being raised to life, then maybe we can open ourselves up to some other incredible miracles:


     Like showing our compassion by supporting and helping the poorest and the most needy of our neighbors.


     Like believing that peace throughout the world is possible and that working together in cooperation as a community of faith rather than being in competition with each other can be seen as a mutual benefit for all.


     And maybe, in the same way Elisha embraced the widow and Jesus embraced the outcasts, we too can welcome others into our churches and into our lives regardless of what one looks like, believes in or where one comes from…and maybe, just maybe, we can change their lives.


 


     Proclaiming the word of God involves being proactive and it involves being reactive if we are going to give hope in the form of miracles to others.  It’s like James said, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, ‘Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well’ – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing.  What good does that really do?” (James 2:15-16).


     In a world where revenge and retribution is the norm and grace and forgiveness are the exception, maybe the greatest miracle in our lives is the decision we have made to follow Jesus and to follow the examples that he sets for us…and that includes expecting miracles in our daily lives and in our community of faith.


     Once we start believing in miracles, both as individuals and as a faith community, and start opening our hearts to others, there is no telling where those miracles will lead us and whose lives we will be able to change.


    


    


 


    


    


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


   


Keep On Pouring

         Keith McFarren

September 15, 2019

2 Kings 4:1-7


 


 


 


 


     One of the worst things that can happen to an individual or to a family is to get so far into debt that it’s almost impossible to get out.  And there are numerous reasons for it.  Maybe it’s because of medical bills, or because of work issues and your weekly bring home paycheck has been cut back substantially.  But then again it could be because you went on a buying spree with a couple of new credit cards or maybe it’s because you just can’t budget your money properly.  You put your “wants” before your “needs” and you over spend from one payday to another trying to “keep up with the Jones’s” down the street or you have to have this or have that to look cool among your peers and you just can’t control your spending. 


     Bad things happen.  Some of us have gotten behind a month or two on this bill or that bill and we’ve experienced the dreaded letter or phone call from a creditor telling us that we’ve missed a couple of monthly payments and they want to know when they are going to get their money.  And there may be some of us who have gotten so far behind that the mortgage company has threatened to foreclose on our home or the bank has threatened to repossess our car.  Any way you look at it, it’s not good to have money problems.


 


     The widow in our scripture this morning is in a whole lot of trouble because she too has money problems.  Her husband had worked with Elisha.  But just because he was a man of God doesn’t really matter because when her husband died, she was left with a financial mess.  She was left with an incredible amount of debt due to money he had borrowed.  We’re not told why he borrowed the money or what it was used for…all we know is that it put her in a financial bind.  And the worst part of it is the creditors want their money. 


     This reminds me of the story about a guy named Jay Black.  Jay Black, of Jay and the Americans, was the leader of a popular singing group back in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  But Jay Black had a problem – he liked to gamble…and he evidently wasn’t very good at it.  I don’t know who he gambled with but whoever it was, they decided they wanted their money and they wanted it now.  With no way to come up with the money, and maybe with his life on the line, depending whom he had been gambling with, he had gotten himself so far in debt that he had to sell the trademark name “Jay and the American’s” (and all the residuals that went with his music) to get enough money to pay off his debts and perhaps keep himself alive. 


     But unlike Jay Black, the woman in our story this morning doesn’t even have the luxury of selling anything because she didn’t have anything to sell.  Instead, because she didn’t have the money to pay off her debts, she faced the possibility of her property being taken and having her two children taken from her and sold into slavery to pay off the debt that her late husband owed.  And according to the Hebrew Law, there was nothing wrong with repossessing property or taking children to be used as slaves to pay off a debt. (Exodus 21:1).


     So put yourself in her shoes for a minute.  She was grieving the loss of her husband; she was saddled with debt that she couldn’t pay, and she was scared to death that she would lose her home and her children to slavery.  It’s no wonder we’re told that she “cried out to Elisha” (v. 1).  If there was ever a person in the Bible who needed a miracle, it was this woman.


 


     Miracle…how would you define a miracle?  My Tyndale Bible Dictionary defines a miracle as “A divine act by which God reveals himself to people…not merely as a ‘wonder’ to inspire awe but as a ‘sign’ to draw people to him” (Walter A. Elwell; Philip W. Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Wheaton, Illinois; Tyndale House Publishers, 2001, 899).


     We find a number of miracles in the Old Testament: there was the great flood, the tower of Babel, the ten plagues, the Exodus, the miracles out in the wilderness and many more.  But never were miracles more prominent then during what is called the prophetic period…during the times of Elijah and Elisha.  It was a time when people were turning to paganism and worshiping of Baal in record numbers.  It was a time when the very existence of the Hebrew religion seemed to be threatened…so extraordinary times called for extraordinary measures.  Thus there are more miracles found during the prophet period, during the  times of Ahab and Jezebel, than any other time in the Old Testament (Ibid, 900). 


     Just in these last few weeks we’ve heard about fire raining down from heaven, ravens bringing food to the prophets along the river, and children being raised from the dead.  Some of these are exciting, hair raising miracles, miracles so unbelievable that they could almost cause us to wonder if what we’ve seen here is really fact or fiction.


 


     But it’s more than just our interpretation or our understanding of these stories.  The deeper question is how these stories might better shape our understanding of God, how they might better shape our understanding of ourselves and how they might better shape our relationship with God today.  How might these stories better help us to experience a miracle from God today?


     If we were to find ourselves in the same predicament as the widow, our only hope might be that it would rain money down from the sky…or maybe all the creditors, for some unknown reason, would find a soft spot in their heart and forgive us of all our debts.  Or maybe, we could get lucky and win the Hebrew Powerball lottery or go to the local casino and hit it big…and take care of all our problems.


     To be desperate means that we have come to the end of ourselves – we have come to the end of our rope.  We’re out of resources and we’re out of places to turn.  Sometimes we respond to our desperation by doing things we never thought we would do…to suck it up, to go that last mile, or maybe even to sacrifice the last bit of energy we have to get whatever it is we need the most.  Sometimes, desperation means running completely out of all that we have and all that we are…it means hitting rock bottom and with nothing left and in total desperation we find ourselves turning to God.


     Take a look at what Jesus did for those who turned to him when there was nowhere else to turn.  He demonstrated the presence and power of God by turning water into wine at a wedding party that was on the verge of being ruined.  He healed all kinds of sick people who, after running out of options, turned to him.  He calmed a killer storm with his words, opened the eyes of the blind, and he even raised the dead when all seemed lost.


     These are all stories about the divine power of God, but they are also stories about human desperation.  Every time we see a miracle performed, whether through God in the Old Testament or by Jesus in the New Testament, we get a glimpse into someone’s desperation…desperation that comes in all different shapes and sizes…a desperation that opens us up to not only show us our desperate need for God…but it also shows us the dramatic power of God.


 


     But nothing happened.  It didn’t rain money down from heaven and the creditors kept on knocking and once again her Hebrew Powerball number was a loser.  And if she went to the casino, she came back empty handed.  But a miracle did occur…a miracle that allows us to open our eyes and go beyond our limited views of how God can work in our lives…it just didn’t happen the way we would expect it.


     First, it was a miracle that required the woman’s full participation.  She couldn’t just sit there and wait for it to happen.  She had to be an active participant.  She had to take an inventory of her home, and all she had was a jar of oil.  And once she found it she had to be an active participant and pour the oil exactly as Elisha told her.


     Second, this was a miracle that required a community of people to actively step up and take part and come to the aid of the woman by opening their hearts and opening their homes to her by allowing her to take as much as she needed. “I don’t need just a few, I need as many as you have, as many as I can carry” she would say, because her faith was being measured by the number of jars she could collect.  Maybe she knew her neighbors and maybe she didn’t, but her faith caused her to act. 


     And her neighbor’s reply would be, “Take as many as you need.”  Each vessel, no matter how big or how small, symbolized not only the widows faith, but it also symbolized the love and the concern of every neighbor, whether she knew them or not, simply because they wanted to do their part to help her.  So not only would she have to take action on her own, but she would also need to rely on the help of her neighbors.


     Finally, I like to think that she wasn’t the only one who received the benefits of this miracle.  I like to think that the miracle brought blessings to her neighbors as well, because in their caring and in their compassion they opened their lives up and gave all that they had to someone in dire need.  In other words, because of her willingness to participate and because the community did so much to support her, a miracle was done not only to her but through her as well.


     She saved her home and she saved her family.  But since our faith is not just about us but about community, I like to think that this miracle was used to bring the woman and her neighbors closer together to form a much stronger community of faith. 


 


     Miracles happen in ways we don’t always expect.  But when we are open to them, when we are willing to actively participate in them, and when we are willing to come together as a community of faith to make them happen, then we can use that miracle to not only change our own lives but we can also use it to change the world around us.


     Back in 1942, Christian author Clarence Jordan and his wife were so troubled over the racism and the moral decay that was taking place in the Deep South that they decided to form a new kind of community…a community called the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farm in Americus, Georgia.  It was a community based on the biblical values of treating all humans with dignity and respect, of choosing love over violence, of living a simply life and being good stewards of the land and all of our natural resources.


     Some twenty one years later, in 1963, Millard and Linda Fuller visited some friends at Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farms during a family vacation.  While there they began a relationship with Clarence Jordan, a relationship that eventually led to the creation of Habitat for Humanity.


     With a desire to help the poor, and believing that what the poor needed was capital rather than charity, Jordan and Fuller and the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) community developed a revolving monetary fund called “Fund for Humanity” that would use monetary donations for purchasing building supplies and building materials to help build simple homes.  Volunteer laborers and the future homeowners, would be used to construct simple, decent housing for families that would eventually own their own home by repaying the “Fund for Humanity” for the cost of the materials used to build their home.  This was done with the idea that the repaid money would be used to buy new materials for additional homes.


     Do miracles still happen?  Sure they do…but you have to open your hearts and your minds and even your eyes to see them.  Not all miracles are big ones.  Some miracles, like pouring oil into a container, and the idea of caring for the needs of others, start off small and seemingly impossible, but like Habitat for Humanity, end up affecting a whole lot of people by building and strengthening a community of faith.


 


     Believing in the impossible makes things possible…that’s what our faith is all about.  If we open ourselves up to the idea of a little bit of oil being inexhaustible, or a little bit bread and fish being multiplied to feed a crowd of thousands, or even a dead person being raised to life, then maybe we can open ourselves up to some other incredible miracles:


     Like showing our compassion by supporting and helping the poorest and the most needy of our neighbors.


     Like believing that peace throughout the world is possible and that working together in cooperation as a community of faith rather than being in competition with each other can be seen as a mutual benefit for all.


     And maybe, in the same way Elisha embraced the widow and Jesus embraced the outcasts, we too can welcome others into our churches and into our lives regardless of what one looks like, believes in or where one comes from…and maybe, just maybe, we can change their lives.


 


     Proclaiming the word of God involves being proactive and it involves being reactive if we are going to give hope in the form of miracles to others.  It’s like James said, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, ‘Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well’ – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing.  What good does that really do?” (James 2:15-16).


     In a world where revenge and retribution is the norm and grace and forgiveness are the exception, maybe the greatest miracle in our lives is the decision we have made to follow Jesus and to follow the examples that he sets for us…and that includes expecting miracles in our daily lives and in our community of faith.


     Once we start believing in miracles, both as individuals and as a faith community, and start opening our hearts to others, there is no telling where those miracles will lead us and whose lives we will be able to change.


    


    


 


    


    


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


   


Keep On Pouring

         Keith McFarren

September 15, 2019

2 Kings 4:1-7


 


 


 


 


     One of the worst things that can happen to an individual or to a family is to get so far into debt that it’s almost impossible to get out.  And there are numerous reasons for it.  Maybe it’s because of medical bills, or because of work issues and your weekly bring home paycheck has been cut back substantially.  But then again it could be because you went on a buying spree with a couple of new credit cards or maybe it’s because you just can’t budget your money properly.  You put your “wants” before your “needs” and you over spend from one payday to another trying to “keep up with the Jones’s” down the street or you have to have this or have that to look cool among your peers and you just can’t control your spending. 


     Bad things happen.  Some of us have gotten behind a month or two on this bill or that bill and we’ve experienced the dreaded letter or phone call from a creditor telling us that we’ve missed a couple of monthly payments and they want to know when they are going to get their money.  And there may be some of us who have gotten so far behind that the mortgage company has threatened to foreclose on our home or the bank has threatened to repossess our car.  Any way you look at it, it’s not good to have money problems.


 


     The widow in our scripture this morning is in a whole lot of trouble because she too has money problems.  Her husband had worked with Elisha.  But just because he was a man of God doesn’t really matter because when her husband died, she was left with a financial mess.  She was left with an incredible amount of debt due to money he had borrowed.  We’re not told why he borrowed the money or what it was used for…all we know is that it put her in a financial bind.  And the worst part of it is the creditors want their money. 


     This reminds me of the story about a guy named Jay Black.  Jay Black, of Jay and the Americans, was the leader of a popular singing group back in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  But Jay Black had a problem – he liked to gamble…and he evidently wasn’t very good at it.  I don’t know who he gambled with but whoever it was, they decided they wanted their money and they wanted it now.  With no way to come up with the money, and maybe with his life on the line, depending whom he had been gambling with, he had gotten himself so far in debt that he had to sell the trademark name “Jay and the American’s” (and all the residuals that went with his music) to get enough money to pay off his debts and perhaps keep himself alive. 


     But unlike Jay Black, the woman in our story this morning doesn’t even have the luxury of selling anything because she didn’t have anything to sell.  Instead, because she didn’t have the money to pay off her debts, she faced the possibility of her property being taken and having her two children taken from her and sold into slavery to pay off the debt that her late husband owed.  And according to the Hebrew Law, there was nothing wrong with repossessing property or taking children to be used as slaves to pay off a debt. (Exodus 21:1).


     So put yourself in her shoes for a minute.  She was grieving the loss of her husband; she was saddled with debt that she couldn’t pay, and she was scared to death that she would lose her home and her children to slavery.  It’s no wonder we’re told that she “cried out to Elisha” (v. 1).  If there was ever a person in the Bible who needed a miracle, it was this woman.


 


     Miracle…how would you define a miracle?  My Tyndale Bible Dictionary defines a miracle as “A divine act by which God reveals himself to people…not merely as a ‘wonder’ to inspire awe but as a ‘sign’ to draw people to him” (Walter A. Elwell; Philip W. Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Wheaton, Illinois; Tyndale House Publishers, 2001, 899).


     We find a number of miracles in the Old Testament: there was the great flood, the tower of Babel, the ten plagues, the Exodus, the miracles out in the wilderness and many more.  But never were miracles more prominent then during what is called the prophetic period…during the times of Elijah and Elisha.  It was a time when people were turning to paganism and worshiping of Baal in record numbers.  It was a time when the very existence of the Hebrew religion seemed to be threatened…so extraordinary times called for extraordinary measures.  Thus there are more miracles found during the prophet period, during the  times of Ahab and Jezebel, than any other time in the Old Testament (Ibid, 900). 


     Just in these last few weeks we’ve heard about fire raining down from heaven, ravens bringing food to the prophets along the river, and children being raised from the dead.  Some of these are exciting, hair raising miracles, miracles so unbelievable that they could almost cause us to wonder if what we’ve seen here is really fact or fiction.


 


     But it’s more than just our interpretation or our understanding of these stories.  The deeper question is how these stories might better shape our understanding of God, how they might better shape our understanding of ourselves and how they might better shape our relationship with God today.  How might these stories better help us to experience a miracle from God today?


     If we were to find ourselves in the same predicament as the widow, our only hope might be that it would rain money down from the sky…or maybe all the creditors, for some unknown reason, would find a soft spot in their heart and forgive us of all our debts.  Or maybe, we could get lucky and win the Hebrew Powerball lottery or go to the local casino and hit it big…and take care of all our problems.


     To be desperate means that we have come to the end of ourselves – we have come to the end of our rope.  We’re out of resources and we’re out of places to turn.  Sometimes we respond to our desperation by doing things we never thought we would do…to suck it up, to go that last mile, or maybe even to sacrifice the last bit of energy we have to get whatever it is we need the most.  Sometimes, desperation means running completely out of all that we have and all that we are…it means hitting rock bottom and with nothing left and in total desperation we find ourselves turning to God.


     Take a look at what Jesus did for those who turned to him when there was nowhere else to turn.  He demonstrated the presence and power of God by turning water into wine at a wedding party that was on the verge of being ruined.  He healed all kinds of sick people who, after running out of options, turned to him.  He calmed a killer storm with his words, opened the eyes of the blind, and he even raised the dead when all seemed lost.


     These are all stories about the divine power of God, but they are also stories about human desperation.  Every time we see a miracle performed, whether through God in the Old Testament or by Jesus in the New Testament, we get a glimpse into someone’s desperation…desperation that comes in all different shapes and sizes…a desperation that opens us up to not only show us our desperate need for God…but it also shows us the dramatic power of God.


 


     But nothing happened.  It didn’t rain money down from heaven and the creditors kept on knocking and once again her Hebrew Powerball number was a loser.  And if she went to the casino, she came back empty handed.  But a miracle did occur…a miracle that allows us to open our eyes and go beyond our limited views of how God can work in our lives…it just didn’t happen the way we would expect it.


     First, it was a miracle that required the woman’s full participation.  She couldn’t just sit there and wait for it to happen.  She had to be an active participant.  She had to take an inventory of her home, and all she had was a jar of oil.  And once she found it she had to be an active participant and pour the oil exactly as Elisha told her.


     Second, this was a miracle that required a community of people to actively step up and take part and come to the aid of the woman by opening their hearts and opening their homes to her by allowing her to take as much as she needed. “I don’t need just a few, I need as many as you have, as many as I can carry” she would say, because her faith was being measured by the number of jars she could collect.  Maybe she knew her neighbors and maybe she didn’t, but her faith caused her to act. 


     And her neighbor’s reply would be, “Take as many as you need.”  Each vessel, no matter how big or how small, symbolized not only the widows faith, but it also symbolized the love and the concern of every neighbor, whether she knew them or not, simply because they wanted to do their part to help her.  So not only would she have to take action on her own, but she would also need to rely on the help of her neighbors.


     Finally, I like to think that she wasn’t the only one who received the benefits of this miracle.  I like to think that the miracle brought blessings to her neighbors as well, because in their caring and in their compassion they opened their lives up and gave all that they had to someone in dire need.  In other words, because of her willingness to participate and because the community did so much to support her, a miracle was done not only to her but through her as well.


     She saved her home and she saved her family.  But since our faith is not just about us but about community, I like to think that this miracle was used to bring the woman and her neighbors closer together to form a much stronger community of faith. 


 


     Miracles happen in ways we don’t always expect.  But when we are open to them, when we are willing to actively participate in them, and when we are willing to come together as a community of faith to make them happen, then we can use that miracle to not only change our own lives but we can also use it to change the world around us.


     Back in 1942, Christian author Clarence Jordan and his wife were so troubled over the racism and the moral decay that was taking place in the Deep South that they decided to form a new kind of community…a community called the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farm in Americus, Georgia.  It was a community based on the biblical values of treating all humans with dignity and respect, of choosing love over violence, of living a simply life and being good stewards of the land and all of our natural resources.


     Some twenty one years later, in 1963, Millard and Linda Fuller visited some friends at Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farms during a family vacation.  While there they began a relationship with Clarence Jordan, a relationship that eventually led to the creation of Habitat for Humanity.


     With a desire to help the poor, and believing that what the poor needed was capital rather than charity, Jordan and Fuller and the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) community developed a revolving monetary fund called “Fund for Humanity” that would use monetary donations for purchasing building supplies and building materials to help build simple homes.  Volunteer laborers and the future homeowners, would be used to construct simple, decent housing for families that would eventually own their own home by repaying the “Fund for Humanity” for the cost of the materials used to build their home.  This was done with the idea that the repaid money would be used to buy new materials for additional homes.


     Do miracles still happen?  Sure they do…but you have to open your hearts and your minds and even your eyes to see them.  Not all miracles are big ones.  Some miracles, like pouring oil into a container, and the idea of caring for the needs of others, start off small and seemingly impossible, but like Habitat for Humanity, end up affecting a whole lot of people by building and strengthening a community of faith.


 


     Believing in the impossible makes things possible…that’s what our faith is all about.  If we open ourselves up to the idea of a little bit of oil being inexhaustible, or a little bit bread and fish being multiplied to feed a crowd of thousands, or even a dead person being raised to life, then maybe we can open ourselves up to some other incredible miracles:


     Like showing our compassion by supporting and helping the poorest and the most needy of our neighbors.


     Like believing that peace throughout the world is possible and that working together in cooperation as a community of faith rather than being in competition with each other can be seen as a mutual benefit for all.


     And maybe, in the same way Elisha embraced the widow and Jesus embraced the outcasts, we too can welcome others into our churches and into our lives regardless of what one looks like, believes in or where one comes from…and maybe, just maybe, we can change their lives.


 


     Proclaiming the word of God involves being proactive and it involves being reactive if we are going to give hope in the form of miracles to others.  It’s like James said, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, ‘Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well’ – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing.  What good does that really do?” (James 2:15-16).


     In a world where revenge and retribution is the norm and grace and forgiveness are the exception, maybe the greatest miracle in our lives is the decision we have made to follow Jesus and to follow the examples that he sets for us…and that includes expecting miracles in our daily lives and in our community of faith.


     Once we start believing in miracles, both as individuals and as a faith community, and start opening our hearts to others, there is no telling where those miracles will lead us and whose lives we will be able to change.


    


    


 


    


    


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


   


Keep On Pouring

         Keith McFarren

September 15, 2019

2 Kings 4:1-7


 


 


 


 


     One of the worst things that can happen to an individual or to a family is to get so far into debt that it’s almost impossible to get out.  And there are numerous reasons for it.  Maybe it’s because of medical bills, or because of work issues and your weekly bring home paycheck has been cut back substantially.  But then again it could be because you went on a buying spree with a couple of new credit cards or maybe it’s because you just can’t budget your money properly.  You put your “wants” before your “needs” and you over spend from one payday to another trying to “keep up with the Jones’s” down the street or you have to have this or have that to look cool among your peers and you just can’t control your spending. 


     Bad things happen.  Some of us have gotten behind a month or two on this bill or that bill and we’ve experienced the dreaded letter or phone call from a creditor telling us that we’ve missed a couple of monthly payments and they want to know when they are going to get their money.  And there may be some of us who have gotten so far behind that the mortgage company has threatened to foreclose on our home or the bank has threatened to repossess our car.  Any way you look at it, it’s not good to have money problems.


 


     The widow in our scripture this morning is in a whole lot of trouble because she too has money problems.  Her husband had worked with Elisha.  But just because he was a man of God doesn’t really matter because when her husband died, she was left with a financial mess.  She was left with an incredible amount of debt due to money he had borrowed.  We’re not told why he borrowed the money or what it was used for…all we know is that it put her in a financial bind.  And the worst part of it is the creditors want their money. 


     This reminds me of the story about a guy named Jay Black.  Jay Black, of Jay and the Americans, was the leader of a popular singing group back in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  But Jay Black had a problem – he liked to gamble…and he evidently wasn’t very good at it.  I don’t know who he gambled with but whoever it was, they decided they wanted their money and they wanted it now.  With no way to come up with the money, and maybe with his life on the line, depending whom he had been gambling with, he had gotten himself so far in debt that he had to sell the trademark name “Jay and the American’s” (and all the residuals that went with his music) to get enough money to pay off his debts and perhaps keep himself alive. 


     But unlike Jay Black, the woman in our story this morning doesn’t even have the luxury of selling anything because she didn’t have anything to sell.  Instead, because she didn’t have the money to pay off her debts, she faced the possibility of her property being taken and having her two children taken from her and sold into slavery to pay off the debt that her late husband owed.  And according to the Hebrew Law, there was nothing wrong with repossessing property or taking children to be used as slaves to pay off a debt. (Exodus 21:1).


     So put yourself in her shoes for a minute.  She was grieving the loss of her husband; she was saddled with debt that she couldn’t pay, and she was scared to death that she would lose her home and her children to slavery.  It’s no wonder we’re told that she “cried out to Elisha” (v. 1).  If there was ever a person in the Bible who needed a miracle, it was this woman.


 


     Miracle…how would you define a miracle?  My Tyndale Bible Dictionary defines a miracle as “A divine act by which God reveals himself to people…not merely as a ‘wonder’ to inspire awe but as a ‘sign’ to draw people to him” (Walter A. Elwell; Philip W. Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Wheaton, Illinois; Tyndale House Publishers, 2001, 899).


     We find a number of miracles in the Old Testament: there was the great flood, the tower of Babel, the ten plagues, the Exodus, the miracles out in the wilderness and many more.  But never were miracles more prominent then during what is called the prophetic period…during the times of Elijah and Elisha.  It was a time when people were turning to paganism and worshiping of Baal in record numbers.  It was a time when the very existence of the Hebrew religion seemed to be threatened…so extraordinary times called for extraordinary measures.  Thus there are more miracles found during the prophet period, during the  times of Ahab and Jezebel, than any other time in the Old Testament (Ibid, 900). 


     Just in these last few weeks we’ve heard about fire raining down from heaven, ravens bringing food to the prophets along the river, and children being raised from the dead.  Some of these are exciting, hair raising miracles, miracles so unbelievable that they could almost cause us to wonder if what we’ve seen here is really fact or fiction.


 


     But it’s more than just our interpretation or our understanding of these stories.  The deeper question is how these stories might better shape our understanding of God, how they might better shape our understanding of ourselves and how they might better shape our relationship with God today.  How might these stories better help us to experience a miracle from God today?


     If we were to find ourselves in the same predicament as the widow, our only hope might be that it would rain money down from the sky…or maybe all the creditors, for some unknown reason, would find a soft spot in their heart and forgive us of all our debts.  Or maybe, we could get lucky and win the Hebrew Powerball lottery or go to the local casino and hit it big…and take care of all our problems.


     To be desperate means that we have come to the end of ourselves – we have come to the end of our rope.  We’re out of resources and we’re out of places to turn.  Sometimes we respond to our desperation by doing things we never thought we would do…to suck it up, to go that last mile, or maybe even to sacrifice the last bit of energy we have to get whatever it is we need the most.  Sometimes, desperation means running completely out of all that we have and all that we are…it means hitting rock bottom and with nothing left and in total desperation we find ourselves turning to God.


     Take a look at what Jesus did for those who turned to him when there was nowhere else to turn.  He demonstrated the presence and power of God by turning water into wine at a wedding party that was on the verge of being ruined.  He healed all kinds of sick people who, after running out of options, turned to him.  He calmed a killer storm with his words, opened the eyes of the blind, and he even raised the dead when all seemed lost.


     These are all stories about the divine power of God, but they are also stories about human desperation.  Every time we see a miracle performed, whether through God in the Old Testament or by Jesus in the New Testament, we get a glimpse into someone’s desperation…desperation that comes in all different shapes and sizes…a desperation that opens us up to not only show us our desperate need for God…but it also shows us the dramatic power of God.


 


     But nothing happened.  It didn’t rain money down from heaven and the creditors kept on knocking and once again her Hebrew Powerball number was a loser.  And if she went to the casino, she came back empty handed.  But a miracle did occur…a miracle that allows us to open our eyes and go beyond our limited views of how God can work in our lives…it just didn’t happen the way we would expect it.


     First, it was a miracle that required the woman’s full participation.  She couldn’t just sit there and wait for it to happen.  She had to be an active participant.  She had to take an inventory of her home, and all she had was a jar of oil.  And once she found it she had to be an active participant and pour the oil exactly as Elisha told her.


     Second, this was a miracle that required a community of people to actively step up and take part and come to the aid of the woman by opening their hearts and opening their homes to her by allowing her to take as much as she needed. “I don’t need just a few, I need as many as you have, as many as I can carry” she would say, because her faith was being measured by the number of jars she could collect.  Maybe she knew her neighbors and maybe she didn’t, but her faith caused her to act. 


     And her neighbor’s reply would be, “Take as many as you need.”  Each vessel, no matter how big or how small, symbolized not only the widows faith, but it also symbolized the love and the concern of every neighbor, whether she knew them or not, simply because they wanted to do their part to help her.  So not only would she have to take action on her own, but she would also need to rely on the help of her neighbors.


     Finally, I like to think that she wasn’t the only one who received the benefits of this miracle.  I like to think that the miracle brought blessings to her neighbors as well, because in their caring and in their compassion they opened their lives up and gave all that they had to someone in dire need.  In other words, because of her willingness to participate and because the community did so much to support her, a miracle was done not only to her but through her as well.


     She saved her home and she saved her family.  But since our faith is not just about us but about community, I like to think that this miracle was used to bring the woman and her neighbors closer together to form a much stronger community of faith. 


 


     Miracles happen in ways we don’t always expect.  But when we are open to them, when we are willing to actively participate in them, and when we are willing to come together as a community of faith to make them happen, then we can use that miracle to not only change our own lives but we can also use it to change the world around us.


     Back in 1942, Christian author Clarence Jordan and his wife were so troubled over the racism and the moral decay that was taking place in the Deep South that they decided to form a new kind of community…a community called the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farm in Americus, Georgia.  It was a community based on the biblical values of treating all humans with dignity and respect, of choosing love over violence, of living a simply life and being good stewards of the land and all of our natural resources.


     Some twenty one years later, in 1963, Millard and Linda Fuller visited some friends at Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) Farms during a family vacation.  While there they began a relationship with Clarence Jordan, a relationship that eventually led to the creation of Habitat for Humanity.


     With a desire to help the poor, and believing that what the poor needed was capital rather than charity, Jordan and Fuller and the Koinonia (koi-no-ni-a) community developed a revolving monetary fund called “Fund for Humanity” that would use monetary donations for purchasing building supplies and building materials to help build simple homes.  Volunteer laborers and the future homeowners, would be used to construct simple, decent housing for families that would eventually own their own home by repaying the “Fund for Humanity” for the cost of the materials used to build their home.  This was done with the idea that the repaid money would be used to buy new materials for additional homes.


     Do miracles still happen?  Sure they do…but you have to open your hearts and your minds and even your eyes to see them.  Not all miracles are big ones.  Some miracles, like pouring oil into a container, and the idea of caring for the needs of others, start off small and seemingly impossible, but like Habitat for Humanity, end up affecting a whole lot of people by building and strengthening a community of faith.


 


     Believing in the impossible makes things possible…that’s what our faith is all about.  If we open ourselves up to the idea of a little bit of oil being inexhaustible, or a little bit bread and fish being multiplied to feed a crowd of thousands, or even a dead person being raised to life, then maybe we can open ourselves up to some other incredible miracles:


     Like showing our compassion by supporting and helping the poorest and the most needy of our neighbors.


     Like believing that peace throughout the world is possible and that working together in cooperation as a community of faith rather than being in competition with each other can be seen as a mutual benefit for all.


     And maybe, in the same way Elisha embraced the widow and Jesus embraced the outcasts, we too can welcome others into our churches and into our lives regardless of what one looks like, believes in or where one comes from…and maybe, just maybe, we can change their lives.


 


     Proclaiming the word of God involves being proactive and it involves being reactive if we are going to give hope in the form of miracles to others.  It’s like James said, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, ‘Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well’ – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing.  What good does that really do?” (James 2:15-16).


     In a world where revenge and retribution is the norm and grace and forgiveness are the exception, maybe the greatest miracle in our lives is the decision we have made to follow Jesus and to follow the examples that he sets for us…and that includes expecting miracles in our daily lives and in our community of faith.


     Once we start believing in miracles, both as individuals and as a faith community, and start opening our hearts to others, there is no telling where those miracles will lead us and whose lives we will be able to change.