I Kings 17:8-16
Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.’ So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, ‘Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.’ As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, ‘Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.’ But she said, ‘As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.’ Elijah said to her, ‘Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.’ She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.
Who knew that meeting a stranger outside of town, on the day when everything looked bleak and she was completely defeated, would change everything? This story at first glance is about Elijah and his continued trust in God as he is on the run from Queen Jezebel and King Ahab. But it’s also about a stranger providing hope to another. When Elijah encounters the widow at the edge of town, she is gathering sticks. Sticks to cook her last meal. How long has she eked out enough for her son and she has gone hungry? How long has she contemplated, today is the day? And when a stranger asks for water, she goes to provide. She can hold up the mask that everything is okay a little longer, but then he asks for food. The truth comes spilling out. Even the most basic, smallest, and thinnest bread, a ‘cake’ is something she cannot provide. What astonishment they both must have had as Elijah’s words came true? To not see the bottom of the meal or oil jar. To truly provide for this stranger and her son, how hope must have begun to rise up for the widow too.
As the ancient Jewish blessing has said “Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth,” We give thanks for the hope that rises when we can provide for our families with full bellies. May the joy of sharing a meal, even with a stranger, be blessings for us as well. Amen.