Monday, May 31, 2010

creationary: Elijah and widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17

A creationary: a space to be creative with the lectionary. (For more on what is a creationary go here).

When I read the narrative of Elijah and widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17:8-16 I think of sticks and big jars.

Bring sticks. The widow is out collecting sticks when she meets the prophet Elijah, who invites her to practice generosity – to a stranger. And it’s in a time of drought, which is certainly the experience of many churches in the West in general! So the story has a lot to offer in terms of giving – a people in drought are called to be generous with the little they have. So invite people to bring a stick – any type, any sort – simply to create curiousity. And then as a response invite them to bring their sticks as a way of saying yes, I am willing, no matter what the season to practice generosity.

Big jars. In the story, the widow only has a little flour and oil. Which makes me wonder what we all already have, even it it seems a little, that we can offer to God. Using a variant of appreciative inquiry, there could be space, in groups, as part of worship, to reflect on what people think their community has already – our gifts – to talk about, write them down, share together. Perhaps even actually have a few big jars. The feedback from the groups could be attached on this. The offerings could be collected in these (allowing reflection on both individual and communal) gifts being given.

It could all make for a great communion: the twigs around the communion table, the pots on the table, affirming God’s generosity and provision, despite our sense of lack.

There’s also a gospel/culture moment in this story that intrigues me. It’s to do with geographic location. The widow comes from Sidon. So does Jezebel, the champion of Baal, the local god of fertility. So there is a pairing of Jezebel and the widow, both woman, both from the same home town. I like it a lot that Elijah finds life – food and sustenance and gracious hospitality – in the midst of another’s belief system. I’m not sure what to do with that, but given that we live in a pluralistic context of many faiths, that’s worth pondering. Perhaps some phrases in the collect or the benediction: may we find generosity, in the cultures of another.

So that’s my first creationary: a creative mind wandering around a lectionary text (1 Kings 17:8-16), the narrative of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath, seeking to make connections in regard to communal worship.

Posted by steve at 01:28 PM