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


  1. “May we find generosity, in the cultures of another”….I guess one has to be a stranger to find out that this is not something you can take for granted….Elijah had pretty good recommendations though, as God Himself announced his arrival to the widow.

    Comment by Ingrid — May 31, 2010 @ 7:24 pm

  2. Ingrid, can you explain a bit more about why you think God announced the arrival to the widow? In v. 12 she is preparing to cook a last meal for herself and her son – there seems little sense that she is ready for a prophet,


    Comment by steve — May 31, 2010 @ 7:58 pm

  3. 1.Kings 17 V.9

    Comment by Ingrid — May 31, 2010 @ 9:18 pm

  4. I’m aware of v. 9 Ingrid, but I’m still left with my question – if God did announce it, why in v. 12 is she showing no sign of awareness of prophet.

    I read v. 9 as saying that God commands through Elijah – and his speaking to her in v.11 is the “command” of v. 9.

    Or is she really hacked off with God in v. 12 and has the sulks?


    Comment by steve — May 31, 2010 @ 9:31 pm

  5. It seems she is not convinced that Elijah is a man of God until V.24….The translations say “I have ‘already’ told a widow to provide for you.” By the time God tells Elijah to go, according to the tense, He has already talked to the widow. One does not know exactly what God said. He might just have said that a man was coming, maybe He did not say Elijah is coming or a prophet. When Elijah called out to her by the city gate, she must have thought this was the expected man. Elijah asks for water first in V. 10. She goes and gets it, thus responding to him already in V. 11. Then he asks for the bread. So she tells him HER plan. He says: do that BUT here is God’s way of handling this situation. Make a cake for the representative of God FIRST and things will turn out right……….Your questions sure help to make one read the text properly.

    Comment by Ingrid — June 1, 2010 @ 9:15 am

  6. Thanks for sharing Creationary with us. I will be trying out some of these ideas on Sunday.

    Comment by Duncan — June 2, 2010 @ 11:18 pm

  7. Thanks Duncan. Look forward to hearing how it goes. I’m also preaching this Sunday, so we can swap experiences! Loved the Pentecost service pictures you have up,


    Comment by steve — June 3, 2010 @ 2:25 pm

  8. Thanks- this provided stuff/sparked me off and was really helpful in an all age service in a tiny rural chapel in North Yorkshire (where we had home made bread- made with flour and oil!).

    Comment by Graham — June 7, 2010 @ 4:37 am

  9. Thanks graham. glad to see it was useful. i’ve expanded some more on the elijah, widow story – linking with social justice and climate change –

    Comment by steve — June 7, 2010 @ 8:33 am

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