1 KINGS 19:4-8
But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.
This past Sunday, I did something that I had never done before. I ran a road race. It was a long road race. 13.1 miles — what they call a half marathon. I don’t know if you remember, but last Sunday was one of those hot and humid days we have been having. The sun was beating down and we were running on black asphalt road. It was hot. About half way into the race, I was just so tired. I was doing all I could to keep putting one foot in front of the other and I began to wonder if I was really going to be able to finish. I was feeling so depleted both in my body but also in my mind. I was full of doubt and exhaustion.
Have you ever felt that way? In this journey of life, have you ever gotten to a point where you wondered if you could keep going? If you could put one foot in front of the other? Have you ever felt so depleted in both body and mind, soul and spirit? For me last Sunday it was the distance, the heat of the pavement, the pressing down of the sun. But it other times it could be illness, death, financial difficulty, loneliness, fear …
The lectionary reading from scripture for this Sunday tells us about Elijah who has reached such a point. He has been doing his best to be a prophet of God. Trying his best to bring the people back to relationship with God, but things just kept getting more and more difficult. He is depleted. Exhausted in body and mind, soul and spirit. He collapses under a solitary broom tree and cries out, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life.”
But what happens next? Instead of taking away Elijah’s life, God ensures that he has what he needs to keep going, to live. An angel of God appears with a freshly baked cake and with a jar of water not just once but two times saying “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” Ministering to Elijah through the angelic presence, God gives Elijah the strength he needs to continue the journey.
My angels last Sunday were the white t-shirted cluster of volunteers who when they saw me round the bend started cheering. They started cheering and waving to me and as I got close they ran out to meet me with cups of cool water and goo packets. Their cheers strengthened my spirit. The water and goo strengthened my body. I cannot tell you how grateful I felt for that cluster of strangers who gave me just what I needed to keep going. I know that I was just one of hundreds of people to whom they ministered that day. But for me, they made all the difference.
I give thanks for those times when we have been that angelic presence. When we have given someone just what they needed to keep going. We may not have even realized it at the time. We may have just been doing what we always do. Lending a hand. Speaking a kind word. Giving a smile. Offering a cup of cool water or a freshly baked cake. But for the person we touched that day, it made all the difference.
And I also give thanks for the grace that when we find ourselves in that place of exhaustion on a particularly arduous patch of life’s journey, when we just are not sure that we can keep putting one foot in front of another, we can remember Elijah and awake to the unexpected ways that others may be ministering to us, giving us just what we need in that moment to keep on running the race.
Isaiah 40:31?But those who hope in the Lord?will renew their strength.?They will soar on wings like eagles;?they will run and not grow weary,?they will walk and not be faint.