Manny, the treasurer of our church, is often the bearer of grim tidings. When he brings me bad news it makes me think I should become a more aggressive fund raiser. But if I spend more time raising money, how can I be a pastor? And if I don’t, how will we remain a church? How much longer can we go on like the widow of Zarephath?
I have been increasingly drawn to the story of this nameless widow, who appears in what biblical commentators refer to as the Elijah cycle, a series of stories vaunting the prophet’s miraculous powers. God tells Elijah that a time of drought is at hand, a consequence of the nation’s self-centered behavior under King Ahab. Elijah survives by drinking water from a brook and eating bread and meat delivered by ravens. But after awhile the brook dries up. At that point, God sends Elijah to the village of Zarephath and tells him that a widow there will feed him. He finds her as she’s gathering firewood.