Biblical narrative evokes the emotional depth of human experience and
brings forward core questions about life. In this week’s Old Testament
reading, the widow fully expects to die—and soon, because of a drought
in the land.
As we struggle to stay alert to the constant demands of the needy, we pastors sometimes forget that we take for granted others in our congregations who seem strong and whole. This applies particularly to those men and women whom we instinctively count on as the backbone or the core of the congregation.
The Bible is full of strange things—oil cruets and flour containers that never become empty and young bodies that are restored to life at a word from Jesus. Are we supposed to believe that these things happened? Maybe the ancient peoples did, but we moderns suffer under the curse of Bultmann’s lightbulb: we know why the light switches on. We are cursed by rationalities that prevent us from seeing the Bible as one overarching story in which our own lives play a key role.
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?