The story of the widow of Zarephath and Elijah is bracketed by two other stories that are excluded from the lectionary and are therefore never heard by many people in our congregations. Both of them concern the deviant monarchy under which the widow and her child live.
Some years ago I visited a Roman Catholic parish in one of the poorest areas of Mexico City. Mass was being held outdoors, and I arrived as people were setting up plastic chairs and wooden benches in a circle around the brightly dressed altar. The Virgin of Guadalupe smiled her approval from a mural on the side of the church as a few stray dogs settled down to nap in the warm dust.
In 2006, New Testament scholar Robert Wall and pastor Anthony Robinson coauthored Called to Be Church, a study of the book of Acts. Each chapter of that volume has two sections: Wall provides an interpretation of the biblical text, then Robinson reflects on how the text bears on the life of the church. The format is not unique.
Many churches, including mine, will mark All Saints Day this Sunday. Of course, politics will also be on everyone’s mind. At first it seemed to me that the two have little in common, but then several connections occurred to me.
On the night of the shootings in Dallas that killed five police officers, Michael Waters and Omar Suleiman had known each other barely a year. Waters is pastor of the Joy Tabernacle AME Church; Suleiman is a nationally known Muslim scholar and one of two imams at the Valley Ranch Islamic Center. Both were at the rally in Dallas protesting the police shootings of black men when a gunman started shooting. Together with some parishioners, the two found refuge at Waters’s church, where they spent the night praying and wondering what they could do to stop violence rather than just react to it. They agreed on one thing: though of different religions and ethnicities, they are brothers (Washington Post, July 10).