The Old Testament reading for this week picks up right where last week’s reading left off, with Elijah staying with the widow of Zarephath and her son. Now, after God’s miraculous provision of oil and flour to keep them alive, the widow’s son dies, and her heart is filled with sorrow and bitterness. In the gospel reading, a widow from Nain has lost her only son and is crying in his funeral procession. All over the world, people are crying out in sorrow and loss in this world full of sin and death.
But Jesus sees the widow, and His heart goes out to her. Elijah cries out to God, and He hears his prayer. Paul tells the Ephesians not to be discouraged because of his sufferings. And then Paul prays, not for himself, but for them, that they may grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. We do not have some indifferent, aloof God. We have a God who came down, who stooped low, who picks us up and holds us with His love that surpasses knowledge.
But Paul doesn’t stop there. We don’t trust in a God who is merely sympathetic. We pray to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. Was receiving her son back from the dead more than the widow of Zarephath could imagine, or did she wish for it with all her heart? But how about the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection on the third day, and everlasting life? Even though Jesus kept telling his disciples it was going to happen, His power was simply immeasurably more than all they could imagine. They still hoped He would overthrow the Romans and rule like David. Jesus had to spend forty days explaining it to them in His resurrected body, and send them the Holy Spirit (His power that is at work within us) to be their helper, so that they could know this love that surpasses knowledge.
And today, in this fallen world, the Church repeats the prayer of Paul to God the Father, that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith… that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
The Old Testament lesson is from the book of 1 Kings, chapter 17, verses 17-24:
Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”
“Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. Then he cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”
The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!”
Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”
The Epistle lesson is from Ephesians, chapter 3, verses 13-21:
I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
The Gospel for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity is from Luke, chapter 7, verses 11-17:
Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”
Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.