11th Sunday After Trinity John 6: 35, 41-51 1 Kings 19: 4-8
“Nobody likes me. Everybody hates me. Think I’ll go eat worms - Long, slim, slimy ones - Short, fat, juicy ones - Itsy, bitsy, fuzzy, wuzzy worms. Nobody likes me. Everybody hates me. Think I’ll go eat worms.” The words of this old song could have been the words of Elijah as he sat under the broom tree, sulking and feeling sorry for himself. You can sense the despair as Elijah complained “Enough, Lord! I’ve had enough! Take my life: I am no better off than my fathers. Then he rolled over and fell asleep as if to say, Lord just let me be!” Elijah’s problem was that he felt God had abandoned him.
Elijah certainly wasn’t the only one of God’s chosen prophets to complain like that. Moses protested that leading Israel was too much to do alone. Jonah felt God had left him out to dry when God let Nineveh off the hook. Jeremiah complained bitterly about having no say in his career choice, since once God called him to be a prophet, there was no escape.
From Elijah’s perspective, things just weren’t fair. He’d been an eyewitness to God’s faithfulness and power and caring for him during a three-year drought. God demonstrated his power through him, by defeating the prophets of Baal on the top of Mount Carmel when he prayed and God answered in a mighty display of fire that burned up his offering even though it was soaked with water. Elijah then had the wicked prophets of Baal killed. After this God sent rain at Elijah’s prayer request, Elijah stood in victory.
But how quickly things change. At the first angry words from Israel’s pagan Queen Jezebel, Elijah turns tail and runs away. Jezebel threatens him by saying, by this time tomorrow I will kill you like you killed my prophets of Baal, her false prophets. This is where we find Elijah, despondent and cowering under the broom tree, suffering defeat at the moment of victory.
Elijah’s real problem was that he had lost his focus and turned in on himself. Elijah, great prophet that he was, suffered from sin in his life. Sin turns us in on ourselves. Sin separates us from God and turns our attention from him to ourselves. When we look to ourselves, we discover our own weaknesses, our inability to provide for ourselves or protect ourselves, our inability to save ourselves, and we quickly fall into despair. It’s like we’re curled up into a little ball, and we lose sight of all that God is and all that God does for us.
Is it just me who feels that I am an Elijah! easily forgetting all the wonderful things God has done for me or looking inside myself for hope, for power, for strength, for goodness, for value. And I’m disappointed because I don’t see what I’m looking for. When this happens I feel cut off from God, I find myself a little broom tree of some kind and sing the song “Nobody likes me. Everybody hates me. Think I’ll go eat worms. God, why don’t you just leave me alone too? Why don’t you just take my life and be done with it?” Or are there any other Elijah’s here this morning?
When we head for our broom tree there are different ways of responding. Some of us spend time complaining. Some turn into a workaholics, thinking we can pull ourselves out of despair by our own bootstraps. Some try to find solace in a bottle or food, but we are all doing our searching under the wrong “broom tree” If at any time you feel inclined to say, “It is enough,” do not do as Elijah did, and flee into silence and solitude, hiding under your own broom tree.
There is another tree that you and I need to go to. Come with me to the cross. Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, performed many miracles. He was the power of God expressed in both His Words and actions. Jesus did not just heal the sick or feed the five thousand. His Word declared forgiveness. Believing in Jesus Christ we are forgiven and that God is with us no matter what happens in this life. Because of Him we know that our lives matter and he gives us food and strength for the journey of our lives.
God wouldn’t let Elijah “go and eat worms.” God sent an angel to bring Elijah food and drink to sustain him for his journey. God told the prophet that he was not alone.
However low we feel, God hasn’t abandoned us, God has placed us, his chosen ones, into a community of believers so that we can build one another up in the faith. He has given us each other brothers and sisters in the faith that we can turn to for comfort when we feel weak, discouraged, or despairing.
We are fed and nourished for our journey as well. Jesus said I am the bread of life. He gives us his own body and blood as food and drink, given and shed for our forgiveness, giving to us the gifts of life and salvation. Jesus is offering you this heavenly bread this morning – and He wants you to have it. Not the Wonderloaf, the white bread some of us remember as children, but Jesus himself the bread of life.
In a few moments you will come for communion and the bread will be put into your hands.
Whether we receive the bread as a memorial or as his ‘real presence’ it is the Bread of Life.
Believe it, receive it, and rejoice in your eternal life that starts, not at the gates of heaven, but here and now this morning and next time you feel an Elijah coming on remember to look for the angel bringing you bread.