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Food For The Journey

I Kings 19:4–8
Len Scales
September 5, 2021
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For some of us this story might sound surprisingly familiar, since Rev. Yedea Walker preached the same text only a few weeks ago. We are hearing it again so soon because UKirk Collegiate Ministries Association, the network of over 200 Presbyterian campus ministries, of which Princeton Presbyterians is a part, crafted liturgy around this passage to celebrate college students and young adults. I’m grateful for Jasmine & British, campus ministry colleagues from HBCU’s who wrote this morning’s liturgy and selected this morning’s Scripture readings for our connectional church to consider together. Yedea focused on the power of rest for Elijah, and this morning I want us to turn to God’s provision for Elijah.

When we arrive at 1 Kings 19, verse 4, Elijah is fleeing for his life and from his life. He is in danger and he is distressed & depressed. We find him in the wilderness with all expectations that he is leaving his prophetic role behind. But even though Elijah has abandoned God’s call on his life in this moment, God has not abandoned him.[1]

God sends an unexpected messenger to Elijah with a cake baked on a hot stone and water. The angel wakes Elijah and encourages him to “Get up and eat.” Elijah does, and then goes back to sleep. The angel wakes Elijah for a second time saying, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.”

It’s clear that the journey has already felt too much for Elijah leading up to this point, but God has not abandoned him. God has sent sustenance needed and Elijah goes in “the strength of that food.”

Burnout, stress, grief—all these things are potent and rampant right now. The pandemic is evolving, and the “return to normal” hoped for at the beginning of the summer remains elusive in so many ways. Massive weather events have impacted neighbors across the United States, in Haiti, and just this week in our own state and congregation. The humanitarian need in Afghanistan and of those experiencing forced migration is staggering.

It is understandable to want to follow Elijah in fleeing from oppressive reality, but it makes God’s steadfast presence even more important. No matter what, God is not abandoning us. God does not abandon you.

In today’s reading, God provides sustenance for the journey for Elijah, elsewhere in Scripture, we see God provide unexpected meals to entire communities. Manna rains down in the wilderness. Jesus multiplies the gift of a little boy to feed 5,000. Jesus prepares breakfast for his disciples on the beach after his resurrection.

Today, God feeds us in this meal we will share at communion.

This meal has taken unexpected shapes since March 2020, and each has been nourishing. This is true for communion at Breaking Bread Worship as well, the worship service of Princeton Presbyterians, the campus ministry for undergraduate and graduate students.

Pre-pandemic, we’d gather in Niles Chapel on Sunday evenings during the academic year for songs, prayer, sermon, and communion. The bread was baked Sunday afternoon, so often you could still feel its warmth and the smell lingered in the chapel. After worship, students often hung out around the communion table, eating more bread and checking in with one another before the week ahead.

During the pandemic, Breaking Bread Worship moved to zoom, we adapted to celebrating communion only monthly as part of the conclusion of each sermon series. There was still meaning in seeing friends from London to California take elements from their home, often crackers and water, and partake together.

There was another kind of communion that we took up that sustained the community as well. The first half of our time together was worship, and the second half we divided into breakout rooms to share with one another and hold one another in prayer. It was amazing to see the community show up with even more consistency in this new format than in previous years. God had not abandoned us, and was providing a way forward for the community.

So we come to a new season, grateful students have returned to campus and the opportunity for in-person classes. We will navigate yet new protocols for how we gather for worship and communion tonight and in the coming weeks. We do so knowing that God is giving us the fuel we need for the next leg of this journey.

This morning we all come to this table together, those in person at 61 Nassau Street and those joining online.

“Get up and eat” the messenger of the Lord says. We will need sustenance for what is next. We partake of this meal today as a sign that God has not and will not abandon us. God is fueling us for the ways we will continue to adapt as individuals and a community.

Maybe this meal is the first course God is giving you before you need to lay your head down to rest some more. Maybe it is the second course launching you on the next stretch of the journey. Either way, God does not abandon you. Quite the opposite, God shows up here and now, reminding us in material ways, with elements we can taste and see, of God’s transformative power in our lives and that of our community.

The provision of God continues to surprise us through the generosity of God’s messengers, including in our very own congregation. Just in the last few weeks that has looked like:

  • families and individuals packing lunches and baking cookies to contribute to Nassau’s own annual Loaves & Fishes project.
  • record breaking generosity to meet the increased cost of supplying 250 backpacks full of supplies for school-age neighbors in Trenton and an additional gift for art supplies at Hedgepeth-Williams Middle School in partnership with Westminster Presbyterian Church.
  • and just this week more provisions offered to continue the work God calls Nassau Presbyterian Church to as we respond to the need of Afghan refugees.

My prayer is that this meal, this hour of worship, this day, can be a part of God’s provision for you, replenishing you for what is ahead, whether it is the second half of the nap you need or traveling the next stage in this wilderness we continue to face together. Amen.

[1] Hens-Piazza, Gina 1-2 Kings (Abingdon, 2006) p.184