Monday, August 13, 2018

Pentecost 12B

1 Kings 19:4-8

4But Elijah himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: "It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors." 5Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, "Get up and eat." 6He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. 7The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, "Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you." 8He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.

More About Sources

When we discussed the Manna from Heaven narrative we find in Exodus last week, I used the technical German theological word Heilsgeschichte that combines Heil=salvation and Geschichte=history and means God's action in the lives of the people, in creation, in all the world. I mentioned a huge group of people probably never left Egyptian slavery, traveled months and years through deserts trusting God every step of the way, but almost definitely quite a few small bands or tribes of people broke away from slavery or other unpleasant situations, trekked through a wilderness in trust, and afterwards told their stories that also got written down and much later became part of the larger story of The Exodus. These stories are about some of the historical (measurable in time and space) experiences of the people; they're even more about their emotional, psychological, human experience. They typically contain saga and myth and have a high degree of multi-layered density. As Pastor Peg mentioned in her sermon, scattered scrolls got compiled and edited into larger books after the Babylonian exile.

Hebrew Bible Sections

The Old Testament/Hebrew Bible is in three major sections: Torah or the five books of the Pentateuch; Prophets; Writings. Deuteronomy (the fifth book of the Pentateuch), Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings come from the same group or committee of authors we often refer to as the Deuteronomic Historian—almost definitely more than one person. Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings belong to the Former Prophets. Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and the book of the twelve (Minor Prophets in the Christian bible) belong to the Writing Prophets.

During Luke's lectionary year A, we talked about neighborology, the word about the neighbor, the other. We discussed similarities between Jeremiah and Luke in that regard. The texts the deuteronomic historian(s) gave us concentrate heavily on being good neighbors. In fact, the book of Jeremiah probably got edited by the same post-exilic committee that compiled the Pentateuch and the Former Prophets.

Hebrew Bible Writings include Job, Psalms, Proverbs. Ecclesiastes, Ruth, Esther, Daniel, Song of Solomon... I may have left out a few.

1 Kings 19:4-8

Today we're reading one of the famous Elijah stories from 1 Kings. If you'd asked me about Elijah, I'd have remembered (1)water and fire in the moat and the prophets of Ba'al; (2)God in the still small voice; and today's account of (3)bread and water for the journey. But I couldn't have told you what kind of bush or tree or shrub it was, so I researched Broom Tree. Turns out it's more of shrub than a tree; people made coals from its roots, trunks, and branches. Broom embers retain heat a long time; Elijah's bread probably baked on a fire left from an earlier traveler. I discovered broom trees symbolize renewal and resurrection; a hot fire can sear open the seeds so they germinate and begin to grow, information familiar to us in southern California where fires are a major hazard.

"Angel" means "messenger." Evangelical in the ELCA's name is the good (eu or ev) messages or news (angelical). Elijah was in a deep blue funk (long story—read what comes before this); God sent the angel who pointed out the ready to eat food because without physical sustenance the journey would be too difficult. Then there's the basic human need for community, the fact eating alone can be too lonely... but this short reading focuses on physical feeding. As it is throughout scripture, 40 days and 40 nights is approximately one month. Horeb and Sinai are the same place—which word depends upon the source.

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