Homily: June 5, 2016

June 5, 2013, YEAR C; Rev. Phil Boelter, Vicar




Our hearts will hold more if our hands hold less.

The nameless widow from Zarephath in our first reading today knew this first hand.

She and her son were both about to die.

Like their neighbors, they lived off of the land…

But the land around them was parched, dried out, after years of drought.

The land was as dead as they were soon to be.

The poor woman goes out to gather sticks to build a fire

and cook their last meal.

Into this tragic scene

walks Elijah the Prophet with a challenge from God.

Feed me first!, he asks.

On the surface,

The prophet is asking the widow literally to shorten her life

and the life of her son

by sharing their already scarce resources with him.

Off the woman goes to pour out that last bit of meal

and drop of oil

and she makes the cake the Prophet Elijah requested.

On the surface,

this appears to be a really bad move on her part.

The prophet knows

and she knows also that they all live in a world of scarcity

and yet she shares what little she has.

She could’ve refused to help the prophet,

and who would’ve blamed her for that?

Yet, she chose to open her hands and empty them

Even though doing so would likely shorten her life and her son’s.

She is rewarded for her generous, open hearted action

by being given the resources to live through the rest of the drought.

The endless supply of meal

and the bottomless jar of oil provided more than enough

To feed her and her scraggly prophet guest

for months on end.

This story is more than a lesson in actions of holy hospitality or generosity.

It’s also about an interior attitude.

Did this woman live out of scarcity or out of abundance?

I think it’s the latter.

It’s not really about how much she had or didn’t have

in terms of possessions, resources, food.

It’s more about her inner resources and attitude…

Which enabled to make that last generous,

almost desperate and seemingly senseless sacrifice.

But if we are honest with ourselves,

possessions are important to us all.

Not the meal and oil,

But the car, the home, the hdtv, the bank account

Are what fill our hands and sometimes our hearts.


When I first googled this story,

The first ad that popped up on my screen

On top of the search results

was Walmart-

loudly proclaiming that down those wide aisles

you can find everything you need.

We are a people who like embossed business cards,

Monogrammed luggage and briefcases

And invitations to public events.

WE spend money we don’t have

To buy flat screen tv’s

Or buy the right house on the right street

Near the right schools for our children.

Yet, look around.

In our nation,

we see person after person striving to obtain this or that,

but still ending up with an outcome of unhappiness.

How is it possible for someone to possess everything they ever wanted,

yet feel they have nothing that they need?

It seems to me that the more our hands are filled with "stuff",

the less capacity our heart has to hold fulfillment and purpose.

Our hearts can hold more and love more if our hands will hold less.

Although we live in a world filled with shiny and attractive things,

we were created to be satisfied and fulfilled by deeper longings.

Even here at Gethsemane

We are surrounded by so many things-

These beautiful 90 and 130 year old buildings

Are both a blessing and a challenge to us.

The point here is not to convince ourselves

to live in poverty and without possessions

in order to finally find true happiness.

Nor do we need to divest ourselves of our buildings

In order to really do God’s work.

Rather, our deepest need is to evaluate

how tightly our hands are clenched around what we own.

If our source of happiness is in any of our possessions,

Personally or in the church,

we live in the poverty of an enslaved heart.

Like that nameless widow,

we are sometimes called to sacrifice, to give up,

to be willing to let go of the things that we hold

so that our hearts can find purpose in the deeper things in life.

This widow’s experience reminds us that

Love, relationships, trust, community, passion-

these are intangible and difficult to hold or measure,

yet fulfilling and life-giving all the same.

This can be good news for our dysfunctional and hungry hearts.

What if by possessing less,

Or at least holding onto it less tightly,

we could actually have more,

AND be more fulfilled?

As our hands begin to grasp at and hold less,

our hearts will begin to hold more.

Think back right now to the times when you were most fulfilled.

Was it when you got more things?

Or was it when you held on to people, prayer, love, faith?

When we do the latter, we affirm our identity as children of God,

And we attach our hearts to the everlasting

Like the Widow at Zarephath did.

Our hearts will hold more if our hands are holding less.

How do we move from inspiration to action?

We can start today by simply letting go of things

We know we're holding onto too tightly.

Look at your life and the things that control you.

When you do this,

you will open up room in your heart to hold the things that truly matter.

Our hearts will hold more if our hands are holding less. Amen.