Time apart. Nourishment enough. Any overburdened parent, employee, landowner, manager or lackey knows the need for the two. It was no different for God's servant, Elijah. This time he catches his breath under a broom tree and allows himself to sleep. When he awakens, he sees a whole new world.
From where had he come? A raging royal duo, by the name of Ahab and Jezebel, want him silenced. He is subverting their order of the day. With no patience and a lot of clout, they seek his life. Could it be coincidence that the place to which he flees is the very place most sacred, where Israel's covenant with God was first made? Mount Horeb, also known as Sinai, holds Elijah's memory. There Israel received God's gift of the law, through Moses. Here, generations later, Elijah finds and receives refuge.
Where do you and I find and receive refuge? Too often it is our tendency to mask and miss the gifts before us. A nourishing meal gets pinched into a power bar portion. A night's rest is robbed by worry or fear. We land where Elijah finds himself, in an encroaching wilderness.
Elijah is stirred from sleep by an angel. "Get up and eat," this one beckons. Before him is a cake of bread and a jar of water. "Get up and eat," the angel insists," otherwise the journey will be too much for you."
Where is the angelic voice and sustaining fare for us?
Broken bread and poured wine keep tumbling in and swirling through the narrowness of our wilderness passageway. Scripture calls us back to the ground that we share with Elijah and Moses and all the rest of the fallible ones who go before. The story of God's faithfulness to an unfaithful people is, once more, written all over us. It begins with Christ's cross marked on our brow at baptism.
Elijah keeps busy and so do you and I, with the wilderness work of making way. By reaching refuge from the pair who sought his life, Elijah finally is out of the reach of his enemies. So also, he is out of his own ability to reach and attempt to save his own life. He rests at the very place that provided life for God's people through the giving of the law. Elijah awakens to receive friend and food. "He got up and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights…"
Receiving is believing. Are we awake to receive? Perhaps we, like Elijah, are finally out of our own abilities to reach. Perhaps we, like Elijah, are able to receive the wilderness for what it is: terrain already trod. Jesus Christ has reached and met the wilderness and its emptiness. There he reaches us with the bread of life. Christ is faithful throughout our days and nights of wilderness wanderings. God's baptismal promise to us holds sway.
Under the cover of a broom tree and out of the reach of his adversaries, Elijah knows rest. God's reach received him there. Under the cover of God's baptismal promise and beyond the reach of our own abilities, God reaches to us, with boundless baptismal waters and the abundant table of Christ. Amen.