by the Rev. Dr. Rosalyn R. Nichols —
With the close of Black History Month and as we usher in Lent, I find myself asking, what is faith really? What does faith look like really?
Is faith found in the hull of the Clotilda when 110 captured Africans arrived at Mobile Bay in 1859?
Is faith what 4 million enslaved people had when the Emancipation Proclamation freed them on paper with no 40 acres nor a mule in 1863?
These are not rhetorical questions.
They are questions surfacing when Jesus says to his own people, “Truly, I tell you, no prophet is accepted in their hometown. But I speak truth to you all, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were closed three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land.
“Yet, Elijah was sent to none of them, rather to Zarephath in Sidon, to a widow woman.”
It was by faith that Prophet Elijah was waging a powerful climate control and environmental justice fight connecting the power of the divine with the power of economics.
Still, his faith did not exclude him from the effects of his work.
His power was not enough to get him a get-out-of-drought pass, where everyone struggled, and he did not.
It did not secure for him a path without the wilderness, meager here today gone tomorrow provisions, nor ultimately the evaporation of resources.
Elijah’s journey reminds us that you can follow God and be on subsidies. You can follow God and still need Meals on Wings. You can follow God and the brook of provision will dry up.
In those moments, how you respond demonstrates your faith.
God told Elijah, “Watch now, I have commanded a widow woman there to provide for you.”
Faith is found in what you are willing to watch now.
When you are following God and life goes off the rails, when you have done what you believed God told you to do and you end up in the wilderness of life, faith opens your ears of faith to hear as the All-seeing God speaks to the eyes of faith saying, “watch now.”
Our American cultural definition of faith equals success without struggle. Our superficial image of faith suggests that when you are doing what God has called you to do, things will go easy for you.
We create vision boards but we don’t factor by faith what happens when the vision tarries. We believe in manifesting, but we never expect the detours on the road to manifestations.
We never anticipate that in our lowest, the one who will meet our need will be a widow woman commanded to provide for you!
Our faith is not prepared to see how a widow woman preparing the last meal for herself and her son before they die can help the man or woman of God?
Why would God command a woman and her fatherless son to share their meager means to help this man powerful enough to predict climate control?
We would not be surprised nor fault her if she dismissed the prophet to attend to herself and her son. We would understand if the widow woman told God NO!
Faith, real faith, calls you to watch now even when your eyes are clouded by the vicissitudes and challenges of life.
This is the faith we see as both the prophet and the widow woman must trust God. The powerful and the powerless will both be transformed by God, as they watch now together!
This I believe is at the heart of the matter as Jesus reminds the people of their own faith saying to them, “And you all will say, the things we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown.”
They want him to do for them what he did for others, to which Jesus says (this):
“Truly, I tell you, no prophet is accepted in their hometown. But I speak truth to you all, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were closed three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land. Yet, Elijah was sent to none of them, rather to Zarephath in Sidon, to a widow woman.”
Jesus pushes them to see that faith is not transactional. Faith is not based upon tradition, nor rituals, nor expectations of quid pro quo.
Faith is not tribal, it is not chosen for some and not for others. Faith is not bound by ethnicity, identity, nor economic status.
No! Jesus pushes his own people to see that faith is about shared and sharing a mutual trust in God by faith to do exceedingly abundantly.
Faith becomes transformational when it is shared and co-dependent. Faith becomes transformational when there is equity; when we recognize that the only difference between the haves and the have nots is faith.
Faith in God AND in the shared power of God at work in us all.
Without that, Jesus says even a prophet will fail. Without the mutuality of faith, a people, even your hometown crew, will suffer. Without faith for the greater good of God, the gifts of God will be revealed…
Watch now someplace other than where you are. Be the change you want to see. Have enough faith to share and enough to receive like a widow woman no one would have expected to have had enough faith to save herself, her son and the prophet of God.
Because God is with those who stand in need and who have enough faith to believe and to receive!
(The Rev. Dr. Rosalyn R. Nichols, organizing pastor of Freedom’s Chapel Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).