***Note: this sermon is unfinished. And is being posted unfinished for a couple reasons. 1) it's Sunday. It should have been done by this morning. 2) I've been overwhelmed by the same feelings discussed in this post and therefore just can't finish it.***
"I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us - don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know."
This is the first stanza of a poem by Emily Dickinson. "I'm nobody." Have you ever thought that, or something similar?
God can't use me.
I'm a sinner.
I have nothing to offer.
I'm no better than anyone else.
In our first reading this morning, we get the impression that this is how Elijah is feeling. He cries out to God. "Take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors." We aren't told why he feels this way, or why he tells God to take his life. But, I don't think the why is necessarily important.
What is important is the cry to the Lord. How many of you have been given a task to carry out, and you just don't believe you have it in you to do it? Maybe you've been called by God to preach, or to speak in front of a group of people. Maybe you've been called to teach God's word to a group of children. Maybe you've been called to be a comfort and support to a dying family member, or to those who've lost someone.
Whatever it is, you suddenly realize the enormity of that call. You suddenly realize you're not equipped for the task at hand. You fall to your knees in fear and weakness, crying out "Lord, why me? I'm not worthy! I'm nobody! There is surely someone better than me to do this."
The interesting thing about this short text from 1 Kings is that although it is only 5 verses long, it has one very important message wrapped within:
God can take the supposedly insignificant - the nobodies and the nothings - and make them significant. He can take what does not seem like enough and make it more than enough.
When Elijah is in the wilderness, weak and tired, he finds comfort beneath a broom tree - a relatively small tree, that only reaches 10 feet in height, and doesn't provide much shade. And yet, it is enough to give him shelter. God sends an angel to bring Elijah a small cake and some water, twice. This insignificant portion is enough to sustain Elijah for forty days and forty nights. And when Elijah is feeling unworthy of the task ahead of him, God doesn't just let him off the hook. Instead, he strengthens him and makes him able to keep moving forward.
This is what God does with us. When we feel unworthy - when we feel like a nobody - when we feel like we are not enough ... God strengthens us. He makes us enough. When we cry out to him, he feeds us, as often as necessary, to sustain us through the task set before us.
This same notion is reinforced in our Psalm this morning:
I sought the Lord, and he answered me,
and delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him, and be radiant;
so your faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord,
and was saved from every trouble.
The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
O taste and see that the Lord is good;
happy are those who take refuge in him.
God hears our cries. He recognizes that we see these failings and weaknesses inside ourselves. And he answers our cries. He provides the nourishment and rest we need to sustain us.