September 11 is remembered as a traumatic day in the history of the United States. A few years after those terrorist attacks, I met a woman who had been in Manhattan that day. We were working together at a grocery store in Boulder. She had changed jobs, altered her lifestyle, and moved to Colorado to get away from everything that reminder her of the trauma she and her community there had experienced. She came here seeking healing, peace, and relief.
Today's lectionary reading from 1 Kings 17 speaks to God's power to heal and bring peace in the midst of trauma and grief. Israel was suffering from drought, experiencing God's judgment because of the idolatrous ways of their king, Ahab. To keep his faithful prophet Elijah alive during the ensuing famine, the Lord sent Elijah to live with a widow in Zarephath, miraculously ensuring that the ingredients she needed to make bread would not run out until the drought ended. But during this time the woman's son died suddenly. Confronted with the fierce grief of the mother, Elijah took the boy to his room in their house and prayed, "O Lord my God, let this child's life come into him again" (1 Kings 17:21). By God's grace, the child revived.
Let this child's life come into him again. Let this mother's grief be replaced with joy. These are prayers that are "powerful and effective" (James 5:16) and that bring resurrection from the dead (Hebrews 11:35) because God is able to heal even the greatest traumas. When left unhealed, the wounds of trauma sometimes become the seeds of mental illness, physical illness, addiction, and even further violence. But the Church proclaims God's power to end cycles of trauma, to heal even our deepest wounds, and to restore life where death had once reigned.
As the nation in which we live remembers an incident of horrific trauma, let us pray also for those who bear the scars of other traumas. If the statistics are true, then someone you know has suffered the traumas of child abuse or sexual assault. Another person you know has suffered the terrors of war. Yet another person you know has suffered the inexplicable trauma of a severe accident or injury. For all of these brothers and sisters, let us pray: O Lord, our God, let life come into these your suffering children again. Taking these prayers one step further, let's also ask God to show us the Elijahs around us, the agents of his healing power whom we can support as they minister to a traumatized world. Who are the people and ministries around us who can say by God's power, "See, your son is alive" (v.23)? How can we support them just as the widow in Zarephath supported Elijah? May the Lord bless and empower the Church to participate in such healing ministry, today and always.
Grace and Peace,