Archives: Proper 5

God the Grieving Widow

Do you remember the first time to you were in conversation with your mom or dad and said indignantly, “It’s not fair!”?

No, you probably don’t, because that’s one of the earliest capacities small humans develop: a sense of justice and a sense of how often it’s violated.

Whatever had frustrated you at that age, a dispute over a toy at the playground, your mom’s refusal to buy you a candy bar in the checkout line, a sibling’s first dibs on the front seat of the car, your parent’s response was probably this: “Well, honey, I’m sorry, but life isn’t fair.”

And few of us have found reason to doubt that assessment some ten or twenty or sixty years later.

Such was emphatically the case for the women in our scripture lessons today from 1 Kings and the Gospel of Luke, the Widow of Zarephath and the Widow of Nain.

They had already experienced the terrible blow of the death of their husbands. In a time when there was no such thing as economic independence for women, this scenario had terrifying practical implications on top of the personal grief they were enduring.

And now they were facing the worst, the death of their sons.

They say there is no grief worse than the death of a child.

Why should anyone have to face that, much less after having already lost a husband?

The worst part is that for so many people in this room, these stories of grief compounded on grief are not isolated, far away Bible stories that have no relation to their lives.

So many people in this church know what it is like to be struck down by tragedy, and just as they are painstakingly climbing to their feet again, to be leveled by another blow of disease or addiction or death.

One great calamity in life is not unusual; we are used to the human condition at least to that extent.

But two or more viscerally painful events or ongoing situations in our lives, and our souls cry out, why me? This is so unfair!

And it is unfair.

What consoles us in these situations of tragedy and injustice? Continue reading