Proper 15(B): Make a Wish!

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By: The Rev. Sean Ekberg

I often tell folks that God isn’t a Coke Machine. We don’t get to insert our prayers and receive the intended purchase—that’s just not how it works. God doesn’t show up on our doorstep or in our dreams and say, “Hey, you know what? You’ve been really good this year…name anything and its yours.” Our memories are pretty short, however, and we forget that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the gift that keeps on giving—really. How dare we ask for anything else? How could we possibly expect God to give more than Godself to us? Is there any sane person on the planet that would ask someone for a favor after they literally gave all they had to give?

Well. Yes. But maybe without the ‘sane’ component.

We do it all the time. We lament the tragedies in our personal, professional and global spheres and wail to God for grace. Which, to be honest, we should, as Philippians 4: 6-7 reminds us. But we also ask for things sometimes that really aren’t necessary to our survival. “Hey…um…I know you gave Jesus and all, but I just saw my buddy’s new house and…erm…why can’t I be that ‘blessed’?” We’re so bad at being thankful, so bad at accepting that free will exists in others just the same as it does in us—and that others’ free will isn’t always going to coincide with the good we’d like to see in the world. In short:

We’re so bad.

That’s what makes this excerpt from 1 Kings 2 so infuriating. We get to witness someone who has everything—everything—receive another boon from God. Not only that, but God speaks to him in a dream!! The audacity of God to pick someone so fortunate is beyond me. I mean, why doesn’t God pick someone lowly to visit—someone who’s been just as faithful?


Well, then why doesn’t God pick someone who’s had everything but lost it and then visit them somehow, making them great?



Why didn’t God pick someone who could literally change the face of the planet if he so chose, but then humble him by a gruesome betrayal and death, and then give him the boon of eternal life through resurrection or something like that?

Oh. Right.


See, the thing we hate about this pericope in 1 Kings isn’t that Solomon gets the goods from God. The reason this story sits poorly with some of us is simple: We know that, given the same opportunity, we’d choose wealth, health, or maybe the ability to fly around, and jump buildings in a single bound. Preaching on this particular moment can serve as a reminder to our people that God chooses people from their faith, and their faith alone. It doesn’t matter where they come from, who they are, or how many Benjamins they have in their tribe or wallet. A shepherd became a king. A manger became a throne. A virgin became a mother. And Solomon, being the faithful man he was, just wanted to be a bit smarter in order to guide his people in better ways.

What if we reminded folks about that? What if we preached a word that exhorted people to recognize their own potential—and the potential of others—regardless of socio-economic-status, creed, station, or pigmentation? And then to make them think about what they’d ask of God. I’m willing to bet that the folks in the pews may have arguments, but in the long run, they’d use some good ol’ fashioned introspection and see ways in which they aren’t living into the faith they so vehemently espouse.

And I imagine we’d hear ourselves, too, and do the same damned thing.

This one preaches to all, in many ways. Whether it’s recognizing the ‘good’ in our lives rather than the bad; the abundance rather than the scarcity; the humility rather that the ‘I deserve more’… What would we do if God gave us one wish?

I’d wish to have the wisdom of Solomon…not his gold.

The Rev. Sean Ekberg is the Rector of Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He earned a Master of Divinity from Seminary of the Southwest in 2015. His favorite pastimes are talkin’ bout Jesus, enhancing his terrible golf game, and taking vacation time with his favorite person in the world—his wife, Nicole. They have two fur babies, Kevin T. and Sophia P. Ekberg.

Proper 14(B): God Gives us Cake!

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By: The Rev. Jazzy Bostock

In July, I celebrate my birthday – which, coincidentally, I share with my wife. Navigating the day is interesting – she is content to let it pass as a “normal” day, while I want a big celebration. And what is more celebratory than cake? So, though I am NOT a baker, this year I decided on one thing: I was going to make a birthday cake. Cake is rich, over the top, fun food. It’s celebration food. Cake feels special to me.

So, you can imagine that the story in 1 Kings is one of my favorites. Elijah is travelling into the wilderness, after he has gone through a huge trial. He’s proven that God is God, in a sort of competition among prophets. All the prophets of Baal have been killed, and Jezebel sends a message to Elijah that he will be next. He must be exhausted – his energy spent on this major showdown, and his spirit weary from the stress.

Fearing for his own life after hearing Jezebel’s threats, he journeys into the wilderness, sits down beneath a tree, and asks God that he might die. Now, this may seem odd for someone who has just won such a huge competition and proven himself in battle so well. But I think the exhaustion simply overcomes him. Even after winning this huge fight, Elijah still isn’t in the clear. I wonder if he is realizing (perhaps for the first time) just how dangerous his career really is. I wonder if he is questioning God because of how much is required of him.

He lays down under the tree and falls asleep. He sleeps for a while, then an angel comes and touches him and tells him to get up and eat. Such simple, timeless wisdom: take a nap, and eat a snack. Have a glass of water. Elijah gets up and sees that there is a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. Can you imagine?

Now, I don’t mean to speak ill of manna – that powdery white stuff which kept God’s people alive in the wilderness so many centuries ago – and if Elijah had been offered manna, this story would still be miraculous. But, how much more beautiful—how much more sustaining—to be offered cake? Elijah wasn’t just given exactly what he needed to stay alive; he was given more than enough. He was given something rich, and dense, and celebratory.

The difference between cake and manna is like the difference between a home cooked meal and drive through. The drive through does the job. Manna has calories, and it will sustain those in need. But a home cooked meal, with a set table, on real plates, with the kind of food that fills the house with aroma and is eaten slowly so it can be savored—that kind of food feeds so much more than the stomach. That kind of food feeds the soul.

When the angel gave cake to Elijah, his soul was being nourished. And Elijah didn’t just have cake once. The whole scene repeated itself. This time, the angel gives some foreshadowing – “Get up and eat,” the angel says, “otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” This nourishment is a gift given to Elijah freely by God, and it propels him forward. The nourishment Elijah receives from these two pieces of cake sustain him for forty days and forty nights.

I love this story about Elijah, because it reminds me that our God doesn’t just give us manna; our God also gives us cake. It reminds me that when I feel low, or like I can’t go on, God offers sustenance and nourishment richer than I can imagine. It reminds me that when I am exhausted, I should take a nap, and have a snack.

This story also reminds me that when I am given nourishment, it is never supposed to be just for me, but for the life of God’s people. Elijah is sustained by this cake, and journeys onward to Horeb, where he receives confirmation in his calling as a prophet, and is sent back to serve God’s people. The nourishment God gives is not just comforting, it calls us onward, into the future.

Perhaps, in this moment, you are struggling with self-doubt. Perhaps you are exhausted, or wearied from your trials. Perhaps you just had a peak, or a triumph, but you are left depleted. If that sounds like you, take heart, for God offers cake to your weary soul. 

The Rev. Jazzy Bostock is a kanaka maoli woman, serving St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church and Maluhia Lutheran Church in Maili and Makaha, on the West Side of Oahu, Hawaii. She loves to cook, garden, laugh with her wife, and walk barefoot in sunshine.