AA has a saying : HALT, H-A-L-T is a slogan that means: never get too Hungry, too Angry, too Lonely or too Tired. The wisdom behind this slogan is that when we get too hungry too angry too lonely or too tired we lose perspective, get run down and become vulnerable. Elijah’s HALT was working overtime… he was too hungry, too angry, too lonely and too tired. And so he plopped down under that broom tree and gave up….
Awakened by the rush of busy angels, or perhaps by the smell of baked goods Elijah is presented with a freshly baked cake and a refreshing jar of water. No doubt Elijah thought he was dreaming, for he just lays back down again until the angel returns, saying, “get up, eat and get going. There is work to do and we need you to be strong for your journey.” So he did. He ate and was strengthened to do the work he was given to do.
He ate and he was strengthened. That’s just what Jesus is telling us to do in the Bread of Life discourse which is our Gospel message for the month of August. Jesus is food indeed, a food that, when we receive it, when we partake of it, will never leave us hungry, will never leave us thirsty. Holy Food for Holy People….
The act of receiving communion nourishes us for this work. But our nourishment comes from more than this holy meal. It comes from fellowship, it comes from service, it comes from being a community of people offering refreshment, offering hope, offering a way of life that defeats hunger, anger, loneliness and tiredness. A community that knocks the socks off of HALT.
The holy meal we gather to receive feeds us but without the community that surrounds this meal, there is no nourishment in the sacrament, there is no strength to be gathered from the prayers. This is why I am forbidden from celebrating the Eucharist alone. It means nothing if done in a vacuum, it means nothing if we try and do it alone.
Elijah had run off to be alone, and while by himself, while alone he lost his way. While alone, he lost his will. He needed to, as we heard last week, “get up and walk.” To walk until he got to the other side…to walk until he reached the source of all nourishment: God. And he did…for forty days he walked until reaching Mt Horeb where God, in that wonderful scene from scripture, nourishes his soul in the absolute quiet that followed the strong wind, the earthquake and the fire. From there, his soul nourished by God, Elijah headed to Damascus where he established a new community of faith to be led by his protégé Elisha.
- Catherine Dempesy, excerpted from "Halting HALT Through Holy Food," a sermon on 1 Kings 19:4-8, preached on August 12, 2012 at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, Buffalo, NY