Reflection for the Third Sunday before Advent

Revd Canon Dr Stephen Foster

 

The jar of flour is not used up...and the jug of oil does not run dry.  

It was autumn time. 

Sally and Ruth were students in their third year of University in Minnesota. They were partners, loving each other dearly and living in a modest second floor flat not far from their own Humanities Faculty. 

Downstairs lived an old man, William, who spent his days painting and selling what he did in the local store down the road. Sally and Ruth kept an eye on him and made sure he was looking after himself properly.

The jar of flour is not used up and the jug of oil does not run dry.

One day Ruth became very sick. She took to her bed at the back of the flat. The doctor was called several times but couldn't find anything wrong with her.

 'I don't know what to say...'  he said. 'There is nothing more I can do. She's not eating, not drinking much...I just don't understand it. She seems to have just given up.' Ruth seemed to get worse and worse,  deteriorating in front of Sally's eyes.

Each morning, she opened Ruth's bedroom curtains. The bedroom looked out onto a small courtyard. A beautiful climbing plant with bright red leaves clung to the wall opposite Ruth's window. Sally tried to cheer her up commenting on how beautiful it was...but to no avail.

The jar of flour is not used up and the jug of oil does not run dry.

The leaves began to fall, and one morning on Sally opening the curtains, Ruth delivered a chilling prophecy. 'When the  last leaf falls from that plant I will be no more.'

Sally was beside herself. She ran to the local surgery. On the way, Old William was the first person she met and told him of the latest news bursting into tears as he listened patiently.

The jar of flour is not used up, and the jug of oil does not run dry.

Morning after morning Sally opened Ruth's curtains. The leaves seemed to bravely hang on to the branches, but inevitably they began to fall and in ever increasing numbers.

The jar of flour is not used up and the jug of oil does not run dry.

One morning, on opening Ruth's curtains there were just six leaves bravely clinging to the branches...the next morning four, the following morning two. Ruth always insisted Sally opened the curtains, and the following morning in fear and trepidation she opened the curtains. One sole beautiful red leaf remained.

The next morning she tried to put Ruth off.

 But no...

 'Please open the curtains Sally.' Ruth slowly did as she was asked, peeping round the curtain edge hoping against hope. The one leaf bravely remained...and it did the next day... and the next, and the next. 

The jar of flour is not used up and the jug of oil does not run dry.

 On seeing this one remaining leaf, this last hope, Ruth began to eat again, she began to cheer up and feel better. Eventually she got up, became stronger, and resumed her course at University.

After a few weeks Sally pulled back the curtains of Ruth's bedroom. To her amazement, although it was very very cold and frosty the one beautiful  red leaf was still there.

She happened to bump into William at the corner shop. William had gladly heard of Ruth's recovery.

 'I don't understand it she said... but Ruth is now just fine.

'The jar of flour is not used up and the jug of oil does not run dry.

 'Come and see' he said. He led Sally to the yard at the back of their flats.  There was a set of ladders, some paint brushes and paints. 

 'Painting a leaf onto a wall is not hard you know...and this leaf  is one that is never going to fall off any branch to which it seems attached. But don't tell Ruth...let it be our little secret!'

The jar of flour is not used up and the jug of oil does not run dry.

We all have sufficient flour and oil...because as in the story of Elijah God equips us all. The equipping of our flour and our oil will never run-out because God is always faithful.

Therefore we all have leaves to paint. We all have leaves to paint, and, whoever we are, we have the means to paint them, and thereby we can bring life to others. We all have leaves to paint whatever the season, in places to be shown and at times to be discerned. All we need to do is to be faithful and leave the rest to God.

The jar of flour is not used up and the jug of oil does not run dry.

AMEN