Reading & Proclaiming the Word
"Last week we heard about Solomon building the Temple in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, the conscripted labor for the Temple, Solomon’s political alliances through multiple marriages, and the inequality between the palace and the people meant that after Solomon’s 40 year reign ended, the succession was in a bit of disarray, and split into the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Today’s story takes place during the reign of Ahab, who was the seventh king of the northern kingdom. Ahab did not follow God’s word. In addition, he married a princess from a foreign nation, who brought with her the religious, cultural, political, and economic traditions of her own upbringing. Her name was Jezebel.
The prophet Elijah, in an attempt to bring Ahab and Jezebel to faithfulness, declared there would be no rain in Israel until they repented and turned to God’s way. He then went to stay with a foreign widow and her son, promising that her jar of flour and oil would never run out, and even healing her son when he fell ill. In the third year of this drought, Elijah had a standoff with the royal court prophets. They and Elijah each set up a sacrifice on top of Mount Carmel, with the wood and the animal ready, and then called on their respective gods to send the fire. Baal did not answer, but God did, in a spectacular way, and everyone declared “the Lord is God.” Elijah, however, took that as an opportunity to have all the court prophets killed. We pick up the story that night in the royal palace, as the king reports to the queen all that happened on the mountain, in 1 Kings chapter 19. I am reading from the Common English Version. Let us hear how the Spirit is speaking to her Church" (From Terri Peterson, BibleWorm Liturgy).
Scripture Reading: 1Kings 19: 1-18
Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, how he had killed all Baal’s prophets with the sword. 2 Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah with this message: “May the gods do whatever they want to me if by this time tomorrow I haven’t made your life like the life of one of them.”
3 Elijah was terrified. He got up and ran for his life. He arrived at Beer-sheba in Judah and left his assistant there. 4 He himself went farther on into the desert a day’s journey. He finally sat down under a solitary broom bush. He longed for his own death: “It’s more than enough, Lord! Take my life because I’m no better than my ancestors.” 5 He lay down and slept under the solitary broom bush.
Then suddenly a messenger tapped him and said to him, “Get up! Eat something!” 6 Elijah opened his eyes and saw flatbread baked on glowing coals and a jar of water right by his head. He ate and drank, and then went back to sleep. 7 The Lord’s messenger returned a second time and tapped him. “Get up!” the messenger said. “Eat something, because you have a difficult road ahead of you.” 8 Elijah got up, ate and drank, and went refreshed by that food for forty days and nights until he arrived at Horeb, God’s mountain. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.
The Lord’s word came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah?”
10 Elijah replied, “I’ve been very passionate for the Lord God of heavenly forces because the Israelites have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars, and they have murdered your prophets with the sword. I’m the only one left, and now they want to take my life too!”
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand at the mountain before the Lord. The Lord is passing by.” A very strong wind tore through the mountains and broke apart the stones before the Lord. But the Lord wasn’t in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake. But the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake, there was a fire. But the Lord wasn’t in the fire. After the fire, there was a sound. Thin. Quiet. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his coat. He went out and stood at the cave’s entrance. A voice came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah?”
14 He said, “I’ve been very passionate for the Lord God of heavenly forces because the Israelites have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars, and they have murdered your prophets with the sword. I’m the only one left, and now they want to take my life too.”
15 The Lord said to him, “Go back through the desert to Damascus and anoint Hazael as king of Aram. 16 Also anoint Jehu, Nimshi’s son, as king of Israel; and anoint Elisha from Abel-meholah, Shaphat’s son, to succeed you as prophet. 17 Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill. Whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill. 18 But I have preserved those who remain in Israel, totaling seven thousand—all those whose knees haven’t bowed down to Baal and whose mouths haven’t kissed him.”
This is the Word of our Lord. Thanks be to God.
Elijah is so messy in this story, isn’t he? But it’s kind of one of things I really like about it. Here’s where I totally get Elijah. I have been known to live in my head a little. I dream up these big ideas, maybe get a little carried away, try them out, and sometimes they just backfire. And I feel like this is what happnens to Elijah.
“What are you doing, Elijah?” God asks.
And Elijah says, ““I’ve been very passionate for the Lord God of heavenly forces because the Israelites have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars, and they have murdered your prophets with the sword. And I’m just trying to show them who’s who and all.”
And it was awesome, right? And so dramatic. Elijah is all like, “Call on your god.” Do it again. And again. And it’s such theater, and of course their god doesn’t answer, and then the Lord, sends down fire and verse 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”
It was good right?
But then Elijah takes things a little too far, and ends up murdering all of Jezebel’s prophets. And because of this, Elijah is now in hiding.
I have this image of Elijah fleeing into the wilderness because he just wanted to die, not knowing where he was headed. Almost like a desperate teenager just trying to get away. And God shows up in the middle of this random place and says, “Here I am, Elijah.” I am with you. Here is some substance, the simple bread and water for the journey. And then God shows Elijah, who has just done some really big God things, that and then a reminder of who God is. That yes God is the creator of the cosmos and of the really big things, but God is also in the silence. In the stillness. In the thin quiet.
It seems fitting on All Saints Sunday that we’d take the time to notice a God in the silence.
One of my favorite poems from when I was in 9th grade is a poem called “Silence” by Edgar Lee Masters. It’s a longer poem, so I’m not going to share it today, but it names those poignant moments of life that are often captured in silence.
In the text for today God reminds us that God is right there in the midst.
In the silence of the flight of a butterfly.
In the silence of a snow storm. Or the silence that fills a hospital room.
In silence of the forest. Or the silence of a friend’s arm that wraps us in a hug.
In the silence of loneliness. And the silence of hope.
There is God.
In the name of the one who promises to never forsake us, to pursue us even to the caves when we run, Amen.
-Rev. Tricia Dillon Thomas