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Sunday, 05 November 2017

November 5, 2017

God Speaks to Elijah - All Saints Sunday

God Speaks to Elijah – All Saints Sunday

November 5, 2017

I Kings 19:9-18

 

“What am I doing here?” 

 

Have you ever had one of those moments?  You’ve enter a room but you don’t know why.  You can’t remember if you came to get something or if you came to do something.  You try to trace back your thoughts and remember what may have prompted you to be in that room.

 

I can claim that kind of experience as a “senior moment” now, but I’ve had experiences like that for as long as I can remember.  I like to think it happens because I have a very active mind, don’t you? But no matter how you explain it it’s irritating, is it not?

 

“What am I doing here?”

 

That question can be deeper and even more frustrating.  It can be an existential question. Why am I alive?  What is the meaning and purpose of my life? 

 

Elijah was having that second type of questioning.  He’d reached a point in his life where he didn’t really know what to do next, or what he wanted to do and be.  He did know and he was tired and frustrated with his life . . . and with God.

 

We don’t know how Elijah became a prophet of God. The Bible just tells us that he started sharing messages from God. The first one was not good news. King Ahab and Queen Jezebel had angered God.  They were worshiping false God’s and Elijah shared the word that, as a punishment, there would be no rain, a time of drought.

 

People suffered because of the drought, but God took care of Elijah. One time he sent ravens to bring him food. Another time a widow shared her meager portions with him and the food miraculously lasted for days.  When the widow's son died, God helped Elijah bring him back to life. Shortly before the lesson today, angels had supplied Elijah with food once again.

 

Elijah should have been celebrating.  He had defeated 450 prophets of Ba’al in what could have been called the “Greatest Prophet” contest.  Now Ba’al is a generic name for false gods. It means “lord” in Semitic languages.  Generally the false gods supposedly controlled three things, weather, wealth and warfare.  King Ahab and Queen Jezebel were committed believers in Ba’al.

 

The Ba’al prophets prepared a sacrifice to their god to get him to make it rain.  But nothing happened.  They commanded fire to burn the sacrifice and nothing happened.   Elijah also prepared a sacrifice to God and even had people douse the sacrifice with water.  It burst into flame and shortly after it did, it began to rain.  The prophets of Ba’al suffered the ultimate punishment for their failure. Elijah had shown the power of the one, true God . . . and made Jezebel even angrier.  He couldn’t take the pressure anymore. He wanted to die.

Elijah lay down under a broom tree and bemoaned his fate.  That’s when God sent angels to feed him and convince him to keep going. He did. He traveled to Mount Horeb, also known as Mt. Sinai.  If you wanted to get away from God today you would probably head for Las Vegas, or Washington D.C. or Chicago, not to church. In Elijah’s time, if you wanted to get away from God you would not go to Mt. Horeb.

 

Call it Horeb or Sinai, it was the mountain on which Moses received the 10 Commandments.  It was considered by the Israelites to be perhaps the holiest place on earth.  It was there that God confronted Elijah with a display of power; wind, earthquake, then fire.  But God wasn’t in those powerful displays.  In a still small voice Elijah heard God and the existential question, “What are you doing here Elijah?”

 

Elijah was a whiner. He repeated the same old complaint. “I’ve worked hard but other people are jerks.  They’ve forgotten your promises, torn down altars and killed prophets. I’m the only good guy left.”

 

God wanted to adjust Elijah’s attitude and give his life direction.  “Anoint Hazael and Nimshi,” God said.  “They will take care of Ahab and Jezebel.  And you can and will be replaced.  Anoint Elisha to be your replacement.”  What was the message?  It’s not about you, it’s about God.  Trust that God will do what needs to be done.  Your job is to trust him and help him.

 

Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He was questioning what he was doing on earth and what he had to do.  Jesus asked that not his will be the Father’s be done. He trusted God the Father even though he knew it would lead to his death.  His trust proved worthwhile. He was raised from the dead and through him we have the promise of forgiveness and life. We have the certainty that we are now and always will be in God’s loving care.

 

Today a little girl will be baptized. I’m sure she will have times when she questions the meaning and purpose of her life. I hope she finds the answer in the certainty of her baptism, the certainty that she is a child of God and that she is here to share God’s love.

 

Today we remember the lives of 12 saints. They were all different, but I hope that we can remember one thing they had in common. In so many different ways God used them to share his love.

 

Today we may question why we are here.  Can love be the focus in our search for meaning and purpose?  We are here to share God’s love.

 

Once again a song popped into my mind when I was preparing this sermon.  I first heard to sung by Richard Harris.  It was written by Leslie Bricusse for the movie, “Good Bye, Mr. Chips”.

 

DID I FILL THE WORLD WITH LOVE?

In the morning of my life I shall look to the sunrise.

At a moment in my life when the world is new.

And the blessing I shall ask is that God will grant me,

To be brave and strong and true,

And to fill the world with love my whole life through.

 

(Chorus) And to fill the world with love

And to fill the world with love

And to fill the world with love

my whole life through

 

In the noontime of my life I shall look to the sunshine,

At a moment in my life when the sky is blue.

And the blessing I shall ask shall remain unchanging.

To be brave and strong and true,

And to fill the world with love my whole life through

 

(Chorus) And to fill the world with love

And to fill the world with love

And to fill the world with love

my whole life through

 

In the evening of my life I shall look to the sunset,

At a moment in my life when the night is due.

And the question I shall ask only God can answer.

Was I brave and strong and true?

Did I fill the world with love my whole life through?

 

(Chorus)

Did I fill the world with love?

Did I fill the world with love?

Did I fill the world with love

My whole life through?

 

 
A woman who had heard me give a presentation at a conference meeting saw we some weeks later and asked me one of the most difficult questions I have ever been asked.  She asked, “Do you know who you are?”

 

That’s a tough question, but I think the answer helps answer that other tough question, “What am I doing here?”  Can you see how they go together?

 

We are God’s saints and we are here to share his love. AMEN