Today has been crazy! We had a church dinner (unfortunately it was raining so I left my camera inside!) which was an absolute blast. After dinner Bruce and I ran some errands and then ran over to the church. This week is Vacation Bible School and Bruce volunteered to teach the bible story portion!
Our Church School Director has been in all week with volunteers decorating and the space looks great! They are doing underwater stories this year.
I think the kids are going to have a great time!
Here is today’s sermon … As usual, audio is here!
1 Kings 19:9-18
Hiding In Caves
A couple of weeks ago we were in the first book of Kings – like we are this morning – and we talked about how unstable the nation of Israel was at that point in their journey. As a nation, they were moving into a united monarchy, to be governed by a more defined leadership of Kings, as opposed to a more fluid influence of prophets and other religious figures. My sermon was called “Strong Servants, Weak Servanthood” – and I talked about how King Solomon allowed himself to be weak in front of God so that God could help Solomon be strong in his leadership.
The transition to the united monarchy was a very, very shaky one and by the time we get to this morning’s passage, the stable leadership that we were sort of seeing with King Solomon was falling to the wayside and the Kingdom of Israel had been divided into the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
So we once again have a mess on our hands in Israel. And Elijah – the main character in this morning’s passage – was not necessarily helping the situation.
Here was part of the problem. Elijah worshipped one God, like it was stated in the 10 Commandments. That God was referred to in this part of the Old Testament as Yahweh. There were people, however, that worshipped Baal. Baal was another God; a different God.
And as I am sure you can imagine, Yahweh worshippers were not happy. After all, Yahweh had given Moses the 10 Commandments and they clearly stated, “I am the LORD your God … You shall have no other Gods before me.”
And yet there were people worshipping Baal.
Elijah had a great solution for dealing with the people with whom he disagreed with: he killed them. But it did not end there. After Elijah killed several prophets and worshippers of Baal, another worshipper of Baal – Queen Jezebel – sent Elijah a message saying that she was going to kill Elijah and Elijah, distraught over the divisions between the Yahweh worshippers and the Baal worshippers and fearing for his life, ran away and hid in a cave.
And that brings us to this morning’s scripture lesson.
Let’s recap: Essentially we have two different groups worshipping two different religious Gods. Both groups were mad at the other group for each other’s opposing religious beliefs, both groups were upset with one another about their opposing religious beliefs and their solution was just to kill one another.
And this is why preachers hate preaching from the Old Testament! This is why Sunday School teachers hate teaching from the Old Testament! It is violent, it is graphic and it is raw. But it is real. It is very, very real.
For me, the interesting thing about this passage is not the peculiarities of the worshippers of Yahweh versus the worshippers of Baal. Rather, it is the fact that after it had all fallen apart, after Elijah had acted violently out of religious passion and frustration, after Elijah had been threatened by Queen Jezebel and after Elijah felt that there was nothing left to do but to run away and to hide in a cave – God was still with Elijah; God still spoke calmly and softly to Elijah; and God revealed himself to Elijah.
Every now and then, things fall apart in our lives. We get sick, our lives get busy, we feel anxious, we are consumed by grief or we stumble into an unsettling conflict. And when that happens sometimes I think that our natural intuition as human beings is – like Elijah – to run away and to hide in a cave. We do not want to face the hard times because they are just that – hard. We do not like conflict, we do not like messy emotional messes and we do not like to admit our own weaknesses.
When you are going through a difficult season in your life, it is so much easier to run away and to hide in a cave than to admit that you need help. It is so much easier to run away and hide in a cave than it is to ever ask for that help. It is so much easier to run away and hide in a cave and hope and pray that the difficult season that you are experiencing is just going to blow over than to brave the storm from the outside.
But here is the thing – God is present no matter how far we may run to hide. It does not matter how scared we may be at any point in our lives, God is with us. It does not matter how far we want to hide from life, from our family, from our friends, from the people who love and support us and want to help us so badly. God is with us. God is with us always.
Elijah was scared and frustrated and ran away from a life that was so overwhelming to him and sought shelter in a faraway cave, but God still found him.
And when we try to run away from our problems, from our insecurities, from our overwhelming schedules, from our illnesses, from our fears, from our frustrations and from the differences that we think divide us from one another, God will find us. God is with us. God is with us always.
I have talked before about how I preach from the Revised Common Lectionary, a resource that brings preachers and their congregations through the bible by highlighting a Psalm, an Old Testament passage, a Gospel reading and an Epistle every week. This week’s Epistle is a favorite of mine. Paul wrote to the church in Rome:
For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’
I love that last part, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’
It is easy for us to use our feet as tools in which to hide; to run from the things that we are afraid of, from the insecurities that hold us back, from the pain and the grief that we face every day and from the illnesses that are making us weak. But what if, instead, we used our feet as tools in which to bring the good news to those we meet along our journey that God is with us, that God is with us always?
But what if, instead, we used our feet as tools in which to bring the good news to those we meet along our journey that God is with us, that God is with us always?
There is a lot that we can take away from this passage from 1 Kings. It is very busy and multifaceted, it is full of a volatile history of fear and division and can be extremely difficult to understand. But I think that on a very basic level this passage shows us a scared, upset and distraught man who tried to hide – and found God along the way.
When you are scared, when you are frustrated, when you are sick, when you are grieving, when you are divided from your neighbors and when you are confused, I pray that you find God in your journey. And I pray that along your journey you find the strength within yourself to use your feet to bring the good news to those around you.