Trinity 10 – August 13th 2023
1 Kings 19:9-18, Matthew 14:22-33
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
I want to start by settling where we are in Elijah’s story from our first reading. Elijah lived when there was one of the worst ever of kings in Israel – what was his name – That was King Ahab. And his wife was? Jezebel
Out of nowhere, but with the strength of God on side, Elijah had popped up and said to Ahab as God had spoken to him – In the name of the living God it was not going to rain for 2 or 3 years or at least until I say so. This was a dangerous thing to do and even more dangerous thing to say. Elijah managed to get away as God had guided him and he rested by a stream far away.
There God had guided one of his creatures to feed Elijah. What was it? Anyone know? It was the ravens. Here Elijah inspires us to be bold and courageous – even when the going is particularly scary. Three amazing things happened in the wake of this part of the story
- First – there was no rain.
- Second – God provided a widow and her son to look after Elijah along with flour and oil (enough for Elijah, the widow and her son to have bread).
- Third – A death to life moment where Elijah saved the widow’s son.
Next Elijah had a huge victory over the prophets of Baal (really against the odds!). This is well worth reading earlier in 1 Kings! The result of this was the people turned back – The Lord is God. They vowed not to be wibbly wobbly anymore and standing firm in the love of God. The prophets of Baal came to a nasty end and Elijah again managed to get away. But Queen Jezebel had promised Revenge – ha ha ha ha……
And now we getting closer to where today’s story started. Elijah and his servant fled from Samaria (which was back in his home land). They managed to get away again from the clutches of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel but were running scared…. This time they went over the border in to Judah and on and on and on to Beersheba. Only then did they stop running, Elijah left his servant in Beersheba and Elijah walked and he walked for a whole day – Before he sat down under a tree and told God exactly how bad he was feeling in prayer. Despite all that fabulous stuff with the fire, water and the prophets of Baal – Elijah is in the depths… It’s too much – take away my life lord, I might as well be dead – he says. Elijah is very sad but he tells God how it is for him and how he feels honestly. But this kind of prayer – is a special kind called a lament. When we lament, we are having a tough time – and we tell God all about it and how we feel. God answers this kind of prayer (but it needs us to be honest!). The answer is not necessarily what we may have thought would be best – but it will be answered. Lament is a path to transformation and wholeness – psalms are full of them.
This is how God answered Elijah’s prayer of lament – Elijah fell asleep. An angel came – placed bread and water at Elijah’s head and then woke him up. Elijah sat up ate some bread and drank some water, but then he lay down again and went back to sleep. Now the angel was having none of this, and returned and woke him a second time. This time Elijah got up, ate some more bread and some more water. In an amazing answer to prayer the bread and the water – was enough to give him the strength to walk for 40 days to Mount Horeb. Why 40 days? Well can’t we hear the echoes of other times. Looking back to the 40 years in the desert of the Israelites and looking forward to 40 days in the wilderness of Jesus.
When he eventually got to the top of Mount Horeb, another name for Mount Sinai – that’s where we encounter him today. Elijah went into a cave to rest and spend the night. This time it wasn’t a raven or an angel that woke him up but the word of the Lord that woke him up and said what are you doing here? This time Elijah shared his concerns about the Israelites. I have always served you, God, but the people of Israel have killed your prophets and worshipped other Gods and now they are trying to kill me….
(Elijah is not seeing very clearly now here as we don’t when we are in the depths! – People had turned back after last week’s events BUT Elijah hadn’t stuck around to find out that as he was too frightened (and in particular frightened of Jezebel!). God instructed Elijah to go and stand on the top of the mountain, but before he had time to do that he had many experiences of the wonders of our natural world. Wild wind that split the hills and shattered the rocks. Then there was an earthquake and then there was a fire. All these things moved Elijah but God was not in them. Then there was a soft whisper – which was God’s voice and Elijah covered his face with his cloak.
And a voice said – again What are you doing here? And Elijah again shared his concerns about the Israelites. I have always served you, God but the people of Israel have killed your prophets and worshipped other Gods and now they are trying to kill me….
Then God spoke clearly to Elijah and gave him a clear plan. He promised him someone to help him and succeed him as prophet. Elijah was to return to Damascus – Anoint Hazael king of Syria, and Jehu king of Israel who would deal with most of the problems. He also appointed Elisha as his successor as a prophet who would do the rest. God reassured him that he was not alone (and put right his perspective). There are 7000 Israelites who had stayed faithful God said. And the story continues from there as God has set out – Which maybe we will hear on another day!
So Elijah had yet another set of answers to prayer. All sorts of answers in this story! This time following an amazing experience of the power of God under the tree and on the mountain – e is given another set of things he needed – not least someone to help him. This came from Elijah being open and honest with God about how he was feeling and lamenting. Then God transformed the situation and helped him regain the perspective of the situation he had lost whilst in the depths…. This is particularly easy when life is a bit of a rollercoaster like Elijah’s!
We would do well on occasion to pray as lament too and then allow our helper – the Holy Spirit to transform us from the inside out. And to regain any necessary perspective we may have lost (it is a human thing to lose perspective like this!). We have experiences of God through the power of the Spirit, which sometimes knock us off our feet (not always literally like Elijah). But are the stuff of the Spirit which guides us too through the difficult things that challenge us day by day. How Elijah felt in the depths (and in the despair of being threatened by Jezebel) – God’s Holy Spirit is in us, we just need to open our hearts. God’s Holy Spirit will strengthen us and guide us. We need to be open to this strengthening and guiding and God’s Holy Spirit will flow through us to those we meet. Helping us to be compassionate, caring, welcoming and loving as God intends us to be…
We say this regularly in our services (and we will later in this one!)
The lord is here – His spirit is with us
Let’s do that again
The Lord is here – His spirit is with us
As it was for Elijah the presence of God with us is amazing – let’s rejoice and give thanks for that today (and not forget the way the Spirit can move if we need a good lament too or need help to regain our perspective). Amen
The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (1989 © 1995).