Faithlife Sermons

Learning from God's call to Elijah

Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
0 ratings
Sermon Notes, Sunday, June 22, 2nd Pentecost Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" It’s a common enough story these days. The proud mother and father see their freshly graduated child move off to begin a new career. All is promise and excitement until the doorbell rings several months later and there stands the graduate, hat in hand, duffle bag beside him. And Dad says, “What are you doing here, son?” Father God looks down on his children who’ve lost their way. Who’ve been smacked around by life’s bullies, beat up by life’s hard knocks, disillusioned by life’s twists and turns. And Father God says to them, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Why aren’t you out doing the work I sent you out to do? What happened to that courage, that determination you once had? What about all those things you were going to do for me? Elijah doesn’t have an answer. He’s given up. It’s all over. "It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors." No better than Moses. No better than Joshua. No better than Samuel. Whoever said he was? God isn’t fazed. Here eat something. You’re going to need it. So he does and Elijah is restored for the journey and off he goes again to seek God, to the Holy Mountain of God. And God says to him, “Elijah, what are you doing here?” This time he has excuses. "I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away." Blame it on poor huddled masses. Those undeserving souls you sent me to save. They just won’t listen. They’re out to kill me. God isn’t fazed. No more sob stories. No more excuses. Go stand outside. “Can you hear me now?” If there’s one take-away from our Old Testament lesson this morning it’s this: God is far more interested in talking to us than we are in listening to him. This reading from 1st Kings is all about the obstacles that interfere with our hearing God speak. Elijah has just come off from one of God’s greatest moments of revelation, a moment made possible by Elijah’s courage and faithfulness. He’s killed 400 false prophets of Baal and in the process reminded Israel of God’s love and everlasting care for them. It’s a complete, huge, and unmistakable triumph. So much so, that Jezebel, Baal’s champion, threatens to kill Elijah just as he killed off Baal’s prophets. Against 400 prophets, Elijah is fearless. Against Jezebel, he’s a cowering toad. I understand. Really, I do. After a particularly good sermon, after a Sunday touched by the presence of the Holy Spirit, a crash waits to happen. An unexpected disappointment takes on far more significance than it deserves. Criticism comes from an unexpected source and leaves us doubting friendships long in the making. All our human vulnerabilities are exposed with the result that just when we should be feeling strong and bold we feel weak and helpless. We want to run away and hide. Elijah heads for the hills. Someplace where Jezebel can’t find him. But God finds him and God’s question to him is toxic, “What are you doing here Elijah?” He asks that question of you and me and of his church. It was 12 years ago that a small group of believers heard God speaking to them and set off to start a new church that would be evangelistic, faithful to the Word of God, and unafraid to go public with His story. St. Brendan’s came into being and our enthusiasm for Christ caused many others to come and join us. It was an infectious time of growth in the Spirit and growth in Christian love. We learned what it meant to be a church and how to love God through service to his people. We still know how to do that, and we still love God in that way. Just as Elijah never refused his calling, so we continue to believe we are called by God for a purpose. But over time an erosion of our spirit took hold. Our enthusiasm was tested when dear friends and families left St. Brendan’s for other callings and other home churches. At the same time the outside challenges to the larger church increase. The church today is under attack by forces of evil in concert with the a rising public resentment against the truth of Jesus Christ. We continue to proclaim that truth, but our voice seems to be overmatched by the hysteria of those who deny Christ and vilify his church. There are those within the church who say maybe Elijah’s cave isn’t a bad place to rest. Maybe it’s time for the church to gather itself together and seek shelter until the storm is passed. Advocates of the Benedict Solution advance a strategy of interior prayer and waiting until God chooses the right time for the church to be resurrected. But before we join in, I think we had better see what God had to say to Elijah. Starting with how God spoke to Elijah. Much has been said and written about God not being in the wind, earthquake and fire that shook Elijah’s hiding place. When he finally hears God in the sheer silence, many have concluded that contemplative prayer is the proper offering to hear God speak. But I think the lesson is more than that. God continued to speak to his people through earthquake, wind and fire: witness the crucifixion, witness the day of Pentecost, witness the breaking down of the walls of Paul’s prison. God’s message to Elijah is that he is also to be found in silence. In the end, Elijah must admit that God will speak by whatever means he will, from the most dramatic to the most subtle. Elijah is humbled before God and that is the only true and required attitude to have. So what does God tell Elijah when he finally has his attention? He gives him something to do. Three things to do, actually. We have to step beyond the lectionary selection to learn what they are. 1 Kings 19:15,16. “Anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place.” Each of these is significant and revealing of God’s divine authority. Anointing the next king of Syria speaks to God’s authority beyond his chosen people. All history is subject to God’s rule. Anointing the next king of Israel is God’s verdict on the sin of Ahab and Jezebel. Power will be wrested away from the house of Ahab and given to another. Finally, anointing his own successor assures Elijah his mission is not in vain and the prophetic witness to Israel will not end with his passing. God hears Elijah’s lament, absorbs his lame excuses, and gives him something to do. Then, to assure Elijah that he was not the lonesome voice he had begun to believe, God tells him that there are 7000 other faithful believers in Israel who have not bowed the knee to idolatry and these he will preserve and build upon. It’s not too much a stretch to apply Elijah’s story to our own. I see we have two choices before us. First, we can choose to stay in the cave of our security while we wait on God to change the world and make it safe to again go out to proclaim his name. Or, we can move out and do the things God calls us to do. Into the world that doesn’t know him, the world that is hostile to us, but the world he himself died to save. There really isn’t any choice is there? Unless we want to wake up one day and hear God say to us, “What are you doing here?”, we had better be doing something. As we move deeper into Ordinary Time we will come to engage with the prophets of Israel. We will hear God’s call to them and through them to us. We will learn how we have to be changed, through our own personal relationship with Jesus Christ and our community relationships with each other. Changed so that we are able to do the something that God intends for us to do. Let us pray. Dear God of Elijah and the prophets, stir us up we pray to be your obedient listeners. Then fit us and fill us to do the work you would have us do. In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Ki 19:15–16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Related Media
Related Sermons