Speaker: Rev. Jeff Gissing
Date: November 27, 2016
Text: Prophets: Hope in Despair: Elijah
HOPE IN DESPAIR: ELIJAH
1 Kings 19:9b-13
"Go out and stand before me on the mountain," the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.
And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
Gracious God--We confess that its hard for us to wait. We long to skip over Advent and get to Christmas Day. We want the celebration without the preparation, to bypass the waiting, and to get to the party. Slow us down so that we can begin to grasp the immensity of Christ's birth and the difference it has made for us and for our world. Remind s that you work through little things as well as big things, through weakness as well as power, and that unless we come to you as children we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Amen.
When Elijah encounters God at the mouth of the cave, he (Elijah) complains that Israel has been unfaithful and needs to be punished. When he eventually hears from God, it is in a whisper rather than a windstorm, an earthquake, or fire--all typically symbols of judgment. God whispers redemption to Elijah and Christ is God's whisper of redemption to our weary world. God could have chosen to come to earth with might, power, and punishment; but instead he chose to come in a whisper. God's whisper is more powerful than the biggest earthquake or the strongest storm. It changed the world, and it can change your life.
1. Elijah was in the midst of despair. He was experiencing exhaustion. God met him in the midst of a very difficult situation. Is there a difficult situation you're facing today? If so, name it in God's presence and ask him to meet you right where you are.
2. Elijah had done what God has commanded of him and yet his life was being threatened. His response to God's questions (read verses 10 and 14) was to question why his life was being threatened since he had obeyed God. This exposes an assumption that we make about life: if we obey God, God will make our lives better. Is this an assumption you hold?
3. When we obey God and then we experience suffering it forces us to ask questions about the nature of the Christian life. I compared two metaphors for the Christian life: a cruise and a quest. Which of these two metaphors is your operating assumption for life--is it supposed to be convenient like a cruise or arduous like a quest?
4. Read Matthew 13:44-6. The gospel writer describes the Kingdom of Heaven as something that is attained after searching, seeking, or questing for it. What might this mean for your understanding of Christian discipleship?
5. Elijah called the people out for being of two minds about worshipping Baal. "How long are you going to waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!" (18:21). In what ways do you experience divided loyalties? Ask God to show you the places where you are of two minds--where you struggle to allow God to rule. Then ask God for help in growing in obedience.
6. God works in big and magnificent ways, and he works in small and subtle ways. God's works are always sufficient to achieve his purposes. Notice that God does judge--he brought judgement upon the Prophets of Baal through the hand of Elijah (see 18:40). Yet, God responds to his people (here the nation of Judah) differently, gently. Why the difference in these two responses? Is there a difference in God, the people, or the nature of their relationship?
7. Advent is a season of preparation. Take some time this week to explore the ways that you hope to encounter Christ this Advent and Christmastide. What preparations are you making for the encounter? Are you hoping for an accidental meeting? Are you planning on carving out space and time for God?
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last days, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.
(Book of Common Prayer)