Twice Your Spirit
Pastor Diane Gordon
Mt Pleasant FUMC
February 11, 2018
Scriptures: 2 Kings 2:1-12 and Mark 9:2-4
The common character in today’s two scriptures is Elijah. Let’s talk about this man of God. We suspect he was a bit wild looking. If you remember, people first thought that John the Baptist, all dressed in his camel-hair shirt, eating locusts and honey, might have been Elijah returned.
We first read of Elijah in 1st Kings. He is chosen by God to be a prophet who is sent in the 9th century BC, to tell King Ahab that there will be a drought in the land because the Israelites are worshiping idols. During the drought Elijah lives in the very land affected by the drought and God supplies him the bare necessities, first through ravens who supply him bread and meat and then, after the water from the wadi, the stream in the valley, dries up, he is sent by God to live with the widow at Zarephath.
She is one of my heroes in the Bible because of her faith. She had been out collecting sticks for the fire on which she was going to make her last loaf of bread, as she used up her last bit of oil and meal. In essence, she was preparing to starve to death along with her son after they’ve eaten this final meal. God had told her she would meet a man that day and to follow his instructions. Along comes scruffy, skinny Elijah who asks her to bring him water and some bread – some of their last supper. She could have refused him, out of fear, but she doesn’t. She has faith and follows his instructions. God causes the oil and flour to continue to be enough, not running out until the drought is over and their natural supply returns. Later, when her boy dies, God responds to Elijah’s plea that the boy be resurrected and restored to her. After all she had done for him, Elijah sought to help her as she had helped him.
Elijah doesn’t appear to be a powerful man – not in terms we would use today. But he has the power of God behind him. When he returns to Ahab and his people who worship Baal, the Canaanite god, he challenges the prophets of Baal and of Asherah, Jezebel’s god, to a heavenly barbecue of sorts. They slaughter the bull and place it on the altar to await fire from their gods. Nothing happens. He mocks them, saying perhaps their god is asleep.
Then Elijah restores the Lord’s altar that had been previously torn down and prepares the wood and lays the offering atop it. Then Elijah ups the ante. He has them pour water on it three times, thoroughly drenching the wood and leaving a pool of water around the altar. Elijah then prays to God, saying, “Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back. Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench.” (1 Kings 18:37-38)
The prophets of the false gods are killed and Jezebel is angry. She threatens Elijah’s life and he flees to the desert. He’s not so happy now. In fact, he gets downright suicidal, but God doesn’t leave him. He supplies his needs and Elijah finds his way to a cave. It is while he is there that God appears to him; not in the wind, earthquake, or fire, but in the silence.
Doing God’s work, or even just following in Jesus’ footsteps, does not guarantee a life of ease and plenty. We should not expect that our faith will be rewarded with wealth and the desires of our hearts. Sometimes, God asks us to do difficult, inconvenient, serious things, and we cannot see a secure path. That doesn’t mean we should shy away from this call. It means we must trust all the more and rely fully on God, not letting our fears prevent us or our longing for security and control stop us from being obedient.
The kingdom God asks us to participate in creating is not one of might and riches. It is one of turning the other cheek and giving away the shirt off our back if that’s what’s needed. The Christian image we have created in the last centuries has often been one of creating God in our image, rather than the reverse. Our wants and wishes have perverted the gospel far too often. But God has not given up on us. The problem will come when all of humanity has turned their backs on God. Will we, like Ahab’s people, continue to worship at the altar of idols we have created?
We need to learn from the lessons of the past and seek God in the silence, repenting of our greed and worship of so many different things. God still desires that we connect and calls us by grace to repent and come into that quiet space where God can be found. God hopes we will worship that which is the true and just, filled with peace and founded in love.
That day on the mountainside, as Jesus was transfigured, he was talking with Moses and Elijah – God’s great prophets, messengers, and leader. Don’t you wonder what they were discussing? I do. I wish that Peter hadn’t gotten all excited to commemorate that moment. I wish he had been a better listener. Yes, he heard the part where God declares Jesus to be his beloved Son. Once again, God spoke out of the cloud that had overshadowed them, just as he had when God led the Israelites through the wilderness by a cloud through the day.
When we find ourselves wandering in the wilderness of contemporary culture, it is right for us to seek God in silence, looking not for guarantees of security and plenty, but to find hope in having just what we need when we need it. What we must remember is that sometimes, the “just what we need” is in the hands of the person next to us and God hopes that person will share so that God’s will can be fulfilled. Sometimes, those things are in our hands.
When Elijah’s work was done, God appointed Elisha to follow in his footsteps, to take up his mantle and carry on the work that needed to be continued. I suspect that Elijah and Moses were reminding Jesus of the way humans keep wandering off the path, getting distracted by shiny things, and that we were not likely to suddenly change our bent to doing what God warned us not to do. And I suspect that Jesus was telling them how great the Father’s love is for all people and that by grace, Jesus was going to change history, making wide the portal to eternal life for all who would believe and follow. No longer just the chosen people, but all people who chose to listen to the voice of God speaking into the silence the Word of hope for all human-kind.
May it be so. Amen.