Angels For A Moment In Time

The following is only an excerpt of this sermon. The full sermon can be heard by clicking the audio link below.

1 Kings 19.1-15a

These stories from the Old Testament, they’re great stuff. Amen? Nice, juicy, just full of stuff for us to chew on. There’s this great image, just before our story: There has been a drought on the land that Elijah pronounced because of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God and just after the triumph on Mt. Carmel, God tells Elijah that the drought is coming to an end and he takes him up to the peak of Mt. Carmel and he says Look out over the ocean, and there’s a small cloud that begins to rise up and says You better tell King Ahab he better get to his royal residence in Jezreel. And so Elijah tells him, You’d better get into your chariot and head to Jezreel because there’s a storm coming. And so Ahab hitches up his chariot and you know how fast chariots go, right? They go pretty fast! And so he’s riding as fast as he can, but the bible tells us that 17 miles away (well,you can measure it now), but 17 miles away he’s urging his horses on and on to try and beat that gathering storm, but out in front of his chariot is Elijah! Like the Six-Million-Dollar Prophet. Running! 17 miles! There might be some marathoners out there, but even so, that’s pretty impressive. I bet you couldn’t beat a chariot. 17 miles. In sandals. And a robe. Actually, the bible doesn’t say what he was wearing, but I’m guessing. Still pretty impressive.

All that leads into this wonderful story that we have before us this morning. Oh, it is a wonderful story. It has danger and suspense. It has excitement. It swims in despair and hopelessness, but it doesn’t end there. It’s a story that displays tender grace. It models good communication and it moves toward healing and renewal and action. The larger story is very real and profound and I like it because it portrays for us Elijah’s humanity. Here he is, one of the greatest prophets of the Hebrew tradition, and we can see it leading up to the story. Can you see him there, bellowing out against the prophets of Baal, challenging them in the power of the Lord, proclaiming! That’s what prophets are supposed to do! Bring down fire! And it happens and that’s Elijah at his best. He’s strong, he’s confident, expressing the power of the Lord. He’s on top of his game up on that mountain. He’s victorious. This is the public Elijah, the one everyone sees. This is the one everyone knows. The one, gussied up on Sundays. The one always looking their best.

But in the next episode, just a little bit later, Elijah is running for his life! He’s depressed, he’s alone, he’s questioning himself. He’s questioning the God who brought all of this on him. This is the private Elijah. This is the one you don’t see gussied up on Sundays. This is the one the Israelites and the prophets of Baal and Ahab and Jezebel didn’t see. This is the real inside of Elijah, in his moments of struggle and weakness.

These stories together picture Elijah a lot like us. We have our moments when we are strong, when we are confident , when we discover our gifts, we know who we are! We’re successful, we’re strong, we’re confident , we’re collected, we’re gussied up on Sunday. I have to tell you, honestly, you see me gussied up on Sunday. We have those moments when we look and feel and perform our best. This is the one that everyone sees. This is the we who everyone knows about. But then we also have other moments, as human beings. Those moments when we feel alone, when we feel drained of energy and strength and inspiration, when we struggle with despair. Like Elijah. The great, but human prophet. How human is this story.

(To listen to the sermon in full, please click below)

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  • A Season of Resurrection

    Resurrection day has arrived. And with it the reminder of eternal hope because of Jesus Christ. Spring has also arrived here in Cache Valley, and while it’s not over, the end of our year-long pandemic seems to be approaching, thanks be to God. I hope this day finds you well in spirit and body, and also vaccinated (or soon-to be). I saw a sign the other day that reminded me while we’ve all been through the same storm in this last year, we haven’t all been in the same boat. Some people have weathered this storm fairly well, others have struggled mightily in one way or another. In spiritual terms, economic terms, emotional terms, and in health. And of course, not everyone has made it through the storm. I am worried that recent progress in this pandemic could be lost, but I’m thankful so many vaccinations are underway. As I’m sure it has been for you, this has been an emotionally challenging year for me as well. It seems to have contained more “downs” than “ups.” But my belief in God keeps me hopeful. Having spoken to many of you, I am thankful that a large portion of our congregation has received Covid-19 vaccinations or are in process of doing that now. The better our state and local community are doing, the sooner we’ll be able to worship in the building together.

    We’re beginning to worship together (outdoors, for the moment) for the first time in over a year. Your elders and Worship Committee have been hard at work making plans for us to transition from online worship back to in-person worship. I’d like to share with you how this process will work. To begin, we will continue to have online worship in some form, even as we get back to in-person outdoor worship (and eventually indoor). This allows anyone who wishes to continue worshiping from home to do so. We will be purchasing a special camera that allows us to livestream a worship service (which means what we do in worship goes straight to YouTube, with no long hours of editing required).

    Details for May are not yet determined, although we are making preparations and plans for indoor worship, for when Session feels it is safe. Session and the Worship Committee have approved the following plans for April:

    April 4th (Easter Sunday!)—we will worship together outdoors, in the Peace Garden and along the East side of the sanctuary, at 11 a.m.  We will hold this outdoor service (with members of our choir leading us in song) no matter the weather, so bring an umbrella or rain jacket if necessary. Masks will be required. YouTube worship will also be available.

    April 11th—we will worship via YouTube on April 11th, with a sermon delivered by an outstanding preacher named Rev. Brian Ellison. Brian is the Executive Director of the Covenant Network, a national group of church leaders working for a church that is simultaneously faithful, just, and whole, that seeks to support the mission and unity of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and to articulate and act on the church’s historic, progressive vision and to work for a fully inclusive church (particularly concerning the LGBTQIA+ community). FPC Logan is a member of the Covenant Network. Meg and I will lead the service, but Brian will be our preacher.

    April 18th—we will worship together outdoors at Trapper Park in southwest Logan, at 11 a.m. This Sunday is dedicated to Earth Day, and after a service (with music from our Praise Band) you are invited to walk the wonderful Logan River Trail with us. Materials will be provided to collect trash along the trail. There is a pavilion at Trapper’s Park. We will hold this service rain or shine (come dressed for the weather). Masks will be required for the service in the park. A YouTube service will be available for those who wish to stay home.

    April 25th—we will worship via YouTube on April 25th. Going back to YouTube this Sunday allows us to evaluate the recent outdoor services and make plans for future services, which may be outdoor, or if we are fortunate, perhaps indoor.

    I thank you for your grace and patience during this long year, and in coming months. It’s been a difficult one for your pastors and church staff too. I am thankful that we’ve had YouTube worship, but I’m very much looking forward to getting back to seeing each other in person and worshiping the Lord together.

    In this season of resurrection, may your hearts be filled with grace, peace, and joy.

    —Pastor Derek

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