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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  • Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

    There is a beautiful piece of seasonal writing attributed to the theologian and civil rights leader Howard Thurman that you may have encountered in Christmases past. It’s entitled, “Now the Work of Christmas Begins.” Take in these words from the author:

    When the song of the angels is stilled,

    when the star in the sky is gone,

    when the kings and princes are home,

    when the shepherds are back with their flocks,

    the work of Christmas begins:

    to find the lost,

    to heal the broken,

    to feed the hungry,

    to release the prisoner,

    to rebuild the nations,

    to bring peace among the people,

    to make music in the heart.

    Indeed, this is the real work of Christmas. This is the work we discover in faith when we follow the light of Christ, which the darkness has not and will not overcome. In last Sunday’s Scripture passage, Luke records that Mary and Joseph were amazed at what was said about Jesus when they encountered Simeon in the temple in Jerusalem. On account of the angel Gabriel’s visit, Mary knew in the beginning that the child she would bear would be holy, but I wonder if she knew that this would be the character of His holy work? What a proud mother she must have been. What a nervous mother she must have been, watching her Son challenge the status quo as He lived in obedient faith to God, gently shepherding God’s people! Yes, this holy child will lead us – the Church – in finding, healing, feeding, releasing, rebuilding, and bringing peace. His story is ours to discover anew in the pages of the Gospel, the pages we will turn together in worship in the months to come. 

    Although the real work of Christmas is ours to offer another, let us also take to heart that it is also ours to receive as blessing and gift. At times we are lost, feeling broken, or living and praying for peace of mind or spirit. At times we sense that our lives are in need of rebuilding. As the great Henri Nouwen has observed, our own wounds may serve as a source of strength and healing in our own work of serving.

    My heart is full this holiday season. As may be true for you, I am holding joy and sorrow in the same chamber. I rejoice in what I hold dear, in the embrace of my loved ones in the home, and in the privilege of worshiping with you through a variety of experiences this December. I grieve with families who lost loved ones to Covid or other causes in 2020, and most recently, Pastor Derek’s family. I find joy in new traditions and customs that this holiday season has inspired. I long for loved ones who are no longer with us and who I remember especially at Christmas. My faith is wide enough to embrace these differing realities, to hold joy and sorrow in tandem. I pray yours is, too. 

    In faith, we will find, heal, feed, and rebuild, because Christ has first found us and embraced us with His healing presence. He feeds us with His Word and at table, in our hunger for bread that nourishes and lasts. In the grateful words of Martin Luther, “to you Christ is born. For this purpose Christ willed to be born, that through him we might be born anew. Christ must above all things become our own and we become his. See to it that you make this birth your own and that Christ be born in you.”

    Dear friends, Christ is born in us, and His love will guide and equip our ministry together in 2021. Pastor Derek and I look forward with anticipation to a new year of ministry with you. Let us follow the light of Christ together!  With joy, Pastor Meg

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