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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  • Sabbatical

    Well my friends, this is my last point of contact with you for the next three months, barring unforeseen circumstances. I am taking a sabbatical this summer, granted to me by you (through a congregational meeting some time ago). Clergy sabbaticals are designed for rest, recovery, and restoration. It’s a healthy thing to do, of course, and the Presbytery of Utah recommends that congregations grant their pastors a sabbatical every seven years (serving the same church, that is). It’s hard for me to believe, but I’ve been here in Logan for eight and a half years.

    The end goal for such a time is to provide pastors with opportunity for spiritual and mental rest and restoration, to help re-energize pastors, and to prevent burnout. Pastors have a fairly high rate of burnout, but providing time for spiritual, mental, and physical self-care is one of the best ways to prevent such things.

    It’s not only about rest, however. I’ll be studying and engaging in some healthy spiritual practices too. I will be worshiping at other churches each Sunday to experience the ways that other congregations praise the Lord, so that I might observe and consider new things for the ministry life of FPC Logan. I have a small collection of books I plan to read, including Canoeing the Mountains (a book about Christian leadership in uncharted territory) and One Long River of Song (recommended by someone at FPC), and a few others that I hope will inspire good preaching and pastoral leadership when I return. These readings will go along with daily scripture study. Due to the Covid pandemic I didn’t attend any continuing education conferences last year, but I plan to use part of this sabbatical time to so some individual continuing education. There is always something more for me to learn about my role as your pastor. I look forward to sharing some of this with you upon my return to First Presbyterian Church in September.

    Summer Worship—

    A reminder to you all that during the months of June, July, and August worship will be at 9am and 10:30am. If you show up at 11 you’ll miss half of the sermon!Masks will be required until Session determines otherwise, and worship will be in Bruner Hall for both services (this allows us to space out our seating). I have carefully chosen guest preachers for you on the Sundays that Pastor Meg won’t be preaching. They range from experienced pastors to seminary graduates, but I fell they will all bring a wonderful message to you each Sunday. Please give them the warmest welcome when they help lead worship.

    We have a system in place to live stream worship to YouTube, but there are a few technical challenges with this that I’ve been trying to work out over the last month (with audio and live streaming the video). If you choose to worship from home and the live stream is not available on Sunday mornings (because of some technical difficulty), we will try to post the recording for your viewing on Monday morning when the office is open. Please extend us some grace with this. I think it will all work out, but it’s not always a simple process and complications arise.

    Praying that you all have a wonderful, Spirit-filled summer. I’ll see you soon.

    May the grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you all, —Derek

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