Archives for August 2020
Sermon St Eustachius 9.45 Sunday 9 August 2020 9th after Trinity
1 Kings 19v9-18 Psalm 85v8-13 Romans 10v5-15 Matthew 14v22-33
May I speak in the name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen
Do you not just love the prophet Elijah? He is one of my favourite Old Testament characters.
A prophet who performed amazing miracles and raised the dead, and yet he was so human in his emotions, just like you and me.
You will remember he went up mount Carmel to challenge the false prophets of Israel’s Northern kingdom under their wicket king Ahab and queen Jezebel.
They were unable to bring down fire upon the sacrifice on their altar, and Elijah taunted them saying of their god baal, ‘perhaps he is musing, or gone on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened’.
Then when Elijah called down fire from our one true God in heaven, he used the words, ‘O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God, and I am your servant’.
We know the fire of God fell, the sacrifice and altar were consumed, and then Elijah was called upon by God to kill those false prophets.
With such a strong faith and demonstration of his belief in God, what could possibly go wrong? As our reading described, Elijah lost his courage and fled from Jezebel when she threatened to end his life. Is that not so much like our experience at times?
We see and experience God at work in our lives, in our church, in our community, and then one testing incident, and our faith just seems to vanish.
Elijah felt so threatened that he ran all the way from Carmel in the north, to Beersheba, about as far south as he could, some 120 miles, normally some six day journey. His fear seems to have given him some superhuman strength to run that journey. And fear can invoke in us energy that may best not be used.
Having left his servant, Elijah goes on for another day into the wilderness, and flops under the many branches and flowers of a broom tree. There he sinks into deep depression, and asks God that he may die, not a good prayer to offer, but Elijah was not in his normal state of mind.
I can remember on one occasion, when sailing in a small yacht across a very choppy English channel, I felt so uncomfortable that I could have identified with Elijah at that moment, my rationality had been suspended.
But God never leaves us even if we feel He is far away. God twice sent His angel to revive Elijah, with what would seem to be supernatural food, to sustain him for another revelation and opportunity to serve Him.
And so it is for us. God always has something new and sustaining if only we can but wait and hear Him speak to us. And like Elijah, return and keep us on the path of faith and trust in Him. But first that involved another journey.
In biblical picture language it had to be for forty days, invoking the memory of the Exodus, from the old to the new, and for Elijah, it was to take him to that same mountain of the Exodus.
Mount Sinai, or Horeb, the mountain of God, where God gave to Moses the ten commandments and other requirements of the law to serve Him. We shall not go into the debates as to which mountain and where is its true location, although I favour a location in present Saudi Arabia, rather than near St Catherine’s monastery in the Sinai peninsular, but after all that is more accessible by tourists. Which ever it was a long journey of around 250 miles.
Even after time for reflection along the journey, Elijah still seems to be in depression and self pity when the Lord asked, ‘What are you doing here Elijah’ “even I only am left, and they seek my life, to take it”. Hadn’t Elijah just gone that journey in the power of the food that God had recently provided? Could he not remember all the wonderful miracles God had performed through him? God had to make one last approach to get through Elijah’s remorse, a demonstration of His power.
Yet God was not in the wind, or in the earthquake, or the fire, where was he? How was God to speak to Elijah? In that beautiful way, that God still uses to speak to His servants, to you and to me today. God was in ‘the still small voice’. We just have to take care that we are listening, that we are away from all those things that may distract us, we need to take time to be still.
Perhaps that has been one of the blessings that has come out of our time of lockdown, we have been able to be still, but have we listened for that same ‘still small voice’. What has God been saying to you? What has God been saying to me?
Maybe it has been to give us a new vision of what God wants us to do next, just as He was calling Elijah to go and anoint new kings and a new prophet Elisha, to minister and show God’s power in his place.
We see that Peter also demonstrated his great faith in Jesus when seeking to walk on the water, but as soon as he begun to doubt, he started to sink and needed Jesus hand to support him.
So if we have come to that same realisation as Jesus disciples after the storm, that “Truly you are the Son of God”, and if we have then, as Saint Paul say’s, “confessed with our lips that Jesus is Lord”, then we are saved. Saved not just to enjoy an eternity with God, not just to be partakers of the new creation and enjoy the ‘glory of God’, but to go on and to continue to serve God and build His kingdom in this our time left on earth.
May we see the power of God breaking through, the Holy Spirit working in new and unimagined ways, as we move forward after this pandemic eases.
Let us pray; the shorter collect for this 9th Sunday after Trinity:-
Gracious Father, revive your Church in our day,
and make her holy, strong and faithful,
for your glory’s sake in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen