A Sermon for Series C Proper 8 (2016) “A Low Whisper”

Old Testament Lesson  1 Kings 19:9b-21

Second Lesson  Galatians 5:1, 13-25

Gospel Lesson  Luke 9:51-62

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  The text for our meditation this day is the Old Testament lesson just read.  [1 Kings 19:9b-21]

When I first read this Old Testament reading, immediately the theme of my sermon jumped out at me.  It was so obvious.  My theme would be ‘Looking for God in all the wrong places’, because I saw Elijah looking for God in the powerful acts of nature; in the forceful wind, or the shaking, quaking power that came from deep within the earth, or from the purifying fire that rushed past him; when God was actually found in a wee small whisper.

I was excited.  It was going to be a great sermon, easily filled with Law as I pointed out how we’re so much like Elijah; looking for God where we expect him to be, rather than where he chooses to be.

I was going to say that despite the successes we have in life, the very blessings God pours out upon us, we feel all alone.  Even in our thanksgiving and praise of God, we feel all alone; like we get it but no one else does, so ‘alone’ that it would be better to give up, give in, and put on a big pout because life has gotten way too complicated, way too challenging, and we just want to rest.  That’s the Law hitting us.

Then I could’ve followed saying just as God came to Elijah in that soft whispering voice, he comes to us too.  He comes as the reassuring Father, with that Fatherly but gentle, calm voice and says everything’s going to be alright.

It would’ve been a great sermon!  But, then I read the text again.  Then I realized the Law in this text was a lot harsher, a lot more condemning, a lot sharper than I saw in my first reading.  You see, the real problem Elijah had wasn’t that he was looking for God in the wrong places.  The real problem was that he was so wrapped up in himself that he wasn’t looking for God at all.

He let his self-focused pity surround him.  He was so self-involved that he paid no attention as God said, “Go out and stand on the mountain to face the Lord.”  He just sat there in his pout.  God sent the great, strong wind rushing by; so strong that it shattered rocks and sent chunks of the mountain flying, but Elijah didn’t go to the mouth of the cave.

An earthquake shook him as he sat pouting in the cave.  It shook him and everything around him, but he didn’t go to the entrance of the cave.  Fire came roaring through and he didn’t budge.  He was so consumed with his own self sorrow, his own self-pity, that none of those powerful acts of God could get him moving.

It took absolute stillness, sheer silence to get his attention and draw him to the mouth of the cave.  Maybe he’d had enough drama from God lately.  Maybe he’d become so utterly numbed by his despair that only the quiet could pique his interest.

Sound familiar?  Moments like those are when we’re really like Elijah.  When Satan and our own sin makes us despair; when we reach that very moment in our lives when we need God the most, how often do we turn our focus even more inwardly, focusing on ourselves and our own miserable condition instead of seeking God in prayer?

In prayer we don’t need to worry about how to “seek God.”  We don’t need to worry if we’re looking in the right places.  In prayer, God leads us to himself.

And although we might prefer a quiet place to be in prayer, a silent place to focus on him, we don’t need to worry that in the midst of our noisy, busy lives his quiet still whisper might go unheard.  We don’t have to worry that we might not hear his reply to our prayer.  God will make himself heard whether it’s in a quiet whisper or with a loud shout that resounds above the constant din and random noise that fills the world and our lives.

This is the truly good news of Elijah’s story.  This is the gospel promise that God opens our ears to hear today.  What began as a flight from a tyrant, flight from Jezebel’s threat to murder him; soon became a journey to God led by God.  When Elijah ran from Jezebel and fell exhausted under a broom tree, and in deep despair asked God to take his life, God answered Elijah’s prayer; not by obliging him with death, but by affirming to Elijah that seeking death is not the answer to his despair.

In the midst of sleep that night an angel touched Elijah and gave him food and drink to sustain him.  So filled with life was this meal that Elijah journeyed forty days on it.  But even this miracle didn’t convince Elijah that God was with him; and so we find ourselves reading today about God’s continuing efforts to get Elijah’s attention.

And look how all this turns out!  Not only does Elijah get the reassurance that he’s not alone, he gets relief from the heavy load that being God’s spokesman can bring.  Hazael, Jehu and Elisha are there to protect him; and Elisha serves him until it’s time to take on Elijah’s role as the prophet of the Lord.

This reassurance is for us!  This good news is for us!  We belong to the body of Christ.  We’re heirs of the promise just like Elijah.  God comes to us in the midst of our challenges, in the middle of our difficulties, in the depth of our despair; and he feeds us with the bread of life.  He gives us living water to sustain us.

With his own body and blood, and with his holy Word he feeds us.  His Word tells us of our Savior; and we believe in him because God also sent us a helper better than Elisha.  He gives us his own Spirit opening our hearts, opening our minds, so that we do see our Savior.  We do believe that for his sake all our sins are forgiven.  We do believe in the resurrection and that life everlasting is ours.

The Law in this Old Testament lesson is a lot sharper, a lot deeper, than it seems at first glance.  But the Gospel message here is even greater than the message of the Law.  In that Gospel message, God tells us we have a God who sends his Son to rescue us, a God who comes to us to make us his own.

We have a God who cares for us throughout our life, even when we let our lives get the best of us and we sit down in a big pout refusing to seek him.  We have a God who turns us around and leads us back to him when we stray; a God who knows when to use his almighty power to get our attention and when to come whispering his love for us in our ears.

To this, our God, be all thanks, praise and glory.  Amen

In Christ’s Service,

Pastor Huelle