Proper 14 – Ordinary 19 – Pentecost + 10
13 August 2017
Psalm 85:8-13 pg 819
1 Kings 19:9-18
you answer the cries of all who call upon your name.
Give us grace to trust in you,
so that we may walk faithfully amidst the storms of life;
through Jesus the Christ,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.
Today’s readings have a lot to offer to each one of us, especially when we think we have the answers ‘all sewn up.’
When we look at the world around us, we see all sorts of power hungry and power mad individuals on all sides.
We see those whose every decision should be about the welfare and the wellbeing of those who are less fortunate than they are, than we are. We see this yet, they’re more interested in what they can get, what they can achieve, what they can attain for their ongoing future, their continued existence, and lifestyle, and to grease the palms of those who helped them get there, and to stay there.
And we look at this model of the way the world is working, and we do a couple of things. First, and often, we complain that we are where we are because of the actions of others. Then, we look back to ‘the good old days’ and we dream and wonder how to get back to such glory days, but without any more effort than just dreams.
After that we tend to look at the apathy around and within us, (actually, we tend to not look at the apathy of our lives, because that would be not apathetic), and we add that to the list of frustrations and complaints.
And in the end if anyone comes and tries to change this system, to make us look up, and to look at those around us, at what we can do to support, to uphold to improve the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ, we tear them limb from limb.
Now, this isn’t a pretty picture of humanity, or even of life, but it is a relatively accurate one. And this is where we find ourselves, on storm tossed waters in the dark, or seeking for God in the wilderness, as others seek our demise.
When I first got here, Marion Jenkins gave me a paper, a series of cartoon like images of monkeys and a ladder. When one of the monkeys went up the ladder to get the banana at the top, water would spray. The monkeys realizing that the ladder led to them being sprayed, would attack any monkey who wanted to climb the ladder. Anyone who wanted the luscious rewards found at the top of the ladder was violently discouraged by those who didn’t want to be sprayed with water.
In the reading from 1 Kings for today “the word of the Lord came to him: ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ 10 He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’” (1 Ki 19:9b-10)
It seems straightforward – Elijah is being persecuted for doing the right thing, for going against the popular and easy path that the Israelites have chosen for their lives, and he ran.
He has been zealous for the Lord God almighty. He has been encouraging the people to return to worship God. He has been throwing down the altars to Baal, he has been looking out for those on the outskirts of society, who are the first to be pulled into phone scams, and ponzy schemes.
He has been pointing out the theft, the graft and the protectionism in society, and he’s been calling a spade a spade, as people try beat him with it and to bury him in a shallow grave.
We see him being open in desiring life, in desiring to serve God and point the way to God for all of the people.
At the same time, in today’s gospel, we see the disciples, the faithful of Jesus, these experienced sailors, battling the elements as they fight their way across the lake, embattled by wind and wave throughout the night.
They’re on their own, Jesus has sent them on ahead. At the same time, they’re looking for the way that they’re going to fit into the current scheme of power, of position, of the way things have always been done, in society, that has deemed them to be nowhere near the ruling classes and positions in society, and so they’re fighting their way through.
These experienced fishermen and boats people, are fighting their way across storm-tossed water that they know like the back of their collective hands, but without much success.
But what about us, today?
Are we fighting to maintain a status quo, or are we fighting to change the world to benefit all of humanity? Are we even able to look realistically at the world around us and begin to turn things around?
One thing we need to remind ourselves is that the world is a very big place. The latest trend of “my nukes are bigger than your nukes” display that is currently being played out on the global stage can pull us in faster than the phone calls or emails telling us that an African Prince needs our bank account to hide millions of dust bunnies. (And it’s a sure thing, too!)
I once read that a soldier defending his family is more effective than one defending his nation. And in the movie Rogue One, the disillusioned Jyn Erso pointed out that “one soldier with a sharp stick and nothing to lose can win the day.” (Jyn’s speech to those invading Scarif)
It’s love for our families that has the ability to motivate us to go out and do what will be a benefit to them, to us. It only those we love that we can wholeheartedly defend.
It doesn’t take a great amount of bravery to make a difference in the world around around us.
It takes the opening of our hearts and allowing the love of God to be our guides, to be our determining factor when we share that love with each other and with the world.
Looking around us, here, today, how can we make an impact on the community around us? After all, we know the issues – we see too many houses for sale, and not enough retail or industry in the area to attract new faces, those following where God leads.
We see the problems all around that are arising with issues of addiction, as well as lack of forward movement in education, and employment, and issues where equality between peoples and genders still exists.
We see where we don’t trust those around us, and that lack of love, of trust shows in our interactions, because without that love, without that trust, how can we open our hearts to the love and the direction of God?
Today, in 1 Kings, we see that God wasn’t expecting to encounter Elijah on the mountain. God asks, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9b)
And Elijah is told to go and stand on the mountain before the Lord. “Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11b-13)
But when God speaks with Elijah. God gives him direction, hope, and a way to continue in the zeal and the passion of his faith. God validates Elijah’s faith, and love for God.
At the same time, the disciples panicking and terrified in the dark of the storm tossed night, initially think that Jesus is a ghost, walking across the water, as they’re filled with fear for their lives.
“27 But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’
28 ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’
29 ‘Come,’ he said.” (Mt. 14:27-29a)
Jesus words come back to his initial call to Peter. His initial Follow me and I will make you fish for people” (Mt 4:19)
Jesus’ words come to the heart of our fear, of our discomfort, of our desire to be at home, warm, in our beds, not fighting the status quo. Yet, at the same time, we’re constantly complaining that we’re headed in a direction that is anything but loving and peaceful.
Jesus’ words challenge each of us to see beyond the wind and the waves, the dark all around us.
We are challenged to see the world, not in the ruts and the kickbacks that have framed each one of us where we are, but to see the possibilities that are all around us. Possibilities that are there when we heed Jesus call, and get out of the boat, walking on the water, our focus on Christ, alone.
When we, like Elijah stand on the mountain in the presence of God, and are sent in a different direction, but still under the call of God for our lives, and our efforts on God’s behalf. It just means that God needs our efforts over there instead of where we’ve been focusing.
God didn’t tell Elijah not to be zealous for God. At the same time God encourages each of us in our lives of faith as well, in our trust of where we need to be and what we need to be doing.
God gives Elijah a new direction in which to be zealous, away from the priests of Baal, from those who wish his immediate demise. A way to continue to promote the love and the worship of God, to look out for those on the fringes of society whom God loves as much as he loves each one of us, here today.
God invites us to trust God as we are called out of the boat, and to walk on storm tossed waters, trusting that God’s love for each of us will keep us on top of the waves.
But, still, for Elijah, for each of us, it’s recognizing that God isn’t in the wind, in the earthquake, or in the fire, but rather that God is in the gentle whisper that follows.
For each one of us, it’s in recognizing our Lord and Saviour who calmly walks across storm tossed waters because that’s where he needs to be to be able to come into our lives and our hearts.
God is recognized in the support that comes when all is said and done. God is found in the quiet after the storm, in the whisper on the mountainside after the cataclysm that precedes the presence of God.
We need to remember that when Peter gets out of the boat and walks on the water, although Peter begins to sink because he takes his gaze off Christ, Christ never takes his gaze off Peter. Christ never takes his gaze off each of us, in our lives, in our efforts, in our zeal.