I Kings 19:9-18 Standing Still August 10, 2014
Tradition holds that the cleft, or the cave where Elijah stands and experiences the wind and the earthquake and the fire…tradition holds that it’s the same spot where Moses stood in Exodus 33, to witness the passing by of God Himself. This is where God covers Moses’ eyes with his hand until He is passed, so that Moses could only see his back side, since nobody can see the face of God and live.
Isn’t that interesting?
But the story we’re looking at isn’t about Moses- it’s about Elijah.
What do we know about Elijah?
Elijah, the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead…this is the description we’re given…and if we did some homework and brushed up on our Hebrew, we might learn that his very name means “Yahweh is my God”, that he was likely from a town in northern Galilee, the town of Tishbe, which comes from the root of a word that means “captivity”.
And if we brushed up a little more on our Hebrew, we might also learn that the word for settlers is a word that can also be translated as ‘sojourner’, you know…one who makes their home for a time in a place that they understand isn’t truly their home.
Elijah, “Yahweh is my God”, the Tishbite, the captive one, who was one of the settlers, or sojourners, that is, one who chose to journey for a time in his temporary home of Gilead…Gilead, the rocky, mountainous, sparsely settled region East of the Jordan River.
We don’t know a whole lot about Elijah.
He first shows up on the pages of scripture straight up confronting King Ahab, who did more evil than all his predecessors.
He made his home in the rugged country, for a time being fed by the ravens.
This is a guy who doesn’t seem to fear much…he shows up confronting the king, he takes on something like 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah, he calls down fire from heaven, he outruns a horse and chariot in a dead sprint, he’s fed by ravens one time and by an everlasting jar of oil another time…he actually raises a kid from the dead…
And yet here it seems like he’s just flat out running scared because of one person’s threat.
It’s never made sense to me.
His reaction to a threat made by Jezebel–it seems like she’s gotten to him in a way that’s uncharacteristic for this fearless, mountain-dwelling prophet of God.
But then I read this story after coming through a year of talking about homosexuality…specifically after a couple months of trying to have the conversation right here in this church, and within our conference….
And I think I understand his reaction a little more clearly now!
See, people get to you more easily when you’re at the end of your rope.
We’ve been really busy lately. We’ve been working pretty hard…even though sometimes it doesn’t feel like a whole lot is getting done.
But we’ve been so busy with church-work, so busy facilitating conversations, talking, listening, writing, responding, thinking, reacting…we’ve been so busy trying to be about God’s business (or at least the things we feel are God’s business), that we haven’t really let ourselves stop.
Read the few chapters before this story, and I wonder if Elijah was at that place, too.
You can get so busy–with good things, and also with heavy, burdensome things–you can just get so busy that you get to the end of your rope, and one woman’s threat can send you into a tailspin of despair.
The world is filled with noise, as it always has been.
And the temptation is to look for God within the wind and the earthquakes and the fire. It’s easy to think there must be something else to do. Or hear. Or Say.
After all, this wind, this fire, this earthquake…it has to mean something. There has to be more for us to do. The thinking goes that We have to help God be God, otherwise we’re not being faithful.
That’s how I feel when I helplessly gaze upon images from Gaza, images from Iraq, images from Afghanistan. It’s how I feel when tragedy strikes in the form of Hurricanes like Katrina, Rita, and Sandy or Earthquakes like the one that hit Haiti.
On a deeper level it’s how I feel when I consider the shifting landscape of the church and the world as we navigate the sexual revolution of our time; wind and earthquakes and fire. Indeed.
In the past I’ve always read this story as teaching that God is in the silence rather than these other things. That may be…but this week I started to see that God isn’t necessarily in the silence any more or any less than He is in the noise.
It’s rather that the silence creates the space in which we can hear God speak.
When Elijah, hears the silence, he covers his face. Perhaps he had Moses in his mind, the way God ensured his safety by covering his eyes…He prepares himself, in the silence, to hear the voice of God.
We are loud people in a louder world. We are filled with all manner of noise. We are a fearful people who run as if our lives depended on it, and work like there’s no tomorrow, trying to help God be God.
We live in such a manner that silence–true silence–is rare, unsettling, and somewhat uncomfortable.
Then we wonder why we often don’t hear the whisper of God, or why we don’t often feel the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit.
In Matthew 11, Jesus offers an invitation, saying “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I don’t know about you…but I’m weary and burdened…and the rest that Jesus offers, the easy yoke and the light burden…that sounds pretty good.
I didn’t come up with this idea until pretty late in the game this week, but I’d like to offer a chance to you this morning to leave your burdens at the cross.
Elijah was running in fear until finding the silence where God could speak.
And each of us is on the run, too. I’m convinced of that much.
My invitation this morning is to stop running, lay down your burden, and let God do the heavy lifting in your life. He doesn’t need our help in being God.
So I’d like to invite you to come to the cross this morning. (have ushers pass out rocks).
The ushers are going to pass around baskets of rocks this morning.
I invite you to take a few minutes in silence (it will be uncomfortable, and that’s ok)…use the time to think about the burden you carry, the Jezebel you’re running away from…and in your time, come up front, up to the cross.
These rocks can symbolize whatever you need them to symbolize…take one and place it at the foot of the cross as a symbol of giving your burden to Jesus, who’s burden is easy and whose yoke is light.
The God of Jacob is our God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who lived and who died and who conquered death by rising again…and he bids you come, offer your burdens to God