“When God Whispers” June 23, 2019
“When God Whispers”
1 Kings 19:1-15a/ Psalm 42
If we learn anything at all about long term relationships, we learn the importance of communication. And if we value these relationships, we also understand that you better have some tact and finesse if you sense that this communication is going south. For example, an elderly gentleman was wondering if his wife had a hearing problem. So one night, he stood behind her while she was sitting in her lounge chair. He spoke softly to her, “Honey, can you hear me?” There was no response. He moved a little closer and said again, “Honey, can you hear me?” Still, there was no response. Finally he moved right behind her and said, “Honey, can you hear me?” She replied, “For the third time, yes! I can hear you!”
You’ve heard it said that there is no such thing as a coincidence. Now, we can debate that but I do find it to be a funny thing; I find it to be a funny thing that just about every year, if we follow the lectionary, the gospel text for the Sunday after Annual Conference is the story of Jesus visiting the Gerasenes. It’s a bizarre story. For no apparent reason and at great risk, Jesus and the disciples cross the Galilee to visit a little village full of Gentiles that happen to have a herd of pigs outside of town. There they were greeted by the local Wildman, a man possessed by “unclean spirits.” Jesus calls them out, the demons scream not to be thrown back into the abyss, so they are transferred into the herd of pigs which flip out and run into the lake and drown. The wild man, however, is cured but rather than rejoice over this fact, the townspeople tell Jesus that he’s caused enough trouble and would he please leave. Like I said, it’s a bizarre story. It’s loud, it’s raucous, and I imagine many fiery sermons have been preached on this story at the east shore of the Sea of Galilee. But let’s not do that. Instead, I believe we’re going to find more inspiration in the coincidence that the final act of the prophet Elijah is also being read in hundreds of Methodist churches today; churches like us, perhaps, whose Annual Conferences have left them with more questions than answers.
You know, fear is a funny thing. It can be a hindrance, or it can be a motivator. Fear can bring things into razor-sharp focus or make a blurry mess of it all. (I Kngs 19:1) (King) Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, how he had killed all Baal’s prophets with the sword. 2 Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah with this message: “May the gods do whatever they want to me if by this time tomorrow I haven’t made your life like the life of one of them.” And with this message, Elijah, one of the greatest of the prophets of God, was terrified. Elijah had been a marked man for the last 3 years. The powers that be blamed him for the terrible famine that had crushed the nation, but he hadn’t lost his nerve. He had stayed hidden with a widow woman and her son throughout the years of famine, but remained undaunted.
Finally, when the Lord called him up, Elijah went to see Ahab the King and staged a demonstration to prove once and for all that the worship of the god Baal was a false worship, eventually killing all of these false prophets at the Kishon Brook. The rains returned just as he had promised and it looked like the nation of Israel was heading the right direction; that is until Jezebel signed his death warrant. This put him over the top. Elijah was terrified and he ran for his life. Like I said, “Fear is a funny thing.”
You know the story of Elijah’s journey from our reading today from 1 Kings. Elijah wishes the Lord to take his life but instead is encouraged to travel on to Mt. Horeb. There the word of the Lord came to him asking, “Why are you here, Elijah?” Elijah answered with the words of a man who was frightened and defeated. And then the Lord said, (vs 11) “Go out and stand at the mountain before the Lord. The Lord is passing by,” which he did. A series of tremendous tornadoes and earthquakes and firestorms passed before his eyes but notice that it wasn’t until things died down and Elijah heard a thin, quiet sound that he actually covered his face with his robe. That’s when he heard the question once again, “So tell me, why are you here, Elijah?” He answered the same as before, but this time it rang hollow. The great prophet was finished, he was worn down and worn out; he was wishing to die. Elijah, who saved the nation of Israel, was announcing to God Almighty, “I quit!” But when God whispered back to him, he said, “No, you’re not quitting. Go back to Damascus the way you came.” He obeyed the whisper of the Lord. He faced his fears and went on to save the nation of Israel from a corruption that might have destroyed them forever.
“Why are you here? What are you doing here?” I wish this had been a question asked at Annual Conferences across the country. I wonder that if in the process of asking ourselves this question, we might surprise ourselves with the answers. I wonder if the time has come for grandiose speeches to give way to honest conversation. I wonder if our fears have become a motivator or a hindrance. But most of all, I wonder that God has been whispering to us all this time and we just can’t seem to hear.
“Why are you here?” We are here because of the love of God, we are here by the grace of God, and we are here for the glory of God. When God whispers, let this be our answer. For if we can live and believe in the love and the grace and the glory of God, there is no fear or trouble on this earth that can keep us from joys of a life in Christ. When God whispers let us rejoice that he calls us by name.
Amen & Shalom