Prayer: God of Elijah, with great fire you made your presence known to the worshipers of Baal. Help us to resist the temptation to place our trust and faith in anything other than you. Receive our worship and strengthen our faith. Amen.
Today’s reading is a grand competition—a football (or soccer) game of sorts where Elijah agrees to an away game. It is difficult to win on the road where the crowd is stacked in favor of the home team. Everything is set up to favor Baal. Baal cannot lose. They even win the coin flip… and choose to start with the ball.
Time of position is heavily in favor of Baal– everything favors Baal…except that which is most important. It is easy to get caught up in the crowd—to want to follow that which appears to be the winning team. For Baal offers everything one could want—except that which is most important.
How long will you go on limping between two opinions? How long will you waver? How long will you try to have everything?
Where are you placing your trust?
This week—M&M—kids wrestled with the most important of commandments—answered—one God—do not place any before me… what is this in our context?
When I was first learning to ski—worse than the trying to learn how to stop—which for a long while was an uncontrollable fall– was getting off the ski lift– For at the same time my feet were beginning to touch solid ground, but my seat was planted firmly in the safety of a solid—yet moving bench… In there was that moment—that required transferring trust from my firmly planted seat—to my unconfident feet that were going to have to immediately go down a ramp— I remember the first time—in my hesitation—I couldn’t do it… and now I was back in the sky– with all yelling at me—and I jumped…
Here today—not a matter of struggle of Baal or Yahweh—or is it? I think if we can go deeper—examine what in our life is tempting us to waiver—that perhaps it is the same struggle. It’s a choice between that which is holy—that which is sacred…of that which is Yahweh—and that which is not of God… to trust in God alone—even when we can justify choosing another path…path of temptation—to not choose in itself a choice…
We are caught up in a dilemma… why am I here?
As Martin Luther begins his catechism, he begins with the first commandment enlisting us to self-examine. Where do we put our trust? This is our God. What is it that has a claim on us?
Whenever we serve anything other than God, our neighbor pays. When we become self absorbed over money—our neighbor pays. When we seek our answer in a bottle—in a pill—in that which is mind altering—our neighbor pays. When we deceive ourselves with hiding secrets and relationships, when we have an affair—our neighbor pays.
Is our faith leading to fullness of life? Or is it life diminishing?
In this grand game—it appears that Baal has everything. This is why all the odds-makers favor Baal. This is why it is so attractive to be a fan. And all that Elijah has? Is faith! It’s been a long drought. The people are susceptible to following anything that claims it will make life better—even for a moment. And then there is this prophet—one who speaks of sacrifice. One who is outcast, marginalized, and unpopular.
How long will you go on limping between two different opinions?
And God responds is there a future? Yes…in God…and this is life giving…this is hope.
It was only a few short weeks ago, a deranged man asked the life or death question—are you a Christian?
It’s not an answer we take lightly. Elijah is not speaking of this as a question at the end of life—but a question in how are we going to live?
This is a hard text in the world we find ourselves… where pluralism isn’t something far away…but in a connected world, it is our neighbor… It is the friend my son goes to school with. It is the woman who greets me at the checkout counter. It is even tragically the woman who was senselessly assaulted in fear by one who claims to be a Christian at Applebee’s in Coon Rapids.
It was not that long ago that my sister’s children all came home upset. She has quadruplets—all Luke’s age—now 11… but when in 2nd grade, they came running in the door, and in unison blurted the question out to mom —is it true that “zoey is going to hell?” In second grade?
Let’s back the truck up. My sister lives in an area where everyone goes to church… well almost everyone. For many good reasons—Zoey’s family did not. And I think it is fair to say that these many good reasons can be summarized by one—a community where one seven year old tells another seven year old on the playground that they are going to hell. Who does that?
I am thankful that my sister does not know God like this—and is (and was already) friends with Zoey’s mom. Zoey’s mom does not look like everyone else—she has many tattoos, she dresses differently, and she lives a life that is loving, giving, and putting others before herself.
The irony of ironies is the meaning of a name… for the name Zoey means life. And the seven year old who cast judgment is named Grace. But Grace offered anything but grace—to beautiful child of God, Zoey—full of life. And because of the influence of a dogmatic religious community—Zoey was left out—she was whispered about—and she was the target of the fear of a community of seven year olds who didn’t come to this judgment on their own. For fear—for discrimination—for othering another person was taught by those that are supposed to be the adult in the room.
Is this the Jesus Christ we know? One who casts judgment on the marginalized, the outcast, the one who hungers—to belong?
How long will you go on limping between two opinions? Thankfully, Elijah answers this differently. He answers with his life—by not following the crowd, by not being attracted to temptations of this world—but he answers it with his life—by putting nothing else between he and God. And God answers—with a refining fire— a fire that helps to see the world differently. God answers with the abundance of rain in the midst of life’s droughts. God answers when we are willing to stand up from the safety of the chair lift—even though we are going to fall… Amen