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August 9, 2020 

 

TENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST 2020 

One of my favorite and a very effective tool when I am substitute teaching younger children who have escalated their CLASS VOLUME, is when I ask them if they want to learn how to YELL IN CLASS?  Then I teach them how to YELL WITH A WHISPER.  

I am pretty sure that I’ve used this illustration before in one or more of my sermons.  But now it feels more relevant.  One of the guidelines for having safe worship is to sing or do liturgy responses quietly or not at all.  So I am supposed to help you to also learn to YELL WITH A WHISPER, or better put, DO CHURCH WITH A WHISPER.  

So, I ask myself if this is just another one of those UNATURAL things that we have to do in the AGE OF THE CORONA VIRUS?  I think that our Bible lessons are uniquely suited to help us answer the question about what is NATURAL or UNATURAL about the behavior of us, who are children of God.  So let’s take a look?

In our Old Testament reading we find Elijah, God’s prophet who used to have the ear of the kings, was now hiding out in a cave from the storms of weather, as well as the storms of destruction brought down against those who would prophesy God’s expectations.  So, what I am saying is that Elijah’s CRIME AGAINST THE STATE is that he is TELLING TOO MUCH TRUTH.  He is also warning the people of the consequence of their behavior.  But they SURE DO NOT want to hear this warning.

When my father TOLD ME THE TRUTH of what he thought of my behavior when it was BAD, he was BIG and I was LITTLE.  When he would wave that hand at me, it looked HUGE.  When Elijah had the king backing him up, with some soldiers as well, people seemed to listen to him more.  But now Elijah is wondering who will get him first, the storms or the sword?  

Elijah does have some choice last words to share with God.  He says, “Lord God of Armies, I have eagerly served you.  The Israelites have abandoned your promises, torn down your altars, and executed your prophets.  I’m the only one left, and they’re trying to take my life.”

Then God told Elijah to go out and stand in front of the Lord on the mountain, because God was going to appear to Elijah.  It was Elijah’s job to pick out which form of communication he should be listening to.

First, there was a tornado that tore apart boulders from the mountain.  Rocks were flying, mass destruction, death could be just around the corner--but no word from God.  After the wind—it got WORSE—here comes an EARTHQUAKE—but still no message from God.  Not surprising, after the earthquake came FIRE leaping here and there—But the Lord wasn’t there either.  What could possibly come next?

After the wind, and earthquake and fire, I give you the MIGHTY… WHISPER!  What was that you said?  I give you the MIGHTY WHISPER.  When Elijah heard it, he grabbed his coat and got ready to push the REPEAT BUTTON.  So listen and see if you hear anything familiar.

Elijah does have some words to share with God—but these words are no longer said like an accusation.  He says, “Lord God of Armies, I have eagerly served you.  The Israelites have abandoned your promises, torn down your altars, and executed your prophets.  I’m the only one left, and they’re trying to take my life.”

Elijah thinks that everything depends on him, and when his life is taken, there will be no future for Israel.  The Lord turns Elijah around and unveils his plans for the future of Israel..

The Lord told him, “Go back to the wilderness near Damascus, the same way you came.  When you get there, anoint Hazael as king of Aram.  Anoint Jehu, son of Nimshi, as king of Israel.  And anoint Elisha, son of Shaphat, as prophet to take your place.  Furthermore, I still have 7,000 people in Israel who are faithful and will fight to protect Israel.

It is totally amazing how many of God’s messengers go through a DESERT before bringing a MESSAGE FROM GOD!  The interesting thing is that sometimes those overwhelming waves trying to destroy us are made of many elements---like rock, sand, fire, or water.  There is one thing all the waves in our Bible lessons have in common—and that’s FEAR.  

In our Gospel lesson Jesus had just healed many people, and fed thousands.  Jesus was exhausted, and most certainly needed time to rest and pray.  The crowds needed to go home.  And the disciples needed to go rest and not get too full of themselves because they were part of the feeding miracle.

When Jesus had used up some alone time with God, he came walking on the water towards the disciple’s boat.  Their boat was caught facing a great wind and was making no progress getting to the other side.  Since it was the middle of the night and they were caught up in a storm, the disciples were terrified and thought that Jesus was a GHOST!

Jesus said, “Calm down!  It’s me.  Don’t be afraid!”  Apparently, they had already forgotten that just a few hours earlier, Jesus had healed many and fed many more.  So, they should have been prepared for a little WALKING ON WATER, don’t you think?

Peter wanted to have faith, so in typical Peter fashion, he would try just about anything—ONCE!  Peter put on his invisible, ‘NO FEAR” shirt and briefly walked on water towards Jesus.  But then he noticed both the waves AND the wind and he started to sink.

What are you and I to take with us from these miraculous Bible stories?  One thing I notice is that sometimes the forces of nature seem to overcome our lives individually, as families, as communities, as nations, and as the whole human family.  Elijah was just one voice, but the message he carried, if listened to, could save many.  Any one of us can do our part to stay in contact with people because we all need those little whispers that remind us that others care about us.

I have two takeaways for all of us living in the shadow of the Covid Pandemic.  First of all, when Jesus fed people at the same time that he healed them, we need to make sure that we and our leaders address both our people’s basic needs, as well as their extraordinary medical needs.  And we need to do it like Jesus did—out of love!

Finally, remember that Elijah was also picking his successor, in Elisha.  Which means that each one of us can do our part to help, but also be willing to share the good we can do FOR and WITH OTHERS.

And all of God’s co-healers QUIETLY said…AMEN!