“God is Always with Us”
1Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), June 23rd, 2019
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now these holy and ancient words from The Old Testament, First Kings, chapter nineteen, verses one thru four and verses five thru seven.”
1 Kings 19:1-15
1 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” 3 Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there. 4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. 7 The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.”
“Having heard this lesson from our reading this morning, let us know open our hearts to their meaning in our lives today.”
“God is Always with Us”
Our God is a great God! Even when we fail to do what is right, God is still here with us. That is not to say we shall not be held accountable for that which we have done by those whom disagree with us. If we are struggling with doing what God has asked of us, God is surely with us! Consequently, right or wrong, God is always with us! Furthermore, God always offers us strength to do what is right, if we will but humble ourselves and put our very lives into God’s hands. Without God, we are lost. In our scripture this morning, the Prophet Elijah has done as he believed he was led to do by God. Indeed, God was always there with him, despite his misgivings about the tasks at hand. Clearly, just as Roger Nam wrote: “This week is not your typical prophetic narrative. For this week, we are encouraged to prayerfully prepare… while considering those who are really struggling in their journeys.” In like fashion, over these last one hundred and thirty years, we as a congregation have made hard choices along the way as well; and thankfully, God has been with us and still is!
In our scripture lesson, Elijah knows he has done what was necessary as he fought with the prophets of Baal! In the previous chapter (chapter18) verse 40 we hear how Elijah was forced to deal with the disruptive force of the false teachings of the prophets of Baal. “Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; do not let one of them escape.” / I Kings 18:40/ After which we hear how “Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, threatening him, “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” /1Kings 19:2/ Yes indeed, Elijah desperately needs God’s help at this juncture! Thankfully, for Elijah, God was, without a doubt, with him and on his side. Nonetheless, “Elijah was afraid; he got up and fled for his life.” /1 Kings 19:3/
What we need to remember about this prophet and all prophets is that they all, are only mortal! Being mortal, Elijah began to have second thoughts about what he had done, praying for God to let him die. However, God had other plans for this man; as God often does for us all. An Angel appeared to him and brought him food and drink and compelled him to eat; and then to get back onto the pathway ahead, as his journey into the future was still in front of him. From the Geneva Notes, it is written that: “Alijah declares that unless God had nourished him miraculously it would have been impossible for him to have gone on this journey.” God had sent an angel to tend to his needs.
Angels, if you are not aware, take on many forms. Just the other day, a fellow I know, talked about an angel that came to him in a unique way. The man, my friend, was watching over his mother whom was at the end of her life; the rest of the family were doing other things during those hours. He was very unsettled having been left alone at such a time. My friend also has a very strong faith in God’s ever-present love. There was another man whom often was very disruptive and was also a patient at the facility where my friend was watching over his mother. The loud, often obnoxious man, whom was always difficult to deal with, he stepped into my friend’s mother’s room where my friend and his mom were. The man sat down, never saying a word or making a sound, he sat there with my friend, as they both watched over his mom as she moved ever closer to Heaven’s gate. My Friend, he said how he could feel the peace and the presence of God during this strange occurrence, bringing comfort as they both sat there in a quiet and holy vigil as my friend’s mom… passed from this life to the next. Indeed, angels come in various forms.
Let us pause for a moment as we ask for God’s guidance through this text. We need not focus on the drama of this writing. We all have our own dramas in which we have passed though or perhaps are in the middle of right now. No, we do not need to dwell in the drama of the prophet’s plight. We do need, however, to acknowledge that following the will of God is not always easy. We too, may need to be prodded and pushed along the way at times. We too, are only human. We all need an angel or two along the highways and byways of life. It might be that simple nod or kind word from someone you had before not even noticed. Or, perhaps you are among the few who see an angel, as if from heaven, come to your aid. However, and by whatever means, most of us have had the presence of an angel come to us in a moment of need. If you think this has never happened in your life… well I can only suggest you work a bit harder at being open to the presence of God. We are all God’s children and God loves us one and all!
Garret Galvin, a Franciscan wrote, “As God accompanies Elijah, (and others in scripture such as) Hagar, and Jonah on their journey, Scripture invites us to consider how God has accompanied us on our journeys.” Just as these men were sent out to do the work of God by carrying the message of God’s will to others, so also are we. It is up to each one of us, we are each responsible to stay open to the moments when it may be our turn, our opportunity, to be that angel to someone who is needing one. God can make each of us instruments of peace and love, when we stay open and willing to do the ‘will’ of God. Keep an open heart, there are so many around us whom are in need of an angel sent by God. Remember always, you and I, we are not the only ones who could use an angel today to help us through yet another rough spot in the roadway of life.
“Our journey with God sometimes calls us to do things which we may not want to do or didn’t ever see ourselves doing. There might be times when things get difficult or perhaps, we are feeling a bit frightened or terribly alone. But what we can learn, through Elijah, we can learn that when things happen, and when the road gets hard… that it’s ok to be afraid, or worried, or frustrated; it’s even ok to feel like giving up.” Linda Fabian Pepe, author of this thought reassures us that our concerns are commonplace, yet God is still with us, despite ourselves! Thank you, Linda, as we humans, we often get so into ourselves and into the drama that has boxed us in, we may forget that God is still with us. It is easy to do, and we all have done this or know someone whom has. Again, we are reminded to stay open to the presence of God, in all areas of our lives.
Carson Brisson, Associate Professor of Bible and Biblical Languages at Union Seminary, he tells us “The path is more often through the wilderness than up any (ephemeral) short-lived ‘crystal staircase’ as the African-American writer Langston Hughes, who knew about exile, wrote.” Mr. Hughes surely knew about struggle as he was active in the cultural reawakening of his time. It is so crucial that we take advantage of those special moments in life, when we recognize how the ‘hand of God’ has touched our lives. As those precious flashes and/or glowing seconds are generally ‘fleeting’ and ‘far between’; we need to cherish them like golden nuggets, storing them in our hearts for those desolate and lonely points along the way. They may be required of us to share, with others needing a spiritual lift or a reawakening themselves.
Larry Broding, Director of Religious Education in San Diego, asks us to consider a question. “Have you ever been surprised by an experience of God? What happened?” Reflect on the answer to this probing question for yourself and then consider sharing it with someone. In just a few weeks, July 14th, you will get to hear of the faith journey of one of our church leaders. I will be looking forward to hearing her message as she has shown us her ability to put human emotions and scripture together in personal and uplifting ways. Her experience, strength and hope, will surely touch our hearts. She may even touch on her answer to Larry Broding’s question. Thank you, Nancy, for agreeing to stand up here on a Sunday morning in my absence.
Another of our new church leadership this year, Carol-Ann, shall share some of her experience, strength and hope as she also will be speaking to us about her faith journey. Last week she sang for us, clearly a gift from her Creator! Her energy level is uplifting as-well-as refreshing at times. Relatively new to our community, she has strived to etch out some tasks which she is grappling with while struggling to find balance in her personal career. Thank you, Carol-Ann! Two other speakers, Angie and Brian are no strangers to the pulpit as they have moved past sharing their faith journeys with us and are wrestling with scripture lessons that shall lead their messages. ‘Forgiveness’ and ‘Understanding and Using Spiritual Gifts’ are their topics. Looking forward to hearing their sermons; as we show our thanks and our appreciation for their continued service to this their church.
We have gleaned a few points from today’s scripture lesson, and now we need to draw from the energy of previous lessons. In order to fully grasp and dwell in the presence of God, celebrating how God is always with us, just as the prophet Elijah did, we must grasp ahold of the Spirit of God! On Pentecost we did just that! Blouses, shirts and ties as well as – jackets, were ablaze with red! The brilliance of our attire as a community, displayed the Spirit of Unity and Love in this Holy Sanctuary! Let us take this Spirit with us – as we move from our time of worship – to a time of reflection; And the forward movement within our church meeting, following worship today! It is through the Spirit of God, the presence of that Spirit, by which we shall accomplish our desired goals! Amen.