Pentecost 4 C 2010 – 1 Kings 19: 1-14

I am just returned from my first General Assembly experience –

where I was once again reminded of the wide diversity of thought and practice

in this Presbyterian Church of ours.

Our similarities seem few and far between when we’re all in the same room;

we employ different terminology –

we have different desires for the church – different styles of worship –

different ways of reading and interpreting and studying and praying.

Everyone thinks they have the answer –

but assembly taught me that the answer is not where you think it might be –

the answer comes in the quiet after the debate

in the calm after the storm.

There were no storms at this assembly –

at least none that threatened the stability

of what our moderator has christened “the good ship Generosity”

but there were vivid differences –

many of which helped me read this morning’s Scriptures with fresh appreciation.

Elijah is scared.

He has honoured God in the way he thought was best –

he has come up champion in a competition of prophets –

he has put the false prophets to death by the sword.

And the sponsor of those prophets – Jezebel -has put a price on Elijah’s head.

Elijah is confused.

He has done the work of God – done it faithfully and well – and still he suffers.

Hiding in the dessert –

determined to lay down and die on his own terms,

rather than be humiliated by Jezebel –

he encounters an angel of the Lord,

who prepares him for a journey-

prepares him to meet God.

Elijah had high hopes –

big expectations – they are all pushed aside.

God is not in the big noise – the brilliant fire – the rushing wind.

Silence signals God’s arrival, and God’s question is damning; “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Elijah’s hope is, in this encounter, reborn.

He develops a renewed appreciation for the God whom he serves –

he finds new courage, and a new mission

His former fears, forgotten.

The church needs these kinds of reminders.

The ideas that come to us from our brothers and sisters in the PCC are occasionally startling.

We might well feel as though we are in a competition among prophets –

a competition that it does not pay to win.

For the winners must constantly prove (and improve) themselves

the contestants in the battle for truth, justice, and the renewal of a fallen world

are supposed to be after the same thing.

This is Kingdom work… but whose kingdom is it.

Some of us are content to hide in the dessert -waiting for the dust to settle.

Some of us are never going to leave the dessert, so comfortable has it become.

Others propose that they have found the secret, and hold the keys to the Kingdom, but they will share them only on their terms.

There is a confusing jumble of information and worship styles and programs for the future vision of this and that – and we can be forgiven if it seems best to remain ignorant of all this, bide our time, and do whatever we need to do to survive.

But we are called to do more.

We are called to worship – to share our joy in the knowledge of our Saviour

We are called to live as though God was in our midst – Risen and Redeeming

but we don’t know what to look for.

Some in the church would have us believe – as Elijah once believed –

that God is found in the noise and fanfare;

fiery preaching and sentimental music –

but I have visited the dessert that is “contemporary worship”,

and the Lord was not in the praise band.

Some would have us think that our future is in the earthshaking conviction that we

(the few, the faithful, the redeemed) are the only people who possess the truth –

that our only hope is in a return to what is nebulously described as “family values” –

but I have been assaulted by their certainty,

and discovered that, for me, at least,

the Lord was not in the fight against the ordination of women,

or the campaign to stop the gay pride parade.

It’s not that praise and preaching and principles aren’t important –

but we will discover, as Elijah did, that they are never as important as we want them to be.

And when the noise dies down – when the fires are quenched –

when there is nothing left except the dessert and the questions and the person seeking God –

it is there that God is always to be found.

Amen

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