Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sermon for 08/12/12 1 Kings 19:1-9

Rev. George Miller
1 Kings 19:1-9
“Bread for the Journey”
August 12, 2012

We’re going to start today’s message by playing a game called “Guess the Number.”

To play is simple: I give the clue, you guess the number and if you guess correctly, I’ll put that number of quarters into a jar to go towards this year’s Global Mission Fair.

First up, in the category of songs, “___ is the Loneliest Number.”

Next up, in the category of classic TV shows, “My ___ Sons.”

Next up, in the category of biblical studies, The ___ Gospels.

Good job, now it the category of Disney Cartoons, “Snow White and the ___ Dwarfs.”

Back in biblical studies, The ___ Commandments.

Excellent, staying in biblical studies, Jesus and the ___ Disciples

Bonus question, returning to Disney cartoons, “___ Dalmatians.”

That should get us off to a good start for next month’s fundraiser.

In today’s reading we got to hear a story about the prophet Elijah taken from what is perhaps the best known and oft-preached about chapter in 1 Kings.

But before looking at today’s scripture, let’s start first with a look at Jesus, more particular his style of ministry.

Jesus, as we know, is fully divine and fully human. To say that Jesus was fully human meant that he shared in the same experiences as you and I do, he encountered and wrestled with the same emotions.

He was hungry when he was hungry, tired when he was tired, laughed when he was happy, cried when he was sad.

Jesus also got to make choices on how he was to live his life, perform his daily tasks and how he would go about doing his work for the sake of God’s Kingdom.

And here’s the cool thing: although he probably could have done everything by himself, he chose to do it with others.

In fact, it can be said that his first act of ministry was to form a community of co-workers.

Be it a group of blue-collar men he called to be his disciples, a tax collector who invited him to supper, or a Samaritan woman he met at a well, Jesus rarely went it alone.

Stop and think about this for a moment. Here is Jesus, Son of God, the Messiah, fully human and fully divine, able to calm storms, heal the sick and feed thousands of people with a loaf of bread.

And even with all those talents, even with all those credentials, he choose not to go it alone, but to invite both men and women into the tasks of ministry, where they walked together, talked together and did the work of God together.

It’s a sign of just how clear Jesus was about his identity and call to ministry.

It’s amazing when you stop to actually think about it. And it’s not hard to figure out why Jesus would choose to work this way.

One, it helped prevent burnout and feelings of aloneness, of being one against the world.

Two, it welcomed the voices, talents and resources of others. It meant there were homes Jesus could gather, places he could use to heal, and food he could share.

Third, by choosing to work with others, Jesus was actually empowering them to go out into the world and do what needed to be done once he was gone.

If Jesus had not done these things, it’s possible the Gospel could have died with him…

Last week we learned that when bread is broken and shared, there is enough. Jesus teaches us that when responsibility is shared, often times the burden becomes lighter.

Talking about burden, let’s go back to today’s reading. Elijah was a powerful, passionate prophet for the Lord.

The ministry of Elijah up to this point has been accomplished almost virtually alone and had seemed, on the surface, to be successful.

For example, right before today’s reading he single handily won a battle for the Lord and defeated a multitude of false priests.

But the trouble is that when someone got angry for what he had done, Elijah was the sole person to take the blame. So with a death threat against him, Elijah runs away.

Far away, into a wilderness, a place so lonely that there’s nothing there but a lone, raggedy, broom-tree to rest under.

Elijah, who has been busy doing church work all by himself, becomes the perfect picture of burn-out.

He’s stressed out, tired, feeling overburdened. This creates a sense of failure and loss of identity.

He asks God to end it all. He feels it is too much and assumes he is alone in his sense of burden.

But he is not alone, is he?

For in verse 6 we have a turning point of the story: God sends an angel to Elijah.

Imagine this heavenly messenger to be like an Italian mother.

She touches him and says “Get up, eat. Mancha.” Before him is bread and water, as if a NY bakery has miraculously opened up in the dessert.

Elijah does, falls back asleep again.

The angel wakes him up a second time, touches him, and says “Elijah, look at you: you’re skin and bones. Go, eat. This will make you strong for the journey ahead.”

Which Elijah does, discovering that now he does have the ability to go on his journey, eventually finding out there are others who are ready to help him do the Lord’s work.

But first, Elijah has to discover that in the midst of this self-imposed wilderness that he is not alone. That he does not have to do it by himself.

That God will not give up on him.

That’s what the angel is there for. In the form of touch, so healing, so reassuring, so clearly stating in a non-verbal way “I AM here.”

In conversation, “Get up, eat, and be strong.” How nice it must have been for Elijah to have someone else give the commands and make the decisions for him.

In empowerment, by the angel’s encouragement that he is to move on.

Elijah doesn’t feel like he can go a step further, that he’s done his part for the Lord.

But instead of enabling him or throwing him a pity party, the angel says “It may feel like that now, but after a good dinner you will find all the strength you’ll need to accomplish your next task.”

Here, we see that it is nothing that Elijah does by himself that allows him to continue or be a success, but what is done with him.

And here we come to a core elemental truth of Christianity: we are a faith that is not meant to be experienced alone. It is not a chore that God wants us to do in solitude.

Christian life is meant to be lived and experienced in community.

Christianity is something we do side by side, it is something best accomplished as a team, nourishing and nudging one another on when it feels as if we’d rather just sleep.

Elijah’s story becomes for us a cautionary tale of what happens when we think we have to do it all on our own. It’s a reminder that singleness can cause distress.

But if we are to follow the ways of Jesus, if we are to be the Body of Christ, we are to help share the burden together; that no one should feel left to bear the entire load.

In conclusion, a pity-party now and then is OK, but what God desires for us is not that we permanently stew in our discontent but that we thrive and be alongside others.

1 can be the loneliest number. But it doesn’t have to be that way, because it takes as little as 2 to be company and for 2 to be church.

And as Christians we are called to support and help one another, as well as to seek out and welcome that support.

In doing so, we are able to grow, able to continue our unique journeys, and to find joy in what we do for the sake of the KINGDOM.

By working together we help to spread the gospel message that through the gifts of the Holy Spirit there is enough,

that God will provide bread for the journey

and that in the Jesus Christ, “No Matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”

No matter if we are talking about My 3 Sons, 7 Dwarfs or even if you are Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves.

We are all in this together.

Amen and amen.

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