Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org

Not Alone

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June 23rd:

Call: Psalm 42 (777)
Text: 1 Kings 19: 1-15a
Read: W&S 134

            Not Alone

This week has again reminded me:
   That God has an interesting sense of humor.

For on a Sunday that comes
five days after Marge suddenly   left me to fend for myself
so that she might go to California
to help and support her sister Nickie
I find myself preaching a sermon titled "Not Alone."

 Despite the fact that I agree with, and respect,
her decision to be with Nickie
Despite the good company that Adam provides me
And despite the love and support I feel
from this congregation and other friends
This week there have been more moments in which I felt alone
   than in any week during our 27 ½ years of marriage

And so, my sharing a message which I titled  "Not Alone."
   puts a smile on my face
and makes me chuckle.
At God's sense of humor
      Even though I am the butt of God's ironic interaction.

But, of course, it was how Elijah felt
That inspired my title - not how I felt.
Still, this week has helped me   to better understand our scripture.
But before we can get to Elijah's story,
we need to understand
what took place immediately before the story.

And what took place before the story
was an event of major proportions.

It had aspects of a Super Bowl.
   But even that annual event fades in comparison.
It had aspects of a Presidential Campaign
   But even that quadrennial poll is dwarfed.
It had aspects of a war
   With a battle that was winner take all.

If we roll all these into one,
   We get some idea of the magnitude of what we call
      "Elijah vs. The Prophets of Baal."

Baal was a false God worshipped in communities around Israel
   And by some in Israel
      Including Israel's foreign born queen.

You remember that queen
   We spent last week with her - King Ahab's wife Jezebel.

This event was a momentous contest that began
When Elijah accused Ahab
of forsaking the commandments of the Lord

and challenged the king to a contest between Baal and The Lord,
"Now therefore," he told the king
"have all Israel assemble for me at Mt. Carmel,"
   with the 450 prophets of Baal
and   the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table"
Ahab accepted the challenge,
   Confident and arrogant he wanted to put Elijah in his place.

Then Elijah commanded   [1 Kings 18: 23-25]

All morning long the prophets of Baal
   Called for their supposed god to start the fire and roast the bull
   But no fire was started despite all their pleadings.

Then     Elijah got to work
   He built an altar with 12 stones
   He built a trench and put seeds in it
   He arranged the wood and put the cut up bull on it
And   He poured water on the offering and in the trench - 3 times

At last he called upon God

And God responded
   "... the fire of the Lord fell and consumed
         the burnt offering,  the wood,
the stones,          and the dust
      and even licked up the water that was in the trench."

When all the people saw it
   they fell on their faces and said
   "The Lord indeed is God.  The Lord indeed is God."

Elijah directed the people to,
   Seize and kill the prophets of Baal.
The people seized them, and brought them to the Wadi Kishon,
   There    they killed them.

Dramatic, exciting, and scary.

It is in the aftermath of that excitement and drama
   That our scripture begins.

Needless to say, because it follows that contest and its aftermath
   Our story will not seem nearly as exciting or as dramatic,

But we are not here to get excited or to witness drama
We are here to strengthen our relationship with our God.

Our scripture - despite its lack of excitement and drama -
Can do that by teaching us a lesson
   to which we can all relate.      [19: 1-3a]

Elijah had stood up against the queen's faith
He had embarrassed the queen and her king
He had shown them up
And, not surprisingly, Jezebel was not happy.

She told Elijah that she was going to kill him
   In fact, that she would kill him within 24 hours.

   Tired, worn out, and afraid
   Just could not take any more of it.

And so,
having no doubts but that Jezebel was serious
the prophet fled for his life.

[19: 3b - 15a]

And he really fled
   He left Israel and crossed into Judah
approximately 65 miles south of Mt. Carmel.
Even that wasn't far enough for Elijah.
He continued another 50 plus miles going deeper into Judah
finally stopping in Beer-sheba

And even though he was well out of the kingdom of A and J
   He was ready to give up.
      "It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life."
   With that prayer for death, he laid down and fell asleep.

Having been fed and nourished during the night by the Lord's angel,
   He proceeded on to Mt. Horeb and took refuge in a cave.

And there, God asked him a question.

It was a question that seems simple at first
   But which is considerably more profound
   In fact a question that at times we need to ask ourselves
      "What are you doing here?"

Elijah knew that God was thinking,
   "I called you to do a job.
   That job was to be done in Israel where I am very displeased with things
   And yet I find you all the way over here miles from where you are supposed to be serving me."

Because he understood the question,
   Elijah defended himself, telling God what he had done,
      Beginning with "I have been very zealous for the Lord"
And closing with, "I alone am left."

He is told to stand on the mountain
because the Lord was to pass by
He did so
   But God was not in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire
Then out of sheer silence came the voice asking the same question,
   "What are you doing here, Elijah

Again Elijah answered
   And again beginning with the claim that he had been very zealous for the Lord
   And closing with "I alone am left."

But God said to Elijah, "Go,  Return."

And God told him to anoint certain people along the way.

Elijah set out to do what God had told him to do.
   He had been reminded    that he was not alone
                  That God was with him
               And   that others would be as well.

The fear and self pity reflected in his death prayer
vanished with that reminder.

I commented earlier that this week had reminded me
That God has an interesting sense of humor
But even more powerfully it has reminded me
   That God has an uncanny sense of timing

For this scripture - chosen by me over a month ago -
long before any thought of Marge flying to California.
Was brought alive for me
Because of the difficulties Marge encountered Tuesday night

She was to fly to Charlotte; switch planes and fly to Phoenix
   Where she would get on a third plane
that would take her to Ontario, CA
   There she was to be pick up by a friend
On the night before he left for several days of vacation
He was to take her to her sister's home
where she would spend the night
and then go to see Nickie in the hospital the next day.

But thunder storms hit Charlotte after she arrived
   Delaying her departure so long that
   By the time she got to Phoenix
she would miss any flight to Ontario

She spent hours in Charlotte
   where she had never been before
   And where she knew no one

She spent the night in Phoenix
   where she had never been before
   And where she knew no one

The next morning she arrived in Ontario,
   Again, where she had never been and where she knew no one
   And where now she had to find a cab to get to Nickie's house
      the one person she knew having left on vacation.

And yet when I talked with her later that morning,
she said, "I was frustrated a bit, but I never worried."
And she explained
   "I knew God was with me, so I was never alone."

And isn't that the lesson that God taught Elijah?
   On Mt. Horeb   decades, centuries, and millennia