November 7, 2021
All Saints Sunday
1 Kings 19: 1-18
A lot has happened in 1 Kings since we last heard from it.
Last week’s reading ended with the joyous dedication of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem as the ark of the covenant arrived at its new home and the name of the Lord was given a place with the people.
The temple became the focal point for the people’s worship … a place of unity where the people could come together in praise and thanksgiving … and be in collective awe of their God and all God has done for them.
By the time we get to today’s reading, years have passed and Solomon is gone.
He was followed by a series of kings who couldn’t match his leadership and have allowed the kingdom to split into two – a northern kingdom … Israel … and a southern Kingdom … Judea.
There has been a lot of political maneuvering … trade deals and arranged marriages that brought short-term wealth and peace … but also brought long-term instability to the region.
Elijah is a prophet in the Northern Kingdom. It is a region where people worship God and the worship Baal – because the queen … Jezebel … was a priestess of Baal and encouraged its worship.
Just before the passage we heard a few moments ago, Elijah challenged 450 prophets of Baal to offer a sacrifice to their god and end the severe drought that was gripping the region.
It was a drought brought about by the people’s unfaithfulness to God.
When they failed … Elijah called on God to end the drought and a cloud appeared out of the sea and brought water to the land … showing the people that God continued to care for them.
Elijah then ordered the death of all the prophets … which naturally upset Queen Jezebel … not only because they were her prophets, but because her and her husband, Ahab’s, power was being challenged by this upstart prophet.
They couldn’t allow that to happen, so Jezebel ordered Elijah’s death.
Today, Elijah is on the run.
He has left the Northern Kingdom and ventured off into the wilderness.
Elijah is worn out … the drama and the danger that Ahab and Jezebel create is too much … after a day in the wilderness … he collapses under a tree and prays to God to end his suffering and take his life.
Instead, God sends an angel who sustains Elijah with food and water and then sends him on a long journey to Horeb … which we call Mount Sinai … the place where God came to Moses … the mount of God.
After journeying for 40 days and 40 nights … Elijah is hiding in a cave at Mount Horeb … deep within the Southern Kingdom. … as he sits there … considering his circumstances … the word of the Lord comes to him and asks…
“What are you doing here?”
In answering, Elijah gives voice to the pain … to the uncertainty … to the fear … the isolation … even to the sense of loss he is experiencing because the people have turned away from God … leaving him alone.
The voice tells him to go outside because God is about to pass by.
In quick succession … there’s a strong windstorm that breaks rocks … there’s an earthquake … there are flames … and even though these are places where God’s presence has made known in the past … God isn’t felt in any of these.
Instead, God is felt in “sheer silence” … a place that Elijah likely didn’t expect to find a powerful God who can part seas and bring water from rocks.
In the complete silence of the moment … in the silence of his grief and uncertainty, God tells Elijah that there is more work to be done … more people to bring into the service of God … and hiding out in the wilderness isn’t how to do it.
Elijah … exhausted and scared … is set on a path of renewal … first to the south and then to the north … and there are 7,000 others to walk with him.
He is not alone after all.
This part of the passage holds special meaning to us as we mark All Saints Sunday … a time when we remember those saints who have touched our lives and life of the church.
It is a time when we are invited to reflect on our relationships … with those no longer with us … with one another … and on our relationship with God.
It is also a time when our sense of loss … our weariness … can be more acutely felt … when our wounds pull open a bit and … at that moment … the pain comes to the forefront of our lives.
The grief we feel … over the absence of a loved one … over the loss of the comfort held within the memories of the past … these are times when when the sheer silence can be deafening and can threaten overwhelm us.
But it is in the silence when God communicates in quiet ways … when we can be reminded that we are not alone … or when we can be reminded that someone is alone … it is in these times when we might hear the question “what are you doing here.”
For some, the answer offers hope and compassion because for others the answer is a call to minister … to bring sustenance to someone in their private wilderness.
It is in the silence where we might find purpose and renewal … it is when we become a presence in each other’s lives and help ease the isolating pain.
In the silence of our individual and collective loss … in the silence of our grief … we are called to minister … to comfort … to affirm community … and share love … grace … with one another.
We are called to remember that the silence of the cross was a prelude to new life and renewal of the world.