comment on Norah Vincent on Being a ManAloha! ...
comment on Category MistakesBuy brand telmisartan ach without script tennessee ...
Posted 2 days ago
comment on Pardon the Interruptione-mail: ...
Monday, August 15th, 2011
This last Sunday, we did something different. Instead of having one sermon, we had three. I took the Old Testament passage, a seminarian took the Epistle, and the senior pastor took the Gospel lesson. The pastor told the other two of us to shoot for five minutes. I haven't preached a lot, but when other pastors have read sermons I've written, they've said, "You have material for about three sermons in there, Rick." I decided on the following one that if I erred, I was going to err in a different direction.
The texts were those for the previous week. Our three sermon morning got rescheduled from its initial slot. For reasons I won't go into, this seemed providential afterward.
Anyway, here it is:
Sermon on 1 Kings 19:9-18
I have heard various messages on this passage. The earliest ones I heard were in Junior High. Our youth group leader discussed the 'still small voice'. This was something she hoped we could relate to. I was once very excited by a series of Bible stories on TV called Greatest Heroes of the Bible. When God spoke, it was a deep resonant voice. Special effects were used to have clouds open. Probably the same effects used in Close Encounters of the Third Kind where they filmed dust clouds underwater. I loved this. I asked her what she thought. "I didnít like it she said," disappointing me. "It makes it sound like something that doesnít happen to us today."
More recently I got an audiobook of Thomas Cahillís The Gifts of the Jews. Cahill identified the 'still, small voice' as the voice of conscience. In the West, now, weíre more interested in what the voice of conscience says than in what we might divine from natural disasters.
I think this is all about half right. I think the half that's right is in what the voice of God is not. My youth director was doing a good job in being the wet blanket on my enthusiasm for a wrong view of God. Wrong views of God are usually a lot of fun. But, well, theyíre wrong.
We live in a time where everybody wants things simple and direct and clear. This is nowhere more in evidence than on religious TV. I once watched a show of a Benny Hinn mriacle service. Everyone claimed to feel the Holy Spirit. He asked them what it was like. They all said the same thing. "It felt just like electricity!" This makes me wonder whether he had electric wires running down his arm. This doesnít have the ring of truth to it. It doesnít match what the Bible says. This is one area, more than any other, where any time we run into the work of God, especially as Spirit, we run into confusion. The encounters are uncanny. Each one is unlike the others. We cannot systematize them.
The clear simple answers come about when some leader thinks it would be good for everyone in the room to have an Elijah experience. Then they can know the power of God. But when I read this story, I donít want to have an Elijah experience. Elijah was set apart as a prophet. He couldnít have a normal human life. This encounter with God only happens after it appears that the whole nation has abandoned God. Elijah is down in the dumps feeling like the one faithful one who is hunted after all have gone astray. I donít want to feel that.
The 'voice of conscience' is an attractive rendering because everyone can relate to it. Nearly everyone has a conscience. So if we identify this voice with conscience we can say we value the conscience. We want to live ethical lives. This is where we find the face of God.
But that is not good news. Have you ever been eaten alive by your conscience? Ever had some past mistake just burn in your memory? How is it good to be told that thatís God doing that to you? Sure, it makes him feel present. But you wish he werenít.
One careful reader has suggested that this should rather be read, 'voice of thin silence.'1
Silence on God's part doesnít sound like good news to us, either. We imagine Heís absent. He's angry at us. He's giving us the silent treatment. But people much wiser than I have said that this is really a mark of Godís presence.
Think of the cross. When Jesus is crying "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me," God wasnít aloof. He was active. He was performing his greatest work. But he did perform it in silence.
"But Jesus knew what was going on, Rick."
To some degree. His prayers in the garden suggested he wasnít certain it had to turn out as it did. He held out some hope the Father could find another way.
"But even so, he was within the will of God, Rick. My problems are different. I've caused more than half of them myself."
God's promises are better than that. And what do they say? "God has shut up all men under disobedience so that he might have mercy on all." Are you disobedient? You qualify for mercy.
The silence of God can be hard to take. But he has made it clear to us that when He is silent, He is still at work on our behalf. When we think we are alone, He tells us, "I have reserved for myself 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal."
"Okay, Rick. So his silence is not absence. But I still find little comfort in that. If he would just speak to me."
He has. When you come forward for the Lord's Supper, and hear the words, "The body of Christ, given for you" and "The blood of Christ, shed for you," those words are to be received as if spoken by the Lord himself. This is something better than anything Elijah had. Elijah saw miracles. But none of those miracles by itself proved God was for him. We have a better word here. God is for us. When remembering that God is even present in silence is too hard for us, we need to remember what He has spoken to us. "The body of Christ, given for you." "The blood of Christ, shed for you." When your conscience gets to you for all the trouble youíve caused, remember. God is greater than your conscience. His word for you stands. Amen.
1 Words and the Word: Language, poetics, and biblical interpretation by Stephen Prickett, p. 7ff.
2:03 pm Pacific Standard Time