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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, June 25, 2019              

Today’s Scripture Reading | 1 Kings 19:1–15 

Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.

At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. (NRSV)

Reflection
So, it’s not going well for Elijah. Powerful people want him dead, he’s on the run, he’s left his servant, he’s out in the wilderness sitting under a tree, and he’s just run out of, well, everything. And he’s ready to die. He says so. He asks God to take him, and he lays down under the tree to wait.

That’s not an entirely foreign feeling for a lot of folks. Maybe you’ve been sitting under that tree at some point. Me, I’ve got an orchard full of those trees. And sometimes, when you lay down like that, it’s real hard to get up again.

“Come on. Sit up, eat something.” And that can be so hard to do, just that one simple thing. So hard that it wears you out and you lay down all over again.

“Come on, eat something. You’ve got to keep your strength up.”

And it’s hard. It’s hard, because on a very basic level, eating is an act of faith. When you feel like nothing’s of any use, what are you keeping your strength up for, anyway?

But Elijah finds that bit of faith, eats, gets up, and keeps going. He stays alive, but he doesn’t really recover. He winds up alone in a cave.

“What are you doing here?” And all he can say is that he’s all alone and everyone hates him.

“Come outside. Let me show you something.” And it’s really something. A smorgasbord of natural disaster: wind, fire, earthquake . . . then nothing.

“So, what are you doing here?”

I’m all alone and everyone hates me.

“Get out of your cave. Go find some people. Start with one, then go on from there. That other stuff, it’s just noise.”

Get up. Eat something. Get out of your cave. Go find your people. Go on from there. Simple, actionable tasks are the way forward when your feelings have you sitting under a tree and wanting to die. Simple things, things that get you moving. Things that save your life.

Prayer
Lord, when the world is too much with us, help us find that small bit of faith that lets us make the small steps that bring us back to life. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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