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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, August 13, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  1 Kings 19:9–18

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. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (NRSV)

Reflection
I hear myself in Elisha in this story. “See God?! Look how perfect I’ve been! I’ve donated to all the right causes, I’ve read all the right books, I’ve led all the right committees, I’ve bought all the right things!” In our right-ness, we’re quick to believe that God should show up for us in big and flashy ways. In a powerful mountain-shattering wind, in a powerful earthquake, in a raging fire. As if we deserved God’s splendor because of what we’ve done. And when God doesn’t show up for us in the way we expect, we sulk in our cloaks and turn our chairs to face the wall in sullen silence.

Despite all our striving and preening, God shows up exactly how God always has: in the still small voice of the one we often overlook. In the unobtrusive, countercultural whisper of the One who isn't keeping track of our committees or donations or book recommendations or purchases. When we appear to God, pointing the finger and blaming everyone else for tearing down altars and rejecting God, God lovingly turns us around, points us back the way we came, and instructs us to go back out into the messy, imperfect, unholy world we’ve run away from. “Get back to work,” God whispers. The world needs you, not what you do or what you own.

So turn your chair around, take off your cloak, and go be love to that wild holy mess out there.

Prayer
Thank you, God, for giving us gentle, nudging reminders when we’re caught up in our own rightness. Thank you for showing up in the oft-overlooked voice of the most vulnerable and least noticed among us. And thank you for pointing us back out the way we came—back out into the world to do more loving. Amen.

Written by Lois Snavely, Seminary Intern

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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