1st Scripture Reading: 1 Kings 18: 20-21, 30-39 & Psalm 96 (VU p.816)
“For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens”. God made everything. But we are a bit like the people of ancient Israel, aren’t we? In the scrum of everyday life, don’t we also sometimes forget where all this comes from?
When I woke up to the sound of rain yesterday, my heart was filled with joy, and as I sat at the front window with my first coffee, a deep peace settled over me like a warm blanket. I am not alone, I thought, and thanks be to God for the so welcome gift of rain.
The story of King Ahab and his Queen Jezebel and the prophet Elijah is set on the background of three years of drought. Drought is a scary word – even here and now. Most of BC is experiencing a very dry spring, and much of Vancouver Island is into drought conditions already. We have had three fires on Texada in the last few weeks, and we have been very lucky – they have been controlled without spreading by our wonderful volunteer fire departments, with help from the quarries and local citizens. But let’s get real folks. We dodged a bullet. If the wind had come up on any one of those fires there might have been a disaster. Our trees are still stressed from last summer’s dry conditions, and it wouldn’t take much to spread a fire to much of Texada. We have lots of trees!
Firefighters have been very clear about that in Alberta. Nature will put this fire down – not them.
But we don’t think like that usually, do we? We trust our man-made solutions to problems, but do we ever put our trust and faith in God, in Nature, to actually provide the best answer, the best possible solutions to the issues we humans face as we move into our future? Do we do that?
We are looking to agribusiness to provide the massive amounts of food we need to feed a population approaching 9 billion. But big agriculture may not be the answer. In fact, small farming in places like Africa is proving to be better able to provide for the people who live there. With sustainable and traditional farming practices: returning all waste to the soil, crop rotation, mixed farming, fallow times, the land God gave us will provide for our needs nutritionally and sustainably. Monoculture, chemical fertilization, herbicide use, repeat cropping and irrigation are all agri-biz practices that are proving to be harmful and exhausting to the land, and detrimental to the quality of the food.
Elijah challenged the prophets of BAAL to demonstrate the power of their god. Since Baal was a man-made god, there was no answer. Baal is a false god – a mere idol – incapable of offering us any sustenance, any comfort, any salvation.
So, as the psalmist said: “For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.” And we are instructed to “Sing to the Lord a new song….to declare the Lord’s glory among nations, his marvelous works among the people.” Let us praise God’s holy name.
Hymn # 716 VU “My Life Flows On”
2nd Scripture Reading: Galatians 1:1-12 & Luke 7:1-10
Interesting, isn’t it, the words of Paul to the Galatians? He could not have been clearer with them, that he did not go to school to learn the gospel of Christ, nor was it passed on to him by any of Jesus’ followers. Paul received the gospel on the road to Damascus, when he was still a Jewish extremist, persecuting the early Christians.
Let’s look again at what he said: “For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Paul says that he received the essence of the gospel directly from Jesus Christ. It’s called “direct transmission” folks, and it is not unique in human history. We tend to dismiss such accounts as fictional or delusional somehow, but, and here is where I find I must remind myself, we are the creature (not the Creator) and for now, “we see as thru a glass darkly”. We don’t know a lot about what’s really going on, and I believe it is arrogance to think we do.
And what do we think about “distance healing” something Jesus did quite often it seems. In the reading from Luke this morning we heard how Jesus healed the slave of the faithful centurion, without laying eyes on him!
Then there is the story of how Elijah called on God to show the Israelites how misguided they were to be worshipping Baal. The contest rules were very fair. Each group would have a sacrificial bull, and an alter, set up the sacrifice, then call on their god to put fire to it. First the priests of Baal unsuccessfully called on their god. No response. No fire. Then Elijah made his challenge to God even harder by pouring water all over it! He called on God and this is what he said: “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your bidding. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”
And then what happened? “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.” And the people who were there fell on their knees and worshipped God, saying: “The Lord indeed is God”. Another supernatural event.
There were consequences of this action, of course. The priests of Baal were killed right then and there. Elijah then had to run for his life from the wrath of Jezebel.
But I suggest the message is quite clear. There are consequences for us too, if we worship false idols like money or agri-biz, or science, or power, and forget to praise our Maker.
Hymn # 245 VU “Praise the Lord with the Sound of Trumpet”