Looking at Elijah

The Old Testament readings in June focus on the prophet Elijah. Elijah is the great prophet of Israel’s story, his name means “My God is Yahweh” and he lives at a time when the kingdom was divided and the rulers no longer provide moral or religious leadership. The Kings are failures in every regard and into the story, without warning or preamble comes a larger than life character who knows that Yahweh is life-giving and powerful, who confronts religious and political power, who would know the despair of loneliness and fear the power of a vengeful queen and yet emerge as the leader of a community of prophets speaking the truth into a suspicious world.

In 1 Kings 17 the land is suffering a famine, Elijah seems to be an outsider who begins to collaborate with Yahweh, he looks for life outside Israel and brings life to a widow and her son who declares “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth”.

In 1 Kings 19 Elijah is on the run. He has had a great victory over the prophets of Baal, he has witnessed Yahweh’s power over the forces of death (see 1 Kings 18) but in doing so he has fallen foul of the wicked Queen Jezebel and he is running deep into the desert – where God finds him, feeds him, questions him, encourages him and in the utter silence send him on a new mission, with a new disciple to pave the way for a return to Israel’s true faith.

In 1 Kings 21 we see the revitalised Elijah stand up to the power of Ahab and Jezebel (Sadly the lectionary will reverse the order of 19 & 21). It is a story about the greed of absolute power and the need to challenge those who abuse power, who steal land from the poor and who live by Ivana Trump’s maxim, “Remember girls, don’t get mad, get everything.”*

Elijah leaves the stage (at least until the Transfiguration) in 2 Kings 2. His mantle is handed over to his disciple Elisha and whilst the deeds of Elisha will be greater it will be Elijah who lives on as the greatest of the prophets, the one who will return to herald the coming of the Messiah. It is a story that mixes “the mysterious among the natural – the transcendent in the ugly history of Israel.”*

As we follow these stories through on Sundays and at the (almost) weekly Bible studies we will find many themes that will seem familiar to our world – how do we respond? What will we hear amongst the words and the silence? Where will we see God’s Kingdom at work? When do we run and when do we stand? and might we like Elijah have to answer the question, “What are you doing here?”

Be Blessed

Craig

* With thanks to Roots bible notes for some of the background and the quotes.

Reflection for 17 May



Love one another
not as servants and masters
superior and inferior
them and us
but as friends

Love one another
not as strangers passing
occasional acquaintances
nodding heads
but as friends
who share all that life will bring
love one another

know one another
by name and by manner
by all that brings joy
by all that causes pain
by touch and by sign
by all that fulfiils
by all that disappoints
love one another

For this is God’s community
the friends of Jesus and one another
the tellers of good news
the bearers of fruitful gifts
the sharers of abiding love
the outpourers of love in action
so love one another
 – there is much to love.

For this is God’s community
the spirit-filled and the astounded
the mystic and the preacher
the sure and the unsure
the homebird and the stranger
the seeker and the sought
the dancer and the wallflower
the entertainer and the bore
the same and the different
so love one another
 – there is much to love.

 For this is God’s community
the child-like faithful
the carefully obedient
the over burdened
the carefree-soul
the weary voice
the venture catalyst
the constant critic
the social includer
the sorrowful debtor
the quietly confident
so love one another
 – there is much to love

and if we have no love,
then what have we?
and if we have no love
how Dare we,
talk of God
expect grace
hope for justice
inspire liberation
sing praise
offer prayers
name ourselves Christ’s,

– how dare we.

For God is love
and all our words
and all our acts
and all that we would be
are but inadequate
responses to such love.