Archive for the ‘1 Kings 18’ Tag

Proper 4, Year C   14 comments

Above:  Design Drawing for Stained Glass for Memorial Window with Centurion for Church of the Good Shepherd in Raleigh, North Carolina

Image Source = Library of Congress

Divine Inclusion and Human Exclusion

The Sunday Closest to June 1

The Second Sunday after Pentecost



The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 18:20-21 (22-29), 30-39 and Psalm 96


1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43 and Psalm 96:1-9


Galatians 1:1-12

Luke 7:1-10

The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Proper 4, Year A:

Proper 4, Year B:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Confession:

Prayer of Dedication:

Luke 7:

Galatians 1:

1 Kings 8:

1 Kings 18:


A summary of the readings follows:  There is only one God, from whom people (including Elijah and Paul) have received revelations.  The message of God is for all people, who are supposed to revere the deity.  And sometimes one finds deep faith in unexpected quarters.

That last statement, a reference to the Gospel reading, appeals to me on one level and humbles me on another.  I have spent much of my life feeling like a heretic in the Bible Belt.  (I AM A HERETIC IN THE BIBLE BELT.)  Sometimes even Episcopal Church congregations–where I, one who enjoys asking probing questions, exploring possibilities, and becoming comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity, should find a safe haven–have not always provided safe havens. And so I have been as the Roman centurion–a goy one way another.  Yet God accepts me, however heretical I might be.

Nevertheless I also find a reason for caution and humility.  Which populations do I mark unjustly (without knowing that I am doing this unjustly) as beyond the pale theologically?  Whom do I mistake as a member of a den of heretics?  I am clearly not a Universalist; there are theological lines which  God has established.  There is truth–revealed truth–and many people occupy the wrong side of it.  But do I know where those lines are?  How much do I really know, and how much do I just think I know?  And who will surprise me by being present in Heaven?

I tell myself to mind my own business, to be the best and most conscientious person I can be.  I tell myself to practice compassion and to leave judgment to God.  Sometimes I do.  And I know better the rest of the time.  Thus, aware of this failing of mine, I read Luke 7:1-10 with humility.






Week of Proper 5: Thursday, Year 2   6 comments

Above:  Ricardo Montalban as Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Image = A screen capture from a DVD

Revenge and Violence

JUNE 11, 2020


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


1 Kings 18:40-46 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Then Elijah said to them,

Seize the prophets of Baal, let not a single one of them get away.

They seized them, and Elijah too, took them down to the Wadi Kishon and slaughtered them there.

Elijah said to Ahab,

Go up, eat and drink, for there is a rumbling of [approaching] rain,

and Ahab went up to eat and drink.  Elijah meanwhile climbed to the top of Mount Carmel, crouched on the ground, and put his face between his knees.  And he said to his servant,

Go up and look toward the Sea.

He went up and looked and reported,

There is nothing.

Seven times [Elijah] said,

Go back,

and the seventh time, [the servant] reported,

A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising in the west.

Then [Elijah] said,

Go say to Ahab, “Hitch up [your chariot] and go down before the rain stops you.”

Meanwhile the sky grew black with clouds; there was wind, and a heavy downpour fell; Ahab mounted his chariot and drove off to Jezreel.  The hand of the LORD had come upon Elijah.  He tied up his skirts and ran in front of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.

Psalm 65:1, 8-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 You are to be praised, O God, in Zion;

to you shall vows be performed in Jerusalem.

Those who dwell at the ends of the earth will tremble at your marvelous signs;

you make the dawn and the dusk to sing for joy.

You visit the earth and water it abundantly;

you make it very plenteous;

the river of God is full of water.

10 You prepare the grain,

for so you provide for the earth.

11 You drench the furrows and smooth out the ridges;

with heavy rain you soften the ground and bless its increase.

12 You crown the year with your goodness,

and your paths overflow with plenty.

13 May the fields of the wilderness be rich for grazing,

and the hills be clothed with joy.

14 May the meadows cover themselves with flocks,

and the valleys cloak themselves with grain;

let them shout for joy and sing.

Matthew 5:20-26 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

For I tell you that unless your uprightness is far superior to that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never even enter the Kingdom of Heaven!

You have heard that men of old were told “You shall not murder,” and “Whoever murders will have to answer to the court.”  But I tell you that any one who gets angry with his brother will have to answer to the court, and anyone who speaks abusively to his brother will have to answer to the great council, and anyone who says to his brother “You cursed fool!” will have to answer for it in the fiery pit!  So when you are presenting your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother has any grievance against you, leave your gift right there before the altar and go and make up with your brother; then come back and present your gift.  Be quick and come to terms with your opponent while you are on the way to court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison.  I tell you, you will never get out again until you have paid the last penny!


The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 5:  Thursday, Year 1:

Matthew 5:

Bring Peace to Earth Again:


Jesus quoted the commandment forbidding murder.  Then he took the principle further.  A good understanding of this requires the explanation of some technical details.

“Raca,” or “empty-headed fool” or “airhead,” was a very strong insult in Jesus’ culture.  As we say in the U.S. South, “Them is fightin’ words.”  To call someone a “raca” was to express extreme contempt.

Just as there is more than one type of love in the New Testament, there is more than one variety of anger there.  The anger Jesus condemns is that which leads one to plot revenge.  Violent acts, such as murder, flow from such anger.  So Jesus says not even to think about murdering, committing any other violent deed, or causing harm of any sort to anyone.

Revenge, a common plot element in many works of fiction (including Star Trek II), and the desire for it are ubiquitous in real life.  All one has to do to hear of them is follow the news closely.  Yet revenge can never restore life to the dead, undo injuries which have resulted in amputations or paralysis, or erase psychological damage.  We need justice, not revenge, but many of us confuse the two categories.

Jesus, of course, did not, according to the canonical Gospels, refrain from all anger.  He did expel money changers from part of the Jerusalem Temple and excoriate certain religious leaders.  But he did not plot revenge on anybody.  He even asked divine forgiveness for those who crucified him and looked on approvingly.

So far the texts seem holy.  Then we return to 1 Kings 18, where, in verse 40, Elijah kills the 450 prophets of Baal.  This is the conclusion of the “My God can set fire to this altar” showdown.  The lectionary skips verse 40, beginning with verse 41 and the end of the drought.  The chapter itself devotes only one verse to the slaughter of the prophets of Baal, an event which might slip unnoticed between the dramatic contest and the end of the drought.  But let us not look away from uncomfortable Bible verses.

How should we understand the slaughter of Baal’s prophets? I found comments in three study Bibles I checked.  The note in The Jerusalem Bible reads:

In this war between Yahweh and Baal those who serve Baal suffer the fate of the conquered in the warfare of the time.

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible notes that Elijah was “faithful to the deuteronomistic perspective” by ordering the execution of false prophets, per Deuteronomy 13:1-18.  (Read the verses for yourself, O reader; they do command violence.)  Then there is the note from The NIV Study Bible:

Elijah, acting on the authority of the Lord, who sent him, carried out the sentence pronounced in the Mosaic law for prophets of pagan deities (Dt 13:13-18; 17:2-5).

I have a t-shirt I wear from time to time.  “Who would Jesus bomb?” it asks.  (I know; it should say “Whom would Jesus bomb?”)  The question, regardless of whether one uses the objective case, answers itself, does it not?  As an intellectually honest Christian, I seek to follow Jesus more nearly each day.  My success is mixed, but I persist in the effort.  So, to paraphrase the t-shirt, “Whom would Jesus slaughter?”  Nobody, of course; he might use justifiably harsh words, but he would neither condone nor commit the taking of anyone’s life.  And he would neither condone nor commit revenge either.  And Jesus is the Master.  So I side with my Lord.


Week of Proper 5: Wednesday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  Elijah’s Sacrifice Consumed by Fire

Image Source = Cadetgray

Choices, Real and Imagined

JUNE 10, 2020


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


1 Kings 18:20-39 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Ahab sent orders to all Israelites and gathered the prophets at Mount Carmel.  Elijah approached all the people and said,

How long will you keep hopping between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; and if Baal, follow him!

But the people answered him not a word.  Then Elijah said to the people,

I am the only prophet of the LORD left, while the prophets of Baal are four hundred and fifty men.  Let two young bulls be given to us.  Let them choose one bull, cut it up, and lay it on the wood, but let them not apply fire; I will prepare the other bull, and lay it on the wood, and will not apply fire.  You will then invoke your god by name, and I will invoke the LORD by name; and let us agree:  the god who responds with fire, that one is God.

And all the people answered,

Very good!

Elijah said to the prophets of Baal,

Choose one bull and prepare it first, for you are the majority; invoke your god by name, but apply no fire.

They took the bull that was given them; they prepared it, and invoked Baal by name from morning until noon, shouting,

O Baal, answer us!

But there was no sound, and none who responded; so they performed a hopping dance about the altar that had been set up.  When noon came, Elijah mocked them, saying,

Shout louder!  After all, he is a god.  But he may be in conversation, he may be detained, or he may be on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and will wake up.

So they shouted louder, and gashed themselves with knives and spears, according to their practice, until the blood streamed over them.  When noon passed, they kept raving until the hour of presenting the meal offering.  Still there was no sound, and none who responded or heeded.

Then Elijah said to all the people,

Come closer to me;

and all the people came closer to him.  He repaired the damaged altar of the LORD.  Then Elijah took twelve stones, corresponding to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob–to whom the word of the LORD had come:

Israel shall be your name

–and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD.  Around the altar he made a trench large enough for the two seahs of seed.  He laid out the wood, and he cut up the bull and laid it on the wood.  And he said,

Fill four jars with water and pour it over the burnt offering and the wood.

Then he said,

Do it a second time;

and they did it a second time.

Do it a third time,

he said; and they did a third time.  The water ran down around the altar, and even the trench was filled with water.

When it was time to present the meal offering, the prophet Elijah came forward and said,

O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel!  Let it be known today that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your bidding.  Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God; for You have turned their hearts backward.

Then fire from the LORD descended and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the earth; and it licked up the water that was in the trench.  When they saw this, the people flung themselves on their faces and cried out,

The LORD alone is God, The LORD alone is God!

Psalm 16:1, 6-11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you;

I have said to the LORD, “You are my Lord,

my good above all other.”

6 My boundaries enclose a pleasant land;

indeed, I have a goodly heritage.

I will bless the LORD who gives my counsel;

my heart teaches me, night after night.

I have set the LORD always before me;

because he is at my right hand I shall not fall.

9 My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices;

my body also shall rest in hope.

10 For you will not abandon me to the grave,

nor will your holy one see the Pit.

11 You will show me the path of life;

in your presence there is fullness of joy,

and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

Matthew 5:17-19 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

Do not suppose that I have come to do away with the Law or the Prophets.  I have not come to do away with them but to complete them.  For I tell you, as long as heaven and earth endure, not one dotting of an i or crossing of a will be dropped from the Law until it is all observed.  Anyone, therefore, who weakens one of the slightest of these commands, and teaches others to do so, will be ranked lowest in the Kingdom of Heaven; but anyone who observes them and teaches others to do so will be ranked high in the Kingdom of Heaven.


The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 5:  Wednesday, Year 1:

O Thou to Whom in Ancient Time:


I took notes for this post and drafted my comments a few days ago.  Now, as I type the final version, I have the first part of Mendelssohn’s Elijah playing.  It is appropriate timing, for the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal is about to begin.

There was a real choice between Yahweh and Baal.  This day we have part of the account of the account of the duel of a sort between Elijah, speaking for Yahweh, and 450 prophets of Baal.  Yahweh wins despite seemingly improbable odds.  A fire on a drenched altar? Who had heard of such a thing?

The prophets of Baal, for all their pleading, dancing, and bloodletting, failed.  How could they not?  Baal was imaginary.  This was an unambiguous victory for Yahweh.  Yet the idolatry continued for centuries.  Some people are just stubborn, apparently.

“The Law,” in the context of the Gospels, has layers and aspects.  There are, for starters, the letter (economically and culturally specific to circumstances, which change and therefore fail to apply after a while) of the law and there is the spirit (not tied to circumstances) thereof.  There is the Law of Moses and then there are elaborations upon it which people have added over time.  Jesus is consistent with the best of these traditions (the spirit of the law), not the persnickety details the Gospel writers quote him as contradicting.

The audience for Matthew was Jewish Christian, so this was an important point for the author of that text to make clear.  Jesus was an observant Jew, albeit neither a Pharisee nor a Sadducee.  For Jesus performing merciful deeds was legal and commendable on every day of week.  In contrast, strict Pharisees allowed only the most basic first aid on the Sabbath, delaying more advanced medical attention until the next day.  “Do the most good you can everyday,” Jesus said with this words and deeds, “including on the Sabbath.”

There is nothing sinful about that.

The choice between goodness and the Law and the Prophets, when one interprets the latter correctly, is an illusion.  When one follows our Lord and Savior’s admonition to love God fully and one’s neighbor as one’s self, the two commandments on which all the Law and the Prophets hang, one keeps the Law.

It is that simple–and that challenging.