Archive for the ‘Elijah’ Tag

Week of Proper 5: Wednesday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  Elijah’s Sacrifice Consumed by Fire

Image Source = Cadetgray

Choices, Real and Imagined

JUNE 8, 2022

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 5:  Wednesday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/24/week-of-proper-5-wednesday-year-1/

O Thou to Whom in Ancient Time:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/o-thou-to-whom-in-ancient-time/

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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.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/idolatry-again-elijah-versus-prophets-of-baal/

Week of Proper 1: Monday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  Enron Logo

Enron, of course, has ceased to exist, but here is where I found the image:  link

Trust in God; All Else is Transitory

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

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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.

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James 1:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

From James, a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Greetings to the twelve tribes dispersed throughout the world.

My friends, whenever you have to face all sorts of trials, count yourselves supremely happy in the knowledge that such testing of your faith makes for strength to endure.  Let endurance perfect its work in you that you may become perfected, sound throughout, lacking in nothing.  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God and it will be given him, for God is a generous giver who neither grudges nor reproaches anyone.  But he who asks must ask in faith, with never a doubt in his mind; for the doubter is like a wave of the sea tossed hither and thither by the wind.  A man like that should not think he will receive anything from the Lord.  He is always in two minds and unstable in all he does.

The church member in humble circumstances does well to take pride in being exalted; the wealthy member must find his pride in being brought low, for the rich man will disappear like a wild flower; once the sun is up with its scorching heat, it parches the plant, its flower withers, and what was lovely to look at is lost for ever.  So shall the rich man fade away as he goes about his business.

Psalm 119:65-72 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

65  O LORD, you have dealt graciously with your servant,

according to your word.

66  Teach me discernment and knowledge,

for I have believed in your commandments.

67  Before I was afflicted I went astray,

but now I keep your word.

68  You are good and you bring forth good;

instruct me in your statutes.

69  The proud have smeared me with lies,

but I will keep your commandments with my whole heart.

70  Their heart is gross and fat,

but my delight is in your law.

71  It is good for me that I have been afflicted,

that I might learn your statutes.

72  The law of your mouth is dearer to me

than thousands in gold and silver.

Mark 8:11-13 (Revised English Bible):

Then the Pharisees came out and began to argue with him.  To test him they asked for a sign from heaven.  He sighed deeply and said,

Why does generation ask for a sign?  Truly I tell you:  no sign shall be given to this generation.

With that he left them, re-embarked, and made for the other shore.

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The Collect:

O  God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 1:  Monday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/week-of-proper-1-monday-year-1/

Week of 6 Epiphany:  Monday, Year 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/21/week-of-6-epiphany-monday-year-1/

Week of 6 Epiphany:  Monday, Year 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/week-of-6-epiphany-monday-year-2/

Faith in Romans vs. Faith in James:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/week-of-proper-23-tuesday-year-1/

Finding God in Silence:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/finding-god-in-silence/

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One of the recurring themes in the Bible is the imperative of trusting in God first and foremost.  This does not preclude making good decisions; indeed, it leads to doing this.  Hebrew prophets counseled leaders to trust in God, not international alliances with double-dealing empires, and not to become overly confident in military strength.  Such things, they said, were idols.  And, like all other idols, they come and they go.

Jesus, in Mark 8, complained about yet another demand for a dramatic sign.  We humans like signs and wonders, for they are easy to identify.  Yet Elijah, in 1 Kings 19:12, found God in “a faint murmuring sound,” not an earthquake, a strong wind, or a fire.  That was not very dramatic, was it?  We ought to trust God because God is God, not because of signs and wonders.

In James 1 we read about becoming “perfected.”  The original Greek word maturity.  And completeness refers to a blemishless state, as in that present in a sacrificial animal.  So, in context, endurance produces spiritual maturity, suitability in service to God, and a continuing state of spiritual growth.  Other factors, such as wealth and prestige (or lack thereof) are transient, so we ought not become attached to them and define ourselves according to them.

Maybe Douglas Adams said it best on page 1 of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979):

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.

Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

The planet has–or rather had–a problem, which was this:  most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time.  Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

And so the problem remained; lots of people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches.

Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place.  And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans.

And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, a girl sitting on her own in a small cafe in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how how the world could be made a good and happy place.  This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.

Sadly, however, before she could get to a phone to tell anyone about it, a terrible, stupid catastrophe occurred, and the idea was lost for ever.

This is not her story.

Our identity, my theology tells me, ought to have its root in God alone.  Each human being bears the image of God, who loves, who woos, and who has sacrificed for everyone.  This is God, whom we can trust.  Money, when it is physical, is pieces of paper and metal, used properly for paying our bills, purchasing our necessities, and helping others–but not functioning as a barrier between us and God.

Here ends the lesson.

KRT

Published in a nearly-identical form as Week of 6 Epiphany:  Monday, Year 2, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on June 23, 2012