Sermon – Pentecost 6 – June 30, 2013
1 Kings 19:9b-21 ‘Not Alone’
CT: God has taken care of your past in Christ Jesus making your present work a joy; a life lived with purpose and joy.
Intro: What gets you down; a flat tire? How about when gas jumps by 10c a litre? What about when the evening news? Even the ‘good’ stories seem to have a misplaced emphasis; the child with a one in a million disease is followed by a couple spending $25 thousand to clone their cat. The news can get you down. Then there are those days where my plans go south, when I didn’t get to see the people I wanted to see, or people don’t respond to the Gospel the way I had hoped. They seem like simple things, but they can leave you feeling down and defeated.
Pity Party: Elijah was so down he literally crawled into a hole in the ground—a cave in the mountain. He looked back, and instead of seeing all the ways God was working in the world and his life (often in powerful ways like Mount Carmel), all he saw was failure. He was tired, emotionally bankrupt, and just wanted to die. You can almost hear him complaining, “The covenant you made with your people, God; it’s not working—it’s failed. Of course, I gave it my all, but that’s not enough. My work—your plan has come to nothing.”
Like Elijah, our past and present can lead us to despair, lose hope for the future, feel unwanted, and lose the joy and purpose that God would give to our living. Rather than seeing every day as a gift from God, we can spiral into seeing them as a burden. The devil loves to throw old sins into your face, or cause you to question God’s faithfulness or your value to Him. The devil would sink us in the mire of our own pity party, thinking it’s all about me and what I can do or don’t have.
Not only can we get down on ourselves, but also on the Christian Church. “Look God, the world is going to hell in a hand basket and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. I’ve done my best but that’s not enough. Look at how your people treat the gift of faith you’ve given them. Check out the false gods in their lives. Jesus’ death has added up to nothing; Your new covenant of grace, has failed. Only I remain and what good is that?” Yes, pastors too can be caught up in a pity party and sing, “I’m going out into the garden to eat worms!” It’s called “PLOM’s disease; ‘poor little old me’!
I’m Here: But the Lord didn’t leave Elijah to wallow in self pity, He came to him. First there was a violent wind, an earthquake, and fire; the Lord was not in these things, but it did grab Elijah’s attention. Sometimes I think God needs to swat me across the head to get my attention! We get like that! No wonder Elijah covered his head before going out of the cave; he had no control over any of those things! What does it take for us to listen to the still small voice of God—the whisper of God’s love for us in the Gospel?
The Word of God’s Law is like a hammer breaking stone, like the violent wind, earthquake, and fire outside Elijah’s cave. We try to crawl under a rock and hide from the truth, but the Law strips away our pretenses. It’s not about me! The Christian Church, the world, even my own salvation doesn’t depend on me; all of these things are in God’s good and capable hands. Like the fire outside the cave, the Law should put the fear of God in my heart, because it continually shows me that I haven’t given it my all; God has.
And we’re surprised when we end up feeling all alone, or that our past is catching up to us, or maybe it’s up to us to save our neighbour? That’s when Jesus enters our pity party with the simple word, “Repent!” “Turn away from your past. Stop looking to yourself and keep your eyes fixed on Me.”
Gospel Whisper: God whispered His Gospel words to Elijah; He’s not alone. God will judge those who persecute and reject His Church and turn their noses up at His Word. God will provide the help that is needed for His Kingdom to grow and flourish in the middle of all that looks so wrong or desperate. Yes, there is much that is wrong in our world; it’s broken—we’re broken. “But take heart,” said Jesus “I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Jesus has redeemed you and me; He has and will redeem His world!
As for the Christian Church, God has reserved 7M knees which have not bowed to the gods of our age too. It is His Church; we are His people—and we are never alone! It’s not up to me; God has already done it in His Son. And perhaps the most humbling part is to realize that the work I do is not about me, but God at work in me and through me. (Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13) Elisha would take up where Elijah left off, and God will and has provided His worker, approved and called, for this place; his name is Alex Timm.
Gospel Action: But it’s not about me or Alex; it’s about Jesus. He’s undone our past that we would be free to live for Him and with Him today. As He was nailed to the cross for our sins, Jesus prayed, “Father don’t let this become a past that would cripple their future—forgive them for they do not do what they are doing.” (cf Luke 23:34) And to the criminal on the cross beside Him He said, “Your past does not determine your future; today, you’ll be with me in paradise.” (cf Luke 23:43) The angels at the empty tomb said, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” (cf Luke 24:5) The past has changed! Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection have erased our sins with the power to change today and tomorrow. In Christ, today is the dawning of a new day for me; for you!
Follow: Jesus calls us to follow Him; to keep our eyes and hearts on Him, not on the past, the world around us, or our own abilities. Through Christ comes the freedom of the Spirit to fill our living with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (See Galatians 5) The soft whisper of the Gospel that says we are not alone; you, me, the Church, are in His hands. He will surround us with a team of believers for VBS and Sports Camp. He will provide for His Church. He will provide for you those capable of guiding 12 yoke of oxen, even from your midst, that will guide the youth, sing in the choir, lead your Bible studies, and mentor those in need of His strength. Christ not only builds His Church; He keeps it safe in the outstretched arms of His blood-bought forgiveness.