Having gotten through Pentecost and Trinity Sunday, we now enter the season the church calls “ordinary time.” But there is nothing ordinary about the lessons we get during this time. This Sunday’s Old Testament lesson is a classic example. King Ahab is one of the worst kings the Israelites have had. He encourages worship of Baal, the god who is supposed to bring water to fertilize the soil, in addition to the God of Israel. But there has been a three-year drought in the land, and Elijah is going to use this opportunity to prove the Israelites wrong about Baal. So he challenges the prophets of Baal to a duel. Whoever can get their god to rain fire upon the bull sacrifice will be the true God. So the Baal prophets spend all day praying to Baal, dancing around the altar, going to extremes such as cutting themselves to get Baal to perform. The whole time Elijah mocks them. Then Elijah dramatically gets his sacrifice ready, and even has the Israelites pour water all over the wood, just to prove how awesome Yahweh is when Yahweh rains a fire down that consumes the whole thing. One could argue that Elijah is being a bit rude, if not pompous, in this story. But what Elijah is actually revealing is an intense, deep trust in God – a trust that is so profound that he is willing to make bold statements without hesitation about God in front of everyone.
One of the things Elijah accuses the people of is limping along with two different opinions – not entirely sure that God will care for them, so investing devotion to Baal just in case. Too often we are like the Israelites. We too can be found only sort of trusting God, and putting our trust in other things – just in case. We lack Elijah’s boldness because we are just not as sure as he is. I have seen that lack of total trust just in these last several months. Since I came here about a year and a half ago, we have been working hard, making lots of changes. But I see the hard work is taking a toll. We are getting tired and I am not sure we are convinced all our work will pay off. And so we are beginning to hold back. I noticed the reaction first in myself. The questions started bubbling up: Can we make this work? Will we have the money? Will we have the energy? Do we have the same chutzpah that Elijah has? I have noticed us starting to eye one another, as we peer over what feels like a cliff. There is this sort of stand-off: If you jump, I’ll jump. We are like the Israelites. Elijah says to them, “How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” The text says that the Israelites do not answer him a word.
In contrast to all of this is Elijah. He has a brazen trust in God. He is so bold that he mocks others; he has water poured on the wood, not just once, but three times; only then does he call down the fire from God. Even after three years of draught, Elijah does not doubt that God will give a sign to the people – he trusts that God does not abandon God’s people.
In the midst of our silent stand-off, I see a glimpse of Elijah in all of us too. Just watching us at the Parade last week gave me hope. Over twenty of us gathered to walk – even those of us who have told me that they do not feel comfortable with evangelism at all. And when we gathered, I watched us talking to friends and strangers, having meaningful conversations, handing out our business cards, smiling, and waving. These are actions that show a bold trust in God. Our invitation is to hold on to that trust, to stop limping along with two opinions, and to just jump off that cliff with each other. I am willing to make that jump, and I know that God will enable us to jump together. And when we do, we will say those same words that the Israelites proclaim when they witness God’s power: The LORD indeed is God; the LORD indeed is God. Amen.