What are you doing here? (Brad Childs)

Worship on the Lord’s Day
2nd Sunday after Pentecost
10:00 am June 19, 2022
Online & Onsite (Mixed Presence) Gathering as a Worshipping Community
led by the Rev. Bradley Childs
Music director: Binu Kapadia
Elder: Sam Malayang

We gather to worship God

Music prelude

Greeting
L: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
P: and also with you.

Lighting of the Christ candle
Welcome and announcements
Silent preparation for worship

Call to Worship
L: We come to worship God.
P: For God is just and compassionate.  God is love.
L: Where will we find God?
P: God is among the hungry and thirsty, in the face of a stranger, reaching out to us.
L: Let us seek God so that we can serve God.
P: Let us worship God and seek God’s healing, reconciling grace.

Opening praise: Love the Lord, your God

Prayers of approach and lament

Creator, Christ, and Spirit; three in one and one in three.

In the light of your presence and the silence of this time, we remember your goodness, care, and loving-kindness. We realize that there have been many times in life when things were very hard, and without you, they would have seemed impossible. You provide a peace that passes understanding and doesn’t make sense but still is.

We remember that by your wisdom, all people were created to be diverse and different and yet reflect your one holy image; that in Christ we have been reconciled and made one with you; and that in the Spirit we are called to live together in peace, unity, and understanding; so we give you our praise and adoration, for you are the rock, the unmovable object, the unstoppable force.

Though the world was made perfect, we have not been, and as a result, we have destroyed much of it, leaving countless people without what is needed.

In recalling all that you have done and all that you are, we recognize all that we have done and been.

And so today, we confess that at times we live lives alienated from you and one another; that we have let petty differences divide us, that we have been selfish, thinking our wants are the only ones that count, thinking things must go our own way, that we have nursed anger and suspicion instead of grace, that we have schemed and planned and hidden truths, and that we allow so many insignificant differences to disfigure and divide your church in its worship and its mission.

In your grace, restore our lives to unity, forgive us our divisiveness and fear, and set us free to live abundant lives worthy of your calling and love where we attempt to heal what we have broken. Forgive our mistakes and make us new.

In the name of Christ, we pray, have our hope, and trust. Amen

Response: We come to ask your forgiveness, Lord

Assurance of God’s forgiveness

The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting. In fulfillment of the promises of God (whose promises are always kept) I declare to you, in the name of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.

We listen for the voice of God

Children’s time: Why doesn’t everyone have a house? God created and gave us a world and a universe which is intended to be “home” for everybody. However, we have managed to really mess it up – and that is why some people do not have a house. But we can do something about that. We can try to make the world a better place in which to live – and then, maybe, everyone will have a house.

Gradual: Open our eyes, Lord (445)

Story: Why doesn’t everyone have a house? God created and gave us a world and a universe which is intended to be “home” for everybody. However, we have managed to really mess it up – and that is why some people do not have a house. But we can do something about that. We can try to make the world a better place in which to live – and then, maybe, everyone will have a house.

Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer (535)

Transition music

Song: As longs the hart (25)

Today’s Message

Scripture readings
Psalm 42
1 Kings 19:1–4, (5–7), 8–15a      OT(NRSV)
Luke 8:26–39                      NT(NRSV)

Response:

Homily: “What are you doing here?”

Elijah had just had his big showdown with the prophets of Baal, a religious group that infiltrated Israel with practices of self-mutilation and service using cultic prostitution. The God of Israel had prevailed in the earthquake and the fire at Mt. Carmel, but things didn’t exactly go as Elijah had planned. Instead of all of Israel turning back to their God-like Elijah had thought, the King and his wife decided to kill Elijah rather. The servant of Queen Jezebel found Elijah and relayed the message: “The queen swears to her god that she will have your head by this time tomorrow.”

Elijah, though was a fearless man of God, a hero. He stood tall. He had seen the miraculous wonders of our God. He had just had a showdown with the very face of evil. So he did what any self-respecting man would do… he ran… he ran like crazy. In verse 3 of our reading it says, Elijah “was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah”.

In other words, Elijah ran south and he kept right on running. He went past Meggido, Jezreel, Dothan, Samaria, Bethel, Jericho, Schechem, Jerusalm, passed the dry land, past the dead sea out of Isreal and into the southern kingdom of Judah. And then he kept running until he hit the very last city he could possibly get to in the southern kingdom at the edge of the desert wasteland where he was stuck between Jezebel and the warrior tribes of the south past the desert wilderness. And then he abandoned his friend, collapsed by a tree, and prayed that God would let him die. Not exactly the most heroic scene in the Bible.

Taking refuge under the scant shade of a broom Juniper tree, Elijah felt about as alone as one human being could ever feel. And although it is odd to say, I find great power in his struggle. See, we often read these kinds of passages and get amazed at the great faith of certain heroes of the Bible. How many women have read of Ruth and thought, I wish I had that kind of trust in God / How many men throughout the ages have come to idolize men like Moses. And while it’s true that these people are great examples of faith, that certainly doesn’t make them perfect.

To me, what makes them most interesting is that the Bible never whitewashes their lies. They were human, complete with problems and doubts and sin. When Ruth was first told to go to the house of Boaz she fell down and cried “no” and refused to go. Moses was a fugitive in the desert before he saw the burning bush (a fugitive because he was an escaped murder). Great people of faith sure… but very flawed just like us.

Ann Landers is actually a fictional character. Ann was the pen name of Ruth Crowley who originally wrote the column starting in 1943 but she was replaced in 1955 by Eppi Lederer who wrote it until 2002. After a 47 year history, Eppi had this to say about the letters that she had received over a long career. “I’ve learned plenty – including, most meaningfully, what Leo Rosten had in mind when he said, ‘Each of us is a little lonely, deep inside, and cries to be understood.’ I have learned how it is with stumbling, tortured people in this world who have nobody to talk to. The fact the column has been a success underscores, for me at least, the central tragedy of our society, the disconnectedness, the insecurity, the fear that bedevils, cripples and paralyzes so many of us. I have learned that financial success, academic achievement, and social or political status open no doors to peace of mind or inner security. We are all wanderers, like sheep, on this planet.” (Saturday Review)

Just like any other hero you or I have had, Elijah was just a person; a wanderer and he ran away in fear for his life just like most of us might do; just like I’m sure I would do too.

And there in his lowest of moments and deepest pain, he did what a lot of others do… he prayed for death. He, the mighty prophet, had stood for God as boldly as any of those who had gone before him, yet here he was, alone and seemingly deserted in this desert wasteland, the very symbol of a wasted life when God reached down and spoke to him in the silence.

There is great power in that.

It was in the lowest of lows that God would tenderly nourish and lead his prophet to a place where he would get some much-needed instruction. God would speak to him again. But it wasn’t in one of the happiest times in his life. It was in one of those hard times when he felt like he had done all he could ever do. It was when he felt like giving up. It was when he’d given his all and had nothing left. It was when he felt like he was done with life. He cried to God, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life”.

In his book Second Thoughts, Mort Crim writes, “Fairy tales are wonderful because they always have the prince and the princess living happily ever after. Of course life isn’t a fairy tale. And in the real world the prince may run off with the secretary never to come back; never to be forgiven; the princess may walk out on the family to find herself; the royal offspring may do drugs; and a downsizing at the castle may leave the entire family on the brink of bankruptcy.

Once we accept the fact that bad things do happen to good people, then we can get on with the business of living life to its fullest: giving, loving, creating, sharing, building, walking through every door of opportunity offered by this fragile, unpredictable, exciting experience called life.” (p. 17).

That’s great advice – it’s true. The glass is half-full right?

Yeah well, when people are stuck scraping bottom it’s not so easy to live out.

Usually in fact, moving on when things are tough isn’t something we have much choice about. When someone loses a spouse for example it’s hard to imagine how they could ever possibly go on. But in reality, the truth is, they’ve got no other choice. And in that low point, that is where we tend to see how truly strong people are.

Such was the case with Elijah. Instead of letting him die, the writer of 1 Kings says that God did something very different… And it’s the craziest part of this whole story actually (but we’ll get to that). In the story, God sent an angel to feed Elijah and give him strength to travel even further. Not only would he not take Elijiah yet but he had more for him to do.

With no choice but to go on, Elijah got up and made a 40 day hike through the desert to Mt. Horeb. There Elijah would wait to hear the voice of God. (* As a side note: Siani and Horeb may be the same location or Horeb might be a second mountain where the tablets were given after Moses broke the first set.)

Our text reads, “And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake came, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle breeze blowing.

It’s an interesting little side note in the narrative. In Hebrew it literally says that the Lord came “in the sound of gentle quietness” or as the NRSV translates it – in the “sound of utter silence”. That’s when and where and how God came.

That reminds me of an old story that James Hamilton. Before refrigerators, people used ice houses to preserve their food. Ice houses had thick walls, no windows, and a tightly fitted door. In winter, when streams and lakes were frozen, large blocks of ice were cut, hauled to the ice houses, and covered with sawdust. Often the ice would last well into the summer. One such summer Hamilton wrote this, “I heard a tale about a man who lost a valuable watch while working in an ice house.

As the story goes, he searched diligently for it, carefully raking through the sawdust, but didn’t find it. His fellow workers also looked. They scoured the place. They opened the door and let the light in, melting the ice, they would do anything to find it. But their efforts, too, proved futile. Then sometime later that night a small boy heard about the fruitless search and so he slipped into the ice house hoping to help. Only moments later the boy emerged holding the watch. Amazed, the men asked the boy how he found it.

“I went inside and I closed the door tightly,” the boy replied, “I laid down in the sawdust, and I kept very still. And soon enough” the boy said, “I heard it ticking.”

Often the question is not whether God is speaking, but whether we are being still enough, and quiet enough, to hear. (Phillip Gunter in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership.) Such is the lesson our God seeks to teach Elijah and also us through him.

At various times in our lives we will face perplexing situations and fear provoking circumstances (we may even run for our lives or we might even pray for God to take our lives) but we must remember that the Lord is not far from us and He will never fail to guide us if only we’ll take the time to listen.

Now while I believe that what I said is true – the fact is that doesn’t make it easy to do. Few things are. Because the truth is… standing in the quiet and waiting to hear God – quite often… just feels like standing alone. But that doesn’t change the facts. The ticking is there either way.

Someone once said, “Sometimes the Lord calms the storm. Sometimes he lets the storm rage and He calms the child instead.” There is a great deal of truth to that. Very often what we really need is not for all our problems to miraculously go away but rather to be quiet before the Lord so that we can hear him speak the words that will help us see our problems in a new light.

When Elijah heard the softly blowing wind that’s when he knew he wasn’t alone. That’s when he knew that the Lord was there. And in the calm he went to the edge of the cave to listen. It was then that Elijah finally heard the voice of God. But instead of giving him instructions or sympathy (like we might think) first the Lord did something very strange. God asked Elijah a question that must have seemed almost ridiculous to him. The Lord asked, “What are you doing here Elijah?” Verse 13 says, “When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

And that’s what is really crazy about this story! Instead of letting Elijah die, God sent an angel to feed him and give him strength to travel even further so he would come to the mountain. And so with no choice but to go on, Elijah made the 40day hike through the desert to Mt. Horeb.

But if God sent an angel to feed Elijah so he could make the trip to the Holy Mountain, why exactly is God’s first question to Elijah now… “What are you doing here?”

I can almost hear Elijah’s response. “In case you’ve missed something Lord, I’m running for my life! Remember I was praying for death and you fed me. What do you mean, What am I doing here? You brought me here.”

And that’s just it. God brought him there.

See I don’t think for a second that God was asking Elijah why he was at the Holy Mountain. It’s not so much What are you doing HERE, as it is What are you DOING here. I don’t think God is asking him why he’s there. I think he’s asking what Elijah is doing now that he has made it to the mountain. I think he’s asking why Elijah’s still crouched down in sorrow, why he’s given up?

That’s what he’s asking. “Elijah, now that you know you’re not alone, now that you know I’ve been here the whole time, now that I’ve seen you through the desert, now that I’ve brought you back from the lowest low, now that I fed you and gave you strength to finish your journey, now that I brought you back from the brink of death, now that you know that I’ve been there in the fire and quakes at Mt. Carmel and also in the “utter silence” of Mt. Horeb, now that you hear the ticking of my still small voice….

Now that I’ve brought you this far… What are you doing here? And with that, God sends Elijah back where he came from, with a new mission to anoint a new king, a new priest and a new prophet; with the knowledge that God was always present and still had plans for him.

I don’t care if you are 1, 10, or 100 years old. If you are here, then God fed and cared and brought you to this place. And you may be the Holiest of Holy heroes and you may not be. You may be a lot of thing, but what you never are is alone. You’re not alone in good times or in suffering.

You may be standing tall or running scared, but I’m here to tell you that God is with you. You may be at the edge of the wilderness, stuck between two enemies, or you may be at the holy mount. You may be at Mt. Carmel where you hear his voice in the quakes and the fire or you may be at Mt. Horeb with “the sound of utter silence” but I guarantee you this – that the watch is still ticking if you only care to listen. God is still talking and if you are here – you still have a mission to fulfill.

So this morning I am going to ask you the same great question the Lord asked Elijah… So you made it this far… “What are you doing – now that you made it here?”

What are you DOING here?

Song: The clay-stained hands of love (296)

We respond to serve God

Reflection on giving: We have been giving faithfully since the beginning of the pandemic and we are committed to continuing the ministry and mission that define Dayspring – using the various ways described on the screen and in Dayspring Weekly News. Thank you all for your support of our shared vision and mission. For those in the sanctuary, if you have offering envelopes with you, simply put them in the offering plate at the back of the sanctuary as you leave the service today.

Prayer of gratitude

God of compassion, we come to you as the one who transforms and makes all things new. And we pray that you mend that which is broken, bridge that which is divided, and heal that which is not at peace. In prayer, our hearts speak to you of the people whose needs are significant and whose comforts are few. Give us the grace to pray with our hearts as well as our lips and to serve you and our neighbours with our deeds as well as our prayers.

We give you thanks for moments of joy and celebration in our lives, for love given and received, for friendships that furnish our lives with meaning and happiness, and for a family who shows us some picture of unconditional love, for Father that lives as a small example and a foretaste of what it will be like to be fully with You. In all relationships and interactions, keep us mindful of your call to see your son’s face in one another.

Where people are overwhelmed by fear and anxiety, where people experience sleepless nights and lonely days, where there are broken dreams, and painful opportunities mend us and make us whole.

In our circle of acquaintances, we know grumpy and abrasive people who meet every new circumstance with skepticism and hard-heartedness and who have only harsh words on all occasions. We all know an Oscar, the grouch. But Lord, that person didn’t get that way by accident. They’ve built a wall to protect themselves from hurt felt long ago. And so we ask that you might melt their hearts and our hearts towards them.

Where the church is divided by squabbling and where Christians parse their differences instead of celebrating their diversity, where people of faith put energy into guarding tradition at the expense of honouring life and connexions – move in us and make us better.

Families are divided by old hurts, friendships have ended because of misunderstandings and jealousy, and any relationships are severed out of betrayal or misunderstanding, mend us and make us whole.

In all ups and downs of life, remind us that you are there, that there is no escaping. Let us hear your voice, and let us quiet our lives to hear clearly. Amen.

Transition Music: Be still and know that I am God

Prayer for others and ourselves

God of compassion, we come to you as the one who transforms and makes all things new. And we pray that you mend that which is broken, bridge that which is divided, and heal that which is not at peace. In prayer, our hearts speak to you of the people whose needs are significant and whose comforts are few. Give us the grace to pray with our hearts as well as our lips and to serve you and our neighbours with our deeds as well as our prayers.

We give you thanks for moments of joy and celebration in our lives, for love given and received, for friendships that furnish our lives with meaning and happiness, and for a family who shows us some picture of unconditional love, for Father that lives as a small example and a foretaste of what it will be like to be fully with You. In all relationships and interactions, keep us mindful of your call to see your son’s face in one another.

Where people are overwhelmed by fear and anxiety, where people experience sleepless nights and lonely days, where there are broken dreams, and painful opportunities mend us and make us whole.

In our circle of acquaintances, we know grumpy and abrasive people who meet every new circumstance with skepticism and hard-heartedness and who have only harsh words on all occasions. We all know an Oscar, the grouch. But Lord, that person didn’t get that way by accident. They’ve built a wall to protect themselves from hurt felt long ago. And so we ask that you might melt their hearts and our hearts towards them.

Where the church is divided by squabbling and where Christians parse their differences instead of celebrating their diversity, where people of faith put energy into guarding tradition at the expense of honouring life and connexions – move in us and make us better.

Families are divided by old hurts, friendships have ended because of misunderstandings and jealousy, and any relationships are severed out of betrayal or misunderstanding, mend us and make us whole.

In all ups and downs of life, remind us that you are there, that there is no escaping. Let us hear your voice, and let us quiet our lives to hear clearly. Amen.

Song: Jesu, Jesu (229)

Sending out with God’s blessing

Response: Amen! We praise your name, O Lord!

Music postlude

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Numbers in brackets after a song/hymn indicate that it is from the 1997 Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Those and other songs are being used in accordance with the specified licenses with One Licence and CLC.

The Rev. Brad Childs retains the copyright (© 2022) on all original material presented by him. As far as Brad Childs is aware, all of the material presented that has not been attributed to others is his own creation or is in the public domain. Unacknowledged use of copyrighted material is unintentional and will be corrected immediately upon notification being received.

Posted in Recent Sermons.