June 19, 2016-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

June 15, 2016 | by Benjamin Cowan

Reading 1 Reading 2 Reading 3 Reading 4 Reading 1 Alt Reading 2 Alt
1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a Psalm 42 and 43 Galatians 3:23-29 Luke 8:26-39 Isaiah 65:1-9 Psalm 22:19-28

1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a

The text tells the story of the prophet of Elijah on the run from King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. After the climatic event of defeating the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel, the King and Queen decide to end Elijah’s life. Elijah becomes afraid and flees. Reflecting on the situation, depression arises in Elijah and he starts to wish that he was no longer alive. Elijah realizes that despite the continual lure of God, the people of Israel still choose to reject God. Elijah loses hope in his mission to bring the people Israel back to God. Elijah is exhausted, worn and burned out, an experience that any minster or person who has gone through great trials, oppression, etc can relate to. As he is asleep, an angel comes and wakes him up to feed him. One of the kindest things a person can do for someone, is provide food. The food provided is the same food that Elijah ate with the widow and references what the children of Israel ate, manna, during the Exodus. The food symbolizes his trial and testing. This is seen by the angel feeding him twice and in the strength of the food, he makes a 40 day trip to Mount Horeb (another name for Sinai), the place where God not only provided water to the Israelites but the very commands of God. To go forward, Elijah needed to go back to the source of the word of the Lord. Elijah needed to find a safe place of God’s presence. While in a cave at Mount Horeb, the presence of God descends upon the Mountain symbolized by the fire, wind, and earthquake (Exodus 19:18). Like Moses before (Exodus 33:12-23) Elijah covers his face so not to look upon the presence of God and like Moses, after the passing of the Lord, Elijah hears the voice of God speaking. At the moment, God asks Elijah why he has come and listens to him. Then God tells Elijah to go because God has a plan for the situation (verses 15-18) and that he is not alone in his stance for righteousness.

There are many things that can be drawn from the text but here are five: 1) people can reject the lure of God. Elijah’s depression is based upon the fact that despite God proving Godself over the god’s of Baal, people still do not accept God. 2) Humans have a limit and must rest. God respects that Elijah is worn out and engages in care of him to help him recovery from exhaustion. 3) We need to have safe places of God’s presence. While Elijah was exhausted, he went to a place where he knew God was. In our times, churches should be safe places of rest from the exhaustion that can come with living. 4) God cares about how we feel. God allows Elijah to express his feelings of disappointment. 5) The word of God brings life. Elijah is able to go forward because he hears God’s voice. The call of minsters is to speak the word of the Lord and bring life to the people.

Psalm 42 and 43

The 42nd Psalm reflects the human feelings of despair and hopelessness, while juxtaposing them with the longing for being in the presence of God. Life for the psalmist comes from God and when the psalmist feels disconnected, life moves towards despair. With the 43rd psalm, the 42nd psalmist notes the pain that can be inflicted by others for trusting in the Lord and living an honorable and just life. The psalmist hopes that God will witness to the psalmist faithfulness to God so that all may see and the psalmist can worship God with joy.

Isaiah 65:1-9

The alternative reading shows that God is continually luring the world to him. However, as demonstrated in versus 2-5, people can and do reject the lure of God. Versus 6-7 point to consequences for rejecting the lure of God, namely the people of Israel will not be able to fully live to their potential and will experience the consequences over the negative behavior; yet, versus 8-9 shows that God will continually try to lure them to living life at its fulness. The text illustrates God’s faithfulness to love, despite actions of anti-life.

Psalm 22:19-28

The psalmist reflects on the belief of God being with him/her in times of despair and great adversity. The psalmist sees these challenges as opportunities to eventually praise God for revealing God’s love. The hope of the psalmist is God.

Galatians 3:23-29

In this passage Paul describes the law as the disciplinarian or a better translation would be guardian. In the ancient world guardians, who were often slaves, helped children in their education, but were not the actual teachers. For Paul, the Law fulfilled this temporary role until the teacher, Jesus the Christ came. The result of this is a realigning of how human society functions. The whole of humanity now has the potential to become children of God and as such division over race/ethnicity (Jews & Gentiles) gender, and liberty of personhood are to be transformed into mutual loving relationships. Faith in Jesus has revealed the equality of all as the image and likeness of God; no one is superior to another.

Luke 8:26-39

This passage in Luke tells the story of how Jesus set free a man from the possession of demons in an area that was dominated by Gentiles. The effect upon him was gratitude and desire to follow Jesus. The effect upon the community was fear, shock and asking Jesus to leave. This reaction lies in the fact that the pigs resulted in great financial loss. As is often the case, liberation is never cheap and comes at a cost. People are often more content to leave people in oppression because it is cheaper. Also, the event probably made some people think that Jesus was a great sorcerer and caused them to fear for their lives. Thus, Jesus asking the man who was delivered to tell people what God had done for him would also serve to counter that narrative.