13th August Sermon On the mountain again!
Sermon for 9th After Trinity yrA
We find ourselves back on the mountain today. Jesus climbs the mountain to pray again (suggesting that Alma’s question last week may be well worth considering)
And Elijah finds himself on Mount Horeb.
It is well worth reminding ourselves however what has been going on for Elijah.
Not to put too fine a point on it he was at the end of his tether and he wanted to die a lonely solitary death.
In this story we get all sorts of reminiscences common to other similar encounters with God. Jonah too went through a similar time, Elijah has spent forty days in the wilderness, fortified only with what God has put beside him.
The Mount of Horeb also happens to be the place that Moses encountered in his black time before encountering God in the burning bush and being sent on his mission to save the people from slavery in Egypt.
Furthermore we learn that Moses had other moments of despair and even echoes Elijah at one point with “if this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death at once”
Are these similarities coincidences.. I think probably not.
Last week the mountain of transfiguration seemed to come before Jesus “set his face to Jerusalem” and came immediately before the disciples felt disabled in their ability to cure a sick boy.
Whichever way around it would appear that living a life dedicated to the service of God brings with it barren and empty places, and perhaps even times when we feel like we have simply had enough.
What are you doing here? (Elijah) what are we doing here?
Elijah pours out his soul before God “I have been very zealous for the Lord….” Then God says simply “Return”
I don’t know about you but this seems a fairly unsatisfactory answer after all that Elijah had been through…. However this seems the answer that Elijah gets. “get on with it” “carry on”
Let us however consider the other side of these mountain top encounters these times when we find encounters with God life changing moments.
As Alma alluded to last week they all contain within them long states of “listening” and “waiting”. Sometimes today I find myself in such a panic to act that I miss this time of waiting and listening. We are in driven times, measured times when lots of things are expected instantly and even easily. We no longer expect to have to wait, or even put ourselves out. It is far more likely we jump to complaint and pickiness instead of praise and thanks.
This wonderfully famous and moving story of Elijah encountering God in the unexpected silent murmur when all the times before it had been in rock splitting certainty… really should make us too sit up and listen!!
We need to be still when we come into God’s presence, and not jabber away incessantly waiting for God to get a word in edgeways. (As Alma too said last week)
I expect we all feel a little as if we are trying so hard to serve God in the place God has put us. For some this is just as it is and should be. For others there may be a feeling (like Elijah and Moses and even Peter) of restlessness and seeking.
Some people take themselves on pilgrimages and long journeys to try and unravel what their life should be telling them, others experience this in other ways maybe even fall ill.
Whichever method we find ourselves in let us take to heart the waiting, the expectant waiting knowing that God is not going to abandon us no matter how we feel (Don’t forget Moses and Elijah and even Peter were confirmed in this knowledge, maybe even may we say Jesus too?)
The next point from the gospel reading comes in now after the mountain top the scene moves to the restless waves of Galillee and to Disciples battered by the waves, far from feeling safe with everything feeling as if it was against them… Jesus comes into this scene and says “Take heart” and then invites Peter to “Come”
Although the restless sea seems again to catch Peter out, Jesus reaches out to catch him.
All is well.
The scenes all end with encounter, listening, recognition, (often feeding too )
May we be blessed as we meet in the presence of God the Holy one.