June 11, 2023 – Second Sunday after Pentecost
There is no livestream this week. You can find previous livestreams on our YouTube channel.
Call to Worship
One: When we long for the special effects we think life should offer
All: it is enough for us, that God comes in a soft summer shower.
One: When our hearts are cracked by the drought of doubt
All: it is enough for us, that God opens up the fountains of faith.
One: When our senses are deadened by the sales pitches of our culture
P: it is enough for us, that God wraps us in the silence of grace.
“Be still and know” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 64). Words and music (tune: “Be still and know”) anonymous. Words and music public domain.
Prayers of Approach and Confession and Lord’s Prayer
Gracious, loving God, we come to worship you. We bring to you our praises, our songs, our prayers. Silence all the worries, the shouting, the noise in our heads and hearts and open us up to hear your voice.
In our lives there is restlessness, anxiety and fear. We put our trust in the things of this world. We turn our backs on your power to bring peace and joy into our lives. Forgive us, turn us around, unplug our ears. We turn our backs on our neighbours, and are deaf to their cries for help. Forgive us, turn us around, unplug our ears, help us to see what we can do to help. We think everything is all up to us, we turn into ourselves and are resentful that we alone carry such a heavy load and no one is helping us and we feel the loneliness. Forgive us, turn us around, unplug our ears to hear the one who said, come unto me all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. God in your mercy, speak to us words we dare not speak to ourselves, words of healing and hope. We pray in Jesus’ name and continue to pray as he taught, saying:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and forever.
Declaration of Pardon
Thanks be to God for God’s calling us into a future of new beginnings.
One: The Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
All: And also with you.
Hymn of Praise
“God of the Sparrow” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 307). Words (1983) by American hymnwriter Jaroslav J. Vajda (1919–2008). Music (1983; tune: “Roeder”) by American composer Carl F. Schalk (1929–2021). Words copyright © 1983 Jaroslav J. Vajda. Music copyright © 1983 G.I.A Publications; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
1 Kings 19: 1–15 <– this links to on-line text of the NRSV bible
The scripture reading is followed by:
One: The Word of God.
People: Thanks be to God.
King Ahab of the Northern Kingdom, is weak and insecure. His wife, Jezebel, is an ardent worshipper of Baal, and totally unscrupulous. And Elijah, God’s prophet, God’s man in the north, is furious. He challenges them to a showdown, a contest on Mount Carmel. It’s Elijah against 450 prophets of Baal and their supporters. Two altars are built, the wood is piled up, the sacrifice is given, but there is no fire. The contest is that each side is to call on the name of their god to send fire and as Elijah puts it “the god who answers by fire, that is God.”
The prophets of Baal go first. They plead, they dance, they cut themselves with swords until blood flows. But there is no voice, no sign, no fire.
Then it is Elijah’s turn. He soaks the altar with water three times. In a simple prayer of faith he calls on the Lord to send fire, and fire comes. Even the stones burn.
Elijah kills the prophets of Baal. It is a tremendous victory. But as our reading begins, Jezebel vows vengeance. She will have Elijah murdered. Elijah comes crashing down from the mountaintop of victory into the depths of depression. And he runs for his life.
There is a time to be afraid, to realize that we cannot handle what is coming at us, and we have to get out of its way if at all possible. To do that is not being weak, but being smart. There are times when Jesus retreated from situations, when the time was not right to stand his ground, when the crowd drove him out of Nazareth, other times, go to a solitary place to regroup. There is a right time to retreat if one is to have any chance of returning to the struggle.
Elijah goes to Beersheba, leaves his servant, goes on alone into the wilderness. At various stages in life all of us must spend time in the wilderness. The wilderness is where there are more questions than answers, where one feels lost at times, certainly insecure. The Bible constantly teaches us something almost frightening, that it is in the wilderness we can find insight and courage and new resolutions.
It happens again and again in the biblical narratives: exodus, 40 years in wilderness wandering, John the Baptist, in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord, Jesus, temptations. It happens here now to Elijah. And it can happen to us.
We are watching a person immediately after perhaps the greatest triumph of his career. Elijah has broken the power of a foreign and decadent influence on his people. Yet here he is in a suicidal depression. He asks that he might die. “I have had enough Lord, take my life.”
We may have had the same feelings after a great achievement, we come apart at the seams. It’s as if everything we have, maybe more than we have, has been expended in the effort of our success. And we anticipate only good times from here on, but the struggle and the confrontations continue. Suddenly all tension goes, barriers are let down, and the cost of it all in concentration and energy sweeps over us and overwhelms us.
Elijah is exhausted. He lies down and sleeps. God gives him sleep. Many of our depressions come from the very simple fact that we are overtired, totally drained. If exhaustion is one of the causes, rest is one of the cures. That’s why God gives us the gift of Sabbath, a regular time for rest, but we don’t always accept the gift. Some silence, rest, and the world can look different. All the problems do not disappear in some magical way. They may very well remain, but we feel differently about our capacity to respond to them. If we have difficulty getting to sleep, anxiety extreme we might need some help from our doctor for a while.
Another healing gift from God to Elijah is food. Another way we care for our physical bodies is a healthy diet. There is restorative energy in food. And the routine act of eating can help us to see that life goes on, can cut through the downward spiral of depression. And so far as the angels are concerned, we may very well come to see that the angel is suspiciously like someone who loves us very much, to whom we have refused to listen when she or he has tried to point out that we have been trying to save the world lately!
In the strength of that food, Elijah goes to Mt. Horeb (AKA Sinai), the mountain of God, where Moses saw the burning bush, later received the ten commandments, where God revealed his presence to the people with thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud. When we fly for refuge, where do we go? Do we go where there will merely be distraction? Do we include any of the things of God in our search for re-energizing and re-creation? Even in our selection of reading? Even in those places we choose to visit? In what ways are we prepared to search for Mount Horeb as we search to renew our ability to face life again?
On this holy mountain, Elijah comes to a cave and spends the night. We often think of caves as places of retreat, you know the mancaves with the big flatscreen TV’s, beer fridges and Maple Leaf jerseys on the walls. In a way our homes are like caves – places where we feel secure and safe.
The cave is where we can think, nurse our wounds, and if there is someone else in it, receive sympathy and help. Very often, however, like Elijah, we choose to enter a cave alone, shutting out even those who want us to allow them to accompany us, and we spend the night there, and sometimes the night is too long. There is a hint in our story that there is a limit to the time we can or should spend in our self-chosen cave.
God’s word comes to Elijah, “What are you doing here?” Good question. We have all heard it. God will use our own inner voice to ask it of us, or the lips and eyes of someone else. Elijah answers in a great outpouring of pain. “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword.” He is overwrought and with good cause. His life has been threatened. But note the complete lack of mention of the great victory he has won. The ensuing deep depression has eradicated even that.
That can happen in our lives. In fact, it is precisely after a considerable achievement, we can hit a peculiar kind of depression that negates what we have done. It ceases to have any value for us. For Elijah, and for us at times, the landscape is entirely dark. Notice how everyone else is at fault. Their faults and misdeeds are listed — “And,” says Elijah — “I am the only one left.” I am the one holding the fort. I am the only one who knows what is really going on. I am the only one around here really earning my salary. We have heard this voice in many guises and we can ourselves be this voice. And they are trying to get me too, kill me too. All are against me.
“Get out of the cave,” says God. “Go forth and stand on the mountain.” Elijah needs to get out of this cave where he has taken unhealthy and self-pitying refuge. If we are wise we will come out and we will reach for a grace beyond ourselves. That grace may well be mediated to us by friends, but it is no less the grace of God for that.
And then comes the strange story of wind, earthquake, fire, God’s usual manifestations on this holy mountain, but God is not in them. God is in a still small voice, a gentle whisper. It is the last thing Elijah expects. He has never in his life used a still small voice to effect anything! Is God saying to Elijah that perhaps there is another way to do things, that perhaps he needs to develop a whole neglected side of himself. Perhaps, perish the thought, he has not always been entirely right!
Again God asks, “What are you doing here Elijah?” Why repeat the question? Perhaps because now this still small voice has a chance of being heard. In our dealing with one another, we hesitate to go over ground that we feel has been well covered. There may sometimes be good reason to go around just once more. Ears may have opened in a way they previously were not.
Elijah answers with the same words he used last time, but we cannot hear the tone in which they are said. Perhaps the voice is slower, quieter, echoing God’s tones, perhaps the voice is even a little more tentative. “I have been very zealous for the Lord God almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. And I, I only am left and they are trying to kill me too.
Healing takes time. Only in neat, simplistic sixty-minute television shows is everything solved in a cleverly scripted encounter. In real life that rarely happens. And as this chapter goes on, we hear God correcting Elijah’s skewed perception of reality. It turns out all is not as bleak as Elijah thought. There are still 7,000 in Israel who have not worshipped Baal. We hear God in that still small voice giving Elijah what he so badly needs. God gives him specific manageable tasks rather than the impossible self-imposed task of saving the world singlehandedly.
Such things apply to us all. AMEN.
May we present our gifts to God in response to what we have received from God?
We remind everyone that we must continue to pay our bills; in the absence of being present at Sunday worship, you may sign up for pre-authorized remittance (PAR), donate online, or drop off your offering envelope in the mailbox at the church. Do not leave a cash donation unattended in the mailbox; instead, please call the office (416.261.4037) to ensure someone will be there to receive it. The building will be checked daily for mail and phone messages. If you are not comfortable leaving an envelope, you are welcome to contact the office (once again, 416.261.4037) and someone will pick up your offering.
Dedication of our Gifts
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 306). Based on the tune “Old 100th” with words (1989) by English hymnwriter Brian A. Wren (1936–). Words copyright © 1989 Hope Publishing Co.; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A. Music public domain.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
praise God all creatures high and low;
praise God in Jesus fully known,
Creator Word and Spirit One.
Prayers of the People
God this day we are grateful. We are grateful for life itself. During these days of smoke and fire we are grateful that we are safe. We are grateful for the firefighters. Thank you God, for the hard work, the caring of so many. Thank you for your blessing on our communities through them. Thank you, gracious God, for daily bread, roofs over our heads, shelter from the storm. Thank you for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ, whom to know is life itself.
We pray O God for those affected directly and indirectly by the fires. We pray for them continued health and safety. For your loving presence with them as they seek to rebuild their homes.
We pray for all around the world who are affected by disaster, by war, by hunger, homelessness. We pray for refugees. We pray for peace in Ukraine. We pray for your healing presence in areas of need in the world.
We pray for the earth, your creation, wounded by our neglect, our abuse. We pray for your healing presence with the earth. Wake us up. Remind us of our stewardship. Help us to care for the earth.
We pray for students, finish the school year. Diligent in their studies. For teachers giving thanks for them. Pray for safe holidays, students and teachers.
We pray for those who are ill – bring healing into their lives. Especially today we pray for our friend Soyoung and her family, for strength and healing.
For all who mourn, we pray for the comforting presence of your Holy Spirit.
God we look for the sensational and forget part of the story. You are in the spectacular, but you also come on silent wings as a still small voice, a whisper of truth, an intuition of someone’s need, a quiet courageous impulse, a silent nudge, and in dream or vision. In our thirst for miracle, we overlook the most daily of miracles, and we neglect the opportunity to seek your hidden face in moments of prayer. Give us a thirst and an openness to meet you in your subtle and quiet ways.
Holy Spirit, refresh our spirits, that we may not be weary in seeking your ways. Whisper to us; show us what you have for us to do. Guide us to others with whom we may share the labours of peace and justice; through Christ our Lord we pray. Amen.
“Dear Father, Lord of humankind” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 451). Words (1872) by American Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892). Music (1887; tune: “Rest”)) by English organist and hymnwriter Frederick Charles Maker (1844–1927). Words and music public domain.
May the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace in believing so that you may abound in hope, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen. (Romans 15: 13)
“Go Now in Peace”. Words by American educator, lyricist and composer Don Besig (1936–) and American lyricist Nancy Price (1958–). Music by Don Besig. Words and music copyright © 1988 Harold Flammer Music, a division of Shawnee Press; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
Copyright © 2023 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church
Last updated 2023-06-11 00:30– First version.