God Shows Up; Thin. Quiet.

Yesterday was hard. Even though I occasionally wonder about my call (which I think is normal) I have had few moments in ministry where I feel completely unworthy of standing in front of my brothers and sisters and speaking. What could I say? What needs to be said? How do we respond to the incredible evil on display in Charlottesville (only as the most recent iteration of brokenness)?

Yesterday was full of prayer, Holy Communion, probing the Scripture for guidance and lots of love to and from each other.

The scripture I “preached” on was 1 Kings 19:9-18. I put down my notes, put aside the prepared manuscript and shared from my own dependence on God in this time.

In 1 Kings 19, the prophet Elijah is on the run. The leaders of the day were after him so he hid in a cave. While in this cave, God came to Elijah in an unusual way. First, there were hurricane force winds, then an earthquake and finally a great fire. But God was not in this; instead, God came in “sheer silence” or as the Common English Bible puts it: “Thin. Quiet.”

When God did come, God called Elijah out of the cave and back to work. Even in the midst of incredible times where the brokenness of humanity was on full display (sound familiar?), God was still at work even though Elijah couldn’t fully see it.

There is a common reaction to violence, hate and injustice, one I know all too well for myself. It is easy to run to our “caves” wherever that may be for us. In the midst of such division, I find it is easier to go hide, to focus only on the positive that is around us. Indeed, there is life all around us if we look for it. But there is deep hurt around us too, we don’t have to look far to find that.

Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” that implored action over moderation. Like God told Elijah to go, King writes:

We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men (& women) willing to be coworkers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.

The Baptismal Covenant Methodists affirms says this:

On behalf of the whole church, I ask you: Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin? I do.
Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves? I do.
We are called to be the peacemakers and as the song goes, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” I won’t tell you how to be a peacemaker. I am reminding myself (and maybe you too) that the covenant I made with God is not only one where I receive the benefits, but one where I am called to serve. We serve by resisting sometimes. We serve by loving. We serve by giving voice to those whose voice has been pushed to the margins (those to whom Jesus came and spoke to).
So pray. Read. Lean into your spiritual practices because we and those around us need communities that are deeply rooted in love for God. We must be deeply rooted in a faith that is useful, that liberates and enlivens; not oppresses and destroys.
Today I join in with the saints that have come before us, the saints that are among us (you too!) and all that are yet to come. Pray with me this prayer of St. Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

Grace & Peace & Love, Pastor Cole
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