Elijah’s Great Lesson

On August 14, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Elijah’s Great Lesson Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins August 13, 2017 Sunshine Cathedral Invictus BY WILLIAM ERNEST HENLEY (1875): Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul. In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried […]

Elijah’s Great Lesson
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
August 13, 2017
Sunshine Cathedral

Invictus
BY WILLIAM ERNEST HENLEY (1875):

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

Last week we heard about Moses and Elijah, and this week we hear about Elijah, though Moses’ shadow is still in the scene.

It was at the Mountain of God that Moses spent 40 days, receiving the Commandments according to the legend. Eventually, Moses was able to see the glory of God from a cleft, a hollow, a sort of cave in the rock of that mountain.

Four centuries later, we see Elijah. And where is he? On the Mountain of God. He has journeyed 40 days to the mountain in order to hide from the government…you see, Queen Jezebel has put a price on his head. And he hides in a cave, a cleft in the rock.

The literary similarities are intentional. Whether Moses or Elijah literally spent time on a mountain is irrelevant…the stories show the transforming power of communing with God. That’s the point.

Moses encountered God in fire and smoke and seas and lightning. Elijah, however, learns that divine encounters sometimes happen without much drama at all. In fact, God’s peace presence can be the cure for too much drama!

Elijah says he looked for a divine experience in weather and earthquakes and fire, but he experienced God as a still small voice within.

Elijah doesn’t need storms and shaky ground…his life is stormy and shaky enough already! A vicious queen is after him…I know what that’s like. Elijah is looking for God in mountains and earthquakes and storms and fires, but where does he find God? In sheer silence. He found God when he got still, when he got quiet, when he decided to go to peace instead of to pieces.

Sometimes we panic, we fret, we cry, we ask WHY…and at such times, what do the enlightened tend to tell us? Breathe. Even in the gym, when struggling through an exercise, a good trainer will remind us to breathe.

Quiet the mind. Let air flow. Be present. The past may have been difficult and the future may be uncertain, but in this moment, we are okay. Be in this perfect moment. Breathe. Be still. Quiet the inner chatter. And in that peaceful moment, God’s loving wisdom often breaks through and we sometimes will feel refreshed, renewed, strong, hopeful, or at least not as frazzled.

We have to get quiet to hear the still small voice. The voice always is encouraging though.

Elijah learned that in the Silence, in the inner chapel of his own Soul, God was always present, and in God’s presence, there was a healing balm that could sooth his fears and give him the strength he needed to carry on.

In the Silence, Elijah realizes he can’t hide from the troubles of life. God isn’t going to take a lightning bolt and zap away the problems.
God isn’t going to take a gale force wind and blow away the problems.
God isn’t going to send an inferno and burn away the problems.
God isn’t going to send a tsunami and wash away the problems, but what God will do is quietly speak to Elijah’s heart and remind him that he is stronger than he realizes and he can face the difficulties of life and find peace in the midst of them. He can continue to do what he feels called to do and he can make a difference, even when the sky seems to be falling.

Elijah realizes that his friends Hazael and Jehu and Elisha are all there for him. They’ll do what they can to help. And there are thousands of good people who have not worshiped fear or bigotry or hatred or greed…there are good people in the world. They seem to have vanished sometimes, but they are still there. That’s a reason to hope.

What a pitiful miracle! We might say. No magic? No parlor tricks? Just, God can calm your nerves, you’ve got friends who will encourage you, and there are other good people in the world even if the worst sort seem to be coming after you? That’s it?! That’s the great miracle?

Sometimes, that’s the biggest miracle in the world.

When we don’t need circumstances to give us our joy, and we won’t let circumstances take our joy away…when fear stops being forget everything and run and starts being face everything and rise…when we don’t need lightning bolts and earthquakes and angel choirs to feel God’s presence, but we have been filled with a joyful awareness that there is not a spot where God is not…Oh, in a moment of dread or despair…the miracle of a peace that passes understanding is the greatest miracle of all.

When horror gives way to hope, and pain is healed by peace, and tears wash away our fears and might emerges from our fright, then we have everything…contentment, an assurance that come what may, all is well, that nothing can separate us from the Love that God is, and then, at least sometimes, things start to get better, but how wonderful that we didn’t need to wait for them to get better before we started to feel joy again.

The message reminds me of the wise counsel of the Apostle Paul: “I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through the One who strengthens me.”

Elijah learned that true success in life is not allowing circumstances to dictate or diminish our peace of mind or joy of life. Life is filled with hills and valleys, but come what may, we have access to a peace that passes understanding and joy unspeakable. That’s success, and it can always be ours.

I Shall Succeed
BY EVELYN WHITELL (1934):

Though everything looks dark and drear,
I SHALL SUCCEED.
Though failure’s voice speaks in my ear,
I SHALL SUCCEED.
I do not fear misfortune’s blow; I tower with strength above each foe, I stand erect because I know I SHALL SUCCEED.

Though others’ doubts are built ’round me,
I SHALL SUCCEED.
Though Fortune’s ship I cannot see,
I SHALL SUCCEED.
Through mist and rain I left my eyes, I see the sunlight in the skies, and seeing it my glad heart cries, I SHALL SUCCEED.

Night swoops on me with [darkest] wings,
but I’LL SUCCEED.
I see the stars that darkness brings,
and I’LL SUCCEED.
No force on earth can make me cower, because each moment and each hour, I still affirm with strength and power, I SHALL SUCCEED.

And we will. And this is the good news. Amen.

God grant me peace, hope, and joy.
I will pause and listen to your still small voice.
It will comfort and nurture me.
Thank you, God.
Amen.

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