Holy Fire

On November 3, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

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Holy Fire
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
1 Kings 18.21-39

Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

There’s an old magical incantation meant to give power to those going into battle, especially on cold Autumn Friday nights.
It was a cheer we chanted at pep rallies and ball games 30+ years ago.

The cheerleaders would yell, “Let’s get fired up.”
The pep squad, band, and exuberant sports fans would respond, “We are fired up!”

Let’s get fired up;
We are fired up!

Let’s get fired up;
We are fired up!

Let’s get fired up;
We are fired up!

Let’s get fired up;
We are fired up!

Let’s get fired up;
We are fired up!

Yeah, like that. The blood would get pumping. Adrenaline and morale would soar.

In today’s scripture reading, we see a cheerleader, known as a prophet in biblical parlance, trying to get his people fired up.

The story plays fast and loose with meteorological and physical realities. I don’t think for a moment that God sent fire from the sky that burned up wet wood and mud puddles. But the story isn’t really about weather or combustion. The fire is a metaphor for firing up the faith community.

The story also shows us how when we reduce religion to a means of gaining political influence or personal privilege or when we use it as a competition, we can take religion in some pretty disturbing directions.

We have competing religious communities in our story today insisting they each have a lock on divine power, they each have direct and exclusive access to cosmic forces, they each are the one true way to peace and paradise. Even if its the one you inherited, beware of fire insurance religion. When religion says: “We have the key and no one else has a clue,” just be mindful.
Of course every religious path believes it has some useful insight, some special gift…but when they turn faith into a zero sum game, people get hurt and hearts get broken.

Neither Elijah nor the priests of Baal are making their faith traditions proud in today’s story.
In their posturing and chest thumping, both sides look petty and pugnacious.
”The God of my understanding can beat up the God of your understanding” is a silly, but still oft repeated boast to this day.

There are clues that the child sacrificing cult of Moloch was actually the cult of Baal by another name.
Baal means “Boss” or Owner. To satisfy Baal, the Boss, people would sacrifice their children.

The queen was also a member of the cult of Baal, and she wanted government to be run on the precepts of the cult. She wanted a world where her religion was dominant, and people could be sacrificed to make sure her ideology reined supreme.

Elijah is a prophet of Yahweh.
Yahweh isn’t a person, but a presence.
Not power over, but power with, is all power.
Not a being, but pure being, being itself, the ground of being.
Yahweh is I Am, or I Will Be. Yahweh is Isness.
Yahweh is our life, our heartbeat, the love the that will not let us go, the presence in which we live and move and have our being.

This mythic battle today isn’t between two gods, or even two communities, the battle is over how we will choose to see and share the Sacred.

Is God to us the boss who requires us to sacrifice our children if they are same-gender loving or gender non-binary?
Is God the owner of our lives who will reject us if we don’t follow the rules?
Is God the will to conquer without the willingness to show compassion, more interested in crushing than in creating? If so, Baal is the understanding of divinity we have embraced.

But if our understanding of God is that God is all-presence, all-power, all-love, all-life, and all-goodness, that God’s justice-love is restorative rather than retributive, that God’s light shines in every soul and God’s grace embraces every person…If God is all-inclusive, everlasting divine Life…then we know God as Yahweh, the Great I Am.

Today’s myth challenges us not to demand the sky gods rain fire…but to get us fired up about a more loving, more inclusive, more healing understanding of God.
Is God anger, violence, greed, cruelty, and fear….
or is God love, mercy, joy, peace, and kindness?
We get to decide how we will experience the divine. We are free to embrace either the Baal understanding, or the Yahweh ideal, but the writer seems to believe that imagining God as Yahweh is the more empowering, healing choice. I quite agree.

Of course, even those of us who believe that God is love, can forget, can stumble, can make mistakes in judgement. Elijah says he believes in Yahweh, but is using Yahweh like a parlor trick to embarrass his enemies. Elijah, dude, do better. And after he wins this particular contest, he then orders his opponents killed! Elijah, you’ve crossed over into Baal’s lane!

We all do, but even when we fall short of our ideals, we can still return to them. We can choose to have a shift in consciousness, to remember that we are in God, part of God, expressions of God, and God is Love.

Today, let’s get fired up, not for battle, but for living lives of hope, peace, love, and joy.
That’s holy fire, and this is the good news. Amen.

Divine Love,
Fire us up today,
with joy, hope, compassion, and love,
Bless us to be a blessing.


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