Nothing But Nothing

a sermon by Lia Scholl on 1 Kings 19.

Y’all probably know the story of Elijah, but let me recap a bit.

Elijah was a prophet. He had some amazing powers. Sometimes he could read the signs and see the future. He made a little jar of oil and flour feed a household for days. He raised a young man from the dead.

He once met up with an evil despot named Ahab. Ahab was king of Israel, and married to Jezebel, who was perhaps more wicked than her wicked husband.

Jezzie had killed 150 prophets of our God.

Elijah was the only prophet left.

So Elijah devised a grand experiment, a little, “My God is better than your God,”

Elijah convinced 450 prophets of Ba’al (that’s the little g god) to set up an offering of a bull to their god—but not to burn it—and ask their god to send fire to burn it up.

Elijah set a control… He set up an offering to our God on the altar, then poured gallons and gallons of water on his bull. Then Elijah called upon God to set it afire.

Guess which bull burned? Our God’s, of course.

Guess who was not happy? Yep. You got it. Ahab and Jezebel. Jezzie sent a message to Elijah, with the threat of death in one day. Elijah was afraid for his life.

Imagine yourself. You score a smack down. You win the biggest game, ace the biggest test, conquer your greatest fear…

And what do you get? A threat. Intimidation. A chilling sense of foreboding.

No time at all to bask in your glory. You gotta hightail it out of there. And hightail it, Elijah did.

You see, Elijah had just lived through a traumatic event—it didn’t start with the contest of gods, but instead, when Jezebel called for the murder of 150 prophets. Elijah lived through it.

 Imagine his impulses— “Fight! Flee! Freeze!” The fight was the contest of gods with the prophets of Ba’al. The flight was how quick Elijah left town after Jezzie’s threat.

And then today’s text, we find him in full-on FREEZE mode. Sittin’ under a solitary broom tree, wishin’ he could die.

What about you? Have you ever faced this kind of traumatic event? It doesn’t have to be violence. It doesn’t even have to be loss. It can be as simple as a loud alarm, or an active shooter drill.

Your mind might say it’s fine, but your body thinks it’s not… and you find yourself in Fight, Flee or Freeze mode—no matter what the circumstances.

Maybe you have even wished you’d die.

Life is hard, y’all. Don’t let anybody tell you any different. LIFE. IS. HARD.

And sometimes all you can do is sit under a broom tree and wish for death.

But I want you to notice something.

Even under that broom tree, Elijah wasn’t alone. The crow came to gently nudge him awake and eat, there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones,

and a jar of water.

So here was Elijah, facing trauma and depression, wishing for death, but a loving friend feeds him and keeps him alive for what has to be the best moment of his life.

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts;

for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life,

to take it away.”

The word of the Lord told him to go and stand on the mountain—and there was a great wind, so strong that it split the mountains and broke the rocks, but the Lord wasn’t in the wind. And then there was an earthquake, but the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake. Then a fire, and yep—no Lord in the fire.

But then there was as the NRSV Bible says, “the sound of sheer silence,” or, as the NIV Bible says, “a gentle whisper,” or as the King James puts it, “a still, small voice.”

And we know that’s where the Lord was—in the silence, in the gentle whisper, in the still small voice—and the voice says Go.

It sweetly says, “Get back to work.”

And that work? That work is taking all that you are, good parts and bad parts, and all that you have, good stuff and not-so-great-stuff, and all that has happened to you—traumatic events, failures, and all your mess—and get back to work.

Because, folks, need I remind you? Not a single one of us is perfect. It is our imperfections, our trauma, our foibles and follies, and yes, even our failures,

None of these separate us from God. Nothing but nothing can separate us from God. And even more than that, those things don’t separate us from God instead, they make us just perfect to do God’s work.

You take what you have been given,  and make a life and ministry out of it. You take your own aches and pains and disappointments and failures, and you make a way to ease the aches and pains and disappointments and failures of others.

Rayce, we know you grew up in a community that would not accept you for who you are, we know about the traumatic situations you have endured.

But you take that brokenness, Rayce, and you reach out to folx who are living with your same pain, who are struggling with your same doubts, who are under that same broom tree—and with your life, you nudge them awake saying “wake up and eat.”

That’s what we’re here to honor today.

As Buffy the Vampire Slayer once said, “The hardest thing in this world is to live in it.”

This is life. And it is ministry. And each one of us is called, by the still small voice, the sheer silence, the gentle whisper—to do this work.

Amen?

Amen.