SERMONS

When the scene of our lesson today from 1 Kings opens up, we might expect to find the prophet Elijah - a prophet being one called by God to turn the people back towards God – at the head of a parade or at least at a victory feast. After all, Elijah is fresh off a major success in his role as prophet. Elijah has gone into the midst of the Israelites, who had turned away from God to worship the false gods of Baal, and he has challenged the priests of Baal to a test of power and won, and won big time as God helped Elijah to call down fire so strong that his sacrifice drenched in water on the altar is completely consumed, along with all of the water that had run down all around the altar. And the priests of Baal are cast out and the people are awestruck.

What does it take to grow deep roots?
What does it take to grow deep roots in our lives?

For Hadiya-Nicole Green it was the love of her aunt and uncle, the aunt and uncle who raised her after the premature death of her mother and grandmother. (NPR, Storycorps, July 10th, 2020) The love of her aunt and uncle made possible the deep roots in Hadiya-Nicole, deep enough roots so as to be able to persevere through the tragedies she experienced, get well-educated and become a physicist; deep enough roots to be able to keep her going through yet another tragedy when both her aunt and uncle were diagnosed and then died from cancer when she was in her early twenties. And these roots were not just deep enough to keep her going, but they helped Hadiya-Nicole to delve deeper and grow farther in her life, deciding to focus her scientific work on finding cures for cancer, including a new method and approach that has already seen success in testing with mice.

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever me welcomes the one who sent me.” (Matthew 10:40)

Powerful words from Jesus. Yes, these are powerful words through which God invites us to consider how we welcome our fellow human beings; how we treat those around us, considering our treatment of others as though we are considering how we would treat God. Later in Matthew Jesus will again remind the disciples and us that our treatment of those around us matters, and that whatever we do or do not do for our fellow humans – “the least among us” - we also have done or not done for Jesus (Matthew 25).

It would seem that how we see, perceive, and treat our neighbors is directly related to how we see and treat God, at least in God’s eyes.

Oh, that shakes me to the core.

God is calling for profound change in our lives and this world, made possible by Christ’s freely given, no strings attached saving action on the cross that abolishes sin and ensures a pathway to our freedom. As the apostle Paul reminds us, in his letter to the Christian community at Rome, we are, and here is a beautiful phrase, “alive to God in Jesus Christ.”

“Alive to God in Jesus Christ.”

We are alive to God in Christ Jesus, and this new life calls us to set aside sin and participate in Christ’s resurrection work. This resurrection work of Jesus is turning the world upside down.

The Church needs to be a part of God in Christ’s healing and reconciling work for the world. If we ever thought we could be sleepy, or go about our lives just minding our own business, we know differently now. The underbelly of racism has shown itself again in all it cruel detail, and our nation and the world are trying to find a way forward. And even as we grieve for racial injustice, our hearts and minds are perhaps made aware, or reminded of other injustices: The reality of how sin and brokenness mars God’s good creation can be seen in the prejudice and violence still being committed against LGBTQ folks. It can be seen in the human pollution that has led to the climate change that continues to create ever more erratic weather patterns and conditions that place an additional burden upon the poorest of the poor living in areas struck by drought and famine, conditions all too often leading to social unrest and war. Yes, in that strange way that one grief can remind us of all the other griefs, we who are being woken up to see the blight of racism may find ourselves more acutely aware of all the other difficulties and struggles present in the world.