Greetings Pine Grove/Friendship Family,
As the pandemic continues, we are confronted with new challenges from earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, political and social unrest. Our media sources show disturbing images 24/7. For many of us we are looking for God. I want to offer you a word of encouragement.
It may be a blessing that God is making a way for us to slow down and really experience Him. In all the activity that surrounds us as we try to move in new ways. We are struggling with new ways to live, and worship. Many times, we are struggling so hard to adapt that we fail to take time to stop, reflect and look to God. Notice I did not say look for God. God is here.
As I reflected on this, two questions came to mind. Where can we expect to find god today? And how can we expect God to show up for us? I offer the following scripture for your consideration.
There was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces…but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. – 1 Kings 19:11b-13
The Scriptures record many stories of how, through the ages, people and prophets have had to come to terms with new ways of understanding who God is and how God might show up among us. The quote above comes from the story of the prophet Elijah, whose battle against Israel’s worst king on record—King Ahab—and his evil wife Jezebel had taken its toll. Even after pitching a shutout against the 450 priests of Baal in one of the most celebrated contests recorded in the Hebrew scriptures, (check it out—1 Kings 18:20-40) Elijah was feeling more vulnerable than confident. So, when in the aftermath of that encounter, Queen Jezebel puts a bounty on his head, Elijah flees for his life, journeying 40 days and 40 nights to the holy mountain of God – Horeb. Elijah arrives there feeling depressed, defeated, fearful and alone. He wonders whether all his efforts for God’s sake have been for naught. Exhausted, he crawls into this cave and he waits for a sign. (Some say this the same cave where Moses hid when he saw the backside of God in Exodus 33:17-23.)
God packs a lot for us into this story, into what precedes it and what comes after it, but these three verses captured my attention. Elijah is commanded: “Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” And so, Elijah, bone weary, looks toward the mouth of the cave. This is what happens next:
There was a great wind, so strong it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind;and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake;and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire;and after the fire, a sound of sheer silence…
It’s when Elijah hears that SILENCE—so deep, so pervasive that it tugs at his ears—that he wraps his mantle around his head, crawls to the mouth of the cave, and he stands up before the LORD. Elijah has been around God long enough to learn that God may just show up in ways we least expect—not through outsized events or huge natural phenomenon or feats of strength, but in the form of sheer silence (RSV: “still small voice”).
The answer to the questions: Where can we expect to find god today? And how can we expect God to show up for us? may surprise us. The story of Elijah invites us to not come to conclusions too quickly about where we can find God, but to remain open to how and where we see God manifested during this vulnerable time. To listen for that “still small voice” which can only be heard when we learn to filter out all the other loud, boisterous, public, competing voices which vie for our attention.
I remind you of John Wesley’s last words “Best of all, God is with us.” God is not the storm or the calamity. God is the peace, the comfort, the love in our life. I pray we answer Josh Wilson in His song Revolutionary as he asked:
Why does kindness seem revolutionary
When did we let hate get so ordinary
Let’s turn it around, flip the script
Judge slow, love quick
God help us get revolutionary.
May we see God in the silence, as we take time to judge slow, love quick and flip the script becoming revolutionary as we point people to God.
With you, on the Way.