1 Kings 19:1-18
Pilgrim Congregational Church, UCC
Rev. Tina Walker-Morin
November 5, 2017
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you O God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
This morning I have a message for you about, keep on keeping on.
I have a question for you all, do any of you name your vehicles? Okay enough with the funny looks, friends of mine used to name their vehicles and when we bought that bright orange Jeep out there, I named her Smokey. Who the heck is Smokey you ask? Smokey is the University of Tennessee’s mascot. Smokey is a hound dog who represents the Volunteers of UT.
I love UT and particularly, I love Pat Summit. The late Pat Summit was the UT women’s basketball coach, arguably the best coach of all time. She set the record for wins, championships and athlete graduation rates. She set the bar higher than high. Pat was a woman who had a stare like no other, a stare that when she looked at her players they avoided eye contact and wished to melt into the ground. Pat was my idol.
Needless to say I have read all three of her books, the first titled “Reach for the Summit: The Definite Dozen System for Succeeding at Whatever You Do”. The book starts with the inside flap reading “I’m someone who will push you beyond all reasonable limits. Someone who will ask you not to just fulfill your potential but to exceed it. Someone who will expect more from you than you may believe you are capable of. So if your aren’t ready to go to work, shut this book.”
Being pushed beyond all reasonable limits is how Elijah is feeling. Today we meet Elijah after he had taken his sword and killed all of the prophets of the pagan god, Baal. Elijah’s slaying of the Baal prophets angers Jezebel (the wife of Ahab, who is the king of the northern kingdom of Israel). She is the one who insisted on establishing the worship of Baal. Jezebel and Ahab built a place of worship for Baal and even housed and feed the prophets.
When Jezebel heard of what Elijah had done, she flew into a rage and threatened Elijah with the same fate. Fearful for his life Elijah flees to Beersheba and then into the wilderness where he ends up under a solitary broom tree. Under this broom tree’s shade and cover Elijah wants to die. Elijah has been pushed to his limit.
Elijah, a strong prophet who defeated and killed many false prophets, now is sacred and has run off. Under this broom tree Elijah sits wishing it to cover him up and let him die. He says: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life for I am no better than my ancestors.” (v. 4). The ancestors to which Elijah is referring are the Israelites we encountered a few weeks ago who were following Moses in the wilderness for 40 days and cried out to Moses: “if only we had died by the hand of the Lord, in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Exodus 16:3)
Have you been there? Have you been pushed to your limit? Pat tells the story of when her players were caught going out at night. She and the other coach did not go out on the town to find them and send them back to the dorm but rather they set up four trash cans the next day at practice. One trash can place in each corner of the basketball court and the team ran. As they were hung over Pat made the team run until they puked and the trash cans were full.
Perhaps your being pushed to the limit was not physical challenge but rather mental or emotional. Working a job that demanded more and more. You worked long hours, skipped lunch and still was not appreciated or more was expected. You were pushed and pushed, until finally one day, you could not take it anymore and you up and quit.
Elijah has been pushed to his limit. Having run away and not eaten his stomach is growling he is tired just wanting to lay down because he is emotionally drained and beating himself up; just like his ancestors the Israelites experience. And what did God do for the Israelites? God sent mana down, God came to them. And what does God do for Elijah? God sends an angel down, not once but twice telling him to eat the bread and drink the water. God sends self-kindness to Elijah. Elijah having been pushed to his limit, is running away from his troubles, feeling defeated and beating himself up and what does God do but show kindness. Maybe the angels were Elijah’s own consciousness doing for him what he might have done for someone else. Offering a friend food and water, offering a friend compassion and kindness. God offers Elijah kindness and God meets Elijah just where he is.
Elijah gets up and goes on his 40 day hike to the mount Horeb, the same mountain where Moses received the 10 Commandments. God comes once again and meets Elijah where he is and asks: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah tells God all that has happened, whoa is me, Elijah beats himself up and says “I have been pushed to the limits and I am done.”
God tells Elijah, go stand on the mountain for the Lord will pass by. Elijah does as he is told and then comes the wind. A wind stronger than what we experienced howling last Sunday night; then an earthquake shaking the very ground Elijah is standing on; and then a fire, hot and blazing in the sky. Yet Elijah stands there, as these earthly expressions of power which so often elicit fear, trembling, and hiding from most people. Elijah stands strong, unafraid.
Elijah withstood those natural forces. Last Sunday night, Charlie (our dog) was petrified of the violent wind. He woke me up in the middle of the night, I thought because he needed to go out, but no it was because he was scared and wanted to snuggle up against me for protection. Elijah was not like Charlie. Elijah stood there and God again met Elijah where he is.
Once again, this time in the sheer silence, God asks “what are you doing here Elijah?” God knows Elijah is a strong man, otherwise God would not have made him a prophet yet Elijah is not feeling strong or confident. He is feeling weak and sacred terrified and uncertain how he will face the unknown, the future. He would rather die than face what he does not know.
It is in this moment of Elijah’s weakness that God shows Elijah his very own strength. God comes and meets Elijah where he is. Elijah is feeling weak yet God shows him how he can withstand, hurricane force winds, ground shattering earthquakes and an all-consuming fire. God shows Elijah, that he is strong and that God will meet him where ever he goes. From under a Broom Tree to the top of Mount Horeb. God will be there.
Pat Summitt had no idea when she wrote her book that she would eventually be diagnosed with early onset dementia, the Alzheimer type. That her career and life would be cut short. Pat like Elijah was strong but went through a time of uncertainty. Pat had no idea what the future held, other than she knew she would continue to lose her memory. Yet Pat was determined and in one of her last public appearances told her fans and the world that she was “going to keep on keeping on”.
When life beats you down and you are in a hole looking up without a step to stand on or a ladder to climb, that is when God meets us where we are and is there to help us keep on keeping on. God sends friends and loved ones to remind us of our strength, to remind us how we got through the previous tough time, to remind us to be kind to ourselves and that we are stronger than we think.
Even if you do not see God the first time, God will come a second time. Even if you go out into the wilderness for forty days, God will meet you where ever you end up. Even if you are running sacred, are weak and tired, God will be there. All we have to do is keep moving forward because you simply can’t go back in time.
Keep on keeping on my friends and God will be there. Amen.