Fifth Sunday of Pentecost (Year A)
June 23, 2013
1 Kings 19:1-15
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand at the mountain before the Lord. The Lord is passing by.” A very strong wind tore through the mountains and broke apart the stones before the Lord. But the Lord wasn’t in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake. But the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake, there was a fire. But the Lord wasn’t in the fire. After the fire, there was a sound. Thin. Quiet.
–1 Kings 19:11-12 (Common English Bible)
He was only 21. He laid in the hospital bed in silence. I would come by every so often to see how he was doing. The result was a lot of time in silence. You could tell he was angry. You could tell he was depressed. At 21 he had his life ahead of him. But then an ATV accident leaves him without a leg.
Depression comes in many ways. Sometimes, it arrives in an angry silence. Sometimes the anger is rather loud. Sometimes it comes in the form of despair. For the prophet Elijah, it came with despair. He felt he did all the right things. But now he was on the run from Queen Jezebel, who has made Elijah a marked man. I’d be depressed too if a homocidal regent is after your head.
Depression can be a time when you feel alone. Elijah was feeling very alone. Jezebel had killed most of the prophets of the Lord and Elijah had to leave everything behind. You can feel that God is not simply silent, but just isn’t around. God has left the building.
And yet, this passage reminds us that God was with Elijah. Angels offer the prophet of the Lord food to keep up his strength. Finally, God comes to Elijah, not in the busy sounds of the everyday, but in silence.
All of us will face those times when it seems like the bottom has fallen out. We stumble through our days and just want to give up. But God is present, maybe not in the way we expect, but God is there.
In 2006, the country group the Dixie Chicks released an album that included a song called “Easy Silence.” The song was written by the Dixie Chicks with Dan Wilson, the former lead singer of the group Semisonic. In the song, the singer talks about how the easy silence of his companion is a balm in the frenetic pace of the world:
When the calls and conversations
Accidents and accusations
Messages and misperceptions
Paralyze my mind
Busses, cars, and airplanes leaving
Burning fumes of gasoline
And everyone is running
And I come to find a refuge in the
Easy silence that you make for me
It’s okay when there’s nothing more to say to me
In the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me
The way you keep the world at bay
Life will knock us around. Elijah’s story reminds us that God will come to us in those hard times in ways we don’t expect. In. the. still. silence.
Go and be church.
Here is what other scholars and pastors have to say about this week’s passage:
Roger Nam: Commentary
Nanette Sawyer: Elijah, Murderer
Todd Weir: Angel’s Bread
Dennis Sanders is the Associate Pastor at First Christian Church in Minneapolis.