When even the prophets felt discouraged or overwhelmed...
1 Kings 19:1-15a, Luke 8:26-39
Fear is a prevalent presence in both of these readings.
The fear of Elijah on the run from Jezebel’s threats to take his life.
The fear of God that Elijah encounters when he wrapped the mantle over his face to go and encounter God.
The fear of the demons, possessing the man, that Jesus would send them to the abyss.
The fear of the people when they found the previously possessed man, now clothed and in his right mind, sitting at the feet of Jesus.
Elijah has opted for flight over fight this time, and runs for cover to the place his predecessor, Moses, met with God at Mount Horeb.
Elijah may be a bit burnt out. Raising your prophetic voice over the long haul is hard. Elijah echoes the complaints of his predecessor, Moses, who also complained in the wilderness and asked if he could die (Numbers 11:14-15), and he succeeds Jeremiah’s similar request (Jeremiah 20:14-18).
In all of these instances, when discouraged and feeling overwhelmed, each of these prophets took their complaint and despondency to God. They moved towards God, rather than away, in their time of weariness and need. In fact, Elijah went so far as to travel 40 days and nights to reach the place where he felt he could get closest to God.
As many of Christian Aid’s partners are aware, those who raise their prophetic voice, to challenge the root causes of injustice and inequality, are subject to threats and criticisms that may be overwhelming and discouraging.
Father Alberto Franco, pictured, is a leading member of our partner organisation the Inter-Church Commission for Justice and Peace Commission (CIJP) in Colombia. His work, empowering communities affected by conflict, has made him the target of death threats. He continues to live out his faith in action to help protect communities and support them to access their right to land.
God’s response to Elijah’s flight is to meet him there, but not in the expected ways that God has been revealed before. Not in the dramatic wind, earthquake or fire, but it is in the ‘sound of sheer silence’ that God is present to Elijah.
How necessary it is for all who seek to raise their prophetic voice to take time to dwell in the presence of God, in the stillness. To rest and refuel on the long and often relentless journey towards justice.
‘Legion’ meant many, it also meant a unit of approximately six thousand Roman soldiers, the occupying army in Jesus’s time. The liberation of this one man symbolised Jesus’ greater authority and power to overcome oppression of every kind.
Those witnessing the deliverance of the possessed man found it too much to handle. This disruption of the status quo made the people feel very afraid: the passage notes that they were ‘seized with fear’. That is, they were held captive by it.
For some, freedom is a fearful prospect and they wanted rid of the source of it - Jesus. The man understandably wants to go with Jesus but he is sent home to ‘declare how much God has done for you’. One can imagine that he had to do very little declaring with his mouth, but that his life would bear witness to the transforming work of God. His very existence would be a constant reminder to all around him of the liberating power of Jesus: a power they were too afraid to receive.
Like this man, may we who are being liberated by the love of God, to imagine a world rid of oppression and exclusion, become a living reminder to all around us that another way is possible.
When we are held captive by fear
When we are in 'flight or fight' mode
When we are afraid of disruption to our status quo
May we draw to stillness and hear your still, small voice
Beckoning us beyond fear to freedom.
In your name we pray,
Pray for the mass lobby of Parliament taking place on 26 June.
Pray that all who are held captive by the status quo of fossil fuel extraction would be liberated to see another possible way for the world.
Pray for refugee week/festival happening this week and next in Scotland. You might find this prayer useful to guide your prayers
Published on 19 June 2019