Saturday, 18 June 2016

Still, small voice of calm (proper 7)

1 Kings 19:1-4, 8-15a ;  Luke 8: 26-39

I wonder how last week felt for each of you?

Perhaps you’ve recently had a holiday, or you managed a nice trip out somewhere last week, or someone gave you a nice surprise and you’re feeling happy, loved and relaxed.
But I’m guessing perhaps not.

My week was stressful, if I’m honest – the changeable weather, a busy diary, a few family worries, and then.. the news.

First there was the violence at what is supposed to be a football competition: such hatred of opposing sides, such readiness to turn to violence.

Then there was the attack on the gay nightclub, Pulse, in Orlando – which left 50 people dead after a night of atrocity. Most of the victims were in their 20s and 30s and had gone to the club to dance.

Finally the completely shocking tragedy that was the murder of Jo Cox, a 41 year old MP who had just been meeting members of the public in her constituency.

Right now, this week, the world feels to me like a whirlwind of violence and awfulness and there is no peace anywhere. It’s almost too much: and I come here before my God in search of help. If you feel like that, too – turn with me to the Word of God.

Elijah is a man in fear of his life. He has angered Queen Jezebel, having triumphed over the prophets of Baal.
Elijah has had a pretty torrid time – facing up to King Ahab, predicting and then living through the drought, challenging and ultimately slaughtering the prophets of Baal. But now Jezebel has sent Elijah a message not just threatening, but promising, to have him killed: and Elijah flees for his life. Elijah decides that it would be best just to lay down and die, and give up on God’s call to prophecy.
But God hasn’t finished with Elijah yet – he still has work to do, and so sustained by food and drink from angels he goes to the mountain to meet with God.

In a passage which is impossible to forget, Elijah encounters amazing, terrifying and wonderful signs of great power: wind, earthquake and fire. It is almost as if all the anger and fury and terror in Elijah’s head explodes out into the world around him.
But then there is silence – the sheer silence – and then Elijah hears God speak to him.

God shows Elijah that whatever is going on around him, whatever assails Elijah, God’s quiet purposeful presence is also there. Elijah is not protected from the terrible events of his world – but he can know that God is with him in the midst of it.

Sometimes when our lives are at their busiest and scariest and noisiest, we need to find a place and a time to stop and listen and know that God is with us.
Is that enough to help? Maybe sometimes it is. But perhaps we need more then that, today.

The story of Jesus and the man who calls himself ‘legion’ is also a scary story on first reading, but it contains a word of hope for us. God is not only with us when the violence hits, Jesus shows that he can transform that violence, and bring the calm and order that belongs to the kingdom of God.

Jesus has crossed the sea of Galilee and is met by a wild-eyed, naked man – the others of his city have tried to tame him and even chain him up, but he has broken loose and now lives among the tombs, far away from ordinary life. Her is a person assailed not by the violence of the world around him, but by deep unrest within himself.

Jesus heals this man by sending the spirits which have tormented him into a nearby herd of pigs, which immediately rush into the lake and are drowned.
The change in this man’s life is so complete that he sees the torment that has been in his mind rush out of him to be destroyed forever.
The people of the city come out to see what has happened: and they find the man clothed and in his right mind.

Jesus has transformed this violent, unhappy tormented man into someone who can live at peace with himself and his neighbours.

When the world is too much for us, Jesus can heal us of our fear and torment and bring peace.
Maybe we all need to hold onto that when life is difficult.

But that fact that this is a communion service points us to a deeper truth again.
Yes, God is with us, if we stop and listen.
Yes, Jesus can heal us if we allow him to touch our lives.
But in this sharing of bread and wine we say something else, even more amazing.
Jesus asked his followers to break bread and share wine and remember the offering of his body and blood.
In Jesus, God went through the greatest torment, the worst violence, the deepest terror – and emerged resurrected, still living and loving.
He wants us to share in this communion meal to know how completely he shares in our lives; he wants us to know that he understands; he wants us to know that even death is not greater than his love for us.

Take and eat, take and drink, take these things deep into your body, and take these words deep into your soul, there is nothing in all creation that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Come and eat and drink here.
Come and meet with God here.
Come and know Christ’s healing here.
And be at peace.

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