Elijah, An Angel, and The Church Turkey-1 Kings 19:1-15
Updated: Dec 20, 2022
For the past few weeks, there’s been a regular visitor at the Avon Congregational Church. It’s a turkey who has taken up residence And has decided that it is nice to check out the car dealership on the other side of Rt 44. On multiple occasions, I have been held up at the intersection, Waiting for the turkey to complete its meandering journey across the four lane road. The turkey is in no hurry, and drivers have been remarkably patient As they stop in their tracks and miss their green light.
To me the turkey was like an intervention from God, causing me to pause and to notice.
It seems like we operate like traffic instead of human beings, zooming from one thing to the next, ticking off our list of life errands. Stopping, however, noticing the beauty of the day, the patience of the drivers, the ridiculousness of the turkey added a moment of grace to a full day and reminded me that life is not about accomplishing or getting to the destination
but about taking time to refuel and enjoying the journey.
Elijah needs an intervention like that in our first lesson. He is at a point of exhaustion-
He had been battling Queen Jezebel for three years. King Ahab had married her to establish an alliance with the powerful Phoenician traders to the north. Jezebel brought her people’s god of Baal, promoted its cult in Israel, began to systematically kill the prophets of Yahweh, the God of Israel.
It came to a showdown when Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a duel.
They each were to build a fire, and pray to their god to light the fire for the sacrifice.
No matter their frenzied rituals, the prophets of Baal couldn’t do it.
Elijah poured water all over the sacrifice, prayed, and immediately the blaze was set.
Elijah then rounded up all of Jezebel’s prophets, and put them to the sword.
Naturally the queen was not pleased that her prophets had been bested and killed.
And so she threatened to do the same to Elijah and more.
A price on his head, with nowhere to turn, Elijah fled into the wilderness.
Have you ever been like Elijah? Utterly worn out, trying to do the right thing with seemingly little support,
And even fewer results?
Elijah was scared, overwhelmed, and suffering from burn out.
He’d been running for so long.
He sat under ‘a solitary broom tree,’ utterly alone, without the will to live.
‘I’ve done enough, Lord!’ he cried. ‘Take away my life.’
Elijah is a picture of us at our most depleted, but he is also an example of replenishment.
Notice first where his instinct takes him: to the wilderness. The wilderness is a harsh and unfamiliar place Its tests your mettle and taps your resources But the wilderness is also the place in scripture where God shows up-To Moses in the burning bush, to Israel in their 40 years of wandering, to Jesus in his 40 days of testing.
Elijah turns to the place that both mirrors his desolation and points the way to his restoration.
Elijah pours out his bitter complaint to God, and then gives in to his exhaustion
He lies down to sleep.
Sleep is necessary, but we treat it as optional
Science has taught us how important sleep is, solidifying learning, regenerating cells,
processing daily events.
But most people do not get the sleep they need.
Elijah takes what he needs.
Sleep is also a vulnerable state.
All defenses are down.
And perhaps this is why God also shows up so often in dreams, both in scripture and in our lives.
Often the language is coded, like Joseph interpreting the dreams of Pharoah:
7 fat cows and 7 skinny cows are 7 years of plenty and 7 years of feminine.
Psychologists know that dreams exhibit a deep inner wisdom unique to each person.
So when Elijah lies down to sleep, he is attending to his need for rest
And opening himself to God.
He is not left unattended.
Because as he sleeps, he is visited by an angel, which literally means, ‘messenger.’
The angel is a messenger from God, who instructs Elijah to ‘get up and eat.’
Twice Elijah gets up and eats the cake of bread and drinks the water provided, and sleeps again.
When he awakes, he begins a 40 trip to Horeb (also known as Sinai), the mountain of God,
To receive the next assignment.
The deep rest and nourishment of his wilderness time fuels him the entire way.
“Get up and eat, or otherwise the journey will be too much for you.”
The angel’s words to Elijah are a message for those of us today
who feel no matter what we do, it’s not enough
For those who feel worn out or despairing
For those hurrying down the road day after day without leisure to notice the beauty of a tree
Or the inherent humor of a turkey stopping traffic.
These words of the angel, God’s messenger,
are a recognition of the demands we face, as well as the provision God provides.
They are a reminder that God feeds us for the journey,
giving us permission to rest and to tend to our needs.
And in that oasis, God gives us the strength for the next mission.
Get up and eat, the angel said.
In your wilderness times, the table is spread.
In the midst of your daily travels, rest is there for you.
God will tend and nourish you on your journey.