Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C
1 Kings 18:20-39
1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43
I watch too many reality cooking shows. As I began reading the story of Elijah and his battle with the Baal priests, I couldn’t help but title it: Iron Priest – Israel! The secret ingredient: FIRE! with the announcer greeting the crowd, “Welcome to altar stadium.” Anyone who has ever tried to build a fire with wet wood knows what a disaster it can be. It generally ends with lots of smoke, and frustration. That may be, for me, why the story of Elijah’s battle with the Baal priests remains so fascinating: if God can set wet wood on fire, then he can do anything! Today’s passages help point us in the direction that guides the power of God with humankind.
The themes that resonate from the 1 Kings passages as well as the other passages for me are the proximity of God and who can call on the Lord.
Elijah mocks the priests when Baal does not respond to their loud cries. He wonders if the god has “turned-off (meditation/sleep),” or “wandered away.” The priests’ increasingly frantic (and increasingly bloody) cries continue to go unanswered; their ordinary offering remains untouched. Elijah ups the challenge by making his offering extraordinary through the soaking of the wood, and his request is immediately answered; everything present, including the altar is gone.
Elijah’s mocking of the priests with the suggestion that their god has wandered away is turned on its head in the Luke passage. The faithful centurion realized that Jesus did not have to be “present” in the physical, tangible sense to accomplish his wishes. All he had to do was declare it done and it was. The element in both stories is faith: no matter who you are, a powerful prophet called by the Lord or a foreign military leader, true faith allows the Lord to work his will in the circumstances of our lives.
When we accept the “Godness” of God faith can become a lifestyle. This does not mean we have to understand the “Godness” of God for that exceeds human understanding; we are called to believe it exists and act accordingly. Each passage confirms that anyone who has this belief, Israelite or “foreigner,” can call on the name of the Lord.
Although I do like my reality cooking shows, I tend to be analytical and struggle with a demand to understand God’s being rather than accept that it is. Today’s passages give a perspective to accepting the nature of God, and at least for this week, help me live in the way of faith.
Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts. www.commontexts.org