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June 24, 2019

“And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.  And it was so, when Elijah heard it, . . .he went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:12-13, KJV).

About three and a half years ago during my early morning Advent devotions I was moved to write a weekly blog based on the lectionary—the weekly Scripture texts set aside to be read in churches across Christendom.  Our daughter had set up my website in 2011 and I had written a few blogs on seasonal topics for a couple of years, but that project ended unceremoniously when my home computer crashed.

I had been moved to write on the lectionary several times before, between 2013 and 2015, but with my full-time job, family responsibilities, and church related commitments I didn’t have time.  In the past, my answer to the call had been, “Really??!! You’ve got to be kidding!  I do not have the time to do this.”

But when God planted the idea in me for the third or fourth time again in early December 2015, I resignedly answered: “Ok, God.  I can’t possible conceive that I can write 52 blogs every year—so you are going to have to help me big time.  This is your project. If you really want me to do this, you will have to give me the words.”  And with that, I embarked upon writing a weekly blog based on the lectionary.   I was right about one thing:  that I could not do it by myself.  Many times I have read through the Scripture texts, meditated on them, and have come up with a blank on how to tie them together into one cohesive statement.  But God has come through and has been with me every step of the way.  As I reflect on my journey over the past several years, I have concluded that he knew that I would demur the first few times he asked.  He gave me the time I needed to clear my calendar, purchase a new computer, and accept that I would need to give up most of my leisure time.

God meets us where we are when he taps us on the shoulder.  And he expects us to answer the call within a reasonable time frame and within the orbit of our lives.  We can echo David’s words: “I say to the Lord,You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing’” (Psalm 16: 2).  We do not answer God’s call from a sense of obligation, but because his love overwhelms us.  God is the source of all of our blessings. Everything good in our lives is a gift from God.  He will not steer you in the wrong direction.  He knows what you can handle, and he will equip you with what you need.

This week’s Gospel text describes two people who turned down a call from Jesus.[1] But the incidents recorded in this week’s Old Testament reading are examples of people who immediately answered the call without hesitation.

In the Gospel text, Luke describes two incidents involving calls by Jesus to followers to join his group of disciples.  The first gave the excuse of having to bury his father.  Jesus does not want us to renege on our responsibilities to our families, but on the other hand, using them as an excuse doesn’t cut it either. Some scholars think that the man’s father may have been elderly, and that the son wanted to wait until his father died before taking off with Jesus (Luke 9: 59-60).  Did the man really want to follow Jesus?  Did his father need his help? Could he have made other arrangements?  Most of Jesus’ ministry was centered in a very small area around the northwestern part of the Sea of Galilee.  The man wouldn’t have been very far away at any time.  We can always find excuses not to answer Jesus’ call.  I know because I have done it.

The other man mentioned in the Gospel text also used his family as an excuse.  He wanted to go back and say good-bye.  But could he have sent word through someone else? Was there another alternative?  Jesus knew his heart.  At one time or another, we have all rationalized why we can’t answer God’s call.  It does require a commitment.  And make no mistake–following Jesus will require sacrifices.  We may need to give up hobbies, outside activities, cut back on work, and give up some of our leisure time to answer the call.

But not every idea that is planted in us is from God.  We should carefully analyze whether the call is in keeping with Scripture and whether it is contrary to any of God’s teachings.  A call beckoning us to expend our time, energy, and other resources to garner attention, for self-promotion purposes, or to seek fame or fortune is not a call from God.

Elijah heard the “still small voice” of God and answered the call: “And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, ‘What doest thou here, Elijah?’” (1 Kings 19:12-13, KJV).  Elijah was totally exhausted after he defeated the prophets of Baal, but God gave Elijah instructions, which he followed to a T. One of those instructions was to anoint Elisha to succeed him as prophet.  Elisha was plowing his fields with his oxen when Elijah found him. Elijah put his cloak on Elisha as a symbol to show that he would become Elijah’s successor.

Elisha immediately accepted, and to show his firm commitment, he slaughtered his oxen, and burned his plowing equipment to cook the meat for the people: “He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.” (1 Kings 19:21).  In destroying the tools of his livelihood he figuratively burned his bridges behind him to show that his commitment to the cause of God was unequivocal and irrevocable.

Jesus calls each and every one of us to live out his truth daily during the course of our ordinary lives. That is our calling—our vocation as Christians.  We are called to live out our faith in our families, in our workplace, in our church, in our community, and in the world.  We are called to use the gifts he has given us for his glory.   We should not squander those gifts, but use them to spread the Word and to be his witness in the world.  The Spirit is with us every step of the way.  Listen for the “still small voice” of God as you spend time with him reading and meditating on the Word. Pay attention to the thoughts that he plants in you and the opportunities that come your way to serve.  And be open to the call.

Prayer: Lord, open our ears and our hearts so that we can hear your still small voice in the depths of our souls.  Continue to inspire us and to speak to us through your Word and in prayer during our lifelong faith journey.  Give us the desire and the means to answer your call.  Continue to walk with us as we seek to do your will. Amen.

Praying the Scriptures:  Choose a word or phrase each day from the following verses taken from Sunday’s Scripture texts to pray during the coming week:

And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:12, KJV).

Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.’” (Psalm 16:1-2).

I keep my eyes always on the Lord.  With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 16:8).

You will show me the path that leads to life; your presence fills me with joy and brings me pleasure forever.“ (Psalm 16:11, GNT).

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”  (Galatians 6: 9-10).

Jesus said to another, ‘Follow me.’” (Luke 9: 58b, The Message).

Jesus said, ‘No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.’” (Luke 9: 62, The Message).

[1]The Scripture texts for next Sunday are 1 Kings 19:9b-21; Psalm 16; Galatians 5:1, 13-25; Luke 9:51-62.

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