Several years ago, I was fortunate to have the time and opportunity to go to Israel on pilgrimage. I remember when I first caught sight of the Sea of Galilee…. I thought it would be bigger. Trust me it is big, but not “Lake Michigan” big. The Sea of Galilee is 8 miles across at it widest and 13 miles in length. So it’s big… I just thought it would be bigger.
The topography of the land surrounding can give rise to tremendous storms especially in the spring and autumn when winds pour down off the Golan heights from the east or especially when the winds are from the dessert south and funnel into the lake region. Some of the local sailor described the phenomena in terms similar to the summer line storms that beset the Chesapeake Bay. They are called line-storms, not because of the horizon-to-horizon line of storms, but because they seem to come right down the line of the rivers feeding the bay. I was once sailing in the waters just off Annapolis and the US Naval Academy when a storm came roaring down the Severn River. All you could do was point up into the wind, drop sails, and ride it out. Those storms come without warning, quickly, and occupy your every moment.
The storm winds and waves catch up to the disciples in the Gospel account. In the first reading, the ministry of Elijah has caught up with him. Queen Jezebel has sent an army after Elijah and they mean to hunt him down and take his life because he spoke prophetic words of truth to the Queen. The ill winds and fortunes of the coronavirus, the economy, and so much more seem to have fallen upon us this year as quickly as the line storms of the Chesapeake. Trust me, when you are caught out on the bay and are hit by the storm, time seems to stop all the while the world around is in chaos. It all last forever…or at least it seems that way.
When will it end? How long will this last? You can feel trapped, helpless, tossed about and are unsure whether you can hang on. You might even wonder, “Where is God in all this?”
That’s exactly what Elijah was feeling in today’s first reading. A few verses before our reading Elijah was so tired of it all. Nothing he did convinced the people to turn back to God. Now and army pursued him. He prayed for death: “Enough, LORD! Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” He just wanted it all to end. “I have been most zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts, but the Israelites have forsaken your covenant. They have destroyed your altars and murdered your prophets by the sword. I alone remain, and they seek to take my life.” No doubt he wants the mighty hand of God to come down and fix things. Just as we do today. We want to know God is here in the midst of our troubles and trials. We want to be assured we are not alone.
And so, God gave Elijah a lesson in the manner in which God is ever present in our lives.
- “Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind.
- after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
- after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire.
- after the fire, a [still small voice].”
We might want fireworks and can’t-miss displays of God’s presence and power – and from time to time maybe such things appear – but always and ever we have that still small voice of God in our lives. The question is do we pause to listen?
Jesus did. In last week’s gospel, Jesus miraculously feed the 5,000 plus people. In today’s gospel, Jesus walks upon the water. But in between
“After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening, he was there alone.”
There are so many times that Jesus can be found alone, in the quiet praying, listening to his Father’s “still small voice.” The voice that encourages, strengthens, blesses, and lets you know you are loved.
If it’s good enough for Jesus, should be good enough for us.
It was good enough for Elijah who left the cave and returned to mission
These days we have enough wind, crushing rocks, earthquakes, flood, fire, famine, death, doom , destruction, and the line storms of this life that are suddenly upon us.
Do we make enough time to listen for that still small voice? To listen for encouragement, strength, perseverance, blessings and to simply know that we are loved. Loved beyond all measure.
Make the time.