Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Pentecost 6

"You are NOT alone."

1 Kings 19:13-18

June 26, 2016

Do you remember when you were a kid and your parents told you "No!" Your response was probably "but everyone else is!" You felt like you were the only kid not being allowed to do whatever it was. Maybe, you felt like the Lone Ranger. Of course, not everyone else was doing the "in" thing. They were unknown and invisible to you. Because you were feeling like the Lone Ranger, it didn't matter if there were others in your situation because all you were concerned about was your own little corner of the universe.

This was how it was with the great prophet Elijah. He was feeling alone. It seemed everyone had gone off to worship the idols of Baal. It seemed that no one worshiped the Lord God any more. What he didn't know was that he was not alone. The Lord assured him there were 7000 in Israel who had not bowed down to worship these pagan idols. The problem for Elijah was that they were unknown and invisible to him. All he knew was his little lonely and forlorn corner of the universe.

1 Kings 19:13-18. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" He said, "I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away." And the Lord said to him, "Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him."

When we look across the religious landscape today, we may feel a bit like Elijah. It seems everyone has chosen to go down the path of inclusive diversity. Jesus frankly declared, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Yet, conventional wisdom claims there are many paths to God. Just pick one and begin the journey.

Many who call themselves Christians feel that's too narrow-minded to believe Jesus when He states that He is the only way to the Father. Among marginal church-goers, the holy scriptures are no longer the norm of faith. They echo the words of the serpent in the garden when they challenge us, "did God really say?" Everything the church has believed and taught for the last 2000 years is up for grabs. Anything that conflicts with current conventional wisdom or political correctness is obviously out of date or just plain wrong!

When we endeavor to hold the line, we are said to be out of touch, narrow-minded, bigoted, homophobic and probably racist as well. The main line seeks to marginalize us as old-fashioned kooks who haven't seen the light of the 21st century. We can now see the world through Elijah's eyes. Everyone was running off to worship the Baals. Baal worship was "in." It was contemporary, exciting and fun. The worship of Baal allowed the use of wine, drugs and sex. Small wonder the worship of the Lord God seemed boring in comparison.

Elijah saw not just the mass of people but those who were perhaps family members, friends, neighbors and even the priests of the Lord God deserting the Lord for the gods of Baal. Baal worship was hip, trendy and with it. Who would want the old fashioned worship of God when they could be entertained by the cool prophets of Baal? Is it any wonder that the great prophet should feel alone? Those who refused to worship Baal probably kept to themselves lest they come under the scrutiny of the powers to be.

Even after the prophets of Baal lost Elijah's challenge on Mt. Carmel, the prophet felt alone. The evil queen, Jezebel, had put a price on his head. How could the Lord possibly prevail in the face of such powerful opposition? Elijah was ready to call it quits. It was then that the Lord spoke to him in the gentle whisper.

With a quiet firm voice, the Lord told Elijah to get a grip. The Lord had a plan. The arrogant Jezebel would be humbled. Baal worship would not save her, or those, who had chosen to follow its false teachings.

And by the way, Elijah, the Lord added, there are 7000 in Israel who have not kissed the Baals. They were the faithful remnant. Remaining faithful isn't easy. The remnant were mocked and persecuted by the religious majority. When the nation suffered, they also suffered. When disaster struck, they also were affected. When God's judgment swept through the land, they also were swept up in captivity to Babylon. Yet, they persevered. They never stopped believing and trusting God.

Elijah perhaps never met any of the 7000 who remained faithful. Yet, he was certainly a beacon of hope to them. They heard about his triumph over the prophets and Baal at Mt. Carmel and took heart. His courage gave them courage. They continued to worship God and serve Him quietly in their lives. They bucked the trends and patiently taught their children the truth of God's word.

We may feel alone in a world gone crazy. We may feel bewildered and confused at the church chases after every fad and political agenda of the world. We may want to jump on their bandwagon and join their fun. Yet, the word of God tells us not to compromise. We are called to be faithful. We are to persevere in the face of persecution. This is the cost of discipleship. In the end, the Lord will vindicate us.

When we are tempted to cave in to the pressures to join in the worship of modern Baals because we feel alone, think of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord felt very alone on the cross. Even the Father had turned His face from Him. Alone in His misery and suffering, He cried out "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" How much more alone could any one be? In spite of His misery and God-forsakenness Jesus continued to cling to the love of the Father. Because He did, He conquered death and rose victoriously on the third day.

He now shares his victory with us. As we persevere, He strengthens us with His word and in the sacrament. He calls us to faithfulness. We may continue to quietly serve the Lord unknown and invisible to the pop culture of the world. We will faithfully teach our children, serve one another, share our blessings and help the poor in the name of the Lord. In us, among us and through us, the Lord will make His presence known and felt in the land.

Feeling left out and like the Lone Ranger isn't fun. But, when we stop to take stock of our circumstances, we find we really aren't as alone and isolated as we may feel. There are others who may be unknown and invisible to us. They are there. With God's help we will find these like-minded faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. Together we will encourage and help each other persevere in the faith and discipleship. By God's grace, we, like Elijah and the 7000, are the faithful remnant. Amen.


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