06302019 3rd Sunday After Pent 2AT Emmanuel Lutheran Export PA

"Where is God today? With His people."

06302019 3rd Sunday After Pent 2AT Emmanuel Lutheran Export PA

June 30, 2019
“Where is God today? With His people.  1 Kings 19:18”
Sermon Audio

In the last year there have been more catastrophic occurrences of hurricanes, tornadoes, bomb cyclones of snow, floods, earthquakes and fires across the United States.  Ranchers lost countless billions of dollars in cattle, equipment and even their own homes and lives, both during and after due to the stress of the loss of their livelihoods.  This spring farmers have been unable to plant the crop, whether of corn, soybean or sunflower that provides them a means to make a living. Farmers have been flooded out and like the ranchers lost farm ground because of the sediment that now covers the rich fertile soil with upwards of six feet of sand and made the land useless for generations.  Entire towns have been cut off from the world, because of flooding and roads and rail that built the west by providing an infrastructure to get goods to market, now like tinker toys have been tossed and destroyed by the great flood of 2019.

When the ranchers, farmers and even the townspeople of Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas impacted by this historic environmental nightmare look out to what once was their inheritance, because of the stress and strain many have lost hope.  Sadly ranchers and farmers see no hope and have chosen to end their personal suffering leaving families and communities wondering and asking the question why when some have taken their own lives . They no longer see a future, but sadly a present of an aftermath of tornado, bomb cyclone, historic flooding and even earthquakes and for those who remain they ask the simplest of questions, “Where is God today?”

Elijah from our Old Testament reading also faced the doubt of the presence of God in his life.  Elijah responding to God’s question of “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 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.”  Did you hear what Elijah sees and what he has done for God?  He has “been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts.”  Standing in the gap, holding up and prophesying the decrees of God and insuring the people of God heard not only the prophecies given to them, but also and more importantly God’s decrees.  Yet Elijah saw the people’s hearts manifest when they “killed [God’s] prophets with the sword”.  And low the clear desperation felt by Elijah when he says, “I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life to take it away.”

Elijah clearly is asking God while hidden in the cave, scared for his life “Where is God today?”  And yet, God doesn’t answer Elijah like we demand of our children in the present day.  God in infinite wisdom and divine knowledge reveals to Elijah the truth of “Where is God today?” in the most unlikely of ways.  Four different ways God uses to demonstrate to Elijah the truth.  With a “strong wind [that] tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord”, an “earthquake”, “fire”, “And after the fire the sound of a low whisper” God gave answer to Elijah.  Yet in all four of these ways that God used, when the question was asked, “Where is God today?”  God to mere mortal Elijah seems to not be in any of the four in power or dominion as one would expect from God, Creator of heaven and earth.

Elijah after experiencing the wind, earthquake, fire and whisper then restates in confession to God and takes responsibility for what was done on his watch, even though it was not at his hand.  Elijah confesses to God what he has done and left undone. And when Elijah concludes his confession, Elijah finally realizes the truth God reveals to him in God’s own quiet way the answer to “Where is God today?  With His people”.  God reveals to Elijah the truth in the small quiet voice that He, God, Creator and controller of wind, fire, earthquake and a ‘low whisper’ and is right there with Elijah on the mountain and has been with him the entire time of his ministry.

God in revealing this truth sends Elijah who has been a leader and prophet for the proclamation of God’s message and now is at the cave entrance, God sends him back to those who would do him harm.  God’s plan seems uncertain and to not be complete. Yet, God has a mission for Elijah to insure the ongoing and continuing spread of the message of salvation that would eventually come in His Son Jesus Christ.  The remnant of 7000 who have not listened nor caved to peer pressure nor bowed to worship the diety Baal and those who have not turned away from God will remain. Yet Elijah will not be their prophet. Elijah, who had the question answered, “Where is God today?” would turn over the mantle of responsibility to Elisha who would then not only prophesy, but continue to answer the question, “Where is God today?” with the truth that God still is “With His people” today.

Yet, for we who gather here 2900 years after this encounter of Elijah on the mountain in a cave, we ask also, “Where is God today?”  Friday and Yesterday, our council met to chart a direction for the people of Emmanuel.  Yesterday, many of the saints of Emmanuel in anonymity, met with the listeners to express their frustrations, feelings of betrayal and anger and their thoughts of the ‘current state of Emmanuel’.  Today we gather to confess our sin, hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, receive the Sacrament of Jesus Christ precious Body and Blood and be strengthened for our journey. So we again ask the poignant question, “Where is God today?” for we the saints of Emmanuel.  

We have a divine opportunity to learn from Elijah today.  Today we need to lay claim to the response that Elijah heard and learned in the whisper from God that says, “God is With His people” today.  God is right here among us the people of Emmanuel.  When we confessed in humble obedience all of our sin that we have done and left undone, God was present and declared to each and every one of us the forgiveness of our sin that we so desperately need.  

What God freely offers us through His Son, Jesus Christ is the ability to return to Him and with the remnant of 7000 of Elijah’s day understand that God is With His people” today.  God answers our question “Where is God today?” with a resounding, He is here to declare the forgiveness of sins with our confession to one another, God is here With His people in the Gospel of our salvation we heard where Jesus implores us to ‘not look back’ after putting our hand to the plow.  Jesus Christ is truly here when we come to the altar and receive His precious Body and Blood, given and shed for us for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.  For what we receive in Holy Communion is not merely a symbol it is the ‘real deal’. We receive Jesus gift of Himself for us and for all of mankind for the ‘forgiveness of our sin.’

Today, we gather this morning and will do so again this evening to answer the question, “Where is God today?” with the truth that God is here inside each and every one of us.  If we reject the gift God’s presence that He places in each of us, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we then reject God and we then reject the blessings God bestows upon us of the gift of grace, mercy and compassion for one another in His Son Jesus Christ.  This is why Elijah confessed his unworthiness, because he knew he was just as guilty as the people of Israel for not trusting God. We need to ask ourselves in humble obedience this one question, Will we respond like Elijah, confess to God and one another we are at fault for where Emmanuel currently is as a community of faith?  If we do this in humble obedience God will wrap His arms around us and build us up as the Body of Christ here at Emmanuel. God will help us to break apart the plow that has been used to build Emmanuel to this point in time and will help us as He did Elisha after his call by Elijah and God will walk with Emmanuel as we lay claim to God’s response to Elijah, “Where is God today?  With His people and with we the saints at Emmanuel Export, PA.  AMEN.