Morning Worship for Ninth Sunday after Trinity
9th August 2020
A video of this service (30 mins) is available.
Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you and also with you. Lord, speak to us that we may hear your word. Move among us that we may behold your glory. Receive our prayers that we may learn to trust you. Amen.
Confession The Spirit of the Lord fills the world and knows our every word and deed. Let us then open ourselves to the Lord and confess our sins in penitence and faith. Most merciful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we confess that we have sinned in thought word and deed. We have not loved you with our whole heart. We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves. In your mercy forgive what we have been, help us to amend what we are, and direct what we shall be; that we may do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with you, our God. Amen. May almighty God who sent his Son into the world to save sinners, bring us his pardon and peace, now and for ever. Amen.
Gracious Father, revive your Church in our day, and make her holy, strong and faithful, for your glory's sake in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Reflection by the Revd Ola Franklin
Elijah was on the point of giving up. He’d fled from the wrath of Queen Jezebel and finally arrived at Mount Horeb, called the mountain of God. Once he arrived, Elijah went into a cave and spent the night. If you’re in a period of despondency, it can be like living in a dark cave. Perhaps you’ve withdrawn because something’s happened to make you secretly angry at God or at someone else. Maybe you’re feeling numb and isolated from other people? Or perhaps you’ve come to realise that you’ve spent too long in the cave of comfort. It’s all too easy for us be wrapped up in our own comfort and, as a result, we become insulated from the desires of God and the needs of others.
After a night in the cave, Elijah heard God speaking to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah needed to articulate what was on his heart and in his mind. And then God re-empowered Elijah for the next phase of his ministry, by showing him that he is present not only in the dramatic signs such as the earthquake, wind and fire, but also in that kind of quiet stillness – that might even feel like God’s absence – until he is still enough to hear the gentle whisper. Even that gentle whisper was so overwhelming that Elijah pulled his cloak over his face before he went out to the entrance of the cave.
Elijah needed to come out of his cave in order to re-connect with God. He needed to learn that God was with him when things were going well and that God was with him when things were tough. God doesn’t always keep us from going through difficult times but He does promise to walk through them with us. Hearing God’s whisper reminded Elijah that God was still in control of all the circumstances.
I find it something of a relief that Elijah’s problem didn’t get a quick fix. After 40 days on the road to Horeb, after the earthquake, wind and fire, and the “still, small voice of calm,” Elijah’s complaint was still there. “What are you doing here, Elijah?” asked the Lord. And Elijah was given the chance to offload. Whatever the problem was, he felt all alone and his view of the situation had become somewhat out of proportion. He’s in despair with a kind of victim mentality: “I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
We’re not told anything about a change in Elijah’s state of mind. What we are told is that Elijah’s abandonment of ministry and surrender of life was overcome by some straightforward commands from God, with which our passage ends. For all we know, his doubts and misgivings may have stayed with him. But God provided Elijah with a sense of his presence and with the strength he needed in order to carry out his new assignments.
Now that he was back on track spiritually, God gave Elijah some important work to do. This work included the anointing of Elisha to succeed him as Israel’s prophet. It’s as if God wanted him to make a choice of godly action based on obedience rather than inaction based on his emotions. And his obedience to God was part of the process of being healed and restored.
Maybe when we’re feeling weak and fragile, God speaks to us in that weakness with the softest of voices. When he speaks softly, we are forced to stop being busy, forced to stop making a lot of noise ourselves, and then we can hear his voice, and know his presence. We need to remove some of the noise and clutter from our lives because it’s hard to hear God when we’re so inundated with other things. The four gospels show us that Jesus too knew the importance of finding the solitary place to be alone with God.
I hope that, like me, you find in this passage some reassurance that, even when we do hit rock bottom, God finds ways of getting through to us and providing us with what we need in order to continue our journey with him.
We believe in God the Father, from whom every family in heaven and earth is named. We believe in God the Son, who lives in our hearts through faith, and fills us with his love. We believe in God the Holy Spirit, who strengthens us with power from on high. We believe in One God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.
The glory of God the Creator be with us, the glory of Christ the Redeemer be with us, the glory of the Spirit, the Sanctifier be with us; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among us and remain with us always. Amen. Let us bless the Lord. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Prayers taken from Common Worship: Times and Seasons © The Archbishops’ Council 2006