Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Elijah, Part I

So, now that I'm sitting here preparing sermons & teaching & writing devotionals and stuff, I figured I'd use this blog as an opportunity to prime the pump on some of it. That said, I've chosen to do a 2 part mini-series on Elijah for my sermons August 12 & 19 here at Liberty. So, over the next few weeks I'm going to write a few entries about Elijah, who although he may not be my favourite prophet, is definitely up there. In fact, I only say that he may not be my favourite because so many of the prophets are so exciting to me in their own way. Elijah happens to get a lot of play in the bible (1 Kings 17-2 Kings 2) and some pretty cool stories are in there, and of course it is he and Moses that appear at Jesus' transfiguration and in the Passover Sader, it is Elijah that is left the empty seat, just in case he drops by... Elijah's pretty cool.

He first steps on the scene in 1 Kings 17:1, rather suddenly: "Now, Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, 'As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew or rain for these years, except by my word.'"

There is no introduction, no history of who he is, no call narrative, no explanation of how he became a prophet or reason for his mission. It has already been established that King Ahab is not such a great guy, not exactly following the LORD God, introducing Baal worship and stuff like that. Elijah, who's name literally means "My God is the LORD," simply steps up, referenced as one from some unknown group of people and place within the area of Gilead and lets the king have it - "This so-called god of yours, the god of rain and storm whom you call Baal (Lord), well you and he have another thing coming if you think there's going to be rain. The truth is much more different than you claim - the LORD, is the only true God, and you'll see when Baal can't lift a finger to drop a thimble of water on this place. No, it's going to be by the LORD, the true God that it rains - and it ain't coming any time soon."

That's some pretty fierce talk from this Elijah character, no wonder that the very next sentence begins with the word of the LORD coming to Elijah to "head out of town" and take refuge - hide, in the little stream called Cherith, East of the Jordan." Not surprising at all. Now, it could've just been Elijah being scared of the big bad King. It wouldn't surprise me at all. The LORD gives him a message that will only anger the most powerful man in the land, the one man who has power of life and death over Elijah, and everyone else, to run after giving such an unpleasant message doesn't seem all that absurd. But, it's not simply running FROM for Elijah, but running TO.

The LORD sends Elijah somewhere specific, somewhere he can drink from a small stream, be safe from Ahab's reprisals - which given the fact that they live in an arid climate, would probably take awhile to miss the rain - but also a place to be FED. That's right, the LORD promises he can drink from the stream but also be fed by RAVENS! Now, I don't know about you, but I'm not all that excited about scavenging birds feeding me - but it's no worse than what Survivor Man or that guy named "Bear" from Man vs. Wild does. In fact, it's far easier. Elijah doesn't have to find gross bugs & animals - they're brought right to him!

So, here we have Elijah, given this difficult message out of nowhere to the most powerful man in the land, and when he has done it, he is miraculously provided for by the same God who called him to give the message in the first place. Does that make the message easier to give? I think not. Does it mean that he will be in a better place with more friends and more money after doing so - it doesn't look like it. But he WILL be provided for. He IS provided for.

I think we could use this reminder in our daily lives. Sometimes we're given a word that we need to share - a witness to the true God, the one who has provided salvation - Jesus Christ. It probably won't quite be in the same vein as Elijah - promising no rain (in fact, I'd be highly suspect of anyone claiming a word from God like that) - but it may be a word that we're reluctant, out of fear, to share. But we can be reminded that God provided for Elijah after this difficult word he was given, and the Lord will provide for us too. We just need to be faithful in the face of it...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

R-E-V, who Me?

So, I just took this photo of me, and I'm starting to realize a change. I didn't realize ordination would make that much of a difference, but I think it's quite clear to see that there is now a halo that accompanies my head, just like those ancient icons of the Saints and stuff. Who knew, eh?

Yeah. I was planning on writing something right away about the whole thing, but time has gotten away from me. In fact, I'm not exactly feeling inspired to share the whole event right now, but maybe a few little tidbits from the great weekend that was.

First, it began with this new airline Skybus. Now, you've got to know that Skybus is first and foremost cheap. Secondly, it is cheap. And finally, it is cheap. It flies out of Columbus, and among other destinations, goes to LA (Burbank) and by the time my ordination date was set, was by far the cheapest ticket remaining. Well, that is without factoring the following costs: $5/checked bag (first 2, $25/bag after that) each way, $2/drink, $8-$12 food... and yeah, the flight out of Columbus was delayed by nearly an hour. Of course, they made up most of that time in the air and we landed only 15min late. But we wasted that time waiting in line with Budget rental car - ARRGGHHH! And then the shuttle took FOR-EVER!

Now, that was Friday, a long day with a 18 month old who had to sit on our laps. But Saturday was a new day, a day that had me and my father-in-law with an 11:30 t-time on a nice So-cal golf course. The day just happened to coincide with the 3rd round of the British Open and followed a very warm stretch, so the course was amazingly quiet. We actually got a chance to play as a twosome - nearly unheard of in LA, at least for me. I've been stuck with a group of five, but never just two. While I shot a rather ugly 122, and my father-in-law shot a disappointing score by HIS standards which was enough to kill me by more than 20 strokes, I had a wonderful time. If I could've kept from doubling par on about half my holes, and kept from three-putting on another four, I might've been able to break 100 - that'll be my Summer goal.

Then of course there was Sunday. Worship at Bel Air Pres, hearing both Mark Brewer preach and Richard Mouw (Fuller Seminary president) give a Christianity-culture address, and seeing a bunch of friends was nice. In-n-Out Burger followed, then the ordination service, a nice reception where I got to chat with a bunch of friends, family and colleagues - and a great evening with 3 friends & former ministry partners that included Italian & French food.

What followed that was a slightly sad and long day where I had to say good-bye to Bridgette & Brennan, board a plane and fly alone for the first time in my life, wait 30 minutes for my luggage, another 10 for the shuttle and add a 40 minute commute home from the airport, which by the time I wound down meant 4am before my head hit the pillow.

Essentially, Saturday and Sunday were great, bookended by days of slightly frustrating travel, which still made for one of my favourite and most memorable weekends ever.

Now, I'm home alone, watching and waiting as our new floor is installed - which looks beautiful by the way - and getting used to being an ordained minister. I heard this deft comment by Mark: "It's like a tell grooms when they get married and explain they don't feel any different - tough, you are!" Yeah, I am different, there's now more expected of me, and I need to step up to the plate and deliver...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Everything is New... well almost everything

Ok, so it's been a few weeks. We're in Ohio, I've started at the church. We finally have our internet & phone set up and I preach tomorrow for the first time since arriving. The learning curve has been steep, while the co-pastors have been great about attempting to give me no more on my plate than I can digest, it's not quite that easy. Truth is, I had four weeks from the time I hit the ground to prepare for their 4 week vacation, and my ordination service which is happening in LA on their last Sunday in OH before they leave. In that time I need to have a handle on things - to know enough about the history and uniqueness that is Liberty - essentially to keep from making any major mistakes. Easier said than done.

That has been my time in the last few weeks. Moving, transitioning, planning and very soon, preaching. About that sermon...