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Breath of the Spirit

Pastoral, Liturgical, Teaching, and Social Justice Moments brought to you by DignityUSA.

Breath of the Spirit is our electronic spiritual and liturgical resource for our members and potential members. Nothing can replace your chapter or other faith community but we hope you will find further support here for integrating your spirituality with your sexuality and all the strands of your life.


Almost every biblical author encourages us to surface the distinct path God wishes us to travel through life. Yet, Elijah’s Sinai experience also teaches us to keep our eyes and ears open, willing to change directions at any moment Yahweh’s breezy voice breaks into our lives.


AUGUST 9TH, 2015: NINETEENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

I Kings 19:4-8
Ephesians 4:30-5:2
John 6:41-51

Last week I stressed the need for strength and determination in following God for a lifetime. I especially reflected on the evangelist John’s belief that the Eucharist is a major force in our maintaining that strength and determination.

But today’s first reading brings up a unique problem in our following of God. Elijah discovers that Yahweh doesn’t always lead him along the most direct route. Sometimes God even changes his destination!

Our I Kings pericope actually provides us with just the middle of a three part narrative. The whole account begins with a confrontation between the prophets of the fertility god Ba’al and Elijah on Mt. Carmel. Elijah wins the confrontation, has his rivals put to death, then must quickly run for his life when Queen Jezebel – the pagan prophets’ patroness – puts a contract out on him. He travels – on foot – from Palestine’s northernmost point (Mt. Carmel) to its southernmost point (the Sinai), where today’s passage kicks in.
 
Physically unable to go any further, Elijah actually asks Yahweh to kill him. “Take my life,” he pleads, “for I am no better than my fathers.” Fortunately God ignores his request and twice sends an angel with a “hearth cake and a jug of water,” making certain the prophet has enough strength to “walk forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb (Mt. Sinai.)”

The difficulty arises in the third part of the narrative. When Elijah finally reaches Mt. Sinai, Yahweh comes to him in a “gentle breeze” and abruptly informs him that he’s in the wrong place! Instead of preaching to the scorpions in the wilderness, Yahweh wants him in Syria - north of where he originally started his trek – setting up a mechanism to get rid of Jezebel.

At first glance, this change in direction makes sense. All of us have had to make changes in the paths we’ve chosen in life. But there’s a unique problem with this change: by twice sending an angel with food and water, Yahweh actually helped Elijah go in the wrong direction! Since the prophet couldn’t have made it to Sinai without God’s assistance, God’s responsible for Elijah’s ending up in a place he/she didn’t want him to be.

The Pauline disciple who wrote Ephesians makes sense when he encourages his readers to get rid of “all bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling.” All other Christs agree that we should be “kind to one another, compassionate, and forgiving.” Yet Elijah would remind us that true discipleship goes further than just creating peaceful, compassionate relationships with one another. It also includes developing a relationship with a God who sometimes messes with our spiritual GPS.

Jewish members of John’s community had to deal with a parallel experience when they converted to Christianity. As good Jews they’d been constantly encouraged to distinguish between the “sacred and the profane.” We presume that through the centuries it was Yahweh who helped the Chosen People reach the point in their faith lives when that sacred/profane division became an essential part of everyone and everything they encountered. Yet now, as followers of the risen Jesus, they’ve discovered the most sacred of persons is actually in an individual whose “father and mother we know.”

No dedicated Israelite could ever have anticipated that Yahweh would one day ask his/her followers to drastically change directions and realize that a carpenter from Capernaum had become the “bread of life” for all people.

Almost every biblical author encourages us to surface the distinct path God wishes us to travel through life. Yet, Elijah’s Sinai experience also teaches us to keep our eyes and ears open, willing to change directions at any moment Yahweh’s breezy voice breaks into our lives.

 

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