SERMON: Recognising God: Don’t let fear stand in the way

There is a very interesting episode in the Bible (1 Kings 19:9-13), where Prophet Elijah narrates his experience of surprise as far as his knowledge of God was concerned.

There is a very interesting episode in the Bible (1 Kings 19:9-13), where Prophet Elijah narrates his experience of surprise as far as his knowledge of God was concerned.

This happened far back in the 9th century before Christ. It was a period characterised by profound political and social changes.

Israel was turning into a very rich and powerful nation and new customs were being introduced in their capital city. A new and secular culture was emerging with disastrous consequences for religion in Israel.

Elijah observed rightly that those new customs were slowly uprooting Israel’s faith in Yahweh.

The prophet was therefore determined to protest against this “cultural colonisation”.

As he observed many of his countrymen embracing the new religious practices, he became so discouraged that he thought that he was fighting alone. He even started doubting whether God cared.

The Bible tells us how God answered Elijah, by revealing himself to him on Mount Horeb. Unfortunately, Elijah had a problem recognising him. 

Contrary to what Elijah had thought, that Yahweh would appear in the usual way either in a mighty wind or in the earthquake or in the fire, God appeared in the sound of a gentle breeze.

Yahweh showed the prophet and the rest of us, that our ways of thinking of God might not always be right.

It is not easy for Elijah to accept a change and to think of God so differently.

Here is a lesson for us in our modern way of thinking. Perhaps we too have fixed different categories in which we would like God to reveal himself to us.

No; we need to change and approach God with openness of mind and heart. He reveals himself to us at his own time and in his own way. And we cannot base our faith on ignorance.

About thirty years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, Paul writes in one his letters how he had an experience similar to the one of Elijah, as he too tried to bring Christ to his fellow Jews, but without success.

He was ready to do what it would take in order to succeed in his mission.

To his surprise, at the end of the day, looking back he realised that in his failure to communicate Christ as adequately as he wished, God had already revealed himself to his brothers and sisters of Israel.

Here, Paul like Elijah reminds us that our faith might triumph even in our many failures. 

In his gospel, Matthew (14:22-33), tells us how Jesus sent his disciples across the sea without him.

He then followed them at night as the sea water was becoming rough with dangerous waves.

When he approached them walking on water, his apostles at first thought they were seeing a ghost.

But Peter, recognising that it was Jesus, asked him that he too may do the same and go to meet him walking on the water. Jesus invited him.

He managed at first for a while but then he was filled with fear and he started sinking. 

Matthew teaches us that though Jesus was not with the disciples physically, he was with them in a different way.

He was assuring them that he will always be with them, so they should never be frightened.

We might be tossed about by different evils of our society, or by our own internal division and tension. We are taught here that God does not leave us alone in moments of need, though he may chose to change the manner of his presence. We must be patient.

As far as the strange request of Peter is concerned, he receives from Jesus the power of controlling the waves.

Often, when encounter difficulties we feel lost and fear to ask God to come to our rescue. Or perhaps there are prayers that we might consider strange and we choose not to say a word.

Peter teaches us to feel free with our God and to speak of our mind to him. The risen Lord in difficult times will always stretch out his hand and give us the strength that we need.