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Responding to Violence: Reflecting with Elijah

By Brad Zinn

Over the last few weeks we’ve been looking at beliefs that can guide us during dark times. This week I want to invite you to do a reflection with me, through the life of Elijah. It’s a reflection our church did together a few years ago (have I mentioned that you’re always welcome?).

 

Reflecting on the nature of Jesus helps us build our trust in him. But ultimately, the best remedy for our anger, hurt, and fear is to bring them to Jesus. I hope this reflection helps you create space to be with him today.

 

Our reflection begins with the prophet Elijah, from Chapter 19 in the book of 1 Kings in the Bible. We find Elijah exhausted and on the run. The King and Queen of Israel are trying to kill him because of the way he’s practicing his religion, and he’s ready to quit.

 

“I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.

All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.

The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.

 

Reflection: Reports of violence have been flooding the airways. Baton Rouge, Thousand Oaks, and Pittsburgh are just a few of the places where recent shootings have occurred. How have these things affected you? Are you tired? Have you, like Elijah, “had enough?”

 

Close your eyes. Image yourself in Elijah’s position; so overwhelmed by the darkness.

 

Then imagine that an angel of the Lord comes to you. You hear a voice: “The journey ahead is too much for you-you must eat.”

 

You turn to look, and what you see laid out in front of you is exactly what you need to replenish your soul.

 

What do you see?

 

Take a moment to picture it all. Pause, holding that image in your mind, and take a deep breath. Imagine what the angel has provided to feed your soul. Rest. Renew. Breathe.

 

When you’re ready, we’ll pick up with Elijah again, hiding in the cave in Horeb.

 

And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

 

Reflection: Notice how God is attending to Elijah’s needs. God already knows why Elijah is there, but Elijah needs to express it. So God makes space; God listens.

 

What experiences, fears, anxiety, or anger are you carrying with you today? Besides being tired, what pain or concern are you carrying from the last several months?

 

Imagine God’s invitation to you.

 

“What are you doing here, beloved?”

 

Take a moment to share with God. Speak out loud, write down your thoughts, or pray silently.

 

When you’re ready, we’ll resume with Elijah.

 

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave…

15 The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram.16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet…18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

 

Reflection: God speaks to Elijah in a gentle whisper. He tells him that he has a specific job for him, and reminds him that he is not alone.

 

Imagine yourself again in Elijah’s shoes. God calls to you, in this moment, in a whisper. Don’t listen for an earthquake. Don’t listen for a rushing wind. Listen for a gentle whisper.

 

God is whispering to you now. You have a role to play in countering violence, in standing for justice, in building bridges and a community of reconciliation and peace.

 

What is God’s whisper saying to you? What is he calling you to do?

 

As we close, remember that you are not alone. Jesus gave Elijah 7000 partners in Israel, and he gives us one another. 

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