Miracle of Hope

Today, we conclude our series on miracles of how God is STILL MOVING TODAY!  I give thanks to God for each and every one of you who has shared a story of God moving in your life with me.  I hope we will be able to share some of those stories in the future of how God is moving.  There is no doubt that as we have looked at the biblical narrative and our lives today that God is still moving in our lives in mighty ways.

As we have looked for how God is moving yesterday and today, we have turned to the biblical stories of the prophet Elijah.  Elijah has shown God’s miracles through the show down with the prophets of ba’al, the life given back to a widow’s son, and the vineyard of Naboth.  Even though Elijah has shined brightly as a prophet of the one true God, challenges have met him at every turn.  His very life has been threatened and his soul is bent under the heavy burden of caring well for God’s people, even as they seek other gods.  When we renew our conversation with Elijah this morning, he is in deep, deep need of the uplifting and transforming power of God.

It was when Elijah felt the most rejected, the most threatened, and in the darkest place, that God met Elijah.  His life was threatened.  He felt as though his ministry was done.  He was ready to curl up in the cave and have life end.  There was where God met Elijah.  It was not at all as Elijah expected.  He expected the wind, the earthquake, and the fire.  After all, it was only a couple of chapters ago that God descended in fire in the big showdown against the priests of the ba’als.  But God was not in them, this time.  God was not at all as Elijah had expected.  And here Elijah felt even lower than low.  For even when he sought God, it seemed as though God was not even reaching back.  When Elijah called out to God to say, I can’t do it anymore!, it was there in the stillness of the air that hangs after you have just emptied the contents of your soul like purse on the bathroom floor, that God met Elijah.  It was there in the stillness and silence that Elijah knew the miracle of hope.  Hope as a next possibility for the next moment.

It was not just Elijah to whom God offered hope.   God also offered hope to the man tortured by the demons of his life.   In our gospel today, Jesus seems like a crazed man with stories as wild as the frontier as we listen to demons driven into pigs.  We have often focused so intently on the pigs and the demons, that we have missed the man at the center of it all.  Can you imagine the hopelessness that he experienced, day in and day out, as he was actively shut out from his family and his community?  He was rejected from employment and entertainment. He was left on his own to care for his own needs and not able to do so on his own.  He was on a one-way train headed for a damaging train wreck.  The kind of train wreck that only God can help!

I believe that Jesus knew just that.  Jesus knew that it would only be his incredible action, his miracles, that would change the life of the one formerly known as a demoniac. Jesus knew that the one that was no longer even known by his own name, but only by the disease that afflicted him, was in need of hope in the most life desperate ways.  Jesus brings hope, not just in the form of encouragement and accompaniment, but he releases the man from his demons.  He gives him hope in the form of a new and renewed life with the demons of his past.  Demons whose names are not given, but that we can imagine are named guilt, shame, addiction, pain, betrayal, exclusion, and much, much more.  Jesus released the man from his bondage and gave him hope.

This morning, we celebrate the miracles of hope in the still small voice of God and in the freeing from bondage of demons, and we also celebrate God’s incredible miracles of hope, even today.  I would to introduce the video testimony of a miracle of hope by Joan Saller.

(Video of Joan’s testimony)

Thank you, Joan, for courageously sharing with us in testimony of one incredible way that God’s still, small voice is giving hope and direction to restore families and relationships.  We give thanks to God for you and your family, for the miracle of hope in your lives!

The miracle of hope is not only for the ones whose life was completely changed, but also for all those who gathered to see what would happen, to wonder together about the efficacy of this holy man and found their lives changed as well.  The miracle of hope is the life of Elijah, the life of the man who changed from exiled beyond the community, to restored with it, the life of Joan and her family.  The miracle of hope we need in the aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting in rememberable past.  The miracle of hope that God uses US in the midst of our own challenges to be the HOPE!  The miracle of hope that God is not done yet and that evil never gets the last word!  The miracle of hope that God is still moving among us to bring life in the midst of death and hope in the midst of challenges.  Let us praise God for the miracles in our lives, the ones we know about and can celebrate as well as the ones that happened under our noses, without us even registering God’s incredible care for us.  Our God is truly the still small voice urging us on AND the power that drive evil and pain from our lives, so that we may fully restored into the whole persons God created us to be.

This is a MIRACLE of hope.  This is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, thanks be to God, Amen.

Old Testament Lesson:  1 Kings 19:1-15

Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there.

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”

He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram.

Gospel Lesson:  Luke 8:26-39

 Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”— for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.

Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

Meditations For Your Week

Sunday, June 19 ~ Saturday, June 25

Sunday: “The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, ‘Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.’” 1 Kings 21: 7.   God’s hope comes in the most basic of our needs.  Where is God caring for you in your most basic needs?

Monday:  “He said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. ” 1 Kings 21: 11-12.  God was in the silence.  Go in the silence looking for God. God will be found.

Tuesday: “When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” 1 Kings 21: 13.  God cares for us in every challenge of our life.  Turn to God in your challenges.

Wednesday:  “He answered, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram.” 1 Kings 21: 14-15.  God gives Elijah encouragement, even in the midst of challenge.  God encourages to continue serving.

Thursday: When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me’” Luke 8: 30.  The man possessed recognized Jesus as God.  Where is God calling you to recognize God?

Friday: “for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.)” Luke 8:29.  What is God calling you to let go of that is unhealthy for you?

Saturday: “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.” Luke 8: 39.  God has done so much for each and every one of us.  Where are you proclaiming how much Jesus has done for you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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