Strength for the Journey

lent and communion

1 Kings 19 NRSV

Last week I spoke of being affirmed by God in the presence of God on one day; but then, it always happens, Monday morning comes, and we are hurled into a wilderness with trials and all sorts of temptation. For forty days, even Jesus found himself in such a place.

You might remember that I made the comparison to Elijah.  After being affirmed by God on Mt. Carmel, Elijah found himself in a wilderness that was so bad, he did not know if he wanted to live or die.

Listen to 1 Kings 19:3: “Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life.”  In verse three, it appears that he wants to live. He’s running from Jezebel to save his life. Now let’s look at the very next verse.  Verse four reads: “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…”

His Monday morning was so bad, that one minute he wants to live, and the next minute, he wants to die.  Can you relate?

Elijah then fell asleep under that tree, but 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.  But the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey will be too much for you.”  “He got up and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food for forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.”

Today, some of you do not need to wait for Monday morning.  You are already there. One minute you want to live; the next minute, you are thinking that death might not be that bad of an option.  Others of you may be doing better than that today.  But as I said a few weeks ago, sooner or later, Monday morning is coming for all of us.

So I say to all: “Let’s get up and eat and drink from the table of the Lord.  For if you do not, this journey in the wilderness of life will be too much for you.”

Now, you might ask, how can one little, tiny, tasteless cracker, and one sip of juice give us sustenance for forty days and forty nights?

Do you remember my sermon on the transfiguration?  On the mount of transfiguration, before the disciples come back down into the wilderness of their lives, a voice came from heaven, saying:  “This is my Son, the Chosen, listen to him.”

This is my Son, the Beloved, the Chosen, the one who has been tested and tempted and tried in the wilderness of life, listen to Him.  Listen to the One who knows what it is like to be on the mountain top with God one minute only to be in Hell with the devil the next.  Listen to the one who knows something about the ecstasy of being affirmed by God in the presence of God one minute and to be famished in the middle desert the next minute.  Listen to the One who knows what it is like to be a human being living in a fallen world.  Listen to the one who spent most of his earthly life trying to survive in a vast and dark wilderness.

Listen to the Christ as he says…

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. ”

Listen to the Christ as he says…

“Your sins are forgiven.”

Listen to the Christ as he says…

“Your faith has saved you, go in peace.”

Listen to the Christ as he says…

“Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace.”

Listen to the Christ as he says…

“Whoever drinks the water that I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Listen to the Christ as he says…

“I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Listen to the Christ as he says…

“I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Listen to the Christ as he says…

“I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.  I am the good shepherd.  I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”

Listen to the Christ as he says…

“Your brother will rise again.”

Listen to the Christ as he says…

“I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

Listen to the Christ as he says…

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many dwelling places.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go and prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and I will take you to myself, so that where I am, you will be also.”

Listen to the Christ as he says…

“You are my friend”

Listen to the Christ as he says:

“I am with you always, even until the end of the age.”

Listen to Christ as he says, “This is my body broken for you.  This is my blood shed for you.”

Some might still say: “It is just a tiny, little cracker and a sip of juice.”  But I think you know that we can go in the strength of the food on this table, for forty days and forty nights, or however long our journey in the wilderness might last.

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