First Lesson: 1 Kings 18: 20-21, (22-29), 30-39
Responsive Reading: Psalm 96
Second Lesson: Galatians 1: 1-12
Gospel Lesson: Luke 7: 1-10
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
“It takes nothing to join the crowd. It takes everything to stand alone.”- Hans F Hansen
Let me begin by telling the story of Albert Einstein before E=MC squared. When Albert Einstein was growing up, his parents feared that he had a learning disability.
Einstein didn’t speak until he was three years old. He didn’t speak fluently for more than several years after this. Einstein couldn’t read until the age of 7. Einstein had teachers describe him as “slow”. Einstein in school was considered to be nothing but a foolish day dreamer. I’m sure other kids called Einstein “stupid” and probably bullied him. Einstein was socially awkward. He would go out of his way to avoid other children. Einstein dreaded human touch. Einstein today would probably be diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. When Albert Einstein took a test to get into secondary school, he failed. When Einstein applied to a Ph.D. program at Bern, he got an answer of “no”. Albert Einstein never got to completely determine the circumstances of his life, yet this would not deter him.
Albert Einstein was the definition of different and yet it made all the difference in his life. No one ever changes the world by trying to be average or ordinary in as many areas as possible. No one ever changes the world trying to copycat everyone else.
In 1841 Scottish journalist Charles Mackay published “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.” One of the examples that Mackay cites about the madness of crowds has to do with European Witch Trials in the 16th and 17th century. What would happen is that something bad would happen to someone, and their enemies would then be declared to be a “witch.” To be declared a witch in these days would be the equivalent of being declared a “bigot” or “racist” in our day. So as soon as someone would hurl the witch accusation, people would stay silent fearing to be associated with witches.
The only problem with all this was is that no one was proven to be a witch, yet thousands of people would die because of the mere accusation. Peer pressure is a powerful force whether you’re a four year old or one-hundred and four years old.
There are potential dangers in standing alone. Such risks bring us to the story of Elijah for today. Elijah stood alone. Elijah was the guy walking into Lambeau field dressed from head to toe in Vikings gear.
Elijah’s story takes place during the reign of a wicked king named Ahab. The Scriptures describe Ahab as doing more to provoke the Lord’s anger than all other kings before him. Ahab was married to a woman named Jezebel who was pulling the strings. Jezebel came from the land of Phoenicia and with Jezebel’s reign came the worship of Phoenician gods like Baal. Wanting to play it safe by following Israel’s king and queen, the people soon began to worship Baal rather than God.
Baal was a half-man plus half-bull deity. Baal worship included orgies and child sacrifices. Worshiping Baal was thought to bring rain to the Earth. People loved worshipping Baal because Baal promised sex and money. Baal worship revolved around the cycles of nature necessary for prosperity and survival. People followed Baal to receive lots of grain along with lots of children. So Jezebel and Ahab built a temple so that the people may worship Baal.
Since people hadn’t heard from the God of Israel for a while, they assumed that he was staying silent. Baal worship though quickly began to disappoint. Three years pass, no food, or no rain. Great suffering had come upon the land of Israel.
So God tells Elijah to approach Ahab with an offer to intervene. Ahab gets mad at Elijah’s presence. How dare Elijah stand apart the crowd? Troublemakers stand apart from the crowd.
Ahab’s anger would not deter Elijah. Elijah wants to get Ahab to see he’s wrong. Elijah doesn’t care if he’s the only person who thinks this way. So Elijah gives Ahab a very simple proposition. “Why don’t you invite 450 priests of Baal along with 400 priests of Baal’s female counterpart Asherah” to Mount Carmel. 850 to 1. .
The people of Israel were wavering at this time between who to follow between the prosperity-promising Baal or the seemingly silent God of Israel.
So Elijah sets forth a challenge in the simplest of terms for Ahab’s Kingdom “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him”- 1 Kings 18:21.
The challenge at Mount Carmel was going to settle not which God was better, but rather which God was true.
To resolve this issue, Elijah proposes a test. Elijah and the Prophets of Baal would set up their altars with bull sacrifices to burn. But they would set fire to neither offering. Instead, Elijah and the 850 prophets would try to invoke their Gods to act. Whoever set fire to the offerings first was going to win the duel. Everyone agreed, and the test began.
So Elijah told the Prophets of Baal to first. Baal’s prophets start to dance and jumping around the altar trying to compel Baal to act. Morning passes, afternoon passes, Elijah tells them to yell louder, and louder. Baal’s prophets yell louder then begin cutting themselves with knives and swords until blood gushes out. Evening comes with no response.
So now it’s Elijah’s turn. Elijah sets up his Altar. Elijah does something different, though; Elijah dumps water over the wood upon it. Elijah dumped three gallons of water making the wood soaked. Elijah wanted to prove to everyone that if the fire came down, it would be no accident. Elijah was going to bring fire down from heaven.
When the spotlight shines on Elijah, he prays a very simple prayer.
“ O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have turned their hearts back.”-1 Kings 18:36-37.
As soon as Elijah’s prayer is over, fire came down from heaven! Those watching this act, fell upon their knees begging for God’s mercy and grace.
What can we make of Elijah’s story on this day? Elijah stood alone against all the prevailing wisdom in Israel. It was easy for people to believe in the lure of Baal worship as they felt that God wasn’t coming through for them in the years beforehand.
All Elijah had to go on as he went to the top of Mount Carmel was faith. Elijah’s situation was no different than his ancestor Abraham who went up on a mountain carrying his only son “Isaac” guided by the belief that “Lord shall provide”. If God hadn’t acted in Elijah’s case, religious faith might have become extinct within the nation of Israel. Elijah would have been executed like so many prophets that went before him. The Lord did provide as in the case of Elijah.
When Elijah attempted to summon fire from heaven, the crowds thought such a thing was impossible. Who was Elijah they say?
The whole situation between Elijah and the Prophets of Baal highlights a problem with how people often look at the world. People in Elijah’s day saw the struggles of the present. Elijah saw these struggles himself as he spent a lot of his life on the run from Ahab and Jezebel. People knew pain! People knew trouble! People’s faith would be challenged more and more every single day as they longed for prosperity. Elijah’s God wasn’t getting the job done to other people’s satisfaction. So pretty soon the Snake Oil salesman promoting Baal were getting rich. Baal worship made the past a problem of approach. If only “we” apply different techniques to life then “we” will achieve unlimited success in this life. Human nature is such that it will embrace any quick and easy solutions . Faith demands something different though!
I read a book a few weeks ago by author Angela Duckworth titled Grit. Duckworth defines “Grit” as one’s perseverance in achieving long-term vision in the midst of temporary hardship. Duckworth tells the story of Cody Coleman . When Coleman was growing up, his mom was declared “insane”, his father was in prison. Coleman’s grandmother attempted to raise him, but her body and mind was not up to the task. Coleman was one of the poorest kids at one of the poorest schools in the state. Cody Coleman was living life as nothing special: he wasn’t good at sports, he was in remedial English class, and was at best an average math-student. If Cody Coleman followed his peers who knows what path his life would have taken. Coleman’s life change when his brothers proclaim to him the “power of faith”. Coleman stopped looking at the past as defining him, but rather looked towards the future. Coleman by his junior year of high school was earning straight A’s. Coleman eventually gets accepted into MIT graduating with a near-perfect GPA.
Cody Coleman’s outlook on life was like Elijah’s. The past can only take as much power from us as we’re willing to give to it. There were plenty of days in Elijah’s life where he could have easily given up. Elijah could have thrown in the towel. Elijah could have said “I am too old for the struggle.” Yet, Elijah believed in the power of the future. Elijah believed that if he kept embracing the faith to which he clung his whole life that his God would eventually deliver. Elijah believed that Resurrection could indeed come to the Earth. Elijah believed that God indeed could deliver fire from heaven.
Our great hope for today is this. Our God promises to remain alongside you when everything else in the world seems to be against you. When your faith might be nearing its breaking point, our God will deliver. Just remember that crowds aren’t always right. The crowds thought Albert Einstein was too stupid to amount to anything. The crowds thought Cody Coleman was destined to end up in jail. These same masses don’t believe that Our God can indeed bring down fire from Heaven! Amen
 Kultirecity.org.“All Children have potential regardless of their diagnoses.” Facebook. 16.May.2016. Web. May.16.2016. taken from Mateusz M Facebook page.
 Kultirecity.org. “All Children have potential regardless of their diagnoses.”
 Kultirecity.org. “All Children have potential regardless of their diagnoses.”
 “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.”. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22 July.2004. Web. May. 17.2016.
 1 Kings 16:33
 1 Kings 18:1
 1 Kings 18:19
 1 Kings 18:24.
 1 Kings 18:26-29.
 1 Kings 18:30-35.
 1 Kings 18:39-39.
 Genesis 22:14.
 Inspiration for this section comes from Mateusz. M. “Vision”. You Tube. 26.Oct.2013. Web. May.18.2013. Section comes from Eric Thomas running from 1:00 to 3:25.
 Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Scribner Publishing. New York City. 2016. Print. P.220-221.
 Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.