Faith in the Wind: Rev Judy’s Homily for Sunday 8/8/14 OT 19
People are saying that the weather has gone crazy. With our poor stewardship of the earth global warming and pollution seem to be taking a heavy toll. There are tornados where they never were. Huge hailstones in summer, and hurricanes have not touched Florida in years. Yet we can all remember Andrew and Wilma and Charley, with winds raging, trees falling on everything, roofs blown off and power gone. Wind is a powerful thing. That is probably why it is a symbol for God’s presence in the Scriptures, And, when there are strong winds in our lives we desperately need the presence of God.
In the reading from Kings (19:9-13) we see the prophet Elijah fleeing from the city where his life is threatened to the mountains and a cave. Elijah is afraid and running for his life (9:3). He has done all that God asked –he was God’s messenger, and with the usual response, the messenger was to be killed. Elijah says to God, “I have been zealous for you …. but they have broken your covenant, they have killed your prophets and now they are trying to kill me too” (19:10). The job of God’s prophet is so often a thankless and dangerous one. Only rarely does the city repent and the people turn their lives around although it happens. But not for Elijah. I wonder if he isn’t beyond frustration to being consumed by anger at the way things are turning out? But, God does not abandon Elijah despite his fear, frustration and anger. God stays in constant communication with Elijah and promises him Presence. So Elijah again does what God asks and steps out on the mountain. There “a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart”. And poor Elijah grabbed the nearest rock and held on, but God was not in this shattering wind. Then there was an earthquake and a fire. Fire is another symbol for God’s presence, but God was in neither of these. And after Elijah risked all of this he must have been about to give up and crawl to the back of the cave and die as he wanted to do before this when he reached the desert and sat under a tree and prayed to die. “I have had enough” he said to God (19:4)”take my life…” Well, God provided for him and urged him on in his journey until now he stood, clinging to the mountain as the wind and fire raged on. Did you ever feel like Elijah -did you ever feel you had enough. You tried to do right but nothing worked and you simply had enough-and then the storms kept raging. I have felt that way. And ultimately I had to stand before God and wait for God’s presence and word right there in the midst of the great raging winds of my life. And, finally, finally, the gentle voice of God came and calmed the storm, and also gave direction that worked so Elijah could indeed fulfill his mission. One of the things that worked for Elijah was doing as God asked in choosing Elisha as a prophet for Elisha also loved him and stuck by him no matter what: “I will not leave you” Elisha said as Elijah and he walked toward Elijah’s final moments on earth (2 Kings 2:2,6). Not only did God remain present to Elijah but God gave him a friend and one who would carry on after him. What a beautiful gift God gave Elijah as the winds abated. Oh, if we could have the faith of Elijah who did God’s work no matter what.
In the Epistle to the Romans we hear Paul’s anguish and grief for those of his own Hebrew people who could not accept the Good News of Christ. Paul was so distraught that he said “Indeed, I would cut myself off from Christ it that would save my sisters and brothers, my kinfolk…” (Rom. 9:1-5). Paul would give up his all for his people, for God’s own people, even as Elijah did. And the winds would rage. Paul was very much aware of his own clay feet, but his love for his people was constant. With their rejection the great raging winds of sadness almost consumed him. And yet, like Elijah, Paul lived by faith and hope that in God’s loving kindness all of Israel would be saved (Rom. 11:26) and loving as Christ loved would save the day for all (Rom 12 and 13). Both Elijah and Paul faced deepest despair and found God’s presence there.
In our ministry we have been working with a woman who lost everything. Job, home, physical and mental health and worries for her children and her own life. And yet as we shared reflections in our Tuesday worship service she shared: “I can tell you for sure that when things were so bad and I hit the bottom, it fell through and I went lower still-but I found the most wonderful thing. God was there and God provided for people to come and lift me up and the people are right here” she said looking around the room. “All of my needs are met and I don’t have a penny. I will get a home this week and this is my greatest joy. God is there when you fall lower than you ever thought you could fall. God is there”. And after the silence, everyone clapped.
That too is the meaning in the Gospel (Matthew 14:22-33). Jesus has recently heard of the horrific death of his cousin and prophet, John the Baptist. He had tried to get away by himself to grieve and pray but was met by the huge group on the mountain side. He healed, he preached, he taught, he fed. He must have been exhausted. He sent the disciples away in the boat and he finally had some time to himself. I think every parent, teacher, social worker, counselor, preacher, pastor and parish priest knows how he felt. In the middle of the night he woke up and saw the boat full of disciples tossed about in the waves by the fierce wind (14:24). So Jesus got up and walked across the water toward them. We are to see his God-ness in this for he walked on the water-but we can see it even more because he couldn’t even get a full night’s sleep without responding to the needs of his people. Full of grief, sadness and exhaustion he got up to help them. But here they were in a heavy storm at night and they saw him coming toward them and were “terrified” (v. 26). “Take courage, It is I, don’t be afraid” he said. In the terrible storms of our lives we can hear these words and know God is with us. Indeed we do take courage and we are no longer afraid. We may even try, like Peter, to walk on water. Doing something new and unheard of is walking on water. Being a woman Roman Catholic priest is walking on water. But one has to keep one’s eyes on Christ or we flounder and sink. Still, and this is the miracle, still, Christ is there with us catching us before we go under. God is there in the raging storm at sea. Jesus got in the boat and the wind died down. Let us know deeply that although the storms of life may rage, if we listen, we can hear Jesus saying “Courage, I am here, don’t be afraid”. And the winds die down. AMEN!
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, Roman Catholic Woman Priest
Pastor of The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Church, Fort Myers, FLorida