Nineteenth Sunday of the Year 1 Kings 19: 9 & 11-13; Romans 9: 1-5; Matthew 14: 22-33 The prophet Elijah was a fearless defender of his God. He was also a minority voice, frequently complaining to God that he alone, of all God's people, remained faithful to his name. He lived in difficult times. The kingdom of Israel was still a young nation. It was intoxicated with its new found strength and sophistication. In moments of triumph it would boast that it was a nation blessed by God. In day to day practice it had become a godless nation, giving its worship and loyalty to the passing enthusiasms of the royal court. In the words of the popular song, these people had become the dedicated followers of fashion.
We live in a culture not unlike that experienced by Elijah. For many Christianity is a tribal designation rather than a way of life. It is no longer fashionable to be enthus ast i c about God. When Elijah spoke out he became an outcast, fleeing for his life and hiding in a cave. Elijah surely felt that this lonely burden of faith, confronted with the hostility of a whole society, was more than he could bear.
The Lord did not argue with Elijah Instead he set before him a meditation on the reality of God's power in this world. As Elijah stood on the mountain, he was confronted with the overwhelming power of the mighty wind, the earthquake and the fire. The Lord was not in the wind, the earthquake or the fire. Then came the still small voice of the gentle breeze. Immediately Elijah bowed to the ground, realising that here he was in the presence of God.
When we have the courage to follow in the footsteps of Elijah, proclaiming our faith and values to a sceptical world, we will find the world a lonely place. We will also find that there are powerful voices ranged against us, voices made all the more powerful because they will claim to speak with the authority of enlightenment and freedom. When Elijah felt abandoned and threatened by the influential powers of his day, the Lord asserted that he was no more to be found in the corridors of the powerful than he was to be found in the might of the wind, fire or earthquake. The Lord is to be found in the still small voice of a gentle breeze, the Holy Spirit who does not deceive our hearts. This was the only assurance that Elijah needed. The same assurance comes to us in the stillness of prayer.
Matthew's account of the calming of the storm continues the same thread of thought. In the darkness of the night the disciples had experienced the full force of the storm. They had felt powerless and abandoned. There would be many other occasions in their journey of faith when they would relive the feelings of that night. They would know the darkness that can threaten the spirit in an unbelieving world.
Their faith would bring them into conflict with the powerful movers of society. They would feel as vulnerable and insignificant as a tiny boat caught up in the eye of a storm.
Then they would remember what had happened long ago. They would remember that the presence of Christ is greater than anything that threatens to overwhelm us. They would know that it is Christ alone who brings peace to troubled hearts.