Limping with Different Opinions?
Live with Contradiction!
Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA; 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, 2 June 2013
Year C RCL: 1 Kings 18:20-21 (22-29), 30-39; Psalm 96; Galatians 1:1-12; Luke 7:1-10
What amazing trust we hear in our scriptures! What amazing contradictions! We hear the ebb & flow of faith & loyalty, of action & stillness. People follow God, fall away & return to God in the multi-cultural, polytheistic world of Elijah, Paul, & Jesus.
We live in a multi-cultural, polytheistic world.
How do we sing a new song to this 21st century world so that all people can ascribe to God – credit God – recognize that God IS Creator of all?
God creates all, including the fire & the water that are the focus of the power struggle between the prophet Elijah & Baal’s prophets, who work for Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab. She is the daughter of a king1. Baal is her culture’s god of rain & water2. As royalty, her duty is to champion her god.3
The land of Israel is in drought
& Elijah takes the heat.
The Israelites support both the God of Israel & Baal. They do not see this as deserting God.4
Elijah sees this differently. A “radical monotheist,”5 Elijah asks:
“How long will you go limping with
two different opinions?”
He sounds like Paul writing to the Galatians:
“I am astonished you are so quickly
The Galatians are limping with different opinions.
The people Elijah speaks to, the people Paul writes to seem like children learning to walk, holding onto something with each hand, afraid to let go & trust.
People are afraid to let go & trust God,
to trust God’s Good News in Jesus.
People are afraid to establish this relationship.
Relationships require the hard work of
balancing action & stillness.
Elijah does the hard work of balancing action & stillness, waiting for God to act. Elijah challenges Baal’s prophets. The contest is to see whose god will respond & send fire to burn up their respective sacrifices on their respective altars. Baal’s prophets go first. That noisy bunch tries hard & gets no response.
Totally trusting God, Elijah prays
simple words that contrast with all
the shouts of Baal’s prophets.
His actions contradict what seems
logical . . . .
He makes sure the altar he sets up for God, the wood to
burn the sacrifice, and the sacrifice itself are completely
¿You pour water on something you want to burn?
Elijah does the hard work of balancing his action & waiting in stillness for God.
God sends fire that devours the drenched
offering, the soaked altar & licks up
the extra water.
So much for Baal’s power. So much for Baal as the god of water.
The people see, believe &
turn to God.
What a contrast we see in the steadfast faith of the centurion in our Gospel. He sends for Jesus & says:
"(Don’t come all the way to my house, just)
say the word & let my servant be healed."
The centurion sounds like Elijah who prays: “O Lord...let it be known...that you are God...that I have done all these things at your bidding...” The centurion says he is “under authority” & does the bidding of others. People under his authority do his bidding.
The centurion demonstrates the balance
of action & stillness: quiet trust, waiting.
The centurion balances active life in the world & a life of faith in close relationship with the people of God. Balance requires times of action & times of stillness.
(A)ction springs from stillness.6 This sounds like a contradiction – like Elijah’s preparing the sacrifice to be burned AND soaking it with water. This kind of contradiction is at the heart of the spirituality of St. Benedict that author Esther de Waal discusses in her book Living with Contradiction: An Introduction to Benedictine Spirituality.
When we balance working with God & waiting with God, we grow & we gain insight for what’s next in active ministry.7
It is hard to hold opposites in balance8. Yet without this
balance, our “(a)ction is more likely to grow out of
confusion..., fear or self-interest;
it is less likely to be grounded in God.”9
We live in a world limping with
In this noisy, busy world
“that is angry, fear-ridden, distracted...”10,
we can live with contradiction.
We can balance action & stillness.
As de Waal says, and I paraphrase parts: “(E)ven in...the most busy & active daily life...[WE] can...carry a heart of stillness, an awareness of God’s presence...”11
Even in...the most busy & active
we can carry a heart of stillness.
We can carry an awareness of
1Book1Diocese. http://1book1diocese.georgiaepiscopal.org. Accessed: 8 January 2013.
Boadt, Lawrence. Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction. New York: Paulist Press. 1984.
Chittister, Joan. The Monastery of the Heart: An Invitation to a Meaningful Life. www.bluebridgebooks.com: (United Tribes Media Inc.) BlueBridge. 2011.
De Waal, Esther. Living with Contradiction: An Introduction to Benedictine Spirituality. Harrisburg: Morehouse Publishing. 1989.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
Holy Bible. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Lectionary Page. http://www.lectionarypage.net/. Accessed: 10 April 2013.
Matthews, Victor H. Social World of the Hebrew Prophets. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers. Inc. 2001.
Merriam-Webster. Smartphone Dictionary app. Merriam-Webster Inc. 2012.
New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Eds.: Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger. New York: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 1977.
Partnoy, Frank. Wait: The Art and Science of Delay. New York: Public Affairs (Perseus Book Group). 2012.
1 Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. P. 711.
2 Ibid. P. 714.
3 Note: I read this some time ago, and cannot find the source to credit.
4 Jewish Study Bible. P. 714.
5 Ibid. P. 711.
6 De Waal, Esther. Living with Contradiction: An Introduction to Benedictine Spirituality. P. 107.
7 Ibid. P. 105.
8 Ibid. P. 107.
9 Ibid. P. 108.
10 Ibid. P. 112.
11 Ibid. P. 112. De Waal. Living with Contradiction.