Thought for Sunday 15th August 2021

This week's talk is written by Steve Langton.

Be an angel

Today’s thought is based on 1 Kings 19: 1-8 and concerns Elijah.  It takes place just after the showdown on Mount Carmel between Elijah and 450 prophets of Baal, when the prophets of Baal fail to call down fire on a sacrifice, but Elijah prays to God who sends fire down to Elijah’s sacrifice.  The people of Israel then turn on the prophets of Baal and kill them.  This should have been a great moment of victory for Elijah, but for Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab, who was a great proponent of Baal.  She threatens to kill Elijah and so he flees in terror:

3 Elijah was afraid[a] and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’ 5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.

All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’ 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.

7 The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.’ 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he travelled for forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.

Notice Elijah’s prayer: ‘I have had enough Lord – take my life’.  How many people over the centuries must have prayed a similar prayer at times of extreme stress.  The whole situation is very similar to the modern day person who, when life gets to much for them, jumps in their car and drives away from the family and friends who might give them spot, ending up at some isolated spot where they consider harming themselves.

After praying that God might end his suffering, Elijah eventually falls asleep.  He is woken by an angel who tells him to wake up and eat.  There is of course God’s work for him to do, but the angel doesn’t hurry him – he is allowed to sleep again, before the angel tells him to eat once more to strengthen himself for the long journey ahead.  This is not just any old angel, this is a very considerate angel.

An angel is of course a messenger of God and we too are called bring God’s message, particularly to those who are in turmoil.  As we have surely learnt during covid, if we didn’t know it before, bringing comfort to those who are distressed, those who are in need or those who are lonely, is an important way that we can do God’s work, both as individuals and as a church.  It is something that is very simple in practice, but perhaps not always something that we are as good at as we should be.  This is certainly true of the church – it was only when we were all forced to stay at home that most churches realised there was a lot more that they could do to involve the house-bound in the life of the church. 

And as individual Christians we can struggle as well – I know that it is something that I am not always good at.  Time is a great problem, because people often need time and it is easy to put off making that phone call or whatever when life is so busy.  It is also very easy take the stock response of ‘I’m fine’ at face value, without taking the time to find out whether they really are fine.  I know a lot of you are far better at these things, but we could all do more.  So in the coming week, try to be an angel to someone!