Sunday’s sermon: Still Moving

river

Texts used: 1 Kings 19:4-13 and Acts 2:1-13

  • I want you to close your eyes and think about what the river looks like this morning.
    • Imagine what you would see if you were standing on the bridge and looking over the edge.
      • Water rushing and swirling in some spots, barely moving in others
      • How it pools in sheltered areas
      • Ripples where insects, leaves, or fish have broken the surface of the water
    • Imagine what you would hear if everything was quiet and you could just sit and listen to the river.
      • Gush of fast-moving water
      • Splash of the river on the rocks and against the bridge
      • Soft splatter of rain as it hits the surface of the water
    • Even when the surface of the river looks smooth and undisturbed, that water is never truly still. It’s always moving, and in that moving, it’s always changing.
      • Heraclitus (ancient Gr. philosopher): No man ever steps into the same river twice, for it’s not the same river.
    • It’s always moving … just like the God that we have come to worship this morning. You see, our God is a God of movement – a God who doesn’t sit still but instead stirs up and interrupts and touches our lives day in and day out.
      • Sometimes God’s movements in our lives are overt
      • Sometimes God’s movements in our lives are more subtle
      • But no matter what it looks like, God is always moving in our lives. The Scripture stories that we just read give us two examples of God moving in the lives of his people.
  • Pentecost experience = example of God moving overtly
    • Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force – no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.[1]Talk about overt movement! This is God literally reaching down into the lives of these people and infusing them with the Holy Spirit.
      • I love picturing this scene in my head. I mean, can you imagine how excitingly chaotic this was?! When you think about it, Pentecost has all the makings of a great Hollywood action scene:
        • Large and lively crowd of people
        • Public arena
        • Awesome special effects – rush of wind and tongues of fire
        • Can’t you just hear the orchestra crescendo in the background? [play “Chariots of Fire[2]]
      • There is nothing subtle about this encounter. This is God moving in the lives of people – moving in the fire of Holy Spirit!
        • Pentecost was a big, loud, all-encompassing event → I think it should be a big, loud, all-encompassing, celebratory day in the life of the church because sometimes, God still moves overtly in our lives.
          • Scholar: While a special moment in salvation’s history, this Pentecostal outpouring of the purifying, empowering Spirit upon God’s people is not a unique event from a long time ago. Luke’s narrative of this wondrous action symbolizes the powerful and effective nature of God’s ongoing presence among those who follow after God’s Messiah.[3] → This God is a God of movement – a God who refuses to sit still and instead moves in our lives in ways that can sometimes be as visible as the eddies and rapids that we see in a rushing river.
            • Kay & Michelle: “The Divine Disturber”
            • Mom calls this God being “showy”
            • Moments when all we can do is sit back and marvel at how things have worked out
              • Our address = silly but very real e.g. → Dubuque (UDTS)
              • Story of finding Amy for daycare
  • But there are other times in our lives when we don’t see God moving – times when we can only feel the whispers of that movement as it stirs within us. This is closer to Elijah’s encounter with God in the story from 1 Kings. – text: A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind and earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper. When Elijah heard the quiet voice, he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there.[4]
    • I know that some of us are used to the text describing that silence as a “still, small voice” as in the King James Version. In this Message translation, Eugene Peterson calls it a “gentle and quiet whisper.” But interestingly enough, no Hebrew word for “voice” or “whisper” or any such utterance is actually found in this text. Instead, according to the Hebrew, what Elijah experiences after the fire is the sound … of silence. But this is so much more than ordinary silence.
      • phrase = “humming silence” → This is a vibrating silence, a palpable silence, a silence charged with the presence of the Most High God.
    • I think that this palpable silence resonates with the more subtle ways that God moves in our lives. Instead of seeing this movement on the surface, we just know that something is stirring within.
      • A humming deep in our hearts
      • A vibration down in our souls
      • A charge in the back of our minds
      • A movement so quiet and subtle that we could miss it if we aren’t paying attention – if we aren’t connecting with God through prayer and Scripture reading and worship
      • Scholar: Here [in Elijah’s story], the point is made quite deliberately that God is not locked into any one mode of appearing. Sometimes God is not made known to us through flashy [divine appearances]. Sometimes God is … present in unspectacular events and ordinary people.[5]
        • Contrast is especially clear in Pentecost story → At Pentecost, God came down in wind and in fire … but for Elijah, God wasn’t in the wind or in the fire but in the following silence. It’s the exact opposite of the Pentecost experience.
        • Sometimes, it’s not the eddies and rapids on the surface that carry the river’s power. Instead, you find a strong current that runs deep beneath the surface of the water.
          • Runs undetectable beneath the surface – subtle, quiet, hidden
          • Powerful enough to pull boulders along the river bottom, carve out the Grand Canyon, transport a speck of dirt from northern Minnesota all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico
  • But God’s movement doesn’t stop with our lives alone. When a river runs through the countryside, it carries things along with it – leaves and branches, fish and water bugs, even people. Our God is a God of movement – a God who refuses to sit idly by in the face of injustice, pain, and suffering. If we are truly created in the image of this God, then God’s movement should get us moving, too. It should inspire us to move in the lives of others, and it should inspire us to encourage others to move as well.
    • Both Elijah & Peter moved in the lives of others
      • After God visited Elijah on the mountain → Elijah took Elisha as a disciple who did even greater things for the glory of God and for the benefit of God’s people
      • After the Holy Spirit came down at Pentecost → Peter was instrumental in building the Church – a community of believers that grew exponentially both in number and understanding so that Christ’s message reached the corners of the earth
      • Scholar: We learn that ministry may include the passing on of the mantle of leadership. Faithfulness to God’s calling may entail the preparation of others for their own ministry.[6]
    • Friends, we cannot sit still when the God that we worship and serve and praise and adore is a God of such profound, stirring, dynamic movement! → like trying to sit still in midst of a song that just makes you want to dance! [play “Happy[7]]
      • Rivers don’t stop flowing. They may run faster or slower. They may be high or low. They may even change course sometimes. But they. Don’t. Stop. Throughout history, since the dawn of creation, God has not stopped moving. And neither should we. Amen.

[1] Acts 2:2-4 (emphasis added).

[2] “Chariots of Fire” by Vangelis, released March 1981.

[3] Wall, 57 (emphasis added).

[4] 1 Kgs 19:11b-13a.

[5] Choon-Leong Seow. “The First & Second Book of Kings: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections” in New Interpreter’ Bible commentary series (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1999), 144-145.

[6] Seow, 145.

[7] “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, from the G I R L album, released 2014.

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