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Fugitive or Pilgrim?
I Kings 19:1-8; Psalm 34:1-10
by Leslie

Life is a journey, so they say. We travel along life's highway, one with another, connecting, reconnecting but moving onward. So they say. And most people would tend to agree with who ever "they" are. We do feel movement in our lives. Certainly we are headed somewhere- even if it is only the uneasy feeling of getting older. On long languid summer days such as these generally have been movement is hard to ascertain. But- September comes, another year passes and we know somehow we are in a different spot.

The question then arises- are we moving from something or toward something? I guess that too depends on your perspective.

At the end of I Kings chapter 18, the prophet Elijah was on the move, literally, running across the desert, heading who knows where- just outta town!! In the beginning of the chapter he would seemed to have had it all . How quickly things changed! He had just had a glorious experience upon Mt Carmel. The prophets of Ba'al had been defeated mightily. His God, our God reigned supreme. Abundant rain had finally come to the parched country side. Prosperity was returning. It could easily have been said then that Elijah could do no wrong. Yet, in the blink of an eye, Elijah was running for his life.

He had received an angry message from the Queen known as Jezebel. We've all heard of her. She deserves her rotten reputation for she was not a nice person. And eventually she comes to a bad end but not at this point. She threatens Elijah, telling him rather ominously saying he will die by sunset tomorrow. And Elijah runs away.

Poor Elijah. He pauses to sit under a tree in the desert and bemoan his fate. "Take my life, O Lord. I am no better than my ancestors." He falls asleep. And in what may have been a dream, an angel comes to him and says he needs to eat and drink for he has a long journey ahead of him. Passively Elijah does what he is told and in the morning he gets up and makes the journey to Mt Horeb, a place at the bottom of the Sinai dessert also called Mt Sinai. (This is where Moses received the stone tablets.) A long journey.

But the nature of the trip has now changed. Elijah started out as a fugitive, running from danger. He is now going to a holy place, the place where God has dwelt with God's people back in the days of Moses. Elijah doesn't know any of this yet. No new purpose for his journey has been mentioned. But, he is on his way.

In the beginning, Elijah was running away, fearful for his life. His self esteem was at a low point. Suddenly, in the midst of this journey, its mission changes. He is no longer a fugitive but a pilgrim, on his way to meet with his God. In the ensuing chapter Elijah does meet God, not in the earthquake, fire or mighty wind but in that now famous encounter of a still small voice. He finds that there is still much God wants him to do. God has not deserted him. There is no time for self pity. Elijah sets out re-energized and returns to finish the work he has begun and then to pass the mantle of his prophecy on to Elisha who will carry on after he is gone.

It is a wonderful story, one that can give hope and energy to us if we let it. Who among us does not feel discouraged or bogged down in life at times? Especially if you have been working hard and have had some triumphs. Somehow we can't sustain this jubilee we feel. When it moves on, we think we are empty and of no account. Perhaps God has left us. There is an emotional let down. We then are vulnerable to feeling useless. Self pity can set in.

This is what happened to Elijah, the mighty prophet who had defeated ten thousand pagan prophets in a grand display of God's power and might. He had put all his energy into this display and it had been successful. But emotionally he was drained and thus vulnerable. When Jezebel threatened him, he ran.

He forgot that it was God's power that had been displayed, that it was God who had been glorified and that even if things were going to turn against Elijah, God would be there to protect him. He forgot!

I think there is a bit of Elijah in all of us. We forget. We forget that we have been called by God to do something with our lives that serves God best, whatever that may be. Each of us has our different path. Each of us has been gifted in a way that is special to us, that works best for us if we let it. And it is God who has planned this journey of our life.

We forget because we are used to doing it our way, especially if we are talented or gifted in special ways. Our strong Protestant tradition also tells us if something has to be done it is up to us. Leaning on the strength of the Lord is only for those who are weak, we say. We forget that we all have weaknesses. None of us equals God and so we all need God's strength within us. Life is a gift to be used wisely with God's help. We will stumble and fall if we try to go it alone. We might end up under that broom tree in the desert ourselves, moaning our fate.

Running from people or feelings or events you can't control is not a life. Life is more than that. It is a journey. We are connected one to another. We help each other along the way. We are not meant to go it alone. We have Jesus who paved the way before us. Life was discouraging to him also, at times. He too could have sat under that broom tree and felt sorry for himself, especially when he couldn't even get the disciples to understand what he was doing! The human side of him probably wanted to give it up at times. He got tired, discouraged just like the rest of us. But he knew he had work to do and that God’s strength was in him. Yes, his call as the Son of God was greater than ours will ever be but all our lives are worth more than we often think they are. Running away is not an option.

What have you been called to do with your life? The Bible says that all of us are called to do something. Some are teachers, some are prophets, some are technicians. Some of us have math or science skills, others special musical or literary or artistic abilities. Some of us take care of children. Some are good with the elderly. Some of us are in sales, some in management. All of us are called to be children of the Most High.

What ever it is that helps you find meaning in the world, that is your gift. Develop it well. Allow God to show you new ways your skills and interests may be leading you. Otherwise you may be running from something, fearful you have made a hash of things.

God wants to work with us. Our lives then become special missions in this harsh world. Hopefully we won't meet up with any Jezebels out there, but one never knows. It isn't something we should fear or cause us to go and hide.

We are heading for the Kingdom of God together. Along the way we live our life as God intended it to be lived with a feeling of satisfaction of a job well done and a moderation of contentment. Happy traveling!

Prayer: Lord, you lead us on in this journey of ours. Let it be with you and toward you as we move ever forward. In Jesus' Name, AMEN