By NEMS Daily Journal
Few people who listen to lessons or sermons in the context of Judaism or Christianity (and Islam and Baha’i) escape hearing the name of Elijah.
Through his numerous citations in the biblical narrative, and his deeds, Elijah occupies first an important place in the Judeo-Christian story of God and man.
It’s easy to see Elijah, a prophet of the 9th century BCE as a hero but it may be more important that his faithfulness and effectiveness thrived in spite of battling depression and occasionally not hearing when God called or spoke.
The Baptist preacher, Peter Gomes, has been in the pulpit at Harvard Memorial Church for 30 years.
Gomes includes in his book “Biblical Wisdom for Daily Living,” a sermon about Elijah on one of his not so immediately responsive days.
Elijah had been through one his high points, and he fled for 40 days and nights, finding a cave on Mt. Sinai, which he used as shelter for renewing himself and lifting his depression.
Gomes writes, “He reminds us of a lesson that all of us in this achievement-oriented, results-oriented world need to know – that failure is not the opposite of success; it is often the result of success.”
Elijah, Gomes says, “got an A+ in prophecy, and the added pleasure of calling Queen Jezebel to her a face a witch, with a capital B.”
Elijah, pursued by an avenging Jezebel, fled, scared for his life and depressed in his spirit.
“It is the classic case of a public man’s success in the public eye being of very little worth to him in the privacy of his own soul,” Gomes writes.
Fame isn’t prerequisite for that kind of depression.
Successful people – not necessarily famous ones – like teachers, writers, parents, accountants, doctors, retailers, active retirees, scientists, civic activists, and all sorts of other solid working people – find themselves at the mouth of a cave as did Elijah.
He came near the outside world because he heard a voice, “What are you doing there, Elijah?”
Elijah soon would begin learning that “being in God” is better than “doing for God,” using Gomes’ words.
The spiritually qualitative difference is that the work Elijah had been doing was about Elijah; the work he would soon undertake was about God.
Gomes writes, “In the expectation that allows us to hear the voice of God, not in the thunder and lightning but in the heart, we will hear his words that ask us, ‘What are you doing here? Get on with it, and my grace will go with you; for my grace is sufficient to your needs.’”
We worship the God who is nearer than breathing, Gomes says, closer than our hands and feet.
The God we seek in the penitence of Lent is that God – the one who, “if we listen with the expectant silence of the heart, will speak to us and send us on our way rejoicing in the power of the Spirit.”