When Jesus asked the disciples who the people say he is it is no wonder why the people said Jesus was Elijah. The miracles worked by Elijah parallel the miracles worked by Jesus. Elijah raised the widow’s dead son to life. Elijah multiplied the food of the widow so that she and her son had plenty to eat. Elijah by a word stopped the rain from falling on the land just as Jesus calmed the storm by a word.
What was it about Elijah that made him such a powerful instrument of God? We know from the scriptures that he had incredible faith in God’s desire to bless his people if only they would put God before all else in their lives. We know that God performed many miracles through Elijah. We know Elijah challenged the 450 prophets of Baal to show the power of their God and embarrassed them when through one request God sent down fire from heaven to consume the altar of sacrifice (1 Ki.18:19-40).
Elijah fled the wrath of Queen Jezebel after the incident with the prophets of Baal and hid in a cave where he encountered God who came to him in a small whispering sound.
Elijah did not die. God sent chariots and horses of fire in a whirlwind and took him to heaven while Elisha looked on. Elisha received the prophet mantel before Elijah left this earth and had a double portion of Elijah’s spirit poured out upon him.
Elijah was just a man called by God who had his mystical moments with God and who also had his own fears to conquer. We know from scriptures that Elijah was depressed after that stunning display of God’s power embarrassing the prophets of Baal. His depression shows us how he was also very human and without God his confidence to continue to serving God failed him. We also know that God was patient with him and restored him and Elijah returned to serve the God he loved.
Elijah was a powerful instrument of God’s challenging the people of his time to return to God and turn from their worship of other gods. Elijah was just a man who heard God’s call and fought his own doubts as he responded to that call. If you think about it we have more in common with Elijah than Jesus did. We have our strengths and our weaknesses just as Elijah had his. The people when they compared Jesus to Elijah believed the miracles of Jesus were due to him having special gifts given to him by God. In that respect they were more accurate in their belief than we are believing Jesus’ divinity was the reason he performed miracles.
This week we should not be looking at the miracles of Elijah or Jesus instead we should consider our call to use our gifts to serve the kingdom of God. Our birth and life has meaning and purpose beyond our own plans for our lives. God did not create us and deposit us on earth to do our will. Instead he created us and gifted us for a specific task and purpose to serve the kingdom of God. Take the time to read scripture and you will discover this for yourselves. Listen to the psalmist as he speaks to God about our birth: “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; in your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them” (Ps 139:16).
Making known the love of God or the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ is not the work of a few individuals we deem to be as gifted as Elijah and certainly more gifted than ourselves.
You and I are not exempt from using the gifts God instilled in us from conception. We are failing in our duty each time we fail to use our gifts to make God’s love and mercy known. We are failing in our duty each time we fail to make the power of God to work miracles among us known. We are failing in our duty each and every time we fail to known God’s invitation to follow him. I am constantly amazed at the giftedness of God’s people who offer their gifts to make our parishes spiritually alive. I have witnessed extraordinary life changing miracles worked by ordinary men and women who believe in God’s power.
The verse from psalm 139 specifically tells us God designed a plan for our daily lives. Paul affirms this when he said “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly” (Rom. 12:6).
We are not Elijah but we are Kathy, Mary, Anne, Mike, Joe, David, Walt and Stephanie. No we are not Elijah but we are each called to give witness to the mercy and forgiveness of God.
Each of us have been given gifts that when used give glory to God. Jesus in that upper room said he would send us the promise of God – the Holy Spirit. That same Spirit Jesus promised to send to us is the same Spirit that inspired and worked through Elijah. You and I are living in a time when people like those of Elijah’s time are following something other than God. Do we dare respond to the call of God and then go out and challenge the prophets of Baal who are at work today enticing us to follow other gods and ignore the joy of a life lived by following God will instead of ours.