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Advent day 16: Talking to Kings

12.18. 2017 Posted By: The Mennonite

Dorothy Nickel Friesen is a retired pastor and area conference minister. She currently volunteers as a grant writer for nonprofit organizations, serves as a consultant to pastors and congregations and will publish her memoir in 2018.  She lives in Newton, Kansas, attends Bethel College Mennonite Church, and enjoys dark chocolate, afternoon naps and trips to the Colorado mountains.

Reflections on 1 Kings 18:1-18

It seems odd to me that one of the lectionary texts for this Monday in Advent is mired in an Old Testament story that hardly seems to have anything to do with Christian holidays. How do we hear the message to King Ahab amidst the Christmas carols blaring in Walmart? How can we get from Elijah, waiting at the home of a widow for three years for God to speak again, when we are scurrying to another office party or buying another gift? And who ever thinks of talking to the king, a.k.a. President, during December? Frankly, I would rather avoid speaking to the king.

Elijah, a prophet, was a hunted man. Queen Jezebel was ferocious in her hatred of God’s prophets. She searched and massacred as many prophets as she could. Elijah had escaped her dangerous net. He was sheltered in the modest home of a widow who seemingly survived the intrusions of the authorities while she sequestered Elijah. Maybe the Advent message, even today, invites us to shelter those who speak truth despite threats and public condemnation.

And then God speaks (verse 1). All that waiting and praying, the time of being silent and quiet, was suddenly over. All those years of sitting, of listening, of hoping, were now abruptly changed to full steam ahead. “Go tell the King that there will be water.”

The drought had been severe. The land was parched. The signs of life were disappearing just as Elijah had predicted earlier. Now, God had a new message and Elijah was to tell the king that there would be water.

How do I understand bad news and then good news? How could Elijah, earlier, tell the King, the leader of the government, that things were going to get worse?  Elijah now seemed ready to follow God’s instructions and go directly to the King with good news. Staring into the mouth of evil power seemed the prophet’s job. I can’t imagine being that bold—even if I prayed night and day. I would want a little time to be sure I had an escape plan, some friends to ferry me out of town with a hurried exit from the king.

In the time of drought during Elijah’s time, there was not just the physical absence of water, there was an absence of spiritual nurture.

The prophets—some false—were murdered. There were Jezebel’s killing plots. Plus, a drought that affects the spirit is also powerful. Sometimes, in our time, we are fed a steady diet of dreadful ideas. “Might makes right.” “The military will save us.” “If we build a wall, we will be safe.” “Women are playthings—available to powerful men at any time.” These are examples of a drought of the spirit. (Isn’t it remarkable how relevant these old texts are today?

Elijah emerges with a new message but, as we all know, the ensuing contest between the prophets of God and prophets of Ba’al, was a spectacular test of trust.

We live in a time when our loyalty is also being tested. What power do we possess? What strength do we use? What spiritual insights propel us to speak up and speak out? Where do we place our confidence?

Advent is a time to re-think and then re-frame our faith commitments. This is a season of silence and of promise. This is a season of recognizing the mighty forces that shape our culture, our traditions and our religious identities. Ah, will we speak to our rulers this season? Will we pray more? Will we wait for the call to be witnesses to God’s rule and God’s hope?

May we become ambassadors of the good news—leaders in our day to tell the truth to leaders and to our congregations.

“Finally, be strong in the LORD” (Ephesians 6:10).

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