Last time I spoke of Elijah I recounted with you the beginning of Elijahís career.  His battle with Ahab and the 450 prophets of Baal,  Ahab and Israelís practice of human sacrifice.  How Elijah turned the frenzy over sacrifice into a bloddy purge of Baalís Prophets, which I called an Anti-Sacrificial Sacrifice.

When we ended last time Elijah was literally on top of Israel and had what looked like a complete victory.

Today I have a much quieter tale to tell and perhaps one that we can hold a little closer to ourselves.

Much of modern American pseudo-Christianity has adopted Elijah on Mt. Carmel rather than Jesus the Christ as its example.  It postulates a Day of Jesus Christ when Jesus will return as Elijah to bring about Armageddon and the final election of the mere hand-full who have been faithful.  Apparently they think Jesus got it wrong the first time and has to come back a second time to fix all the mistakes he made in his life when he presented himself as the prince of forgiveness and peace.

I would like to pursue with you the theme of Lent which proclaims that ďThe sacrifice of God is a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart.Ē  Together we need to make a space in which our hearts can at least crack enough to let God fall in.  On the top of Mt. Carmel was not that place.

After his complete victory on Mt. Carmel, the crowd fell to the ground and cried together: ďThe Lord is the True God!Ē  Elijah immediately takes advantage of this unanimity to point his finger at the 450 prophets of Baal, ordering that they be seized and killed.

After this triumph, instead of going off to celebrate, Elijah becomes depressed and goes off to the desert, where he asks for his death.  God gives him food but the Lordís angel has to make him eat it and then go up to Mt. Sinai, for 40 days and nights.  After his wilderness journey he gets to the same place where God spoke to Moses.  Once there Elijah hides in a cave, where God has to come to find the disillusioned prophet.  God asks him what he is doing there and Elijah says:

I have been very jealous for the Lord, the Lord God of Hosts.  For the children of Israel have broken they covenant, and throne down thine altars and slain all thy prophets, slain them with the sword, and I even I, only am left, one prophet of the Lord, and now they seek my life to take it away.

God orders Elijah out of the cave, to stand before the Lord who announces that he is going to pass by.  First comes the mighty wind which rends the mountain and breaks the rock into pieces.  But the Lord was not in the wind.  Then comes the earthquake.  But the Lord was not in the earthquake.  Then comes the fire, but the lord was not in the fire. 

After the fire there came a still small voice.  At this Elijah goes and stands at the entrance to the cave and God speaks to Elijah, asking what he is doing there.  Once again Elijah repeats.

I have been very jealous for the Lord, the Lord god of Hosts, for the children of Israel have broken thine covenant and thrown down thine altars and slain all thy prophets, slain them with the sword and I only I am left, one prophet of the lord, and now they seek my life to take it away.

Then in an extraordinary anti-climax God tells him to go to Damascus to anoint Jehu King and to pick Elisha as his successor.  Adding, let me worry about myself, for I have for myself 7,000 men who have not bent the knee before Baal.  Elijah goes off and obeys.  From then on he lives a quiet life until he is taken up by a whirlwind into heaven and Elisha begins his ministry.

What is often read as the triumph of Yahwism is in fact a story about the un-deceiving of Elijah.  Elijah before his undeceiving was a champion fighter with no problems of self-esteem or self confidence.  God was a god like Baal, but bigger and tougher and Elijah was his spokesman, the one who pointed out godís victims.  The contest on Mt. Carmel was a splendid battle between rival shamans or witch-doctors.  After the bloody battle which he won, Elijah sinks into a deep depression and doubts its value.

Oh Lord now take away my life, for I am not better than my Fathers. 1 Kings 19:4

Read properly we can finally hear Godís still small voice and read this saga of Elijah not as a series of praises for the Yahwist champion, but rather as the story of how Elijah learned not to identify God with all those special effects which he had manipulated on Mt. Carmel, but with the God of Mt. Sinai

The doings on the Mount of the Lord, are presented as the de-construction of the sacred structures associated with Moses.  For the Lord is present in the still, small voice rather than in force, destruction and majesty.

Elijah thought of himself as an heroic martyr.  He tells God he is the only one who has remained loyal.  He was full of zeal for the God who appeared in hurricanes, earthquakes and fire.  But what does it mean to be zealous in the service of the still small voice?  It is a somewhat humbled Elijah who sets off to carry out is appointed tasks.

This lesson is a turning point in the Old Testament much like Peterís confession is the turning point in our Gospels.  There is a power and presence of God that can only come to us when our magical sacred structures are disassembled.

At the beginning we have a sacred Yahwism which can shine alongside other religions, but whose sacrifices are more efficacious, whose God is more powerful and whose power to unite people for sacred wars is greater.

The still small voice undoes this all.  The voice says God is not a rival to Baal, God is not to be found in sacred violence.  Elijah when he entered into rivalry with the prophets of Baal became one of them, because God is not to be found in such circuses of religious activity.  Elijah is un-deceived.  He is no longer a shaman, a sacrificer because the Lord is not like the other Gods, not like Baal.

The cave at Mt. Sinai was the place where Elijahís heart cracked enough to really let God in.  So that he could see God as he was, not the greatest God but the only God.

Forsake your idols, return to God for he is slow to anger and merciful and kind and gracious.Let God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ soften your hearts so that they may crack and let him in.