(Note: For the Original Testament text this week, some of you will be using the complementary track for this Ordinary Time period, and therefore, Solomon's prayer from I Kings 8; but along with most Presbyterian and Reformed churches, I am using the semi-continuous track, and thus the Elijah passage.)
Mendelssohn's "Elijah," part I
I cannot read this text without
The strains of Mendelssohn
Reverberating through my head
In many-layered tones;
Elijah taunts the prophets,
"Call him louder" his refrain,
I smile as he sarcastically
Keeps singing his disdain;
"Perhaps he's on a journey,"
Euphemistic'lly he goads,
"Pursuing!" Maybe Baal's off wooing
Down amorous roads!
"Or peradventure," (quietly)
"He sleepeth," Eli mocks,
I have to say, of all the prophets
Old, Elijah rocks!
But not just for his anger, or
Dramatic, forceful zeal,
But for his tenderness, as he
Goes on with this appeal:
"Draw near you people, come to me,"
The prophet soothes in song,
Then prays, "Lord, God of Abraham
"...This day let it be known
That thou are God, and I'm thy servant,"
Thus his tone is changed;
For all his bluster, still his doubts
Reveal he's not deranged
But waits to see if God will act
According to his word,
"Oh, hear me, Lord, and answer me"
He prays that he's been heard!
"And let their hearts again be turned,"
Is what he deeply craves;
The love Elijah knows, and has,
The people, always saves.
Scott L. Barton
So Ahab sent to all the Israelites, and assembled the prophets at Mount Carmel.
Elijah then came near to all the people, and said, “How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” The people did not answer him a word. Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets number four hundred fifty. Let two bulls be given to us; let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it; I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god and I will call on the name of the Lord; the god who answers by fire is indeed God.” All the people answered, “Well spoken!” Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many; then call on the name of your god, but put no fire to it.” So they took the bull that was given them, prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, crying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no answer. They limped about the altar that they had made. At noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud! Surely he is a god; either he is meditating, or he has wandered away, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” Then they cried aloud and, as was their custom, they cut themselves with swords and lances until the blood gushed out over them. As midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice, no answer, and no response. Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come closer to me”; and all the people came closer to him. First he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down; Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name”; with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. Then he made a trench around the altar, large enough to contain two measures of seed. Next he put the wood in order, cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood. He said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” Then he said, “Do it a second time”; and they did it a second time. Again he said, “Do it a third time”; and they did it a third time, so that the water ran all around the altar, and filled the trench also with water. At the time of the offering of the oblation, the prophet Elijah came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your bidding. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord indeed is God; the Lord indeed is God.”