1 Kings 19:9-18 (NRSV)
9At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" 10He answered, "I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away." 11He said, "Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by." Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" 14He answered, "I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away." 15Then the Lord said to him, "Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. 16Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. 17Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. 18Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him."
“Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and … try to love the questions themselves,” wrote Rainer Maria Rilke (Letters to a Young Poet, 1903). Scripture poses many questions, but we often read only to find easy answers. Trying to love and live the questions is a challenging invitation and theme, which will guide our reflections this week.
“Why are you here, Elijah?” God asks as Elijah hides in the cave. God’s question is followed by disruptive, destructive noises. When all the howling, tumbling, and crackling subside, the sound is very “thin” and “quiet” (CEB). God’s question echoes again into the “sheer silence” (NRSV).
Do we expect God to push hard—“Why are you here?” Or prod deeply—“Why are you here?” Or spark our reaction—“Why are you here?” Or are we learning to love thin, holy moments when God gently asks, “What’s here, hidden in your mind and heart?”
O Lord, open our minds and hearts to hear your loving questions repeated in quiet moments. Amen.