First United Methodist Church – Omaha
Rev. Kent H. Little
Date: June 2, 2019
Scripture: 1 Kings 19:1-10, Rumi
Sermon: “Dragons Love Tacos, Life for Your Run!”
1 Kings 19:1-10
Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, ‘So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.’ Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there.
But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: ‘It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the LORD came a second time, touched him, and said, ‘Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.’ He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food for forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. At 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?’ He 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.’
Love is the soul’s light, the taste for morning, no me, no we, no claim of being. Nothing can nourish the soul but light.
I remember a number of years ago at my annual checkup my doctor referencing my weight. It has been a constant battle of mine, to some degree as long as I can remember. I have always been a big kid. When he made the comment that I needed to lose a little I made some quippy comment something to the effect of, “If he would just prescribe a pill that would take the weight off, I would be good with that.” His quick response was something to the effect of, “They don’t make a pill for willpower.” I know that’s what it is, and at the same time I wish there was a quick fix.
It is just that healthy food doesn’t taste as good, in my mind and palette, as those foods I love too much. I have been working on watching my carbs of late, trying to do low to no carbs, and I have dropped some weight over the last 5 or 6 weeks… it feels good; however, it is not easy work. It’s not that I do not enjoy a good chicken sandwich or burger with no bun, or even a steak with a side of broccoli…Yet, give me a bag of chips and a bowl of dip and there is just something that draws me in and makes my soul smile. Or a fried catfish dinner with corn and mashed potatoes and gravy, pasta, all of those foods… soul food… that take me home. And in my mind, in my heart of hearts, I know I should not be eating them, and yet…in they go! There is a saying out in cyberspace I have seen that says something like… “You think you have will power until the server sets down the chips and salsa on your table.” I can be telling myself I really shouldn’t be eating these, and the next thing I know the basket of chips is empty…I know deep down, when someone opens a bag of chips around me, I should run for my life in the other direction!
It is what came to mind as I read the book, Dragons Love Tacos. TruDee gave this book to our youngest granddaughter for her birthday. When Cynthia and I decided on this new series based on children’s books, I knew I wanted to use this book, mostly because I loved the title… it took me a little while to ponder and consider how I might connect it to our tradition and create a life lesson from it.
Dragons love tacos… and though the book says they hate spicy salsa, I am not so sure. I think they also love hot sauce, even though they know it is not good for them, or those around them. I mean, after all, the book says you have to bury the spicy hot sauce in the backyard so they will not find it. I think they love spicy salsa too! You have to help them watch out for the spicy hot sauce so they do not do any damage. When you open a jar of spicy hot sauce around a dragon, they should run for their lives!
The things we take in can either nourish, nurture, and sustain our lives…or they can impoverish and create havoc for our hearts and souls and those who are around us as well. Thinking about Elijah and our story we read this morning reminds me of this lesson. He has just defeated the prophets of Baal by calling down the fire of God to consume them. Now, I am not sure Elijah had second thoughts about the request and the act, but obviously once he had prevailed and Jezebel called for his life… he ran for his life!
Have you ever been there? In a conflicted situation and pondered the possibility of just burning it to the ground? Well, maybe not literally… but calling for the fire of God to just level everything so you can start all over again? I wondered, as I read this story again for the first time, if as Elijah was running for is life, he thought perhaps he might have handled all this better? Perhaps the fire and the death of the other prophets was not his best option? Perhaps it would have been better if he had invited them to the table, made an effort to understand them, give them time to understand him, bring them along on the journey to God with him.
I wonder what was running through his mind as he was running for his life through the wilderness… other than, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.”
There seems to be at least a morsel of regret in his words. In what seems a triumph of the power of God on his behalf his soul is depleted and diminished…starved for sustenance and nourishment… “Take me now God… for I am not better than my ancestors.” I wondered how long he had been feeding at the table of negativity, or anger, of hostility, …the table of “us versus them” before he called down the fire upon his adversaries? I wonder how long he had been dwelling on what was wrong with them, pondering, formulating just the right words to level at them, to condemn their actions and lives…dwelling on their words against him, focusing on the negatives of life and accusation? I wonder, how many times he ran their words and actions…his words and actions through his head as he ran for his life?]
I don’t know about you, I find it too easy to focus on the negative, what’s wrong with the world, with those around me, and that kind of focus is soul sucking, heart wrenching, life diminishing work. I remember one of my mentors, Paul Morris, as I began my journey into ordained ministry. I was in my first church appointment while working on my Bachelor’s Degree. I don’t remember what led to the conversation, yet I remember the conversation as if it was yesterday. He told me, anytime I get a card of appreciation, or thanks in my ministry, to create a file and put those in there, and when times get difficult, and they will he said, get that file out and read through it, and remember your calling and why you do what you do. I have done that over the last 27 years, not every card, but now and then when I get one, I will put it in the file and when the negative sets in, when the criticism feels heavy, when I feel the weight of Elijah and wonder if I too should be running for my life, I reach for that file and read through it. It is food for my soul.
Negativity is like spicy hot sauce to a dragon… it will consume one’s heart and soul and burn the house down around you. It is the wrong thing to feast upon when we come to the table. I know, it is a poison to me. I know, because I can be in the midst of good and soul feeding work and then hear one negative comment… and that is what I find myself focusing on, maybe you find that too at times. I have a high school classmate who lives in Boston who is a therapist and colleague. We were talking on the phone sometime back and he was telling me of studies that have been done on the work of the brain. He said one can rewire the brain, so to speak. Some might refer to it as a meditation or mindfulness practice. He shared anytime one encounters or has negative thoughts to immediately force yourself to focus on positive experiences and thoughts and one can refocus mental state.
I was reminded of his teaching this past week at Annual Conference. Here at FUMC we know, as much as anyone, in the aftermath of the devastation St Louis the negativity that has consumed so much of our denomination, our conference, our community of faith…and even to a large degree, rightly so. This is a painful and difficult time as we journey through this discernment and decision-making process looking at our future. The task, for some, might feeling like one is running for their life. I was reminded of the weightiness of the task our (denominationally, conference, and local church) … twice this past week. Both times I was sitting in worship at Annual Conference… at the ordination service during the sermon I found myself fighting back tears as I listened to the words of the preacher talking about relationship and connection. During the Memorial Service remembering two colleagues and mentors of mine who taught me, exampled for me what church and ministry ought to be about.
The words of Frederick Buechner, author and theologian came to mind and his comments on “Tears…”
You never know what may cause them. The sight of the Atlantic Ocean can do it, or a piece of music, or a face you’ve never seen before. A pair of somebody’s old shoes can do it. Almost any movie made before the great sadness that came over the world after the Second World War, a horse cantering across a meadow, the high school basketball team running out onto the gym floor at the start of a game. You can never be sure. But of this you can be sure. Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention.
They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go next.
The image that come to mind in the Memorial Service moment was of my dear friend Tom… his hugs were soul food for me… they were always like a warm blanket that enveloped. He would move slowly, deliberately toward you and slowly wrap his arms around you and draw you in… these images were moments of being able to set down all the stuff of negativity, of soul sucking work, of life diminishing tasks, even if for just a moment… to once again be sustained and nourished by nothing by love, by the soul food of life and faith. It was an opportunity to hear the voice of our lives, not unlike the one Elijah heard as he was running for his life.… , ‘Get up and eat.’
What is the soul food of your life? What are those words, those experiences, those persons that help you set down the burdens of negativity and the soul sucking work of reaching those who refuse to hear… What is that soul food that quenches the corrosive “hot sauce” in our life and invites you to get up and eat.
Today… we gather around this table in the midst of a world that too often tells us we should be constantly running for our lives… however…today, once again we gather around this table to be reminded to stop for a moment, set down those burdens, gather here with community, for here… here… at this table is soul food… Life for Your Run. It is So. Amen.