sermon 6/2/13- If Your God Is Dead...

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Sermon preached by

The Rev. Fulton Porter,III


St. Thomas Church, Chicago, 6/2/13

Pentecost III

1 Kings 18:20-39



If Your God Is Dead…



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.  1Kings 18: 27-29


In the 1960's Time Magazine startled the world when it reported on its front cover that leading religious scholars in seminaries were raising the question "Is God Dead?" The audacity of the article raised the ire of many in the Judeo-Christian community and the response was angry!

 The thrust of the theological premise was that the people of God have become so inactive that his presence could not be felt, and so silent that his voice could not be heard. Thus the question was raised, "Is God Dead?" What was really being asked was whether the people of God had turned a deaf ear toward the social ills of the day.


It is the duty of every child of God to work to insure that the world knows that our God lives.

His hands of mercy are ours. His feet, which answer the call to service, are ours. His voice, which sounds the Clarion call to let righteousness run down like a mighty stream, his voice is ours combined. The world today must remember that our God is not an empty idol, but is a powerful personal God who lives on the altars of our hearts!


I was fascinated by our Old Testament Lesson today.  I love this account. This text is one of the most interesting in the scriptures.  This text first considers the prophet Elijah atop Mt. Carmel in a contest with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 additional prophets of Jezebel. The occasion was prompted because Israel has been unduly influenced by the worship of Idol Gods.  The wife of the King, Jezebel, was primarily responsible for the introduction of this immorality to the people. Until this time there had been wickedness in Israel but 1 Kings 16:30 says the evil nature of King Ahab surpassed all those before him.  Ahab had married the daughter of the Priest-King of Tyre in a political bond between allies. When she came to Israel she brought with her an entourage that carried her properties, her cultist religion and 450 prophets of her god Baal and another 400 priests. This is why I counsel people to be careful who they marry because they bring their baggage with them.


Baalism was not new to the Israelites. When they came to the land of Canaan they found the worship of this idol god all around them. The Canaanites believed that Baal was the supreme God, Equivalent to the Greek God Zeus. Every locality had its own local Baal, identified by a suffix attached to the name. There was Baal-gad (The Lord of Good luck) noted in Joshua 11:17; Baal-Meon (Lord of the Fine House) Ezekiel 25:9; Baal-Perazim (Lord of Clothing, breaches) 2 Sam. 5:20; and Baal-zebub (Lord of the Flies and Darkness) 2 Kings 1:2. 

His followers believed that Baal was the god of fertile crops. They believed that he was responsible for the budding of the flowers and rich harvest. He was the god of fertility in their minds and they attributed to him all of the responsibility for the growth of nature.  They also believed that Baal only lived in the spring.  However they believed that commencing with summer he began to die and by the fall he was dead. In other words, Baal died each year. Each spring they thought that his sister Aneth chased away death and Baal lived again and when he lived the grasses began to grow and spring came.


With this back drop Elijah came to King Ahab with a proposition to test, once and for all, which god is God.  He proposed the building of two altars with two sacrifices and the god who was real would answer by consuming the sacrifice with fire.   For Ahab and the prophets to agree to such a test must have meant that this event was staged in the spring.  For had it been any other time Baal would either be dying or dead and they would surely lose the test. The trees must have been blooming...Baal was alive!  The lilies of the field waved in the wind...Baal was flourishing! The green grass was abundant...Baal was standing tall!


Elijah proclaimed that it was now time for those who loved the Lord to choose their God.  That same message from Elijah is important to the world today, because there are some who have fallen into Baal worship. There are some who believe that Baal-intellect is responsible for the great accomplishments of our age. They felt that mind and reason triumph over all others and they bow to the altar of education. But education of the mind without salvation of the soul is the vain worship of a false god.


There are some who worship daily before the images of the all mighty dollar and believe whole heartedly in the power of their god Baal-finance.  When the time comes when finance escapes them for a while and they can't seem to make ends meet.  They believe he is dead in the winter, but he'll live again in the spring. So they try their luck aimlessly in schemes hoping that Baal will come alive in the spring.


There are some who worship their god of Baal-popularity.They feel that popularity will make them happy. Although they notice that the same people who praise them on day stab them in the back on another day, they continue to struggle to keep up with Joneses and out dress the Smiths and to drive a longer car than their neighbor, hoping the Baal would come alive in the spring.

There are so many in the world today who are bowing down to Baal that the Church needs to say if Baal is Baal, let him answer.


It’s time for the church to say, that God is not a seasonal God but he is perennial and universal.  I hear the Psalmist say "he that keepeth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps."  Whenever we call on him, we expect an answer.  Every child of God needs to tell the world God is alive and God cares. God cares about the lost and we show the world that God is not dead by going outside of our fold and provide shelter for the homeless. God is pleased.  We need to let the world know that God is bread for them when they are hungry. Let those whose stomachs curled up in hunger know that God is not dead for he sends loaves from his abundance in the hands of his servants. For those who thirst for the waters of righteousness, we should give them a cool drink from the fountain that flows from Immanuel’s veins.


Elijah standing on the hill top called upon the followers of Baal to show that he lives. "You call on your god first, and if your god is dead..try mine."  On a prayer from Elijah, fire came down from heaven and the world knew that God was God.   The world today has found that its god is dead.  It sought after love and found only hate.  It sought after peace and found only confusion.  It sought after success and found only failure.  It sought after the easy life and found only hard times. It sought after the highroad but found only the low road.


If your God is dead, try mine. My God is able.  My God, not Baal, is responsible for the swift swoop of the Eagle and sweet song of the birds of the air. My God, not Baal, moves the clouds through the air and hangs the constellations in the sky!  My God, not Baal, makes the flowers bloom. My God, not Baal, makes the pine tree point its finger to the sky.  My God, not Baal, hollows the valleys out and builds the mountains up. If your God is not able to lift up a bowed down head, try mine. If your God is not able to be a shepherd when you get lost, try mine. I heard David say "I will lift mine eyes to the hills.  From whence cometh my help? My help come from the Lord who made the heavens and the earth."


I thought I heard brother David proclaim: “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.  Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, for your help is on the way.

Lift up your heads because what was supposed to kill you only served to make you stronger.

Lift up your heads, for in every situation and every circumstance I came to remind us that God is able!  God is Able!



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