Pastor Tim Ayers of Peace Church UCC in Gladbrook
The Holy Grudge Match
I think I have finally outgrown it. I can remember watching the old black and white TV as a kid. My four brothers and I would sit on the floor and would not miss TV wrestling. Ten minutes after it started one of the smaller ones came flying off the the top rope, also known as the arm of the couch. That always reduced the five of us to the infamous Battle Royale. The TV wrestling was fake and so was the battle between the five brothers. It was all in fun but for all of us it was good entertainment. As I thought of it, my mind went back to Old Testament story where Elijah and his God challenged the prophets of Baal and their god to a sacrifice off.It was a simple challenge. The people of Israel had rejected the God of Abraham and turned to the false god, Baal. Elijah was the only prophet left for Jehovah God whereas Baal’s religious representatives numbered 450. So Elijah challenged the god Baal and his prophets to a burnt sacrifice battle. The rules were simple, two bulls would be provided, one on each altar. Baal’s prophets would call down fire from heaven to engulf their offering and Elijah would do the same. For an entire morning Baal’s prophets called on their god. They cut themselves to offer their own blood to their god. Nothing happened except for Elijah trash talking on their heads. It is actually funny what he said. Elijah told them that maybe Baal is hard of hearing. Maybe Baal went out for a walk. Baal could have fallen asleep so you better go wake him up. My favorite was where Elijah told them to check in the bathroom because Baal may have stopped in the john. The prophets tried and tried but nothing happened. Elijah’s turn came and he set up the altar with the wood and the bull on top. He asked a few men to fetch lots of water. He had them pour the water on the altar all over the wood and the bull. It was soaked. Me, I have a tough enough time getting a barrel of papers to burn and if they are damp, it is nearly impossible. Elijah did what he could do and then prayed. God took care of the rest. According to the passage in First Kings 18, the God of Abraham, our God, reigned down fire from heaven that consumed the wood and the bull before lapping at the ditches of water surrounding the altar. Jehovah God had won once again. The prophets of Baal lost the battle and would soon enough lose their heads. They believed and trusted in a false god. When put to the test, a false god will always fail when stood next to the true God.In our own lives we often face the same battle. We hear God’s still small voice calling to return to Him but there is always something that is more important, more alluring or will make us more money that gets in the way. We all have our false gods. We call them by other names but they serve the same purpose. They are there to separate us from the true God. Ever wonder what those false gods are? On Sunday morning, when we should be in church, ask yourself why you are not there. The answer will let you know what your false gods are.