Church Anew is excited to provide practical resources to preachers and other church leaders including curricula, sermon series, and ministry ideas to spark imagination for your congregation. These are free to adapt and use in your context, with your people.
This sermon series has been adapted from use at St. Andrew Lutheran Church, where it was used in May and June of 2020. These texts have provided a Spirit-filled online worship series for our community, and we hope that the adaptations made make it possible for you to use in your congregation as well. The descriptions of each week are not intended to provide rigorous textual analysis, but rather to ignite biblical imagination for preachers and faithful people.
Rise Up: Sermon Series Overview
Rise up. From a song by singer/songwriter Andra Day, that might as well be an anthem for this moment:
“When the silence isn’t quiet
and it feels like it’s getting hard to breathe
and I know you feel like dying
But I promise we’ll take the world to its feet
and move mountains.”
Uprising is happening all around us. People on the streets, calling for a more just world. People in their homes, rising above the quarantine to love their neighbor. In this sermon series, we will closely study the story of the prophet Elijah from the Old Testament book of 1 Kings. This prophet enters a book that tells the national history of the people of Israel, chronicling the rise and fall of Israel’s kings.
What can at times read like an ancient piece of national propaganda is radically interrupted by a narrative that takes a completely different turn. Elijah enters the story uninvited as “the troubler of Israel” (1 Kings 18:17). Together, we will study this ancient book and listen for God’s voice in acts of overwhelming kindness from a widow, dramatic debates with political leaders, displays of God’s commitment, and even the sound of sheer silence.
Week One: From Death to Life
1 Kings 17: 7-16 (and if time, 17-24)
Every hero has a backstory. Every prophet has a call story. Elijah’s call story comes when he is confronted by the suffering left in the wake of the political regime of Israel. Elijah doesn’t encounter this theoretically by reading a newspaper account or reading about it on Twitter. Rather, the Widow of Zarephath articulates the injustice in her being. Indeed it was the responsibility of the political leaders, the king, to care for the widows, orphans, and immigrants in the land. But it is God who brings life from death—food for the hungry, resurrection for the sick. Elijah’s short speech provide words to live by: “Do not be afraid.” If we name our fear, it no longer has power over us.
Week Two: From Fear to Hope
1 Kings 18: 1-10; 17-19
Elijah’s short sermon from last week (“Do not be afraid”) creates new possibilities in all of his interactions. As Walter Brueggemann writes, “This authorized utterance creates a new circumstance and a new prospect for well-being, especially among those who have no alternative resources of hope.” The king is on the lookout for the prophet, calling him a “troubler of Israel.” Elijah’s curt response indicts the king on behalf of the widow and all those whom the government has left behind—forsaking the law is forsaking the call to care for the widow, the orphan, and the immigrant in the land. In a dramatic encounter with the most powerful person in the land, Elijah’s confidence creates a new possibility for well-being, and even for hope.
Week Three: From Unanswered to Eternally Spoken
1 Kings 18: 20-40
The prophets of Baal and the prophet Elijah stand for a showdown. Whose god will answer their prayers? This passage has a rhythm as Elijah taunts the other prophets: “How long will you go limping with two different opinions?” You can’t have it both ways! The prophets of Baal receive no response, no answer, no voice. Elijah’s speech, once again creates new possibility: “Answer me, O Lord, so that this people may know that you … have turned their hearts back.” In this dramatic display of God’s ongoing care of the people, we can trust that God will not go without voice. We follow a God with a living Word.
Week Four: From Justice to Peace
1 Kings 19: 9-13
A common chant in the protests these weeks has been, “No justice. No peace.” Some may read this text and hear God’s presence “in the sound of sheer silence” as a peaceful, airy sound. But this peace only comes through fire, earthquake, and hurricane winds. Elijah’s persistent call for justice for God’s people ends with a question that haunts us even today: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” What are each of us doing here? How are each of us responding to the call that comes uninvited, unbidden, and at times unwelcome?
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As an ecumenical and inclusive ministry of St. Andrew Lutheran Church, the content of each Church Anew blog represents the voice of the individual writer and does not necessarily reflect the position of Church Anew or St. Andrew Lutheran Church on any specific topic.