We're so glad you've joined us today on Palm Sunday!
Today is Palm Sunday. If we were meeting in person, we would be making palm crosses to wear while we discussed the lesson. Take some time to think about your past week, and any joys or concerns you may have. You can share those in the comments as you feel comfortable. When you are ready, use the prayer below to get started.
On this day of great rejoicing
Lord Jesus Christ, when we welcome
You as our King and Savior,
we also walk in the shadow of Your cross.
Hosanna! we cry.
Blessed are You who come
in God's name to save us.
Strengthen our faith on this Palm Sunday
so that when the time comes
to carry the cross we might still
call out to You with heartfelt praise.
Give us the grace and the courage
to follow You this Holy Week
from death to resurrection,
from darkness to the fullness of light.
We need You,
Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior.
Our scripture lesson this week is 1 Kings 18:5-18.
This lesson is from the early portion of the ministry of the prophet Elijah. This was after the split of the nation of Israel to two kingdoms: the northern kingdom Israel and the southern kingdom Judah. The northern kingdom was ruled by King Ahab who was married to Jezebel. She was a devout worshipper of Baal and he became one too.
Elijah proclaimed that there would not be dew or rain in the next few years except at my word since the people had disobeyed God’s law. This would have been a grave insult to Baal since he was the god of fertility.
Following the announcement of the famine Elijah went into hiding. Elijah stayed with a widow woman and her son. While Elijah was there he demonstrated God’s power with the widow never running out of oil and flour to make bread and her son was raised from the dead.
King Ahab and Obadiah, his palace administrator, went out to look for grass for the horses and mules. Obadiah was a devout believer in the Lord. He had to be very courageous to hold the position he had and the faith he embraced since King Ahab worship Baal. King Ahab divided in half the land they each separately would cover.
About three and a half years have past and God told Elijah to met up with King Ahab since God was ready to make it rain again. Elijah met up with Obadiah. Obadiah recognized him and bowed down to the ground saying is it really you. Elijah said yes, tell Ahab that I am here. Obadiah asked if he did something wrong. If he told Ahab that he saw Elijah and then could not find him again Obadiah would be put to death because he didn’t capture and bring Elijah with him. Ahab had been looking everywhere for Elijah and no one knew where he was. Obadiah told Elijah that when Jezebel was killing the prophets of the Lord that he had hid a hundred of the Lord’s prophets in two caves and supplied them with bread and water. Now you tell me to go tell my master that Elijah is here. He will kill me. Elijah swore an oath to God that he would be there.
When Ahab saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” A commentator had contrast how Obadiah and Ahab greeted Elijah. Obadiah had bow down to Elijah and was glad to see him and Ahab had nothing but contempt for him.
Elijah said,”I have not made trouble for Israel but you and your father’s family has. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and followed Baal.” After three and a half years Ahab did not accept the blame of turning Israel away from God and to worshiping Baal. This is exactly the reason there was a drought and famine.
What is not in today’s lesson is what happened afterwards. Elijah asked for a contest between God and Baal. Who ever wins would be the one true God. They were to prepare each a sacrifice and pray to its God ,and the God that answers with fire, let him be God. This should be a fair trial because there was over 400 Baal priest plus the support of the King and Queen and most of the people for Baal and there was only Elijah for God. The Baal priest prayed and screamed and even cut themselves and put the blood on their bull. They did this from morning till evening with no fire appearing.
Now it was Elijah turn. He build an altar out of twelve stones for the twelve tribes of Israel and placed wood and his bull to be sacrificed. Then he dug a trench and then then poured an abundance of water over it so everyone would know it was a miracle from God. Elijah prayed, “Lord, hear me, and answer me, that it may be known that thou art God in Israel, to whom alone the homage and devotion of Israel are due, and that I am thy servant, and do all that I have done, am doing, and shall do, as thy agent, at thy word, and not gratifying any humour or passion of my own. Thou employers me; Lord, make it appear it that thou doesn’t so.”
God immediately answered by sending fire from heaven and that consumed the bull, then the wood, evaporated the water even in the trench and even turned the stones of the altar into ash. The people fell to their faces and said, “Jehovah is the God and not Baal; we are convinced and satisfied of it: Jehovah, he is the God.”
God made it rain ending the drought.
Courage has always been the trademark of God’s spokesman. Like Elijah, these prophets continue to proclaim courageously and lead faithfully according to the Lord’s words. And like Elijah, these prophets were considered troublemakers.
In many parts of the world today, an increased measure of courage is required to preach and teach the gospel. Defiant authorities in countries like China or Sudan consider followers of Jesus to be modern troublemakers. Such leaders work hard to silence missionary voices. In India, Christian ministers have been beaten by Hindu radicals. The country of Turkey has displaced Christians searching for a place to worship. And all over the world, Christian refugees seek new homes in nations that will welcome them in peace.
Let us pray for these faithful servants of the Lord, that they may be restored, strengthened, settled and empowered with the courage that has always characterized God’s people in an often hostile world. May we learn from the examples of courage of our ancient prophets and our fellow Christians in the world today.
Father empower us with courage to live out our faith and speak your word on your behalf. We pray for our fellow believers in other lands where living for you means putting their lives on the line daily. May they respond with the Holy Spirit- empowered courage to the challenges they face. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Our benediction this week comes from the Common English Version.
Next Sunday's lesson will be on Isaiah 53:4-11. This will be the first Sunday on a month called Prophets of Restoration.
We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.