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Dream Big: It Only Takes One
May 29, 2016

Paradise Valley United Methodist Church

1 KINGS 18:17-21

In celebration of Memorial Day, I wrote about heroes in the E-News. Incidentally, how many of you read E-News? I wrote about my great-great-grandfather who was killed in the Battle of Gettysburg. I told you about the Reverend Edward Norris who preached in opposition to the Salem Witch Trials. We all have heroes and heroines in our family tree.

I recall Pastor Dave’s sermon in which he told us about his grandfather, a Methodist missionary in Borneo, who died in a horrible concentration camp five days before the prisoners were liberated by American soldiers.

Speaking of ancestors, I saw Betty and Nathan Norris last Tuesday. The Norrises are members of our church. I asked Nate if we might be related, and told him that my Norris ancestors came over on the Mayflower. He said, “My ancestors waved at the Mayflower! I’m part Cherokee!” So much for boasting; that put me in my place!

The lectionary, the suggested scripture lesson for today, tells us about a biblical hero who saved the faith. The title: Dream Big! It Only Takes One.”

The situation looked hopeless. But, there was one man, one person, and it only takes one. King Ahab, for political reasons, married Jezebel, the daughter of the King of Tyre, and brought her to his palace in Samaria. Not only did he marry the foreign king’s daughter, he converted to her religion and erected a temple and altars to Baal and Asherah, Baal’s consort. Baalism was a fertility religion where worshipers had intimate relations with both female and male prostitutes in the hope of securing prosperity. The worship of Baal was strongly condemned by the prophets of Israel, as seen in the Leviticus passages condemning “males lying with males,” a prohibition which is not relevant to us today, as there is no such religion.

Queen Jezebel practiced her religion with zeal and ferocity. She brought 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah with her. She set out to kill the prophets of the Lord (100 went into hiding), and declared that her religion was now the national religion of Israel.

The worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was threatened. The national identity of Israel was at stake. It looked hopeless, but there was one man, one person, and it only takes one. Elijah courageously confronted the king. He took on the establishment. He incurred the wrath of Queen Jezebel but he was undaunted, unafraid and gave a challenge that the king could not ignore.

Elijah told the king to order the prophets of Baal and Asherah to a contest on top of Mt. Carmel. There confronting a huge crowd that had come to watch, Elijah shouted, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” The crowd was silent.

Then Elijah ordered that two piles of wood be stacked, and two bulls be cut into pieces. He challenged the prophets, “You call on the name of your god and I will on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire is the true God.” The crowd responded, “A good idea. What a contest!” Elijah said to the Baal prophets, “Please, you go first.”

All morning they cried, “O Baal, answer us.” They wore themselves out praying and limping around the altar. They cut themselves and their blood flowed. At noon, Elijah couldn’t contain himself and began teasing, taunting, jeering. “What’s the matter? Is Baal meditating? Has he gone to pee? Did he go on a trip? Did he fall asleep? Wake him up!” But nothing happened.

Then Elijah told the crowd to come near. He took twelve stones, one for each of the twelve tribes, dug a trench, laid the wood on the stones, and commanded, “Bring four jars of water and pour it on the wood. Do it a second time. Do it a third time. Do it a fourth time.” The wood was drenched and the trench was filled with water.

Then Elijah prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that these people may know that you are God.”

And the fire of the Lord fell, consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and cried, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” Elijah ran down the mountain in triumph, with King Ahab following him in his chariot.

Elijah had the courage to confront the king. Elijah was fighting for the soul of Israel, the core. It looked hopeless, but there was one man, one person, and it only takes one.

Can you see yourself running down the mountain with your arms waving in triumph? Is your dream big enough for you to take courage and confront who and what is wrong? I salute the 15 members of our church who joined the demonstration on the capitol lawn demanding funding for our schools.

Flint’s water is poisoned. Children are suffering with irreparable brain damage. It looked hopeless, but there was one woman, a mother, and it only takes one. LeeAnne Walters took on the government and exposed the lead contamination in Flint’s water. The first response? The city offered her a garden hose to hook up to her neighbor’s water! But she persisted and the fight goes on.

Forty some veterans died because they were denied care at the Phoenix VA Hospital. Sick veterans endured ridiculously long waiting time, and reports of long waiting times were manipulated. These were veterans who risked their lives to fight for our country, veterans too many of whom live on the streets, a national tragedy! It looked hopeless, but there was one woman, one person, and it only takes one—Paula Pedene, a disabled veteran. She and Dr. Kate Mitchell took on the hospital authorities and we are still seeing the repercussions.

Helen who was blind lived about six blocks from the Merced Church when I was pastor. She walked to the church with her guide dog, Foxie. One day Foxie was attacked by another dog. Both Helen and Foxie were frightened, but there was one group, and it only takes one. Our senior high youth group swung into action and took on the city to enforce dog laws. They wrote letters to the Chief of Police and the newspaper, demanding that the leash laws be enforced. One Sunday afternoon, the youth gathered in Helen’s house, and then walked her back to the church, praying all along the way that the route would be safe for Foxie and Helen. When they arrived at the church for the youth meeting, Helen stayed and spontaneously gave a moving, inspiring testimony to the power of prayer. It only takes one.

You are one person. Do you doubt your power? Do you have the courage in the name of Jesus to confront evil, to take on those who mistreat others? Do you fight injustice?

Do you stand up to bullies? We had a bully when I was in grade school. He was in high school and terrorized us younger ones. He disrupted ball games. It looked hopeless, but there was one student, and it only takes one. Art confronted the bully. He walked up to him and quietly, confidently, courageously talked to him. I don’t know what Art said, but the bully quietly walked away. The bully, by the way, was my cousin!

Sometimes confronting is not possible and you have to be creative. Jesus taught us not to resist, not to fight, but not to give in either. Jesus taught us to be creative and turn the tables. Jesus told his followers that when they were compelled to carry a backpack, carry it two miles. Usually we have been taught that going the second mile means to be generous. But that’s not what Jesus meant. The only one who could compel someone to carry his pack was a Roman soldier, but the law stated only one mile. These were revolutionary times; soldiers were on edge. Even the slightest incident could incite a riot. So Jesus told his followers to not only carry the pack one mile but go the second mile as well and get the soldier in trouble with his superiors.

Be creative, turn the tables on the oppressor, the bully. Ellie and I often watch the Hour of Power. Bobby Schuller, grandson of deceased Robert Schuller, is the delightful preacher. He told a story about how he handled a bully. He was in Middle School which is a hot bed for bullying. Every day while he was eating his lunch, the bully would come, grab one of Bobby’s sandwiches, take a bite and walk on. Bobby worked up courage one day to confront the bully. He walked up to the bully who, surrounded by friends, laughed at Bobby and asked, “You want to fight?” Looking at the gang, Bobby walked away.

Then he decided to get creative. He went into his backyard, scooped up some dog leavings, took two slices of bread and put dog poop between them. Sure enough, the arrogant bully with a smirk on his face, grabbed the sandwich, took a bite, spit it out and said, “This tastes like (and he used the “s” word)!” Bobby said, “It is dog poop!” Jesus told his followers not to resist. Don’t fight, but don’t give in either; turn the tables. Incidentally, Bobby and the bully became best of friends! Now we know what the Psalmist meant when he said, “Prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies!”

Our 13 -year-old granddaughter, Amanda, before she heard the dog story, said that Bobby could have brought an extra sandwich for the bully. (Quite wise!) That might have disarmed him!

Harry Emerson Fosdick, renowned preacher of the last century, said, "Always take a job that is too big for you.” When you take on a big task, when confronted by a situation in which God calls you to act, remember how Elijah called on the Lord. Make Elijah’s prayer your prayer, “O God, let it be known that you are God and that I am your servant.” Pray that God be glorified by your actions. Don’t be timid or overwhelmed because it only takes one.

© 2016 Douglas I. Norris