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Seeking hope in the summer of our discontent

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By Pastor Phil

It is not hard to get discouraged by the world around us this summer.

Whether it is attacks by ISIS overseas, mass murders in the U.S., police shootings done in questionable circumstances or the targeted assassinations of police officers, the world seems to be in danger of spinning off its axis.

Add to that the slow burn of climate change or the frustration with our political system (that’s a bi-partisan and non-partisan frustration that seems to pervade our politics this year), and it is pretty easy to just want to crawl into a cave.

Then if you have some personal challenges as well – a serious illness, a death of a loved one, uncertainty at work or disruption caused by the storms of summer, it can all feel overwhelming.

So here are a couple of stories from our sacred texts that might offer a glimmer of hope. The Jewish prophet Elijah was fleeing from the murderous ruler Jezebel. He was ready to give up and asked God to take his life. God’s messenger told him to keep going and he did, finally winding up in a cave – you know, like that cave we sometimes was to crawl into.

He was looking for God. God wasn’t in the wind, wasn’t in the earthquake, wasn’t in the fire – all those symbols of great power. God was in the sheer silence at the entrance to the cave. Even in the cave, we can find God.

Jesus was a busy guy in the days he visited the villages and countryside. The crowds were pressing in on him. His closest followers turned out to be sort of dense. The religious authorities were challenging him, trying to trip him up in front of the crowds, turning up the heat, finally plotting to kill him.

Over and over, Jesus would go to a quiet place and reconnect this spirit with God. Prayer was central to his being.

Do you see a theme here?

In the midst of chaos and threats, Elijah and Jesus found quiet spaces where they could find God – and God could find them.

There is a bit more to their stories, though. They found refuge and relief – and encouragement. But they did not stay in the cave or in the quiet place.

When his followers asked him how to pray, Jesus taught them what we know as the Lord’s Prayer – “Our Father…” It is a prayer in the plural voice, all of us praying together. After his execution and resurrection, he met followers on the road and broke and blessed bread – he shared a meal with them.

It is so important to spend time in the cave. We need to withdraw from the chaos of the world now and then to restore our souls. When our sense of hope is rekindled, then we can face the world once again.