The Still, Small Voice
The expression “Pasadena Restart” shouldn’t be new to Faith and Fellowship readers, as several articles have touched on the project since its inception a couple years ago. The folks at Immanuel Lutheran in Pasadena are getting to see things up close, and none closer than their pastor of twenty years, yours truly. The term itself doesn’t indicate much of what restarting a congregation may involve, or how thoroughgoing the changes may be. One change is for sure, though: the pastor is out. For him and his family, “restart” means starting again, somewhere else. Friends would ask us, in tones that seemed to offer us permission to vent a bit (if that were our need), “How are you guys with all this? The talk seems upbeat, but how about you?”
How indeed? I hark back to what was, I believe, my first sermon at Immanuel, when I came home from seminary in ’73, was Elijah’s story (1 Kings 19). That strange aftermath to God’s triumph on Mount Carmel over Baal and his prophets. Elijah realizes that the pyrotechnics on the mountain haven’t changed anything. He gets discouraged, totally. Nothing he’s done has made any difference. He’s alone. There’s no hope that he can see, and no future. He gives up.
Remember the story? God responds by treating him to an object lesson of sorts. Come out to the mouth of the cave, I’ve got something for you: A windstorm, category 5, enough to shatter rocks. But God doesn’t speak in the wind. A powerful earthquake leaves Elijah none the wiser. A wildfire tells him nothing. Then God does speak, in “a still, small voice,” a message for Elijah’s soul. I am in control. Evil will be defeated. My kingdom doesn’t end with you. Go, anoint Elisha prophet in your place.
How do you suppose Elijah felt about that? If ego were his problem, it might have been tough. Myself, I think he was ecstatic. God was giving hope, and a future.
Doreen and I are ecstatic that God is giving hope of a vibrant, flourishing ministry here in Pasadena. (It is, after all, not about us.)
Your ongoing prayers for this project are much appreciated. It’s exciting for all concerned; it isn’t easy for anyone.
Rev. Steve Lazicki is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Brethren Church in Pasadena, CA.