August 2020

What Are You Doing Here?

10th Sunday After Pentecost, August 9, 2020
1st Kings 19:9-18, Matthew 14:22-33

– The Reverend Dr. Arnold Isidore Thomas –


The Prophet Elijah, in fear for his life, fled the wrath of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel and wound up in a cave on Mount Horeb, where God confronted him with a question: “What are you doing here?”

Now this is a strange question, especially coming from God, because Mount Horeb, also called Mount Sinai, was a holy place. It is the location where Moses met God in his exodus from Egypt and received the Ten Commandments. It was the kind of no-brainer to which Elijah might respond, “Duh.”

Can you imagine God asking us in this house of worship, “What are you doing here?” Yet, come to think of it, that’s not a strange question to ask. When worship is nothing more than a ritual going through the motions with little spirituality, do you not ask yourself that question? I am delighted to know that this time of physical separation from our sanctuary and each other has incited a desire to reconnect with one another in safe meaningful ways as people of God, proving that our life together is spiritually meaningful and uplifting.

Still, it is important to ask this question of ourselves in different settings of our lives and for so many reasons. When the sense of enthusiasm, purpose and direction has gone out of our jobs, our marriage, or life in general, don’t we ask ourselves this question? Students in college wondering what they want to do with the rest of their lives often ask themselves the question. “What are you doing here?”

Mark Twain said that “the two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Yet that period of uncertainty, of trying new ventures, not knowing where the next turn will take you, may often feel like a dark period of exile from the secure place you once knew.

I have often felt that this slower, more cautious pace of life into which the coronavirus pandemic has forced us feels like a period of exile from the security we once knew and where we ask ourselves, “What are we doing here?” However, I ask this question in the words of the psalmist, “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (137:4)

The Apostle Peter would discover that singing the Lord’s song would involve learning how to walk amid dark turbulent waters trusting that the hand of God would uphold him. The Prophet Elijah would learn how to sing the Lord’s song by leaving the sacred security of Mount Horeb and returning to the place from which he fled trusting that a people of God awaited him.

And suddenly I am discovering that in this overwhelmingly white community of Underhill in the overwhelming white state of Vermont, the recent appearance of “Black Lives Matter” graffiti on roads, along with attempts to deface them, has prompted community-wide conversation that includes as its centerpiece the question, “What are we doing here?”

Maybe this pandemic, despite the disruption and despair it has placed upon our lives, has also enabled us to be still long enough to hear the still small voice of God.

Where is that place in which the still small voice of God is asking you “What are you doing here?” Wherever you encounter that soft, sacred whisper, know that you are in a foreign dark wilderness of exile, from which there is no returning to the place and security you once knew; trusting, however, that God will uphold and guide you to better place where you can and must be. Amen.