"Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence…" - I Kings 19:11-12
They descended on us one day, sweaty and breathless, strangely shod and be-Spandexed. They were young and old, male and female, of many races, but they all had matching helmet hair and enviable calves that looked like they could vault their owners over our steeple from a standing start. They had started out with the Pacific at their backs, and they weren't going to stop till their front tires sank into Atlantic sand. They wouldn't stop, but they would pause for a couple of days on the floor of our gym.
You see, they had looked around at the state of the world, at how many people were living in poverty housing or no housing, at how many Elijahs were sleeping underfed beneath broom trees, and they had decided to do something about it. Like Elijah, they had decided to head out into the wilderness and not stop until they met God.
And there were great headwinds that roared so loudly over their helmets that they couldn't hear anything else. But God wasn't in the wind.
There were railroad tracks and unkempt roads and gravelly patches and rumble strips that shook them and pitched them from their bikes like earthquakes shaking pictures off the walls. But God wasn't in the shaking.
They felt sunrises like fire on their backs and were blinded by sunsets in their faces, blazing like glory. But God wasn't in the fire.
And then one day, somewhere just a couple of miles outside a little town at the epicenter of noplace, the crickets in the weeds and the humming of the wheels and the silky rush of the wind blended together into one great white-noise silence. And in the silence, they heard the voice of God.
If you want to know what they heard, and to get a piece of their action, check out their story here.
For all who journey in far places searching for you and your realm, O God, we pray. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is the Pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church, Syracuse, New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.