We Didn’t Start the Fire

Words of Wisdom: We Didn’t Start the Fire, Billy Joel
Sacred Words: 1 Kings 18:21-39

Note: There is a short gap in the video due to a problem with the video equipment.

We get it wrong, too.

Like the Baalist prophets, we act like there is something we can do to light the fire.

We Didn’t Start the Fire.


Confused in north

about Ahab

marries Jezebel

Builds Baal shrine

mixed messages = confusion

Being both

Jealous God – YHWH

Sends prophet

Prophet Elijah challenges 

In the challenge

Call on god Baal

Hopping Dance

Cut selves

All day


So they took the ox he had given them, prepared it for the altar, then prayed to Baal. They prayed all morning long, “O Baal, answer us!”

But nothing happened—not so much as a whisper of breeze. Desperate, they jumped and stomped on the altar they had made.

By noon, Elijah had started making fun of them, taunting, “Call a little louder—he is a god, after all.

Maybe he’s off meditating somewhere or other, or maybe he’s gotten involved in a project, or maybe he’s on vacation.

You don’t suppose he’s overslept, do you, and needs to be waked up?”

They prayed louder and louder, cutting themselves with swords and knives—a ritual common to them—until they were covered with blood.

This went on until well past noon. They used every religious trick and strategy they knew to make something happen on the altar, but nothing happened—

not so much as a whisper, not a flicker of response. 1 Kings 18:26-29 MSG

They didn’t start the fire. 


Sequence matters:





be good = God’s love

YHWH = jealous God

Joel Olsteen is a Deuteronomist

The Deuteronomists’ theology is evident in this story

Deuteronomists =

action first then grace

It’s about blame

The Deuteronomists’ way of thinking had dissipated by Jesus’ time. 

But it was still present.

Still present today.

after all…Joel Olsteen

People believed that bad things happen for a reason. If bad things happen to you, you’re being punished or tested by God.

In John’s gospel, Jesus responds to a question about this:

As Jesus walked along, he saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 Jesus’ disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned so that he was born blind, this man or his parents?”

3 Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents. This happened so that God’s mighty works might be displayed in him. John 9:1-3 CEB


After Baalists fail to start the fire Elijah

12 stones significance all

Drenched with water

Can afford to waste with YHWH

Shows no trick

He calls upon God.

At the time of the evening offering, the prophet Elijah drew near and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant.

I have done all these things at your instructions.

Answer me, Lord! Answer me so that this people will know that you, Lord, are the real God and that you can change their hearts.”[d] 38

Then the Lord’s fire fell; it consumed the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up the water in the trench!

All the people saw this and fell on their faces. “The Lord is the real God! The Lord is the real God!” they exclaimed. 1 Kings 18:36-39 CEB

Elijah calls upon YHWH

He points the people back toward YHWH

He trusts in God.

God responds.

But even Elijah didn’t start the fire. 


We don’t have to start the fire. 

We can call on God.

We can point others toward God.

We can trust in God’s love.

God responds.

We didn’t start the fire

God is the fire. 

A hunk of burning love for




esp poor and oppressed

Imago dei

We also have the fire within

When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting.

They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. 4 They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak. Acts 2:1-4 CEB

see how the fire of God manifests

notice that God acts first

The Good News is that grace precedes anything we do.

God’s burning love permeates

It was always burning

Since the world’s been turning

We didn’t start the fire

Stop your hopping dance

Stop your desperate cries to false gods

Build an altar that symbolizes all of us

Call on God. Listen & trust.

When we

see grace

Feel grace

Experience grace

We can’t help but be God’s love in the world.

The Good News is we don’t have to light the fire.

All we have to do is allow God to ignite the fire within us.

When we do, when we love as God loves us, the unfolding realm of God will grow just a little bigger.

We didn’t start the fire

It was always burning

Since the world’s been turning

We didn’t start the fire


Tim is a runner, a hiker, a devoted husband, a father of two adult children, and their spouses, and a grandfather of four perfect children. A former early childhood educator, Tim is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He has served as pastor of both Disciples and United Church of Christ congregations. As we enter what we hope is the final phase of the pandemic, Tim is beginning a journey of rediscovering himself and discerning next steps. He writes from his home in Albany, Oregon and wherever the Spirit lures him.

Posted in 1 Kings, 1 Kings 18, 1 Kings 18:21-39, Acts, Acts 2, Acts 2:1-4, New Testament, Old Testament, Pentecost, Sermon

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All materials by Tim Graves unless otherwise noted. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

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