In a scene from my all-time favorite movie, the Lord of the Rings, King Theoden — broken and exhausted as the Battle at Helms Deep looked more and more hopeless — asks a desperate question amidst all the confusion: “What can man do against such reckless hate?”
His situation was dire. His fortress was surrounded by thousands and thousands of Uruk-hai, he and his men had retreated as far as they could into the deepest part of the castle, and they were trapped.
As his entire world crumbled, the king asks a question that perhaps we are asking now, as our world seems to crumble around us: “What can we do against so much hate? Against so many enemies? Against so much chaos, so much stress, so much evil — so much false worship!”
In the movie, Aragorn quietly responds: “Ride out with me. Ride out and meet them.”
Meet them head on is the exhortation! Do not cower in the shadows, waiting for the world to end. Meet evil head on. Meet idolatry head on. Meet false gods head on.
That’s precisely what Elijah does in our fantastic first reading today.
Elijah was alone — the world was against him:
“I am the only surviving prophet of the LORD,” he lamented — “and there are four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal!”
Those are tough odds to work with: Four hundred and fifty ….to one. What could one prophet do against such reckless hatred of God? Wouldn’t it be easier to just make it four hundred fifty-one prophets of Baal? Wouldn’t it be easier to give up and become one of them?
But no. Prompted by the still small voice of God, Elijah rides out to meet the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Just when things seemed most hopeless — when the battle appeared to be lost — Elijah meets them head on.
And as the story goes, the prophets of Baal fail miserably — not because their god is weaker than our God. No it’s that their god simply doesn’t exist. Baal did not answer them because there is no Baal.
Ultimately, Elijah could be so bold and courageous, even when everything seemed hopelessly lost because, simply put: he trusted that God was real. He trusted that God would be God.
“Answer me, LORD!” he prays! “Answer me, that this people may know that you, LORD, are God and that you have brought them back to their senses.”
Elijah confidently rode out to meet the prophets of Baal because he knew that the LORD was the One True God, and that numbers mean nothing against the Truth. “Let God be true and every man a liar” says Saint Paul. All the world might be against us, we might be completely surrounded by Orcs of every kind — but the hoards of enemies cannot defeat the Living God and His Church. The gates of Hell will not prevail — we can bank on that!
Christians need to find their courage today. We need to ride out and meet them — not with our own strength, but with the strength of the Lord. Remember: Jesus rode out against all the powers of evil, nailed to a Cross. So too, we must ride out and meet evil by uniting ourselves to His sacrifice. That happens right here on this altar. God will answer us by sending down fire from heaven. God will be God.