There was some 1970s Bible cartoon that told this story–I think if you’ve seen one of them, you’ve seen them all. I guess you either know what I’m talking about or not, in all this.
Anyhow, in this cartoon, they had to add dialogue to fill the time up, and as the priests of Baal (who looked really European, in hindsight?) poured gallons and gallons of water on Elijah’s altar per his instructions, someone–possibly King Ahab–said, “It is so very valuable,” or something close to that.
I’d never connected that. Prior to the story, there’s been years of drought. It seems that the water poured onto the altar of Elijah is not only to mock the whole process–calling fire from the heavens is one thing, but onto damp wood?!–but because God’s action in this world requires sacrifice.
Not necessarily burnt offering and sacrifice–I know, I know, mercy not sacrifice–but rather, giving up something, tearing down something, living without something in order to make room for God.
Even when it’s fire that evaporates, that singes, that burns, that licks up what we hold precious.
I have issues with this story, especially the whole “slaughtering people who do not worship the way one does,” but this isn’t about other religions, it is about idolatry. About our completely ridiculous belief we can control things, command things, contain things.
This is, of course, just the beginning of work on this text. I am getting ready–Sunday’s coming!