Today's Lectionary Text
2 Kings 2:1-15 New Revised
Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent.”
Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here; for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be silent.”
Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.
When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.
He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.
When the company of prophets who were at Jericho saw him at a distance, they declared, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” They came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him.
When was the last time you had a meaningful conversation with someone of a different generation? Where were you when it happened? Were you at work or at a family gathering? Was it with someone you ran into in your neighborhood? Likely, it was at church.
It often seems that the occasions for all types of people in our communities to gather in equal footing are slipping away. We are less likely to work, live or go to school with those of different ages than we were a couple of generations ago. I suspect, with the rising availability of delivery for groceries, household needs and take-out meals (even McDonald’s!), there will be fewer and fewer places where we run into a neighbor by chance.
Where, then, will we have the chance to check in on each other? To look someone in the eye and sincerely ask, “How are you? How did it go with…? I noticed we both… What is your family up to these days?”
Or the chance to go a little deeper, to touch someone’s hand and say, “Are you really ok? I’m happy for you that… I’ve been praying about you for… Since I last saw you, I…”
And after a time of building genuine care and respect through conversations such as these, to have the opportunity to go even deeper, without fear or being judged or misunderstood, by saying, “What is pressing on your heart? What do you really think about…? This is my take on… My experience tells me… My fear is that… Is it possible that…? How do you see…?”
Where and when could we engage in meaningful conversation with the confidence of being heard and the openness to truly hear others? Again, at church. Or, at least, it can be.
One thing I cherish about my church is the intergenerational friendships I have observed and experienced. I appreciate the people in our congregation who seek out conversations with my kids, and who will one day be their mentors through milestones like confirmation and life events. I know there are people in my church that my kids will be able to talk to when they have questions about the Bible or want to feel out their own understandings of God.
The Bible is full of intergenerational friendships, mentors and mentees, that serve as models for raising up the next generation of church leaders. One we often talk about is Elijah and Elisha. It’s even part of our service of ordination—just as the prophet Elijah passed his mantle to the younger Elisha, so one generation of ministers passes a ceremonial mantle to the new generation. This passing of the mantle symbolizes how the new generation is inheriting the spirit of the previous one, and they now have responsibility for continuing the work of the church.
There is concern, though, that we are not raising up enough young leaders to fill all of our pulpits. Maybe that’s part of the problem—we are looking for someone to fill our pulpits, to preach words of comfort and keep our churches open on Sunday mornings, when we really need someone to cast a vision and partner with us as we do the hard work of ministry in the world as it is today.
Maybe the problem is we admire the young people from a distance, but we don’t often engage with them to find out who they are and what they care about.
Maybe the problem is they don’t think we trust them to lead our church into the future. Because we don’t. And they don’t know if they can trust us, either.
So, they drift away, and we hope they come back when they have families of their own.
But if we take those chances to walk closely with the young people in our churches, we can build that mutual respect that allows for true dialog. Maybe they will see discipleship at work, and how a life of walking with Jesus isn’t easy but is worth every step. Maybe we will see their hunger for truth and their compassion for God’s people. Maybe we’ll see the light of Christ in each other. Maybe our neighbors will see a model for community.
Because we will have invested in these relationships, we will confidently pass on leadership of the church to the next generation. On that day, our conversation might sound something like, “We don’t always agree, and we don’t always understand each other, but because I know your heart, I know you’re anointed by God to do great things for the kingdom. Your church supports you.”
Topeka First UMC/Social Media and Web Specialist, Great Plains Conference
Prayer for Reflection
God of all ages, you draw us close to you and show us what relationships can look like. Draw us to those places where we can be in relationship with others who are not like us. Help us to listen with open minds and share with open hearts. Guide us to be the model for healthy relationships in our communities. Amen.
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