Today's Lectionary Text
2 Kings 2:7b-14
Both Elijah and Elisha stood beside the Jordan River. 8 Elijah then took his coat, rolled it up, and hit the water. Then the water was divided in two! Both of them crossed over on dry ground. When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “What do you want me to do for you before I’m taken away from you?”
Elisha said, “Let me have twice your spirit.”
Elijah said, “You’ve made a difficult request. If you can see me when I’m taken from you, then it will be yours. If you don’t see me, it won’t happen.”
They were walking along, talking, when suddenly a fiery chariot and fiery horses appeared and separated the two of them. Then Elijah went to heaven in a windstorm.
Elisha was watching, and he cried out, “Oh, my father, my father! Israel’s chariots and its riders!” When he could no longer see him, Elisha took hold of his clothes and ripped them in two.
Then Elisha picked up the coat that had fallen from Elijah. He went back and stood beside the banks of the Jordan River. 14 He took the coat that had fallen from Elijah and hit the water. He said, “Where is the Lord, Elijah’s God?” And when he hit the water, it divided in two! Then Elisha crossed over.
It is the season for annual conference sessions in the United Methodist Church. No matter which conference to which we relate, it is a time of year when both clergy and laity face anxieties as sessions begin. In the best of times, annual conference is something of a family reunion with mountaintop worship experiences, interspersed with plenary sessions. But anxiety is there as well. It is there for many clergy worrying about getting home to finish packing for the moves they are about to make. It’s there in the business of the conference that involves budget concerns as lay members wonder how the conference budget will affect their congregations. And, these days, the anxiety is there in the knowledge that our church is splitting and people we have known for years will no longer be a part of our corporate life as a Conference.
But there is one thing that is constant in the life of the conference. Each year there is a “passing of the mantle” that occurs as some clergy retire from active ministry and some are commissioned and still others ordained. In the Great Plains Conference, we mark that transition at some point as a member of the retiring class places a stole over the shoulders of one who is being ordained.
Every time I encounter the above passage from 2 Kings, my mind goes to that symbolic ritual that speaks a truth we sometimes forget. You see, while the conference ritual is about the literal passing of set-aside ministry from one generation to another, it seems to me that this is also about the work of the whole church. Each of us, whether clergy or lay, is responsible for the daily practice of our faith – and for the passing on of the faith to another generation. Just as Elijah guided Elisha into the work of a prophet of God, each of us knows at least one person we can mentor in the faith.
Truth be told, most of us know more than one person who needs an Elijah to guide them. Now, while I doubt if any of us expect to be taken to heaven in as dramatic a way as Elijah, we can, nevertheless, be mentors and guides to those who are new to the Christian faith as well as to those who are farther along the walk. Then they, in turn, will be mentors and guides to yet another generation. This is how faith is perpetuated – not just through preaching one day a week, but through the day-to-day examples of discipleship we see in the lives of our mentors. Passing the mantle is the work of the church – for all of us, not just for clergy.
--Rev. Robbie Fall, retired elder
Prayer for Reflection
Help us, O God, to see ourselves as mentors that pass the mantle of faith from one generation to the next. Show us how to be Elijah to our world.
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