26th June 2022
Elijah’s life as a prophet had not been straight forward. He had been opposed by the prophets of Baal, by King Ahab, by Queen Jezebel. He had been tested to the limit by God – passing through wind, fire and earth quake. His life was not a rose tinted advert extolling the perks of being God’s chosen prophet. Elisha however is not deterred and follows Elijah assiduously. And when asked what he wants, asks for a double dose of Elijah’s spirit. I am not sure I could manage even a quarter of his spirit.
What is it that inspires Elisha? Maybe Elijah’s closeness to God: God is always there with through thick and thin. Maybe it is seeing God’s power at work through Elijah: the miracles he works. Maybe it is that against the odds, Elijah’s certainty that God’s will will prevail, even if he, Elijah, should perish. Maybe it is Elijah’s commitment to God, his sense of vocation that allows him to pursue no other career – his “zeal for the Lord”.
I know I often lack certainty about my calling, about what God wants of me and what God wants for the world. I often lack confidence that God’s creation in its present form will survive our human foolishness. On the other hand what could a figure like Elijah achieve for the environmental movement? His stubbornness in standing up against the fossil fuel giants. His persistence in effecting change in government mindsets. His ability to channel God’s wisdom. Maybe a part of me admires Elisha’s audacity in asking for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit.
How apt then is Paul’s message to the Galatians: a message which is as necessary for us today. To know that we are made free in Christ. Free to live according to God’s will: to live according the spirit of God rather than according to the deceitful, greedy, selfish way that Paul calls ‘of the flesh’. Free instead to love, to love our neighbour so completely that we can, Paul says, look like slaves! When I doubt what God wishes me to do, or how God wishes I should live in this world, I must recall Elisha’s double portion, but that Spirit that produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are the fruits that nourish the kingdom of God.
2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
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.
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.
Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20
1 I will cry aloud to God; *
I will cry aloud, and he will hear me.
2 In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; *
my hands were stretched out by night and did not tire;
I refused to be comforted.
11 I will remember the works of the Lord, *
and call to mind your wonders of old time.
12 I will meditate on all your acts *
and ponder your mighty deeds.
13 Your way, O God, is holy; *
who is so great a god as our God?
14 You are the God who works wonders *
and have declared your power among the peoples.
15 By your strength you have redeemed your people, *
the children of Jacob and Joseph.
16 The waters saw you, O God;
the waters saw you and trembled; *
the very depths were shaken.
17 The clouds poured out water;
the skies thundered; *
your arrows flashed to and fro;
18 The sound of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
your lightnings lit up the world; *
the earth trembled and shook.
19 Your way was in the sea,
and your paths in the great waters, *
yet your footsteps were not seen.
20 You led your people like a flock *
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
When the days drew near for Jesus to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”