Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Elijah and Elisha....A Tale of Departure and Loss

This week's scriptures are 2 Kings 2:1-14 and Mark 9:2-9.

This is Transfiguration Sunday. But I want to focus on the Old Testament passage rather that the one from Mark.

Elijah, the old prophet, is about to die. He and Elisha-his disciple-journey to the place where they will say their final goodbye. As they go through each town the local prophets come up to Elisha and ask him if he know that Elijah's end is near. Elisha responds to each group the same way; telling them that he knows, and that they should keep quiet.

The most poignant moment comes when Elijah asks Elisha what he can do for him before he dies. Elisha's response is that he wants a double portion of Elijah's spirit. Elisha doesn't know how he will go on without the one who has taught him everything he knows about being the Lord's prophet. He wonders what he will do when the people look for the Lord's prophet and that means him.

Any of us who have lost someone who was a central part of our world knows how Elisha felt. How will we go on? What will hold our world together now?

And what is Elijah's response to Elisha? "If you see me go." What does this mean? One of the best responses I've read was that what Elijah was pushing for was an awareness on Elisha's part that he, Elijah, was really gone. Elisha needed, before he could inherit Elijah's spirit, to be totally clear that Elijah was no longer in this world. Only then could he 1) tear his clothes (a sign of grief); and move into his own strength (taking up the cloak and using it to part the waters). As long as Elisha clung to his teacher he could neither grieve nor grow. Perhaps that is why the fiery chariot had to come between them before Elijah was taken up in the create enough seperation to block Elisha from clinging.

Accept, Grieve, Grow. I've seen families, churches, organizations torn apart because they could not do this. The year after Bill Curry's Alabama football team won the Conference championship the University of Alabama fired him. When asked why he thought this had happened, Curry replied, "I'm not Bear Bryant."

The comic version of this is the male mid-life crisis in which a middle aged man (oh, say 56 or so) has difficulty admitting and accepting that he is no longer the athlete he once was. Or that the dreams he once had may not all come to fruition. Small fortunes have been spent on sports cars during this phase of men's lives.

We've all known sons who could not move out from under the shadow of their father. And churches that took years to move past the pastorate of a famous minister or a time in the church's history when they were influencial and important. Clinging to what makes us feel safe is a part of the human condition, we come by it honest. But we do not move into the new things that God has for us by clinging to the past.

We accept the loss. We grieve it; both what no longer is, and what will now not be. And then we take from the relationship or experience what will give us strength and hope and move out into the new thing that God is going to do...nurtured by the gift of what once was.

See you Sunday.

1 comment:

Broadneck Baptist Church said...

Uploaded 3-18-09 - Sorry for the delay!