"Get Up, Go, Say, Hear and Cross Over"
Tim Carson
Broadway Christian Church · Columbia, Missouri
The Worship of God · February 15, 2015
The Sixth Sunday of Epiphany
 
Litany
Adapted from Mark 9:2-9
 
In the middle of life, on the top of the mountain, or in your living room,
the ordinary is shown to be more than you ever expected.
The one, who has been walking beside you,
is shown to be more than meets the eye.
Like seeing through a special lens, we become aware in an instant.
The disciples of Jesus were like men waiting to wake up.
In a moment, he became more than a teacher.
He became more than a wonder-working prophet.
He became a God moment rolled into a human package.
The one, who spoke of the realm of God, was swimming in it, transfigured.
You can’t preserve something like that, lock it in time, or freeze it for later.
It’s here one moment and gone the next: The God who is bigger than you.
The God you can never control. But you can bow down.
 
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen. Amen.
 
Pastoral Prayer
Nick Larson
 
We praise you, God of steadfast faithfulness, and we open our souls before you now and for all our lives. Help us to put our fullest trust in you and acclaim you as our help and strength and mantle.

We pray today for those whose lives are wracked by grief and loss, that you would restore your abiding presence and broken hearts.

God of steadfast faithfulness, we call on your love. You made the heaven and the earth, the seas, and all that is in them; give us food to those who hunger
and justice to those who are oppressed.

God of steadfast faithfulness: we call upon your love. You are the freedom of all your people, the strength of all who are weary, the healing of all who are sick.

We pray for those who suffer and seek your health, especially those in our community, who are in ill in the hospitals, and in recovery. We pray especially today for widows, immigrants, and those who are without homes or families. Gather your people together and create a community of love once again.

Guide us as a community of faith, as we seek to embody and embrace welcome to all in this place in your love. Guide our conversations with one another that we might be filled with grace, patience and love for you and each other, as we strive together to discover our path.

Grant us the patience and the presence to hear what you are bringing to us this morning through gathering of your community of faith. Guide our hearts, our ears, our minds to be open to receiving your abundant word this morning.

Lord, your grace and love reign forever, and your promise is with us throughout all generations in Jesus Christ, who prays with us, as we say together…
 
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. They will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
 
The Scripture
2 Kings 2:1-14
 
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.
                                              
This is the Word of the Lord for us today.
Thanks be to God.
 
The Message
Get Up, Go, Say, Hear and Cross Over
Tim Carson
 
During this Epiphany season we have been following a certain star that has led us to receiving the infinite light of God in the universe, rising to God’s call in our life, going forth with a prophetic voice fitted for our time and place, and holding ourselves before the healing presence of God and Christ. Today, we complete our series with a river crossing, a crossing that has multiple meanings for each one of us.
 
Elijah was the senior, lead prophet, the mentor to Elisha, his understudy. In fact, much of the story of Jesus later found its form in the Elijah/Elisha narratives with Jesus modeled after Elisha. 
 
There came a time when Elijah was to end his journey and be taken to glory in the whirlwind of the Spirit. On the way to that parting, Elijah delivered a kind of test to his disciple. Three times – on the way to Bethel, Jericho, and the Jordan River – Elijah told Elisha to turn back, to go no farther. Three times Elisha refused.
 
Three times a collective group of local prophets we will call “The Reality Testers” reminded Elisha that he was about to lose his mentor, Elijah. He told them that he knew, thank you very much, and ordered them to shut up. Humph.
 
How many of us have been faced with just this situation, that the end of our mentor or loved one draws near and we say, “Yes, I know, I don’t want to hear it.” We know but we do not want to know. A part of us has accepted it but another part has not.
 
Something was taking place in Elisha that was more than loss. It was more than the kind of sadness when George Clooney floats off into space in the movie Gravity. That moment between Elijah and Elisha was a transfer of spiritual authority and was symbolized in two things: the river and the mantle – the stole.
 
When Elijah arrived at the Jordan River, he took off his prophetic mantle, his symbol of authority, and struck the water with it. The waters parted and they were able to cross over to the other side.
 
Sound familiar? Well, of course it does – Moses and the crossing of the Red or Reed Sea. The ancient story teller reached back and connected the Moses story with the Elijah one; in the same way that Moses had authority, so did Elijah.
 
As Elijah and Elisha crossed the river, they passed through a threshold and entered the in-between space, the space between the spaces, that murky domain we all cross at one time or another, the no-person’s land where everything is up in the air and nothing will be the same ever again.
 
And then, the mentor, Elijah, asked if he could do anything for Elisha before he departed. And Elisha said that yes, as a matter of fact, he could.
 
Elisha’s request is hard for even Elijah to comprehend, because what it asks for is really big. If Elijah has great spiritual depth and power, then Elisha would like twice that, a double share of his spirit. That’s big medicine, of course, and Elijah said as much.
 
So here is how it works for you and me. Imagine a hard situation in your life. It can be anything past or present.
 
Now identify the one attribute you would love to have to face that dilemma, past or present. This is a spiritual power or state of being that would help you to face it like courage, strength, endurance, forgiveness, loving kindness, selflessness…
 
Now think of one mentor from past or present who exemplifies that virtue or gift or quality.
 
Now borrow against their spirit and energy of that mentor for yourself. Ask God for a double share of that very same spirit and imagine yourself going into the future all the while drawing on that power.
 
And now the key phrase to save for just the right moment. After Elijah ascended to the heavens (which Christians later reflected in Jesus’ ascension after his death), Elisha watched until the chariot of fire and horses of Israel disappeared, fell to his knees, and tore his clothes in grief. That is an ancient tradition that expresses grief. It is an external action of an internal state. That is what ritual is. He tears his clothes, because his heart is torn. He is expressing, on the outside, exactly what is going on inside, with the loss of his beloved mentor. Now he is ready after he has expressed his loss and grief.
 
Elijah not only struck the waters with his prophetic mantle to part them; he also left that sign of his power behind. There the mantle was on the shore, waiting for Elisha. It was time for Elisha to retrieve, claim, and invoke his new authority and power. The Wizard of Oz confers his power and signs of authority on the scarecrow, the tin man, and the cowardly lion before he leaves Oz, as he rises in his balloon to go back to, of all places, Kansas.
 
Elisha picked up the mantle and like his mentor before him struck the water. As he did so, he invoked the heavens with a holy question: “Where is the God of Elijah?!” As before, the waters parted.
 
That is how you draw on the power of the mentor you have identified. You have imagined the dilemma, obstacle, or challenge in your mind; you have named what virtue or power is necessary to face it. You have identified the spiritual guide or mentor, past or present, who holds exactly the kind of qualities you need. And then the moment comes for your great invocation: “Where is the God of ______.” You fill in the name. And when you call upon the God of the one you have named, the waters part as before.
 
Sometimes that is all it takes to cross over, to call on the God of one you respect and trust and believe, to borrow faith from a mentor, ancestor, or spiritual guide until faith becomes our own. Later we call upon that God for ourselves.
 
Where do we find that mantle of Elijah? Lots of places. Some are the artifacts of actual mentors, who gave us guidance and power. But others are found deep in the marrow of life and living and time. The mantle comes in different forms.
 
  • Memory or experience of a living faith example
  • Stories of faith that inspire us
  • Actual places and things that remind us
 
In the movie Wild (with Reece Witherspoon) based on the book of the same name, a young woman hikes the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) that spans some 2,600 miles between Mexico and Canada. This is, for her, more than high adventure or exotic travel. It is a walk into her life as a means to find and redeem it.
 
Like Elisha, she had experienced a soul-tearing grief, in her case the loss of her mother, a grief that sent her reeling into every behavior by which she might escape herself. In the long walk, she was slowly stripped of all the false things that distracted her and propped her up. Eventually, she came to terms with the depth of her loss. But even more, she reunited with her mother, as a living presence. As she drew upon her mother’s beauty and strength, she found it in herself, a healing balm. Through that, she became open to the spiritual power she had always observed in her mother. As she called upon her mother, the power behind her mother became her own.
 
So often, I think, we have to grieve first on the way to reuniting. In the same way that Elisha first tore his clothes before picking up the mantle, so we must let go before receiving the transformation that is ours. Letting go and picking up are really two parts of the same motion. In fact, it is a key to all growth in the spiritual life. Unless we find the way to let go of our attachment to false selves and false gods, we cannot call forth in real earnestness: “Where is the God of Elijah?” How could we ever ask for something that life-changing if we weren’t prepared to receive it?
 
Though our passages into new chapters of life sometime occur gradually, seamlessly, like one relay runner passing the baton to the next runner in line, they just as often descend upon us in cataclysm, with ruptures and breaks, passing through mighty waters and disappearing into great whirlwinds.
 
The truth of our long walk and the holy guides and mentors, who have preceded and walk with us still is this: our journey is a confounding and beautiful one, full of passing over and returning, letting go and picking up, and assuming the mysterious mantle of God until we pass it on to someone else.
 
In the fullness of time, there was One who walked this way among us, full of grace and truth, in whose face we experience the face of God, and whose mantle and yoke, if we will take it upon ourselves, is both easy and light. “Where is the God of Jesus?”  
 
The Benediction
Tim Carson
 
And now, go in peace, always following the star where it leads you. Go with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, the fellowship and the communion of the Holy Spirit. Amen and Amen.

 

Last Published: February 19, 2015 8:44 AM