October 3, 2021
SCRIPTURE READING: II Kings 2:1-13
This is the second in a pair of sermons that are two parts to one more circle in my vision for St. John’s. This circle I just titled “Succession”. In a practical and immediate way, I am concerned about who will step into the important role of “Council President” when Ginny leaves that position in about 13 weeks.
She has led us so competently and with such care for the church and for her position. I want us to treat the task of finding someone else to fill that position with as much care as she has exercised in being President! I’ve been telling the Council that if we don’t treat this issue with enough time and thoughtful prayer, as though the transition were as sacred as the work itself, we will be shirking our responsibility.
But, of course, it doesn’t only apply to Council President, but to every other leadership role in the church. Last week, I talked about the obligation to STEP UP and take responsibility when we are called. This week, it is about LETTING GO! Letting go of responsibility and leadership when it’s time – when you are called to it.
STEP UP – LET GO
STEPPING UP – LETTING GO! STEP UP – LET GO! That sounds so much like a dance routine, doesn’t it? It is so much about the balance between leading and following. It is the dance that is happening somewhere in the church all the time or should be happening. It is about a fluid attention to the structure of the dance and allowing the beat and the music to move you. It’s not one or the other, but both together that make the dance seem fluid and elegant.
I will never forget my only attempt at dancing lessons many years ago now. My partner and I had attended several classes, but there was nothing fluid or elegant about the end result. Finally the dance instructor came over to my dance partner and said: “I don’t know how this works for you outside this studio, but in this dance, you must follow and he must lead. It is the only way it works!” There must be as much honor placed on the following as there is on the leading because following is as much a part of making the dance beautiful and breathtaking as is leading!
Here in the church, the dance is a group dance – maybe like the line dance – “Electric Slide” or the square dance. It’s all about understanding 1) the structure of the dance – how it works 2) paying attention to how you interact with everyone else – leading and following, and 3) experiencing the music from your soul – listening to the voice of God.
If you want to see how this could work in the family of God’s people, the story of Elijah and Elisha is perfect. It is like a dance. Unfortunately, succession in the church is too often more like tripping over a crack in the sidewalk, not a dance!
Elijah is the old saint. He has done his best to lead and walk with God for a long time! He tried to live listening to the music of the voice of God and then dance like nobody was watching! He lived courageously, he spoke truth to power, he knew his own message, and he talked the talk and walked the walk.
As his life of service was coming to an end, another similar spirit – the younger man Elisha had been paying particular attention to the old saint Elijah and he knew he wanted his life to reflect that same spirit he saw in Elijah.
So as the day of Elijah’s departure from this life approached, Elisha stuck to him like glue. Elijah knew his time was short, so three times he told Elisha “You don’t need to follow me any further, God has called me elsewhere.” Elisha said: “Not on your life! I’m not going anywhere! I wouldn’t miss this for the world!”
Elisha said to his mentor: “Whatever it is at the core that makes you who you are – I want it – and I want it in spades. A double portion, please!”
Now that is how you do succession! Do you see the dance? One is letting go while the other is stepping up. And do you hear the music? That rhythm that comes from the heart of God and moves the universe in some majestic symphony of harmony and progression. In this transition, there is music being played. It is the heartbeat of God! We need to get in step!
Elisha spoke of actually receiving a portion of Elijah’s spirit! He was specific in requesting a double portion. (I think he didn’t know what he was asking for). I wonder if it could be that concrete – this sharing of our spirit with another. I think it is likely that this is what succession in Beloved Community is all about – sharing the spirit of one with another.
What would it be like if we paid more attention to whose spirit we would we like to inherit? Who is your mentor? Such a great idea for Beloved Community! We have so many good models from whom to choose!
We need a new plan of succession that is spiritually based. We need to build on each other’s accumulated wisdom and spiritual connections. We don’t need to search around to design a new spirit, we need to build on the depth of spirit of those who have talked the talk and walked the walk before us.
Jesus knew what he was doing when his first act was to gather twelve people around him “to be with him” during his ministry. At the end of that three years, he left the known world to them and said: “Go into all the world…”
Isn’t this a piece of what we want to live out here at St. John’s? We need saints here who are serious about this dance, whose structure is an ongoing rhythm of STEPPING UP and LETTING GO. And all of it with our ears finely tuned to hear the music of the universe conducted by none other than the Creator whose intention is to direct our steps so that they reflect the amazing harmony that was designed into it from the beginning.
May God give us eyes to see and ears to hear. Amen.