July 17, 2022
Scripture Reading: II Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
Three weeks ago I shared a message with you focused on that Old Testament prophet Elijah. The stories of Elijah don’t take up many pages in the Old Testament, but there is reason to pay attention to him. Mostly, he appears in I and II Kings, but then there are a number of references to him in the time of Jesus.
Most notably, at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, when he took his disciples on to the mountaintop and they saw him change his appearance before their eyes, and heard a word from God that “this is my son, whom I love, with whom I am well pleased.” There in that vision were two other people talking to Jesus as though lending their affirmation through the generations: Moses and Elijah.
There were times when Jesus was confused with an Elijah figure who had returned to set the world in order. So, in the minds of early Christians, Elijah was a SOMEBODY and I suppose that means we should not dismiss him!
The last time we looked at Elijah, he had just confronted the major, grave and habitual misbehavior of the Israelites: idolatry (worshiping an humanly created THING and calling it God). This time it was the idol Baal.
Anyway, he got seriously crosswise of Baal’s biggest fan, Jezebel, who wanted to kill him, so he ran to a cave and encountered God in powerful way – affirming for all of us that God is not in this world’s noise and bright lights, but God is to be found in that still small voice!
We skip over most of Elijah’s career as a prophet. Today, he is nearing the end of his life and he has picked up a devoted disciple, Elisha. It is down to the last day that Elijah is to walk the earth before he is taken to heaven in a chariot of fire, no less! Elisha doesn’t want to miss this for the world! He refuses to let Elijah out of his sight!
Elijah keeps trying to give Elisha the brush off, but Elisha is having none of it. Three times Elijah says as they walk together, “You stay here. I’m going on by myself.” Each time Elisha says: “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” Or, translated: “Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin!”
As the two of them approach the town of Bethel – meaning “house of God,” Elijah realizes that shaking Elisha is a non-starter, so he asks Elisha the critical question of the day: “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Or: What is this all about, Elisha? What is this passion of yours, anyway? What is driving you? What is this one thing that beyond all other things won’t let you go? What is all this pursuing, Elisha? There is a fire in your eyes, Elisha, and I want to know what it is!
So tell me this morning, what is YOUR answer to that question?
#1) Is there a fire in your bones for something – for anything? What is the one thing that won’t let you go? Is it in you now? Was it ever there? Do you remember a time when that dream was alive and well and had you by the heart?
#2) Where is it now? What is the condition of that fire? Is the flame gone? Are the coals warm?
#3) Are you still in hot pursuit?
#4) Is it worthy of you? I see lots of dreams in people that simply and truly are not worthy of a child of God. Money, status, recognition, attention, position, pleasure, leisure, on and on. Things that are not destructive in themselves, but that as an end-all, a life purpose just do not measure up. In truth, they advertise something way beyond their ability to produce! You know what I mean!
Elijah was no dummy. He had pursued God and God’s way all his life. He had given himself unreservedly to that pursuit and he knew what that passion looked like. He wanted to know if Elisha had the real thing and not some fake substitute.
Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” I have seen something in you Elijah. It is a fire that still burns hot in your old age. I want it!! I want it in spades. I won’t let go until I get it. I want what you have times two!
You get what this story is all about, don’t you? It is a story as modern as this morning’s news. The world we live in is paralyzed by the pursuit of mediocre spirituality! It doesn’t mind a meaningless dose of religion – but it is scared to death (as well it should be) of a deep, unrelenting, burning desire to seek way beyond impotent religion and never stop until it is consumed by a longing to know and live in the red hot center of the will and way of God!
The church itself, for the most part I fear, seeks something well short of Elijah’s God. It is good and respectable and proper but it lacks heat!
You’ll know it when it catches a double portion of Elijah’s spirit! You’d know it if it caught a half portion! The world outside it would know!
If Elijah is any example, a true-blue case of the double spirit of Elijah would NOT be what the rest of the world is expecting – big buildings, elaborate programs, and enraptured multitudes. It would look far more like a set of people, small in number, but knee deep in what John Lewis called GOOD TROUBLE!
It is not beyond us here at St. Johns! We’ve got the goods and the beginnings of the dream. May the God of Elijah and Elisha visit us and part a Jordan river or two! Amen!