I don’t want a double portion of anyone’s spirit. Nor do I want to take up a mantle left behind by a prophet. On the other hand, I don’t want to be looking back after I’ve put my hand to the plough. This business of being a disciple has never been easy. At no point in human history has seeking God’s way been easy. We tell ourselves that it was simpler “back in the day.” Truth be told, it’s always been risky.
Elisha was Elijah’s successor. While I’m not particularly sure where Elisha’s enthusiasm for came from, he was right there ready to receive the spirit and role assume the role of prophet. Maybe if I had witnessed someone ascending to heaven, I might be more enthusiastic about the idea. However, Elisha was ready, willing, and excited to the continue the work of God Elijah had begun. Just because he was enthusiastic, doesn’t mean it would be an easy life. Where are the challenges of following God outweighing our enthusiasm for the church now.
The other 1 Kings passage tells the story of Elisha’s call. It emphasizes the intensity of the choice to respond to God’s call, as well as reminding us that one must give up their previous life to truly serve God. Elijah spotted Elisha and knew he was the one to continue the work he had begun. All Elisha wanted to do was to say goodbye to his parents before going with Elijah. Nope. The life of a prophet needs your whole attention. There is no looking back. If we as church are to be prophetic, perhaps it is time to stop looking back and focus instead on what is now and what will come.
If we need encouragement, Paul’s words in Galatians should help to affirm that following Christ has it’s rewards that might help compensate for the challenges. Many of us can recite the fruit of the Spirit, but do we recognize them for the gifts that they are. Do we cultivate the fruit of the Spirit to be sure that our lives and our communities are filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? Wouldn’t it be amazing if the church everywhere, in all its variety, was known for growing this kind of fruit?
As we arrive at the Gospel text, Jesus isn’t making it any easier for would-be disciples. No, we cannot destroy those who do not agree with us; just let them live in peace and move on. Our job is to proclaim the Realm of God, build it even. We are not to try to resume or recreate an old life. In Christ we are new creations and we are to do new things to bring Divine Love into the world. We cannot serve the world and serve God at the same time. When we try, we create more difficulties for ourselves and those around us. How do we let go of our desire to live in the past (or at least our idealized recollection of it) and fully embrace today? What does proclaiming the Realm of God look like now? Are we creating a place where Christ will find welcome and rest?
These stories are all rich in comfort and challenge. Where is the Spirit leading you this week? Perhaps it is one of these texts or one the Psalms for this week holds more appeal. Whatever it is, please join in the conversation that we may support one another on the journey.
Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is an author and the pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, MN. You can find links to her blog, video series, and books at Beachtheology.com.
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