2 Kings 2:1-14; 2 Peter 1:3
We live in a time of epochal transition. Our world has changed so completely in a generation – about 40 years! Let’s just go back to the US bicentennial in 1976 – that year Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak created Apple, Inc. And who can even remember a day without Apple computers? Not to mention that the internet had not been born yet! 1976 was also the year the Viking space crafts successfully landed on Mars and began sending our first pictures of Mars from the planet’s surface. In 1976 Jimmy Carter was elected president of the United States.
This week our independence will be 243 years old, about a generation after the bicentennial. And our world is so interconnected via the world wide web, that independence among nations might not even exist any more. We know that we can no longer thrive apart from each other.
Appropriately, the Scripture readings today take us to another time of massive transition. Behind the scenes of our story of Elijah and Elisha is a great transition in Israel. The the kingdom of David, had divided in two. Israel and Judah had declared their independence from each other, with all the separate governments to go with it. Israel in the north, declared its independence from Judah, sort of like the colonies did from Great Britain. It was a new world. The Temple was only accessible to Judah. What were the northern tribes to do, separated from their holy place?
This is where the new era of prophets came in. Unlike those before them who fulfilled prophetic responsibilities as part of their larger callings as leaders (i.e., Moses, Deborah, Samuel), Elijah and Elisha were called to be prophets in a new way. They operated completely outside the system, with no official recognition or compensation. They were free agents who were “on a mission from God!” And they had to speak to Israel AND Judah. They taught and healed and performed miracles, among the people, and they called the nations’ leaders to account. They did not mince words. They were blunt and sometimes brutal.
Elijah and Elisha were not alone, though. God had to correct Elijah who complained to God about being the only one left who had not bowed to idols. No, around them was growing up a whole community of prophets. But no one knew who would be the leader after Elijah was gone. And the word was out that God was going to take him. There was no provision for succession.
That is what Elisha was asking for. A double portion of Elijah’s power was the inherited portion of the first born son, the leader of the clan. Elisha was asking to be named the new leader, and empowerment to do the work, as well.
Jumping forward in time, when the second letter of Peter was written, the author give its context as his own impending death (sort of like Elijah’s journey). The author was looking into a time when none of the first-hand friends of Jesus would live to be the expert resources. The Way of Jesus was being passed on into the hands of those who had heard the story second-hand.
So, the author starts right out assuring the followers that Jesus had given them everything they need.
I recently constructed a shoe rack for my closet. The first instruction is to get everything out of the box and make sure that you have all the pieces which are supposed to be in the package. I had them all. Yay! So that meant that I had everything I needed to put my shoe rack together successfully. I didn’t even need any tools from my tool bag. I have EVERYTHING I need. Which, by the way proved to be true.
Peter, after saying hello, dives right in with these words of assurance: “Divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness.” Life – living in the Way of Jesus. Godliness – being connected to God and living in the image of God. How do we know what the image of God looks like? Jesus, of course. But just because you did not know Jesus personally, you still have access to this image, because we have told you.
This is still a bit troublesome for those who never met Jesus, however. And so we have to go back to the words of Jesus from a couple of Sundays ago: “When the Spirit of truth comes, it will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13), Jesus says. In Jesus’ long farewell to his disciples he assured them over and over again that they would have all they need. Jesus would send his own Spirit to live inside them. The Spirit would remind them of everything he had taught, even enable them to do more than Jesus ever did. Over and over, Jesus reassured them that he had given them all the pieces they needed to construct their lives in the way of Jesus. NOTHING would be missing. Ever. Period. Final answer.
So back to transitions. In 2019, like Elisha, like Peter, we, too, are in a time of immense transition. Yes, our culture is in transition. But more particularly, I am talking about the Church. Jesus called us his body. He said we would be equipped for every good work, that the Spirit would remind us of his own teachings, passions and love.
We are no longer bound by books, or even by teachers. You can get whatever you want through the energy of the air, it seems – through the world wide web, podcasts, Twitter, cell phones, and whatever comes next. How do we face this? How do we know we have what we need? How do we pass on the love and passions of Jesus?
Same way as Elisha, Peter, even Jesus. Know that God has provided for us absolutely everything we need to face this time. Yes, it will take some digging, some discovering, some surprises, and some hard work. But God has given us every single thing we need to follow the Way in this particular time and place.
I read an interesting sermon by Andrew Womack this week which started like this: “What do you need the Lord to do for you? Do you need the Lord to heal you? How about prosperity? Could you use more money? The truth is, you don’t need the Lord to do anything for you…. You’ve already got it, whatever “it” is. This may sound crazy to some of you. You might be thinking, But I’ve got a doctor’s report to prove I don’t have healing or You haven’t seen my bank account. But regardless of what the natural facts are, the truth is that God has already given you whatever you need.” WOW! [https://www.awmi.net/reading/teaching-articles/already_got/]
Elisha was asking for what he needed from Elijah. But Elijah deferred. It wasn’t his to give and he knew it. God had everything Elisha would need, but Elijah wasn’t the one who had the power to give it, even if he knew what it was. Elisha was going to have to rely of God to give it. And God did.
Peter was advising his people, too. You have all you need! Jesus told his own disciples, I will give you my very Spirit and you will be able to do more than you can imagine, more than I have done. It is enough.
So the challenge for us – followers centuries later – is to move from thinking about what we don’t have to what we do have. Let me illustrate: I am one of those people who makes TO DO lists endlessly! The more lists I have piled up in front of me, the more overwhelmed I get, the more tired I am, and the less ability I feel like I have.
I am learning to focus more on what I DO have. I have lots of energy, intelligence, imagination and love. What can I do with those?
When we focus on abundance rather than scarcity, everything changes. Truth is, we tend to find what we look for.
How do we move into abundance thinking, like Elijah and Peter’s friends? Trust God is the obvious answer. But HOW?
Here are a few ideas. Keep a gratitude journal. At night prayer we ask ourselves to observe not only our sins and to ask forgiveness, but to look at our blessings and be grateful. The Christian life is not about sifting out every sin and becoming perfect, but about loving gratitude for life and grace. There is nothing the world wants more in these days of division and violence.
Find out what your gifts are. What do you do really well? What gives you joy when you do it? What energizes you? Take note. Use a tool like Strengths Finder, or another personality inventory. What can you do with those things? Do a Soul Collage, or a vision board – Cut out pictures and words from magazines which speak to you and collect them together. What are they saying to you? What is your heart saying to you? When we were ordained (as many of us have been), we were asked to use our energy, intelligence, imagination and love. Well, what can you imagine, what can you dream?
These dreams and passions are the most essential thing the Holy Spirit has given you. This is what you need to live on! You have everything you need to do what God is inviting you into at this time and in this place. Count on it! Elijah did. Jesus did. Peter did. And the saints through the ages did. And so do we. We count on the abundance of God to accomplish exactly what God can love and imagine in this world. Thanks be to God. Amen!