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     Sermons | Passionate worship

    This sermon was preached by Pastor Keith Cardwell at Swift Presbyterian Church.

    Aug. 30, 2020 | 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

    Chariots of Fire — Elijah
    2 Kings 2:1–14

     Y OU MIGHT LOOK BACK over previous chapters to see if you missed something. When were we told this was going to take place? But there really isn’t any buildup to this moment. It comes out of nowhere, taking us by surprise.

    “God was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind.”

    This morning we journey with Elijah on his final days on earth — a trip, it seems, Elijah wants to travel alone. Elisha, who is traveling with him, refuses to leave his master until the last possible moment. At each stop along the way, the two are met by a company of prophets, and at each point, Elijah tells Elisha to stay. Each time, Elisha insists on continuing, so we will, too.

    † † †

    ELIJAH HAS BEEN a mentor to Elisha.

    Maybe you have been a mentor to another. Student teachers shadow experienced educators. Student nurses roam hospital halls. Plumbers take on apprentices. Perhaps you’re teaching your grandparent how to “do the internet” so they can help you with virtual school. Maybe, like Elijah, your task is to train your replacement.

    Elijah on his final day wants to be alone but Elisha will not take the hint. Maybe, Elijah wants time to reflect on what has happened — what is about to happen.

    I’m not sure Elijah is “ready” to go for a whirlwind ride. Could be he wants time to cry over ministry undone, or there’s some resentment at being forced into early retirement.

    What if he thinks Elisha is not up to the task? Afraid there is going to be a real loss of prophecy.

    † † †

    ALL OF THESE are human thoughts and feelings. Many of you have experienced those emotions, those thoughts and understand Elijah’s desire to deal with this on his own.

    Or you’ve been where Elisha is. Apprentice. Novice. Aide. Trainee. Is Elisha afraid to let his master go?

    Up to this point, you’ve had a supervisor riding in the car with you. You taught a class but using the teacher’s lesson plan and he was in the room with you. Now you’re on your own. What if you flub it? What happens if you’re in a situation you can’t get out of? What if the employees don’t respect your leadership?

    It might well be that Elisha is realizing that there is no clear path of succession. He’s assumed he’ll take over after Elijah is lifted into the air. But there are no guarantees. Will the other prophets recognize his leadership?

    Will older, perhaps even wiser, prophets yield to Elisha? Perhaps with this in mind, he requests a double portion of Elijah’s powerful spirit.

    † † †

    THE ANCIENT AUDIENCE knows what Elisha asks for corresponds to the inheritance given to the oldest son. Elisha, then, is not simply asking for “double the power” but also for legitimacy.

    Elijah tells Elisha that he is indeed asking a hard thing but tells him “if you see me as I am being taken from you,” his request will be granted.

    Elisha, in fact, witnesses his master’s departure. With his double portion, he picks up Elijah’s fallen mantle and splits the Jordan River in two. With this clear demonstration of his right as successor, Elisha crosses to take his place as the prophet among prophets in Elijah’s stead.

    † † †

    MENTORS CAN BE positive role models or negative.

    A lifetime ago, I worked at a building supply. I was promoted to assistant manager. The manager mentored me in very negative ways, of crossing boundaries, of ignoring family, of putting the job ahead of everything else. It was an unhealthy mentoring relationship.

    We need positive mentors, someone to guide us, to nurture us, to train us.

    You might have heard me talk of Mike Brewer. He was pastor of a church in northern Kentucky. I was assigned to work under him for my first year of seminary. He was, and still is, a powerful mentor in my life. His commitment to Christ, his patience with a novice. His kindly correction helped me understand the role as a preacher and pastor. Each of us needs a mentor to nurture our faith.

    † † †

    WE NEED TO BE mentors to others. I’m not sure Elijah wanted to mentor Elisha. Sometimes that role might be given to you. The boss says “take this rookie under your wing.”Sometimes these relationships just happen.

    I think I’ve been a mentor to others. Not in a formal way. But present, answering questions. Offering advice. Lavishing encouragement. Teaching and valuing their knowledge and learning from them.

    † † †

    ELISHA WASN’T APPOINTED by a committee. He wasn’t voted on by the local prophetic union. He was called by God to be mentored, then to mentor others.

    Yet, we wait. We pass. We claim it’s someone else’s responsibility to mentor.

    Someone else should teach the doctrine of the church. Someone else to show the love of Christ. Someone else to provide input into character development. Someone else to take an active interest in them. Someone else to speak to them, to challenge them, to counsel them, to befriend them, to love them. Someone else to ask about their faith and their fears, their trials and temptations, their dramas and their doubts. Someone else to exert a significant influence on them.

    † † †

    BE SURE someone else will do it. Like my former boss, it might well be negative mentoring.

    Mentoring takes other people. Mentoring takes you.

    — Keith Cardwell   

    «Elisha wasn’t appointed by a committee. He wasn’t voted on by the local prophetic union. He was called by God to be mentored, then to mentor others. Yet, we wait. We pass. We claim it’s someone else’s responsibility to mentor.»


    ►This is the Word of God for the people of God:

    2 Kings 2:1–14
    Holy Bible, New International Version

    Elijah taken up to heaven
    2 When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the LORD has sent me to Bethel.”

    But Elisha said, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.

    3 The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the LORD is going to take your master from you today?”

    “Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “so be quiet.”

    4 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, Elisha; the LORD has sent me to Jericho.”

    And he replied, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went to Jericho.

    5 The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, “Do you know that the LORD is going to take your master from you today?”

    “Yes, I know,” he replied, “so be quiet.”

    6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.”

    And he replied, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them walked on.

    7 Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. 8 Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.

    9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”

    “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.

    10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours — otherwise, it will not.”

    11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.

    13 Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. “Where now is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.

    — This is the Word of the Lord.
    — Thanks be to God.

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