2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14, Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20, Galatians 5:1, 13-25, Luke 9:51-62
2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14:
- Aside from the tongue-twisting of an Elisha/Elijah-packed reading, I like this selection - it is a transitioning of leadership - one who is leaving literally passing on the mantle to one who is stepping up afterward. In part, this was the theme of Rev. Safiya Fosua of the General Board of Discipleship as she preached at the ordination service at Annual Conference for the former North Central New York AC in 2007. She talked about how we need to step up in support when we have those in our midst who are called, even though they need to own their own calls as well. Who can you support who is being called? Especially look out for young people who are hearing God's voice, who may not have many avenues of affirmation coming their way. I had several folks in ministry who could have discouraged me greatly from following my call - but instead they encouraged at every turn.
- "Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit." When asked what he wants from Elijah, this is how Elisha responds. Sometimes we're afraid to ask for what we really want and need and could put to use. Elisha just goes straight for what will make him a leader as Elijah was. "You have asked a hard thing," Elijah says. Hard, but wise, and possible indeed! What would you ask for if you didn't put restrictions on your asking? If so equipped, what could you do for God?
- Elisha picks up the mantle - literally and symbolically - that Elijah has left behind. And then he immediately acts, and calls on God. I'm so struck by his confidence. I feel like I would have been floundering, trying to figure out what to do, after losing Elijah.
- This psalm basically answers the psalmist's own question: "What god is so great as our God?" Answer: No god is as great as our God for all the reasons that follow.
- "You are the God who works wonders. The God of might. The God who redeems. God of creation. God of our ancestors, God who led Moses and Aaron."
- It's too bad the middle verses aren't included in the reading for this Sunday - essentially, we find a psalmist who is despairing, feeling alone and perhaps abandoned by God, wondering where God is. It is almost as if the last part, verses 11-20, are the psalmist's own self-pep talk, a reminder of the ways the psalmist has experienced God, a God who has not abandoned and forsaken. How do you find faith when you are feeling alone and like God is far from you?
- What deeds of God would you call to mind if you were making a list like the psalmist's? What are the moments/experiences that for you bring comfort to your soul?
- This is a fun passage, the passage describing fruits of the spirit. I have less, I'm afraid , to say about the works of the flesh: Paul and I might disagree on what fits in that category and what doesn't. But we'll come back to that. There's a connection/explanation between the gifts of the spirit and the fruits of the spirit - the gifts are what God has given us to work with, and the fruits are what God would like to see at work in our lives as a result.
- I clearly remember that during General Conference 2000 when we participated in a service of repentence for racism in the UMC. The Bishops from the historically African-American Methodist denominations had a chance to respond. "Bishop Clarence Carr of the AMEZ church gave a most poignant remark as he reminded the delegates that a tree is known by its fruit. “I’m not going to be a judge, he said, “but I want you to know we will be fruit inspectors.” (see source)
- A sermon or sermon series on fruits of the spirit could go fruit-by-fruit. What's the hardest for you? I always thought self-control was the most difficult, because if you can have self-control, you can exhibit the other fruits more easily!
- This passage is coming near the end of Galatians. Paul has been working hard to show that faith is freeing while the law (as master) is a disciplinarian that can't set us straight with God, can't justify us. We'll always fall short if measured by the law instead of God's grace. Still, Paul makes clear in this passage that our freedom in Christ doesn't give us freedom to self-indulge. Ironically, our freedom in Christ leads us free "through love to become slaves to one another." (vs. 14)
- Actually, Paul argues, though it might not seem like it, giving in to the desires of the flesh, when you are living by the Spirit, results in "prevent[ing] you from doing what you want. Crucified with Christ, we've crucified the passions of the flesh, and have the bounty of the fruits of the Spirit.
- Samaritans - we should always perk up when we hear Samaritans mentioned in the gospels. Usually issues of who are neighbors, what is hospitality, are somewhere in the mix of the story.
- Amy Jill Levine, lecturing, in part, on the Parable of the Good Samaritan at the Festival of Homiletics a few years ago, says that we shouldn't think of the Samaritans in the Bible as the oppressed/downtrodden folks, but as those who were the Other, the enemy. That's how Jews and Samaritans viewed one another.
- "His face was set toward Jerusalem." A unique phrase scattered here and there, hard to translate any other way than this. Basically, Jesus' mind is set, already, on where he is ultimately headed. He knows, even as he is teaching and traveling, his physical and spiritual destination. On what is your face set, and how does it influence how you live your life each day?
- In a Children's Sermon, to illustrate the "face was set" idea, I had a young girl who was a dancer come and do pirouettes for us. To pirouette without getting dizzy, like non-dancers do when spinning, you have to "spot" - fix your gaze each time you turn, otherwise you become disoriented.
- James and John, acting as wacky as Peter usually does, offer to command fire down to consume the hesitating-to-welcome Samaritans. A little comic relief - Jesus rebukes them and moves on.
- Three examples of those who ask to follow Jesus, and three times Jesus puts them off, checking to see that they know what they are getting into by their desire to follow. He has no 'home', he has no desire to wait and put unimportant tasks in order, he has no desire to wait and tie up loose ends. He is about the work of proclaiming NOW the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is about life, and is here right now, at hand. To follow Jesus in sharing that news requires our immediate and complete attention! Are you struck by the "reasonableness" of their requests? Are you ready to follow Jesus right now?