Week of Proper 6: Wednesday, Year 2   10 comments

Above:  Elijah’s Departure

For the Glory of God

JUNE 17, 2020

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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2 Kings 2:1, 6-14 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha had set out from Gilgal.

Elijah said to him,

Stay here, for the LORD has sent me on to the Jordan.

Elisha said,

As the LORD lives and you live, I will not leave you,

and the two of them went on.  Fifty men of the disciples of the prophets followed and stood by at a distance from them as the two of them stopped at the Jordan.  Thereupon Elijah took his mantle and, rolling it up, he struck the water; it divided to the right and left, so that the two of them crossed over on dry land.  As they were crossing, Elijah said to Elisha,

Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?

Elisha answered,

Let a double portion of your spirit pass on to me.

He said,

If you see me as I am being taken from you, this will be granted to you; if not, it will not.

As they kept on walking and talking, a fiery chariot with fiery horses suddenly appeared and separated one from another; and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.  Elisha saw it, and he cried,

Oh, father, father! Israel’s chariots and horsemen!

When he could no longer see him, he grasped his garments and rent them in two.

He picked up Elijah’s mantle, which had dropped from him; and he went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.  Taking the mantle which had dropped from Elijah, he struck the water and said,

Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?

As he too struck the water, it parted to the right and to the left, and Elisha crossed over.

Psalm 31:19-24 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

19 How great is your goodness, O LORD!

which you have laid up for those who fear you;

which you have done in the sight of all

for those who put their trust in you.

20 You hide them in the covert of your presence from those who slander them;

you keep them in your shelter from the strife of tongues.

21 Blessed be the LORD!

for he has shown me the wonders of his love in a besieged city.

22 Yet I said in my alarm,

“I have been cut off from the sight of your eyes.”

Nevertheless, you heard the sound of my entreaty when I cried to you.

23 Love the LORD, all you who worship him;

the LORD protects the faithful,

but repays to the full those who act haughtily.

24 Be strong and let your heart take courage,

all you who wait for the LORD.

Matthew 6:1-18 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,] “But take care not to do your good deeds in public for people to see, for, if you do, you will get no reward from your Father in heaven.  So when you are going to give to charity, do not blow a trumpet before yourself, as the hypocrites do, in the synagogues and the streets, to make people praise them.  I tell you, that this is all the reward they will get!  But when you give to charity, your own left hand must now know what your right hand is doing, so that your charity may be secret, and your Father who sees what is secret will reward you.

When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, for they like to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the squares, to let people see them.  I tell you, that is all the reward they will get!  But when you pray, go into your own room, and shut the door, and pray to your Father who is unseen, and your Father who sees what is secret will reward you.  And when you pray, do not repeat empty phrases as the heathen do, for they imagine that their prayers will be heard if they use words enough.  You must not be like them.  For God, who is your Father, knows what you need before you ask him.  This, therefore, is the way you are to pray:

Our Father in heaven,

Your name be revered!

Your kingdom come!

Your will be done

On earth as well as in heaven!

Give us today bread for the day,

And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.

And do not subject us to temptation,

But save us from the evil one.

For if you forgive others when they offend you, your heavenly Father will forgive you too.  But if you do not forgive others when they offend you, your heavenly Father will not forgive you for your offenses.

When you fast, do not put on a gloomy look, like the hypocrites, for they neglect their personal appearance to let people see that they are fasting.  I tell you, that is all the reward they will get.  But when you fast, perfume your hair and wash your face, that no one may see that you are fasting, except your Father who is unseen, and your Father who sees what is secret, will reward you.”

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The Collect:

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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A Related Post:

Week of Proper 6:  Wednesday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/02/week-of-proper-6-wednesday-year-1/

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The Canadian Anglican lectionary skips over some material, so here is a summary of what we have not avoided on the way to Elijah’s departure:

  1. Ahab died in battle against the forces of King Jehoshapat of Judah in 852 B.C.E.
  2. Ahaziah, son of Ahab, became King of Israel.
  3. Ahaziah had a brief reign.  In the second and final year of that reign the king fell suffered a severe injury when he fell through a wooden lattice window at his palace.  He sent messengers to make inquiries of Baal, not Yahweh.  Elijah intercepted three groups of fifty messengers, each commanded by a captain.  Groups #1 and #2 died when the prophet called down fire from heaven upon them.  The captain of Group #3 had the good sense to beg for mercy.  Then Elijah visited the king and predicted his death.
  4. Ahaziah died childless, so his brother Jehoram became King of Israel.

This concludes the summary.

The stories of Elijah and Elisha contain wonders and miracles.  Elijah, we read, called down fire from heaven, parted water, and raised the dead.  We will go on to read also about Elisha parting water and raising the dead.  Such stories defy modern scientific thinking, of which I try to be a practitioner.  But, as a mentor of mine liked to ask of biblical texts, “What is really going on here?’

The reading from Matthew’s version of the Beatitudes reminds us to seek God’s glory, not ours.  The accounts of Elijah and Elisha tell us that these prophets lived by that rule.  There is a useful life lesson.

We have not read of Elisha since his calling in 1 Kings 19:19-21.  Now he becomes prominent in the story.  First, however, Elijah must exit the narrative, which he does in spectacular fashion.  His parting gift to Elisha is a double portion of his spirit.  As Hebrew Bible scholars have pointed out, the texts record eight miracles Elijah performed, but sixteen by the hand of Elisha.  So the “double” part of the double portion of Elijah’s spirit was literal.

Elijah, in 1 Kings 19, had found Elisha working behind a plow in a field.  The plowman became a great prophet after an apprenticeship and the departure of his mentor.  Elisha made the most of his calling, for the glory of God.  Your calling, O reader, is probably not as dramatic, but it is important.  May you make the most of it, for the glory of God.

KRT

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