Eric Dillenbeck
February 19, 2012

2 Kings 2:1-14 and Mark 9:2-9

Our Reading from the Hebrew Scriptures this day comes from the 2nd book of Kings 2: 1-14. It tells us about the end of Elijah’s ministry as Prophet of the Lord. Now, there are two very similar names in this text, so I want to make sure to differentiate them before reading the text so the story is easier to follow.

Elijah, was one of the greatest Prophets of the Lord. He produced amazing miracles in the name of God, he confronted the unchecked power of royalty at a time when Royal power was growing, and challenged the cultural claim of false Gods with the power of the one True God. Elisha was the student and disciple of Elijah. He was literally hand-picked from a field by Elijah to learn and follow his ways.

With that sorted out, let us listen for God’s word speaking to us today:

2 Kings 2:1-14

Our next reading comes from the 9th chapter of the Gospel of Mark, verses 2-10.

Mark 9:2-10

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Elijah being carried up in a whirlwind, a chariot of fire and horses of fire; a transfigured Jesus, immaculately white standing with Elijah, the long gone prophet and Moses, the beloved leader: these fantastical parts of these two stories tend to steal the spotlight, to get modern readers confused and befuddled as we try to make sense of them scientifically and unfortunately distract us from the real emotion and meaning in the text for us today.

Elijah was at the end of his ministry. This was not only obvious to Elijah, but apparently to everyone who came near him. And just like today, when a person’s ministry is coming to an end there is stress, there is concern about what comes next. Elisha, the devoted disciple of the powerful prophet, must have sensed the end was near because he would not let Elijah out of his sight. He followed him from Gilgal to Bethel, to Jericho and finally to the River Jordan. They made their way from the populated areas to the wilderness, to the untamed places that remind readers of the powerful deeds of God that came before.

And after trying to get rid of Elisha along the way, to spare him from what was to come, Elijah finally gives in; he finally understands that Elisha is there for a reason and he creates a space for them to be together.

He rolls up his mantle, a physical representation of his call from God, and he strikes the river Jordan, parting the waters, creating a path through the chaos so they had a place to be separate and prepare for what, I am sure, they felt was imminent, Elijah’s departure. Elijah, probably seeking to comfort his friend and student, asks if there is anything he can do for Elisha. And being wise beyond his years and experience, Elisha avoids asking for glory, he avoids asking for a sign of credibility, he avoids asking for the secrets to success. There Elisha is, standing at the beginning of a future marked by the absence of a trusted friend and mentor and he has the vision to ask for a double share of Elijah’s Spirit, which he knows comes from God. He knows what is going to be expected of him, and he understands that what is required is beyond his capabilities. But Elisha also knows that all things are possible with the Spirit of God and Elijah is filled with God’s RUAH, God’s Spirit.

Elijah knows that this Spirit is not his to give, he does not control God’s RUAH; it is up to God to choose the worthy prophet, to empower the worthy disciple. And so he gives Elisha a sign, “If you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you … ” And later, as that chariot of fire and horses of fire separate the two of them, we hear Elisha crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel. … ” He might as well have been screaming, “I see it, I see it!”

Elijah had made seeing him being taken a condition for being granted a double portion of God’s RUAH. And because he saw him we know that Elisha has received the power of God’s Spirit. As he returns to the banks of the Jordon he finds Elijah’s mantle, the symbol of Elijah’s call, and he strikes the river again and watches in amazement as the water recedes, as the chaos is managed and he crosses to the other side.

This is a story of transition, this is a tale of transfiguration. Elisha followed, he witnessed, he was emboldened! He was emboldened to pick up the mantle, to assume the call of God and live into the vision God had for his life. The same is true for us today.

We have seen the power of God’s RUAH, God’s Spirit, in our lives here at Fairmount. If you look at the timeline of our history you will see all of these notes about powerful moments of God’s Spirit at work in our life together. Moments when members joined the church, children were baptized, couples were married, moments when loved ones were buried, moments where mission experiences of this church touched and transformed lives, moments when ministries of this church provided comfort, support and inspiration.

God’s RUAH, God’s Spirit, has been alive and present in this place. The prophetic voice of God has been proclaimed inside these walls and lived outside of these walls. We have seen it, and we cannot help but be emboldened by it. We cannot help but bend down and pick up the mantle of God’s call and strike the waters, we cannot help but bend down and assume the mantle of God’s call and live as God’s chosen people.

That life leads us up the mountainside with the other disciples on the heels of Jesus where we encounter the immaculately white presence of the living Christ, who is transfigured by his total belonging to the heavenly world, whose whole being, his thoughts, his actions reflect the full Glory of God that is within him.

I have not glowed immaculately white, I have not been in the presence of Moses and Elijah, but I do believe I have experienced and witnessed moments of transfiguration in my life, moments when I have seen someone passionately living into God’s vision for his/her life, moments when I felt in sync with the power of the Holy Spirit who is guiding my steps.

Those moments are palpable, you can feel the Presence of God in the space between people and it comes from living faithfully into God’s call for your life. Through the years this congregation has experienced tremendous moments of transfiguration, moments when God’s RUAH has been made evident by the members of the church assuming the mantle of God’s call.

Now we, once again, have the opportunity to spend some time looking around for the Mantle of the Prophet, to look and listen for God’s call to this community. Our theme for the day from the Self-study Committee is our dreams for this congregation. But we know that our dreams for this congregation are our perceptions of God’s call. So, where is God’s call leading us into our future?

How is God calling us to assume the mantle and live faithfully as God’s beloved children in this place and in the world? I invite everyone to take a few of the post-it notes that are in the pews around you and something to write with.

Before you write anything, ponder the following in your heart: The Lord once told the Prophet Habakkuk to “Write the vision, to make it plain so that others might see it.” That is our charge today. Where are your dreams for this congregation? Where is God calling us? What is God calling how to do? How is God calling us to assume the mantle?

Write your vision, make it plain so that we can see, so that we can listen together for God’s call in our lives. And then, after worship, please add these to the display in Andersen Hall. If you can’t make it into Andersen Hall today then please drop these in the offering plate or give them to one of your neighbors to add to the display.

Let us pause to dream, to listen for God.