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Photo collage by Jhaan at Flickr.com

Saturday Evening, June 29, 2013
Sts. Clare & Francis ECC
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 19:16-21
Galatians 5:1, 13-18
Luke 9:51-62
Homily by Frank Krebs

When Luke paints his picture for us tonight, he has in mind a long and marvelous story in the ancient Hebrew Scriptures, part of which we read tonight.  The story tells of the “passing on of the mantel”[i] from one prophet to another.  Elijah is about to be taken up to heaven, quite dramatically by “chariots of fire.”  He has been training Elisha to be his successor.  Elisha had asked Elijah for a “double-portion” of God’s spirit, which Elisha receives as Elijah ascends.

Luke tells us that Jesus is about to be “taken up” just like Elijah was.  Luke will later paint a picture of Jesus being taken up into heaven, with his Spirit soon to follow, like the spirit of Elijah falling on Elisha.

Also Luke borrows the theme of determination and focus and concentration on “the most important thing” from the Elijah story as well.  He pictures Jesus tonight with a kind of determined face.  He “set his face to Jerusalem,” we are told.  Like a compass needle his whole being was pointed.  There was direction in his soul.  This was a calling, a mission.  He was consumed by it.  Elijah was like that as well.

However in the Elijah story and in Luke’s story, there is hesitancy on the part of the disciple, the learner, the one who would walk in the prophet or Jesus’ footsteps.  Let’s look at the Elijah story first.

Elisha’s (the student of Elijah) response is basically, “Excuse me; I have a few things I have to do.”  These were not hard things to imagine excusing one for, i.e., family obligations.  Elijah had no patience with this.  When you get a call from God, he would be thinking, that is the most important thing in your life.  That is your life.  Everything else comes second.  Elisha got the point.

And so while Elisha was in the middle of plowing his field, he slaughtered the oxen, broke up the plow to cook the oxen, gave the cooked meat to the poor, and left to follow Elijah.  He could not go back; he could have no livelihood as a farmer anymore.  He had “set his hand to,” or destroyed, his plow.  The only way now was forward with Elijah.

So Jesus similarly says to his would be followers, “You can follow me, but the mission must be first; everything else is second.”  That is what the Word is challenging us with this evening.

Nelson Mandella lies dying in South Africa tonight.  The chariots of fire are coming to pick him up.  Who will his mantel fall on?  Who will receive his spirit?

Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai braved death at the hands of powerful forces in Kenya as she sought to stop the deforestation that was ruining the earth and thus the life of her people.  She braved death as if she were doing the most important thing in the world—as she simply planted trees one at a time.  She started a movement of many, many women doing the same thing.  They have picked up her mantel.

Our communal works of service, which will allow each of us to be as involved as we are able to be, have this element of mission about them.  We are not just wandering around with no sense of where we are going.  We are working for justice.  The Spirit of Jesus has fallen on us; his mantel has been passed on.  Amen?


[i] Quite literally.  Presumably this is where this famous phrase comes from.

 

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