(Posted June 25, 2016)
After this long and eventful week, when nearly 200 people joined together in a Vigil at First Church to both mourn the fallen and to bring the Light of Love to extinguish hate, we come to the point of feeling this: Now What? After being inspired and uplifted through our tears, after watching conscientious people lead filibusters and occupy the floors of Congress, surely we can’t just sit back now and do nothing.
This coming Sunday’s Hebrew Bible setting speaks volumes about that. In 2 Kings, Elijah the prophet has been leading the people and exposing wicked King Ahab for his conniving ways for most of his life on earth.
And God has told him that God’s chariot of fire is coming to take him, body and soul to heaven. His young protégé, Elisha, is heartbroken and scared. Elisha has watched Elijah many times use his cloak, his mantle, to effect miracles. In a scene that gives us modern people the phrase, “The mantle has fallen to him,” we see this scene in 2 Kings where Elisha pleads with the departing prophet:
Elisha said, "Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit." He responded, "You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not." As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, "Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!" And with that, Elijah drops his mantle onto the shoulders of young Elisha.
The mantle of responsibility falls to him, responsibility for the schooling of the people of Israel. But he must be willing to trust in God that, if he picks up the mantle, God’s strength will be for him as well. And so we read,
“He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, "Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?" When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.” The power had been passed on to Elisha to carry on God’s work with the people.
So, too, it is with us, who remain behind with the hard work of turning around a world “hell-bent” on hate. A world seemingly un-phased with the death of children, Bible study groups, movie goers, college students, and most recently, nightclub guests. No matter where we individually stand on the issue of guns, there is a piece of the mantle waiting for us as our responsibility to turn around hatred. This is the heavy mantle tossed to us this week. But as was pointed out by some of the readers in the Senate filibuster session who read stories of heroic actions of people in Orlando, “We don’t ask you to be a hero.
All we ask you is not to be a bystander.” DO SOMETHING.
The weight of that mantle we now bear is the gravity of what it means to be a Christian. Each day as we go forward we will have a chance to talk the message, and live the love and concern for all people that Christ asks us to carry forward in a world that needs his message more than ever. – Pastor Pat Kriss