Tag Archives: Elijah

Third Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 8

Track 1: Called up Higher

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20
Galatians 5:1,13-25
Luke 9:51-62

The day the disciples feared had come. Their leader and teacher would be leaving them. In the case of Elijah, his departure would bring about a great test of faith for Elisha. Elijah had prepared his disciple for this time, but his greater concern was answering the call from God to a higher ministry.

When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.

Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.   (2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-8)

Notice that Elijah, at this point, did not encourage Elisha to follow him. It was up to Elisha to determine what  was going on. By faith, Elisha knew that his teacher was departing, but he was not sure what that would mean. He would not allow Elijah to depart without his blessing.

The company of prophets was full of skeptics and unbelievers. At this point, God separated Elijah and Elisha from them:

Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.   (2 Kings 2:6-8)

Elisha had proven himself by his loyalty and belief:

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” 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!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

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.   (2 Kings 2:9-12)

Elisha no longer had Elijah. He now  needed to rely solely on God alone. On the other hand, the company of prophets dud bit believe Elisha’s account of what happened. They insisted on sending out search parties to look for him.

As disciples, if we seek the truths of God, we must be open to seeing and believing the Acts that God is doing, no matter how strange to us they may seem.

Elijah was translated directly to heaven. From there he still inspired and taught the prophets of God. John the Baptist was a prime example. The father of John the Baptist was given this prophecy by an angle of the Lord:

You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”   (Luke 1:24-27)

Jesus had often spoked to his disciples about his departure from this world, but they did not understand him. His earthly ministry was coming  to a close. Now he needed to concentrate more on the heavenly calling of his ministry: his cross, resurrection, and bodily ascension into heaven. Reading from Luke:

When the days drew near for Jesus to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.   (Luke 9:51-56)

Jesus’ face was set toward Jerusalem. Nothing was going to deter him from what he must do, not even concerns from his disciples. The disciples of Jesus would soon have to learn a new way to understand their calling:

The Prophet Jeremiah wrote about this:

This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord, for I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more.   (Jeremiah 31:33-34)

Jesus explained as he was departing this world:

I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you.   (John 14:25-26)

The Apostle Paul writes about the new disciple that is led directly by God through his Spirit:

Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.   (Galatians 5:16-25)

Are we part of the new disciples who are lead by God alone? It is not to have a mentor, but mentor’s can fail us. We need a direct relationship with God. As Elisha, we need to be open to God. As the disciples of Jesus, we need to understand that Jesus is still with us in the Holy Spirit. All we need do is the exercise our faith and believe in what God is doing today. When our work is done we will be called up on high. All of us have a high calling. It begins not in the future. It starts now.

 

Track 2: Do Not Look Back

1 Kings 19:15-16,19-21
Psalm 16
Galatians 5:1,13-25
Luke 9:51-62

In today’s Old Testament reading we have the example of a calling of God to Elisha. It was made through the Prophet Elijah. What is remarkable is that Elisha realized the great sacrifice he would be making, but was willing to drop what he was doing ahd join Elijah almost immediately:

So he set out from there, and found Elisha son of Shaphat, who was plowing. There were twelve yoke of oxen ahead of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle over him. He left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” Then Elijah said to him, “Go back again; for what have I done to you?” He returned from following him, took the yoke of oxen, and slaughtered them; using the equipment from the oxen, he boiled their flesh, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out and followed Elijah, and became his servant.   (1 Kings 19:19-21)

This was true of the disciples of Jesus as well. They left everything to follow him. The disciples would soon discover that their commitment to Jesus would be tested along the way.

Jesus called others to follow him as well. Some of them professed that they were willing to do so, but not immediately:

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”  (Luke 9:57-62)

The initial test of discipleship is soon followed by another test. There is a second test. When things become difficult, are disciples willing to follow through on their commitment? Some of Jesus’ disciples did leave him.

Jesus said:

“If any wish to come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit them if they gain the whole world but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.   (Luke 9:23-26)

Persecution is what turns many away. Persecution is part of our calling. Jesus said:

I have said this to you so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution, but take courage: I have conquered the world!   (John 16:33)

How many of us are willing to pass the second test today? It is clear that many Christians have fallen away. Some have looked back to former times when things were better. Though prosperity is preached in many churches, it often fails to become a reality. Jesus did not declare that all his disciples would be wealthy:

“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”   ()

If we are to become true disciples, with staying power, perhaps we need to look at other ways in winch God may bless us. The psalmist wrote:

I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
my heart teaches me, night after night.

I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand I shall not fall.

My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices;
my body also shall rest in hope.

For you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor let your holy one see the Pit.

You will show me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy,
and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.   (Psalm 16:7-11)

To see this kind of blessing, we need to look ahead, by faith, and not back to the past. The Apostle Paul wrote that the Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, ahd joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).

God has so much to give us and show us. But he has not forgotten about our daily needs. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the gentiles who seek all these things, and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.   (Matthew 6:31-33)

The children of Israel complained in the wilderness:

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and ate our fill of bread, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Many in this generation never entered God’s rest. Is that to be us?  Will we look back and missed what God has for us? The Apostle Paul wrote:

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal, but I press on to lay hold of that for which Christ has laid hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have laid hold of it, but one thing I have laid hold of: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal, toward the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.   (Philippians 3:12-14)

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Second Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 7

Track 1: I Alone Am Left

1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a
Psalm 42 and 43
Galatians 3:23-29
Luke 8:26-39

Have we ever read the news headlines and felt despair? Everything seems to be going in the wrong direction. Not only that, but there seems little we can do about it. That was the Prophet Elijah. He was running for his life, looking for a place to hide. He had read the Jezebel news report. She had promised to kill him.

Elijah was hiding in a cave on Mount Horeb when God spoke to him:

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”   (1 Kings 19:9-10)

The problem for many of us, as it was for Elijah, is that we have been reading the wrong news report.

The Prophet Habakkuk, in dire times, was seeking a word from God about what God was going to do. He had grown tires of waiting, not knowing what God was doing. Reading from Habakkuk:

Then the Lord answered me and said:

“Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.
For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry.

“Behold the proud,
His soul is not upright in him;
But the just shall live by his faith.   (Habakkuk 2:2-4)

When our plans fail we must remember that God has a plan. God’s plan is executed on his perfect timing and not on ours. We must live by faith and continue to put our trust in God.

God told Elijah that he wa not the only one left:

Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel, and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill, and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”   (1 Kings 1915-18)

Today, we are not alone. The psalmist wrote:

Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul?
and why are you so disquieted within me?

Put your trust in God;
for I will yet give thanks to him,
who is the help of my countenance, and my God.   (Psalm 42:14-15)

God is our help. His word is our good news. All the other news may seem bad. God’s plan does not depend on what we may think. He will do what we cannot do. God will do what only he can do.

Today, in whom do we place our trust? No one could do what Jesus did for us. To his disciples, Jesus seemed defeated when he hung on a cruel cross. But good news from God was that Hell and death were defeated. O the cross Jesus bore all of our sin. He is our salvation, He is our good report. He is our future. Everything else will ultimately fail. God’s love for us will never fail.

 

Track 2: Under the Authority of Jesus

Isaiah 65:1-9
Psalm 22:18-27
Galatians 3:23-29
Luke 8:26-39

In the Book of James we read:

You believe there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that. And they tremble!   (James 2:19-20)

James was teaching that the Christian faith must go deeper than just believing in the existence of God. If we stop there our faith is no greater than that of demons.

In today’s Gospel reading we have an example of how demons believe and tremble:

Jesus and his disciples arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me” — for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.   (Luke 8:26-31)

Why did the demons fear Jesus? He had authority over them. They knew who he was and that he could order them to go back into the abyss. Demons are on assignment from Satan to torture their subjects. If they fail, they just return to the abyss and be tortured themselves. But that is for another time.

We want to examine the authority of Jesus over demons. We remember the time when Jesus sent out 72 disciples into the country side on minister in his name. Reading from the Gospel of Luke:

The 72 returned with joy. They said, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we speak in your name.”

Jesus replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to walk all over snakes and scorpions. You will be able to destroy all the power of the enemy. Nothing will harm you. But do not be glad when the evil spirits obey you. Instead, be glad that your names are written in heaven.”   (Luke 10:18-20)

Jesus is able to grant us his authority over demons to others. On the Day of Pentecost, the Church received the power of the Holy Spirit. Just before his ascension, Jesus commissioned his disciples:

“Go into all the world and proclaim the good news[d] to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved, but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes,[e] and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”   (Mark 16:15-18)

Casting out demons in the Early Church occurred on a regular basis, using the name and authority of Jesus. But this was not some foolproof  formula. We read in the Book of Acts:

Some Jews went around driving out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus to set free those who were controlled by demons. They said, “In Jesus’ name I command you to come out. He is the Jesus that Paul is preaching about.” Seven sons of Sceva were doing this. Sceva was a Jewish chief priest. One day the evil spirit answered them, “I know Jesus. And I know about Paul. But who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on Sceva’s sons. He overpowered them all. He gave them a terrible beating. They ran out of the house naked and bleeding.   (Acts 19:13-16)

The demons were under the authority of Jesus. To cast them out, we must also be under the authority of Jesus. We have no power on our own to do so.

Today, do we understand that much of the opposition to the ministry of the Church comes from demons? We cannot be naive about the demonic. We are in open spiritual warfare. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power; put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, for our struggle is not against blood and flesh but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on the evil day and, having prevailed against everything, to stand firm. Stand, therefore, and belt your waist with truth and put on the breastplate of righteousness and lace up your sandals in preparation for the gospel of peace. With all of these,[take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.   (Ephesians 6:10-18)

Are we under the authority of Jesus Christ today? His name must mean something to us. It must mean everything. Therefore, we must give him our everything. He is calling us to give him our all.

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Last Sunday after the Epiphany

From Glory to Glory

During this Season of Epiphany, we have been observing the many ways that God has supernaturally manifested himself . On this last Sunday after the Epiphany, perhaps it is fitting that we observe one the most meteoric manifestations of God’s glory. It is recorded in our reading from Luke:

Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.   (Luke 9:28-31)

Jesus led Peter, James, and John up the holy mountain. They had positioned themselves. They were the disciples closest to Jesus of the twelve disciples. Jesus wants to do the same for us today when we position ourselves.

But first let us examine what the three disciples experienced. They were not prepared for what they saw:

Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”–not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”    (Luke 9:32-35)

Peter was confused as any one of us might have been. The voice of God the Father tells us Jesus must be heard over all the rest. Moses represented the Law and Elijah represented the Prophets, but Jesus represented more than these two. The Apostle Paul wrote

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.   (1 Corinthians 13:1-2)

Following the Law of God by faith and holding on to the hope of fulfilled prophecy means little without one more ingredient:

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.   (1 Corinthians 13:8)

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.   (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Jesus was facing the cross on which her would purchase the redemption for who would believe. This would be the greatest manifestation of God’s unconditional love for humankind.

Jesus wants to lead us up the mountain of transfiguration. He wants us to experience the transforming power of God, the light of Christ and his glory. Are we ready?.

We remember that when Moses spent time with God on the mountain, his face would shine. He had to wear a veil over his face when he came down because the people were afraid to look upon him. Moses was veiled because the understanding of the Israelites was vailed.

Our understanding should not be veiled. Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.   (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

We should not dwell on our spiritual experiences. Rather, we should exhibit the changes in our lives. Paul wrote:

For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.   (2 Corinthians 4:3-6)

How have we positioned ourselves? Upon whom to we gaze? Whom or what do we worship? We become whatever we worship. Does entertainment crowd our time to spend in prayer, worship, and meditating on God’s Word?

In our lives now Jesus wants to lead us from one degree of glory to another. As we look upon his glory we become more like him. We are filled with his perfect love which casts our all fear. We shine with the light of his glory for all the world to see.

The Apostle Paul prayed:

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.   (Ephesian 3:16-19)

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