Sunday, April 17, 2016

Elisha and Elijah and More Modern Transfers of Power

Today my off-lectionary church returns to the Old Testament with the story of Elijah and Elisha.  I've posted the commentary that I wrote below.

In the past week, I've been thinking more and more about transfers of power from one generation to the next.  In some ways, I'm the generation who will soon be leaving.  But at 50 years old, perhaps I'm the ascending generation.

Because I'm just back from various retreats, I'm thinking about the camp directors who may soon be leaving.  One of my beloved Lutheridge directors has been open about the fact that she will not be retiring next year, but likely within 5 years.   And one of the women that I met during my travels announced that she and her spouse are headed off to become directors of a different retreat center that she loves.  She looked to be about my age, so maybe I'm not the departing generation yet.

I'm only just beginning to think about this.  I used to assume that program directors would need to be ordained, but that's more rare than usual, someone told me once.  I used to assume it was a job for the young, but it's the camp counselors who are young, not necessarily the ones in charge.

Stay tuned!

And now, for some thoughts on Elisha and Elijah:

The reading for Sunday, April 17, 2016:

2 Kings 2:  1-12

In this reading, we return to our study of the Old Testament.  Many people, I suspect, remember little else about Elijah, except perhaps that Elijah is one of few in the Bible who don't have to physically die, but are taken up into Heaven.

As I considered the reading for Sunday, I was struck by Elisha's loyalty to Elijah.  Perhaps it's because we are still so close to Good Friday and Easter, but I was struck by the 3 times that Elisha continues on with Elijah.  They know that the end is near, but Elisha refuses to abandon Elijah.

I also wonder about Elijah.  It's clear that he planned to walk alone--did he plan to walk alone because God told him to take this journey alone?  Is he irritated or comforted by the presence of Elisha? 

I think about our current time, a time that seems sorely in need of intergenerational mentorship.  What can we learn from this picture of Elijah and Elisha?  What does this story tell us about mentorship?

We might also think of this story as a parable of transition.  In many settings, we have one leader who has much of the institutional knowledge.  What happens when it's time for that leader to leave?  Perhaps Elisha clings to Elijah and asks for a portion of his spirit because he doesn't feel quite ready.  Those of us in leadership positions might think about how we're preparing people to take our places--are we giving away a portion of our spirits so that transitions, when they come as they must, are easier?

In the Revised Common Lectionary, we find this story as the Old Testament lesson on Transfiguration Sunday.  I often approach Transfiguration Sunday by thinking about ways to transfigure myself and about the ways that the world needs to be transfigured.

God promises to transfigure our lives from dust and ash to living light. Again and again, God declares transfiguring love: not just for Jesus, not just for Elijah and Elisha, but for all of us. In a world that rejects us in so many ways, it's good to remember that God claims us, every day. In God’s creation, every day presents opportunities for transfiguration, even in times of huge transition.

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