• Pastor Kim

Sermon 6/30/19

With one small switch of the letters “e” and “l,” the word “mantel” becomes “mantle;” and the definition essentially moves from “a shelf over the fireplace” to “a cloak or loose-fitting shawl; a coat.” We are talking about “m-a-n-t-l-e” today and I very much appreciate the imagery of a superhero’s cape for this discussion.


While I do recognize that not all well-known superheros wear capes, many do. As kids (or adults), we can easily transform into our favorite superhero with just a blanket tied around our shoulders. We imagine that we have their powers, their wisdom, their confidence to take on whatever the evil forces of our enemy may throw our way.


We imagine that we are picking up their mantle. Much like what Elisha did in the story we read today.


As we continue our weeks of reading stories from the Hebrew Scriptures, we hear again about the prophet Elijah. (Remember that “prophet” means more of a divine, truth-telling messenger than fortune-teller.) Last week we learned from his life the lesson that we should never underestimate the power of a nap and a snack. This week, we learn about passing on our mantle.


Kathryn Matthews (ucc.org) states, “There are some very dramatic touches to this story of Elijah being carried up to heaven, chariots and fire and all, but the most powerful thing about the story, its heart, is something much more accessible to us ...: God will send us the leader we need. Indeed, our prayer might be for the wisdom to recognize the right leader at the right time, and to have the courage to respond when we are offered our portion of the spirit of leadership ourselves.”


This story helps us reflect on the passing of wisdom and leadership and simply life from one person to the next.


Whose mantle would you want to pick up?

Who might be looking to pick up your mantle?

Where do we see ourselves in carrying on a godly mantle?


First, whose mantle would you want to pick up? In very blunt terms, are you following the superhero around or the villain?


Jordan, who has attended here for about 5 years and is the ripe old age of 30 (and not here today to defend himself), always says that one of the reasons he attends here is because of all the wisdom! He gets so excited for opportunities to sit around the table with who he calls “the elders.”


Jordan, as a young adult, is looking for a godly mantle to pick up.

Like Elisha, like Jordan, we need to be aware of who we are following - in all areas of our lives. Whose mantle do you want to pick up?


Who are you following for godly examples emotionally, mentally, physically, financially, spiritually? For those of us on social media, I think especially of Instagram or Twitter, who are you literally following on there? If you are following social media accounts or subscribing to certain magazines that have to do with physical health, are those accounts encouraging you toward a healthy lifestyle? If you read a lot of financial articles, how are they influencing your use of money? (which can carry so much power in our lives)


Who we follow determines our path in life. Literally. Think about it: if you are physically following someone, they are determining your path. Philosophically, it is true as well.

So, it’s good for us to check the people, projects, and philosophies that we are following. We want them to lead us to a godly life, to help spread God’s love, to help further God’s justice and mercy. A piece of Christian Scripture used as a common litmus test for what is godly is Galatians 5:22-23. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.


When we are looking for who will lead us and we might ask “how will we recognize that leader,” we can use this litmus test and ask who will lead with justice, wisdom, and gentle strength.


How do the people, projects, and philosophies that you follow measure against that litmus test?


Second, who might be looking to pick up your mantle? Elijah seemed rather aware that Elisha was chomping at the bit to take up his mantle. Honestly, he seemed a little annoyed with him. In reflecting on the Scripture, Matthews says “Maybe Elijah wasn’t too crazy about this upstart that he had to accept just because God told him...to anoint Elisha as ‘prophet in his place;’ after all...Elisha followed him as ‘servant’ and not as his successor. We have to wonder why Elijah has even a moment's doubt that Elisha is called by God to receive his mantle, his authority...since God was the one who actually called Elisha in the first place.” (ucc.org)


When we recognize that someone is looking to pick up our mantle, do we do so graciously? (Hoping, of course, that they are doing so graciously, as well.) Perhaps it is at work - where someone is looking to you as a mentor in your field. Perhaps it is within your family - where kids and young adults are looking for leadership as a parent or simply as an adult. Perhaps it is within church - where a newer member is looking to be involved in leadership and planning.


Do we try to wave them off, or do we recognize the opportunity to pass on our mantle?


It’s hard often for a variety of reasons. We don’t want to be replaced; we feel a strong ownership (or possession) of our role; we worry they won’t do the job way we did it.

It’s understandable to feel those things - we take great pride in our work, our families, our church, our communities. We want those things to continue successfully. And there comes a time to pass on the mantle. Sometimes it may be up to us when that happens, and sometimes it may happen like Elijah/Elisha where in a moment Elijah was gone.


My hope is twofold: that we realize others may be following us, so that means we are possibly determining another person’s path. Also, that we graciously take that opportunity to be a living example of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.


Where do we see ourselves in the carrying on of a godly mantle?


Currently, you may be the one looking for a godly mantle to pick up. You may be the one looking to pass on a godly mantle. We are all in this story, though, because we are all a part of carrying forth God’s message in this world.


I love the reference to Moses in this story. Did you notice it? Elijah (and then Elisha!) both rolled the mantle and struck the water with it. Then, the water parted! The mantle was not the physical mantle of Moses passed down to Elijah and then Elisha, but it does represent a passing of the godly leadership and authority.


It highlights that this spiritual mantle is passed from generation to generation.


Whose mantle would you want to pick up?

Who might be looking to pick up your mantle?

Where do we see ourselves in carrying on a godly mantle?

Are we looking to pick up a superhero’s cape or the villain’s?


Jim Rohn, writer and entrepreneur, stated “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” For the most part, I agree with that statement - with the sentiment that who or what we surround ourselves with greatly influences our direction in life. Those people influence us emotionally, mentally, physically, financially, politically, and spiritually.


Your homework is to identify those five people in your life. Who (or what sources) do you spend the most time with? Would you want to pick up their mantle? Are any of them possibly looking to pick up yours? How are you participating in furthering God’s message - the fruits of the spirit - so that all people are reached, are loved, are welcomed, are cared for?


Scripture: 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14

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Lynnhaven Colony
Congregational,
United Church of Christ

1-757-481-7674

 

2217 W. Great Neck Rd

Virginia Beach, VA 23451

2217 W

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