I will not leave you
Posted on 16 August 2010
title: I Will Not Leave You
II Kings 2:1-14
2Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2Elijah 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. 3The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, ‘Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I know; keep silent.’
4 Elijah said to him, ‘Elisha, stay here; for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.’ But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So they came to Jericho. 5The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, ‘Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?’ And he answered, ‘Yes, I know; be silent.’
6 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. 7Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. 8Then 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.
9 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.’ 10He 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.’ 11As 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. 12Elisha 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.
13 He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14He 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.
It is remarkable how Elijah and Elisha were with one another!
Elijah told Elisha three times, Stay here. And three time Elisha replied to his traveling teacher, I will not leave you.
Elisha was just as abrupt with the companies of prophets. When they told Elisha what they knew was about to happen he told them, Keep silent.
Is there a mutuality, a way of being with one another, that does not meet the eye? Was the author portraying communications that just don’t translate to us. It sounds like, Here is a test. Are you able, worthy? Stay here, is somehow an invitation to keep up? Can you keep up?
No doubt this scripture was written from the context of a powerful social hierarchy, not only did one people and tribe oppress another but there was a strong paternalism. In that sort of social structure not only do men oppress women, but men oppress other men, that’s what hierarchy is. This connection between paternalism and racism is one we still struggle against. And it would be easy to focus on the shortcomings of the age from which we have received this word, but we are hear to listen to the word and to see if the spirit doesn’t still have something to say to us.
And what is remarkable to me is how Elijah and Elisha were with one another.
From the Christian scriptures we have a guide for how to treat each other, we all know the golden rule: Do to others as you would have them do to you. Lk. 6:31
In the reading from Galatians Paul reminds us of the second great commandment,
Love your neighbor as yourself.
John, love one another. (not a feeling, behavior.)
At first it may not seem like this story has much to help us understand the golden rule, neighbor love, love of one another, mutuality. We don’t see that that is how we would want to be treated. We don’t see easy illustrations of loving our neighbor. Of course, not everything in the scriptures needs to exemplify everything else. This story is mostly about the transition of power from Elijah to his successor, Elisha.
But it does raise a question for us, How are were these heroic men with each other?
We do recognize that at the end they were, “walking and talking,” together. So, strange as some of their ways of relating to each other may seem to us, if we suppose that the exchanges between Elijah and Elisha signal some sort of mutuality, how is mutuality expressed today?
Conversation after church, cookies and coffee? How to get to know someone well enough to have a deep important conversation? How to signal to newcomers that it might be possible to develop that sort of relationship here? One neighborhood church (Lutherans), a place for trusted friendships.
Simple practices, if I want to be greeted then I had better greet others. If I want respect then I must respect others.
A question for us who have been doing church for years:
How to be with someone who is not used to doing church, who is constantly checking their phone for texts, or checking out facebook updates, updating their own facebook page, or checking out twitters? Who doesn’t watch any of the same TV shows and when they do watch TV at all, they do it while playing games on their laptop? (With a scowl of disapproval? Teach them some manners?)
We look back to the way Elijah and Elisha were with each other and we have to wonder, How strange is too strange? Instead we challenge ourselves. Can you receive this person as he or she is? Start where they are? Reach for that moment when the one hears something that captures their interest so that they put down their phone or look up from their netbook or e-reader and replies with sufficient intensity that the other focuses and responds from a depth of compassion, so for at least a moment it is the two or three people engaged with one another, deeply engaged in that moment, with all that is present in that moment, with no technological supports, just those spirits and a wiff of The spirit.
We are used to some stereotypes of how to be with one another? Men walking and talking, working and talking. Women, sewing and talking. Drinking and talking.
Need to go deeper.
Start with yourself, What does it take for someone really to be with you? What do you appreciate?
Practice, Learning to be with God. What an opportunity we have to grow and lean!
Sharing our explorations with others.
Does church give us an opportunity for that kind of sharing, or are we always gathering to get the preacher’s answers? And being polite, or political, or self-indulgent, just getting what we need?
Mutuality is something to work on.
We do this by staying in relationship, I will not leave you (not a common behavior). Do not neglect covenant of membership, walking and talking together.
Reflect, what do you want?
Continuing walking and talking with one another, until that sweet chariot swings low to take God’s dear one from us. And even then to know we are not alone, not without history, we live with God and the great cloud of witnesses who surround us. And we invite one another to be fully present to this every moment of God’s coming.