Stepping up to God’s Call
2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14 – Galatians 5:1, 13-25 – Luke 9:51-62
For me the theme that comes out of today’s readings is Stepping up to God’s Call in your life.
that meant taking over the call of Elijah,
or taking the mantle of Elijah; mantle was another name for coat.
For the Galatian’s it meant living the ways of Jesus’ community.
And for the disciples
it meant being open to the rebuke and teaching of Jesus when they got things wrong,
and then humbly following Jesus.
Stepping up to God’s call only happens as you Live in the moment,
or what others might call being fully present in the moment.
That is you are fully present in what you are doing,
and where you are.
If we are not fully-present then we are likely to miss out on what is happening.
As we walk more fully into God’s call we discover that it is not something we can schedule,
we can’t say to God: “Okay, on the 30th of June I can give you 37 minutes.”
The teaching of Paul in the letter to the Galatians shows us that being part of God’s Kingdom needs to become who we are.
When we talk about stepping up to God’s call,
or living in the moment,
we can all tell stories of when we didn’t do this.
God often gives us another chance though;
so we don’t need to beat ourselves up if we’ve said no to God in the past,
we simply need to start saying yes.
The call of God is constantly into a fuller relationship with God,
this means we are always being called to be closer to God,
our relationship with God matures and grows,
just as our marriages constantly mature and grow too.
Part of the maturing of our relationship with God,
is being fully present where God has called us,
so that we may witness to what God is doing,
and also observe what God is doing.
In the footsteps of others
Elisha had nurtured his relationship enough over the years,
that he was able to observe the God moment as Elijah withdrew from ministry,
and he was also able to take up God’s call,
and take that next step,
in this case taking over where Elijah had left off.
At times we might think that we can’t do something,
but we are never by ourselves,
we are always walking in the footsteps of those who have gone before us.
With Elisha, he is given the responsibility to lead,
and no sooner does Elijah hand this responsibility to him,
then he turns around and leaves.
Many of us have experienced this before;
where we start something expecting someone to be with us,
and they are for a moment,
but then all of a sudden we are by ourselves.
So if we are not fully-present,
and concentrating on what we are doing here and now,
then we wont be ready for tomorrow when we have to do it ourselves.
We need to take the opportunity to learn while we can,
these moments are our Elisha moments,
that we need to make full use of.
Because sometimes like with Elijah handing over the ministry to Elisha,
the transition is over all too soon,
and then Elisha had to just get on and lead.
There are similar parallels in the Gospels.
Jesus as the Word of Creation understands his Creation,
and knows how difficult it is to take something over,
and how slow we are to learn,
and take things on board.
So Jesus makes a special attempt to prepare his disciples as John records in chapters 15 – 17.
In today’s reading from Luke 9,
Luke notes that Jesus’ ministry is coming to a close
and he is on his was to Jerusalem and a cross.
Jesus says to his disciples as he is preparing them for his leaving:
“No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
He is reminding them that they need to be ready to follow.
For as soon as you delay,
something else will come up,
and something else,
and something else…
Such delays can mean you miss the God moment.
We heard last week that the voice of God comes as that still small quiet voice;
God doesn’t yell into our lives.
So if we always prioritise other things,
over what it is God is calling us to,
then we are likely to miss the God moments.
Following God means being quiet and still and listening;
it also means following when called.
Sometimes we can rationalise it away and say, I’ll just do this first…
Wait or no?
And maybe this might be okay if we actually get back to following that call,
but that call,
that still small voice of God speaking into our lives quietly and gently,
quickly gets over-whelmed by our other tasks.
So we need to be careful,
when we say “wait” to God,
we need to check in that we really are saying wait,
and not no.
Paul starts to wrap up his letter to the Galatians
reminding them to hold on to the gift of new-life and change they have been given,
to not let it go.
Like Jesus trained and commissioned his disciples,
Elijah trained and commissioned Elisha,
and in a similar way Paul is training and commission the Galatians.
My friends, you were chosen to be free. So don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do anything you want.
Sometimes there can be a tendency,
to think it doesn’t matter what I do,
God will forgive it,
so I’ll just get on with it,
and ask for forgiveness tomorrow.
But Paul says: “don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do anything you want. (Rather) Use it as an opportunity to serve each other with love.”
Paul reminds us that our actions count,
and we need to work with each other,
not against each other.
If we work against others,
the best that will happen is that we split,
the worst that happens is that we end up destroying ourselves;
and the destruction that Paul talks of often happens is thru bitterness and resentment,
where we nolonger see any good in the other person.
For Paul there is a simple but challenging answer,
– we need to still ourselves,
– and allow God’s Spirit to flow through us,
and guide us and our relationships.
In the next part of the passage,
there is the harmony between Jesus’ teaching and Paul
Jesus implies that those who turn back, can’t be part of God’s Kingdom,
and Paul teaches that we need to follow the Spirit of Jesus.
Paul says this: If you are guided by the Spirit, you won’t obey your selfish desires.
The Spirit and your desires are enemies of each other.
They are always fighting each other and keeping you from doing what you feel you should.
Now you need to know that I’m quoting Paul out of context.
To re-paraphrase Paul,
if we add the words and turn back at the end of his line on selfish desires, we get a teaching very similar to Jesus’:
redoing Paul then: If u r guided by the Spirit, you won’t obey your selfish desires (and turn back).
The Spirit and your desires are enemies of each other.
They are always fighting each other and keeping you from doing what you feel you should.
The issue Paul was addressing was whether people would follow the Law of Moses,
or whether they would follow the message of Grace, love, forgiveness of Jesus,
and specifically whether you could believe that this was a faith thing,
something that you could not pay for,
or work for,
rather it was a free gift.
I think today the law that we fight,
or the old way of being that holds us back,
is any thinking within us that holds us captive to not following God’s call on our lives in a closer way.
We all struggle with that at times,
but I think we can still apply Paul’s teaching today even though we’re not arguing over the law of Moses.
We struggle with other things within our culture that draw us away from God’s call,
and being God’s people together.
Paul goes on to list some things that the community was struggling with,
things he called: “People’s desires (that) make them give in to immoral ways,…”
If we believe that being part of God’s Kingdom will mean one day being with God,
and I do believe it will,
then we need to prepare for this.
And part of this is preparing our character.
Pauls says: I told you before, and I am telling you again: No one who does these things will share in the blessings of God’s kingdom.
For Paul it’s quite simple,
if we do not start to share God’s character then we will not be ready for God’s Kingdom.
A question for us: does God live in immoral ways?
I’m sure we’d all answer no to this.
Therefore we have to think,
is what I am doing immoral?
If it is,
then we will struggle to be in God’s presence
if there is something immoral that is a key part of our identity, and way of living.
We can easily give up the things that are not key parts of us,
but the core identity is hard to give up.
It is here that we need the Spirit’s help.
Finally Paul says: God’s Spirit makes us loving, happy, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. … And because we belong to Christ Jesus, we have killed our selfish feelings and desires. God’s Spirit has given us life, and so we should follow the Spirit.
One of our constant prayers needs to be: Jesus show me your ways.
And then as we are shown,
the next prayer is: Holy Spirit transform my mind to the way of Jesus.
We then continue to step into God’s tomorrow,
or God’s call on us.
Today in all three readings, there is a sense of not giving up,
of not letting go,
of living in the moment and using that moment for God,
as God calls us to it.
May you make the most of the moments God puts before you.
And may you say yes to the call that God puts on your life.
Revd Dion J. Blundell 2012 (Distributed under Creative Commons agreement CC [BY-SA])
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 New Zealand License. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/nz/
Let us pray: Gracious God,
You show us your ways,
in how to walk through Elisha and Jesus,
and in how to live through Paul.
May your word challenge, encourage and strengthen us.
May we hold fast to your love,
and know that you love us no matter what. Amen.
(cc) by: Revd Dion J. Blundell 2012
2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14 (CEV)
Not long before the Lord took Elijah up into heaven in a strong wind, Elijah and Elisha were leaving Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “The Lord wants me to go to Bethel, but you must stay here.”
Elisha replied, “I swear by the living Lord and by your own life that I will stay with you no matter what!” And he went with Elijah to Bethel.
Elijah then said to Elisha, “Now the Lord wants me to go to the Jordan River, but you must stay here.”
Elisha replied, “I swear by the living Lord and by your own life that I will never leave you!” So the two of them walked on together.
Fifty prophets followed Elijah and Elisha from Jericho, then stood at a distance and watched as the two men walked toward the river. When they got there, Elijah took off his coat, then he rolled it up and struck the water with it. At once a path opened up through the river, and the two of them walked across on dry ground.
After they had reached the other side, Elijah said, “Elisha, the Lord will soon take me away. What can I do for you before that happens?”
Elisha answered, “Please give me twice as much of your power as you give the other prophets, so I can be the one who takes your place as their leader.”
“It won’t be easy,” Elijah answered. “It can happen only if you see me as I am being taken away.”
Elijah and Elisha were walking along and talking, when suddenly there appeared between them a flaming chariot pulled by fiery horses. Right away, a strong wind took Elijah up into heaven. Elisha saw this and shouted, “Israel’s cavalry and chariots have taken my master away!”1 After Elijah had gone, Elisha tore his clothes in sorrow.
Elijah’s coat had fallen off, so Elisha picked it up and walked back to the Jordan River. He struck the water with the coat and wondered, “Will the Lord perform miracles for me as he did for Elijah?” As soon as Elisha did this, a dry path opened up through the water, and he walked across.
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
Christ has set us free! This means we are really free. Now hold on to your freedom and don’t ever become slaves of the Law again.
My friends, you were chosen to be free. So don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do anything you want. Use it as an opportunity to serve each other with love. All that the Law says can be summed up in the command to love others as much as you love yourself. But if you keep attacking each other like wild animals, you had better watch out or you will destroy yourselves.
If you are guided by the Spirit, you won’t obey your selfish desires. The Spirit and your desires are enemies of each other. They are always fighting each other and keeping you from doing what you feel you should. But if you obey the Spirit, the Law of Moses has no control over you.
People’s desires make them give in to immoral ways, filthy thoughts, and shameful deeds. They worship idols, practice witchcraft, hate others, and are hard to get along with. People become jealous, angry, and selfish. They not only argue and cause trouble, but they are envious. They get drunk, carry on at wild parties, and do other evil things as well. I told you before, and I am telling you again: No one who does these things will share in the blessings of God’s kingdom.
God’s Spirit makes us loving, happy, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. There is no law against behaving in any of these ways. And because we belong to Christ Jesus, we have killed our selfish feelings and desires. God’s Spirit has given us life, and so we should follow the Spirit.
Not long before it was time for Jesus to be taken up to heaven, he made up his mind to go to Jerusalem. He sent some messengers on ahead to a Samaritan village to get things ready for him. But he was on his way to Jerusalem, so the people there refused to welcome him. When the disciples James and John saw what was happening, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to destroy these people?”2
But Jesus turned and corrected them for what they had said.3 Then they all went on to another village.
Along the way someone said to Jesus, “I’ll go anywhere with you!”
Jesus said, “Foxes have dens, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man doesn’t have a place to call his own.”
Jesus told someone else to come with him. But the man said, “Lord, let me wait until I bury my father.”4
Jesus answered, “Let the dead take care of the dead, while you go and tell about God’s kingdom.”
Then someone said to Jesus, “I want to go with you, Lord, but first let me go back and take care of things at home.”
Jesus answered, “Anyone who starts plowing and keeps looking back isn’t worth a thing to God’s kingdom!”
12.12 Israel’s. . . away: Or “Master, you were like cavalry and chariots for the people of Israel!”
29.54 to destroy these people: Some manuscripts add “as Elijah did.”
39.55 what they had said: Some manuscripts add, “and said, ‘Don’t you know what spirit you belong to? The Son of Man did not come to destroy people’s lives, but to save them.’ “
49.59 bury my father: The Jewish people taught that giving someone a proper burial was even more important than helping the poor.