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“Taking Up the Mantle”

Sermon: “Taking Up the Mantle”

Rev. Kate Morritauk

Kirkridge Presbyterian Church

Transcription from June 26, 2022

Sermon transcription is automatically generated. Please forgive any grammatical errors.

Good morning, everyone. Thank you for letting me be here this morning at Kirkridge. I am the Reverend Kate Morritauk the new pastor at Trinity United Presbyterian Church. For those of you who are wondering why a pastor from another church is here, it's because all of the area's presbyterian pastors decided to do a pulpit exchange. So Glenn, I believe is in Holly or Lapeer. So we all shuffled pulpits this morning. I know Robbie Carnes from Fenton is at Trinity. And so, we are all just excited to be able to worship and lead worship in different places. And to strengthen the bonds of fellowship in our congregations, here and around the area, Flint, Grand Blanc, Fenton, all of those places.

I invite you to pray with me. Gracious God. As we have gathered around your word, we give thanks for the ways that you have revealed yourself to us. Help us now to remain open to the movement of your spirit as we discern how we are called to take up the mantle of Christ in our own lives. Amen.

So, when I was in high school, I was a member of a few different sports teams each year after the season was over, and I'm sure none of you know anything about this, we would have a special sports banquet or cookout to celebrate the season, spend time with our teammates and to wish our graduating seniors farewell and best wishes in their next endeavors. During this time, it was always common for the seniors to encourage their younger teammates, passing along knowledge to strengthen the team for the future, and sometimes even issuing a challenge to better season records or finally make the playoffs.

Symbolically the seniors who had often led the team so well, laid down their mantles to move on to the next portion of their journeys. Those of us left behind then had to fill that gap to pick up the mantle and continue in that work, that the seniors before us had begun. It was always a time filled with anticipation and a little bit of trepidation. Would we be able to lead as well as our teammates? Would we be able to better our overall records? Would we be able to live up to the expectations that are now laid on our shoulders? Only time would be able to tell.

In our second King's reading for today, we hear about a very literal passing of the mantle. It is time for Elijah who has long been a beloved, revered, and powerful prophet in Israel to ascend to God. Though Elijah knows what is about to occur his protege and beloved follower Elisha refuses to leave his side as they travel. When they come to the Jordan river, we witness Elijah's power as he parks the waters with his Mantle. So that he and Elisha can walk over on the dry ground. Now, a mantle during biblical times would have served the same purpose as an overcoat does for us today. It was often worn over indoor clothing, somewhat similar to a cape to offer some protection from the elements. So, when Elijah and Elisha reached the Jordan river, this isn't one of those chivalrous moments that I'm sure many of us have seen on TV or in the movies where one person, you know, nicely fluffs up their coat, lays it down on the puddle in front, and all parties are able to cross over that puddle or otherwise messy obstacle unstained.

This river is far too big for that in this case, Elijah removes his mantle, rolls it up, and strikes the water with it, and the water parts so that the two men walk over on the dry ground. After crossing the river, Elijah inquires of Elisha, if there is something that he could do for his devoted follower before he is taken from the world, Elisha responds that he would like to receive a double portion of his mentor’s spirit. Elijah says that this will be difficult, but if Elisha witnesses Elijah's ascension to heaven, then it will indeed happen as he has asked.

They continue on their journey, walking and talking together until a chariot and horses of fire, separate them and Elijah ascends to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha, I'm sure keeping in mind all that his mentor had said only moments before, makes himself watch the entirety of what is occurring before him. He watches until he cannot see Elijah anymore. And then in grief rips his own clothing, looking down, he sees that Elijah's mantle has fallen to the ground, picking it up, Elisha heads back to the Jordan river, and repeating his teacher's actions from their first river crossing, strikes the water, once more parting the river, so that he is now able to walk once more on the dry land.

Now, Elisha knew all about Elijah. We know from our reading that they had a really strong bond and that Elisha often liked being close to his teacher. He had witnessed Elijah's prophetic messages and works. He knew that Elijah was an incredible messenger of God and was well respected by the people. He also knew that when Elijah's time came to depart from the world, those were going to be some mighty big shoes to fill.

Elisha had been trained by Elijah and the two had a close bond. Logically one would assume that Elisha would be tapped to be Elijah's successor. And it seems that Elisha knew this. After seeing Elijah part the waters of the Jordan river with his mantle, I believe it struck Elisha that one day, he too would be expected to perform the same types of miracles and works.

And although we're never told this, I believe it is this realization of Elisha's that begs him to ask for a double portion of Elijah's spirit. However, when Elisha makes his request of Elijah, the older prophet makes it known that Elisha's request is not an easy one to fulfill. In order for it all to come to pass Elisha must remain vigilant. He must remain with Elijah and watch as his teacher is taken to heaven. If Elisha is not by Elijah's side or looks away in fear, sadness, or for any other reason, what he has asked of Elijah will not come to pass. We know that when the chariot of fire and whirlwind descend that Elisha keeps his eyes fixed on the scene, even though he is deeply grieved, and even cries out. He only looks away when his eyes can no longer physically make out the figure of his mentor. And looking down, looking down that is when he realizes that Elijah's mantle has been left behind, a physical reminder of his friend and teacher and the incredible power from God that he wants to be harnessed.

Picking up the mantle and making his way back to the river. I can imagine that Elisha was likely too wrapped in his grief to think clearly and upon reaching the river now had no idea how he was going to make it across that swiftly flowing water. Screaming out, as it says in the text, in a sorrowful, anger, he questions, Where is the Lord? The God of Elijah. And slams the mantle down on the water, I'm sure expecting that the river would continue to flow as it was. Instead, just as it had when Elijah had done it, the waters parted on either side and a patch of dry land emerges reaching the other side of the river.

Surprised at this revelation though, likely also incredibly relieved that he now didn't have to find a way to wade through the waters to get back to where he needed to be. I can just imagine that realization that Elijah's spirit had indeed entered into his mentee. And Elisha makes his way back across the river, not just physically carrying with him, the mantle of his teacher, but figuratively now taking up the mantle as the prophet in Israel and stepping in to fill the void that Elijah's Ascension to heaven has now created.

Flipping to our Luke 9 passage. We also see folks choosing, or rather not choosing to take up the mantle, and in this case, follow Jesus. As Jesus is traveling toward Jerusalem, he and the disciples encounter many people along the way, some refuse to offer them a place to rest. And when the disciples want to confront them about it, Jesus says that there is no time rebukes the disciples and says that they need to continue on their way.

On this journey to Jerusalem, Jesus invites one individual to follow him. And then another individual states that he will follow Jesus wherever he goes. The first response to Jesus asking to go and bury his father who has passed away, Jesus says to him, let the dead bury their own dead. But as for you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.

The second man who says he wants to follow Jesus places, a caveat on his following, asking that he first be allowed to go home to tell his loved ones goodbye. Jesus responds similarly, no one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. From this lesson, we can ascertain that when Jesus calls, Jesus calls.

There's no time for goodbye or to finish up the work that you were doing or might have needed to do. When Jesus calls, you choose to go, or not. And so, refrain that we hear often in the gospels, I'm thinking of the disciples who dropped everything and follow Jesus without a word. Or others like the rich young ruler who simply could not let go of all of his wealth in order to be able to follow Jesus. But if you choose to follow Jesus and there's no doing it, halfhearted, you go all in and give it your absolute best. It cannot be distracted or diverted. And if you choose to head that call and truly follow Jesus, and that is what you do from then.

Yes, there are likely to be parts of that journey that are hard. Yes, you will probably miss out on some important events or special occasions, but if you're going to dedicate your life to following Jesus then according to him, you have to give it your all and hold nothing back. Just as Elijah told Elisha. That he must remain ever vigilant in order to receive what he had asked for.

So to our lives must be in Christ as much as we do not allow the outside forces of the world to keep us from truly following the one, we claim to be our teacher and savior. If we are going to be true Christians if we are going to take up that mantle. And continue spreading the message that Christ did when he was here on earth. The message of love and acceptance for all of God's beautiful creation. Then we cannot allow ourselves to be sidetracked. We must continue to spread that gospel of love, even when people try to slander us and tell us that we are wrong for doing so.

When Elisha took up Elijah's mantle. He knew that he was stepping into a big role. And he knew that he was going to need all the help that he could get. This is why he asked for a double portion of Elijah's spirit, and even in his fear and sorrow of having to watch his teacher being taken from him, Elisha took up Elijah's mantle and was a mighty fine profit for the people, even finishing up some of the tasks that Elijah was not able to finish in his lifetime. Likewise, Christ has called us to take up his mantle to continue his works and his mission on earth today. Like Elisha, we may come with fear, we may come with trepidation, we may come with doubt. We may come not knowing what our next step will be. We will be surprised and grateful when the Lord guides us in this journey, like those who were seeking to follow Christ in our gospel reading, we will come with other things on our hearts and minds, of things that we need to do before we feel that we can fully commit ourselves to this or that particular cause.

But we shouldn't dilly dally for too long because Jesus has called us. And that means we have to go, Jesus has called us and asked us to walk alongside him in this journey called ministry. Jesus has called us to reach out to the lowly, the outcast, and the downtrodden. Jesus has asked us to reach out to our neighbors to make sure that they feel welcome.

Jesus has asked us to reach out to those who are marginalized and those who are in the need of love and grace. Jesus has called us, and now we have to decide for ourselves, are we going to listen or allow the influences of the world to hold us captive in our own distractions and our own ambitions. Or, are we going to take up Christ’s mantle and show the world just how much love and acceptance we who are gathered here today and around the globe are capable of? I leave that to you. Are we going to take up Christ's mantle? I hope so. Friends in the name of the creator who walks before us, our Christ, who walks beside us, and the holy spirit who is ever with us, Amen.

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