Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
2 Kings 2:1-12 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Elijah Ascends to Heaven
2 Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 Elijah 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. 3 The company of prophets[a] 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. 5 The company of prophets[b] 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. 7 Fifty men of the company of prophets[c] also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. 8 Then 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.” 10 He 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.” 11 As 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. 12 Elisha 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.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
This passage of scripture is certainly about Elijah and Elisha, but it speaks to me today in another way. It is about the transition from one generation to the next and the power and pain of that transition. Every time someone wants to talk to Elisha about the fact that Elijah will be passing from the scene, his response is “Yes, I know; keep silent.” He doesn’t even want to talk about it. It’s just too painful.
I look back on all the mentors I have had who are no longer with us. I have felt the loss of each one and, like Elisha, I have wanted to “inherit a double share of their spirit.” I have wanted to hold on to them and have even said to some of them that I wish I could download their experience and knowledge into my brain. Of course, I can’t do that, but what I can do is accept and embrace the gifts they have given to me.
We have a worship service at our annual conferences each year in which we recognize and celebrate the ministries of clergy who are retiring. There is a powerful moment in that worship service that is based on this passage of scripture called the “Passing of the Mantle.” In that part of the service, a representative of the retiring class of clergy and a representative of the newly-ordained class of clergy kneel. The bishop takes the “mantle”—either a cape or a stole—and places it on the shoulders of the representative of the retiring class, saying, “In the book of Kings we read of the prophet Elijah’s ministry. The mantle, symbolic of submission to God, fell upon the younger prophet, Elisha, and the spirit of Elijah rested upon Elisha.
Then, the representative of the retiring class rises and places the mantle on the shoulders of the representative of the new full member class, and says, “I transfer this mantle from our generation to the young, indicating thereby that the responsibilities and dedication of the older generation will be caught up and carried on by the young, and the spirit of today’s Elijahs will rest upon today’s Elishas.”
Then, the representative of the new class rises, turns to the retiring class, and says, “We who come after you take up the mantle which falls upon us. May we inherit a double share of your spirit.”
Now that I am in my 60’s, I am aware that I am moving into the time when I am more in the shoes of Elijah than Elisha. I closer to passing from the scene than the time when I was saying goodbye to my early mentors who have passed from the scene. What gifts will I leave? What would a double share of my spirit look like?
I invite you to think about your mentors and the people who have gone before you that are important in your life. Who were they? What of their spirit have you inherited? Who will come after you? What gifts are you giving to those who will inherit a measure of your spirit?
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster