Lectionary Text for Fifth Sunday after Pentecost:
2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14: “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. 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 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.
13 He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 He 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.”
Luke 9: 51-62: “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53 but they did not receive him, because his face was set towards Jerusalem. 54 When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 Then they went on to another village.
57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ 58 And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ 59 To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ 60 But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ 62 Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost Comment: This chapter marks the end of the life and ministry of Elijah the prophet. The relationship between Elijah with his mentee, Elisha, reminds me of a similar Biblical relationship between Naomi and Ruth. In both stories the elders are gently trying to separate themselves from their beloved charges. In both stories the young devotees refuse to leave. Both Elijah and Naomi try to explain the difficulties of following the lives they have chosen. Elisha’s asks of Elijah, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” Elijah responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet…”
Naomi relented when Ruth said, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me." Ruth 1: 16-17
In Luke 9 we meet Jesus in a similar scene as we read, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” It will take almost 10 chapters before Jesus reaches Jerusalem. On the way like Elisha and Ruth there are struggles and challenge that is a part of living for God.
Jesus’ first confrontation was with those who stated they wanted to follow him but they wanted to complete unfinished business at home, first. Before we get distracted by Jesus’ harsh response to them, perhaps the lesson to be learned is that genuine commitment to discipleship has no other business than total surrender.
The Biblical record of genuine allegiance to discipleship is found in the unswerving dedication of Elisha and Ruth. Without hesitation, that gave up all knowing the difficulties that lay ahead. When Elisha bent over to pick up Elijah’s mantle (the symbol of the prophetic office) he knew that the cost was great. Ruth left all that was familiar to go to a foreign land as a widow in a society where women depended totally on men for their lives.
Now, during the Pentecost season, we thank God that Jesus ‘set his face’ towards Jerusalem to accomplish his mission. Because of Jesus’ unswerving determination he arrived at Jerusalem. He conquered death by rising from it in resurrection power, ascended into heaven where he initiated the ministry of the Holy Spirit who was and is the constant companion of every disciple.
O God, fill our souls to overflowing with the fire of your love so we sings the words of the spiritual, “Nothing between my soul and the Savior.” Amen
Pentecost turns Ordinary Times into Extraordinary Commitment
©June 23, 2010
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