Third Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 8C

Track 1: The God of Elijah

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20
Galatians 5:1,13-25
Luke 9:51-62

We continue with the story of Elijah. God had instructed Elijah to anoint Elisha to take his place. It was time for the great prophet to be translated to heaven. We read in 2 Kings:

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.” 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.” 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. 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.

He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 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.   (2 Kings 2:9-14)

Elisha was very ambitious. He wanted a double portion of the anointing which Elijah had. Nonetheless, something was missing in Elisha’s understanding of God.

Elisha call out to as the God, addressing him as the God of Elijah. God should not be defined by one man’s relationship with him. He is not just the God of one man or woman. In the Old Testament he was referred to as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” This changed, however, when God called Moses to lead his people out of Egypt:

So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”

But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:

This is my name forever,
and this my title for all generations.   (Exodus 3:10-15)

God was telling Moses that he must understood in a much broader context. If we know God only through his relationship with another person then we are missing the very nature of God. God transcends any human definition of himself.

The psalmist reflected upon God:

In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord;
my hands were stretched out by night and did not tire;
I refused to be comforted.

I will remember the works of the Lord,
and call to mind your wonders of old time.

I will meditate on all your acts
and ponder your mighty deeds.

Your way, O God, is holy;
who is so great a god as our God?

You are the God who works wonders
and have declared your power among the peoples.

By your strength you have redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph.   (Psalm 77:2, 11-15)

To know God is to know his works. He is not just the God of our spiritual mentor. He is creator God of love for all of us to experience and know, if that is our desire. We need to expand our thinking. We need to meditate on the mighty acts of God down trough the ages.

I think that we can safely assume that the Prophet Elisha gsinrf a deeper underrating of God during his prophetic ministry. Though he had a double portion of Elijah’s anointing, he would have been greatly handicapped in faithfully serving God without his teaching, healing, and direction.

How about us today? Are we seeking impressive spiritual power? For what purpose? Do we know who God is? We cannot know God the Father without knowing God the Son. The Pharisees were confused about who Jesus was. They were not prepared for his answer. Jesus said:

Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.”   (John 8:56-58)

We are called by the great I AM. That is who we serve. Our primary task is to walk with him on a daily basis so that we might know God and his ways. The psalmist wrote:

Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes,
And I shall observe it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law
And keep it with all my heart.
Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,
For I delight in it.
Incline my heart to Your testimonies
And not to dishonest gain.
Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity,
And revive me in Your ways.
Establish Your word to Your servant,
As that which produces reverence for You.   (Psalm 119:33-38)

 

 

Track: Fit for the Kingdom of God

1 Kings 19:15-16,19-21
Psalm 16
Galatians 5:1,13-25
Luke 9:51-62

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem for one final time. Along the way several people said they wanted to join him, not knowing where he was going or what joining him really meant. Reading from today’s Gospel:

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 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.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”   (Luke 9:57-62)

Why would someone want to look back when entering the kingdom of God? There are requirements for living in the Kingdom of God.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.   (Galatians 5:16-21)

God wants to give us his kingdom, but we must also inherit it. This notion rules does not nullify grace, but it certainly rules out cheap grace. The kingdom of God is not something to be taken lightly. Jesus said:

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.   (Luke 12:32-34)

There is no room in the kingdom of God for the love of this world. God wants to expand our hearts so that we may truly value what is good and lasting. Those who live in the kingdom do not live as those in the world. Continuing in today’s Epistle reading, Paul writes

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.   (Galatians 5:22-25)

To receive the kingdom of God is to repent, believe and confess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. To inherit the kingdom of God is to be guided by the Holy Spirit. If we look back to the world we are taking our hands off the plow. Yes, there is work to be done in the kingdom on this earth. Each of us is given a plow. We should be willing to work in the field.

We do not earn the kingdom. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. It is given to us through the cross of Jesus Christ. To live in the kingdom is to live by the Spirit, however. Our direction and purpose can no longer be governed by the things of this world.

Jesus said:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’   (Matthew 7:21-23)

Are we fit for the kingdom? A better question may be: Is the Holy Spirit fitting us for the kingdom. We cannot do it alone. But let us fear not, God is with us. Are we with God?

Leave a comment

Filed under Eucharist, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Year C

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s