One of the strengths of the Episcopal Church is its use of the Lectionary. The lectionary establishes the Scriptures which will be used by the church during the course of the year. It is closely tied with the seasons of the church year so that the designated Scriptures are appropriate.

Generally, the preacher emphasizes the Gospel. Sometimes the preacher might choose one of the other readings. What happens if the one bringing the message feels like there is a message, a lesson in three of the readings? That’s happened. Let’s talk about three lessons.

The first lesson:

Ever worked at a place where the boss really needed to retire?

The other day I read an article about a boss who needed to retire. It was not easy talking to him. Trying to talk to him about it was sort of like telling your dad that he was getting too old to drive, “Dad, let me have the car keys, please.” Maybe there is a reason that the words “old” and “cantankerous” go together so well.

Hey, wait a minute! I’m 79! Let’s not get carried away with this age business.

I was trying to figure what this Old Testament reading from Kings is about. Then it came to me. The “mantle” is the “car keys.” Well, maybe it’s a little more involved than that. The mantle – simply the cloak – of a prophet is his symbol of authority, of office.

Elisha – a younger man – and a follower of Elijah – knew that Elijah was close to the end. And he felt that the things that Elijah stood for – and which Elisha stood for as well – were important and did not need to die out with Elijah’s death.

So, we have this little drama, this little dance, wherein Elijah says I’m going to the Jordan, but you stay here, and so on. And in each instance Elisha tells Elijah, “As the Lord lives, and as yourself live, I will not leave you.”

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 picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him and struck the water…the water parted to one side and to the other as it had done for Elijah, and Elisha walked over. Elisha the prophet succeeded Elijah.

Which as you think about it – how are the Elisha’s identified today to succeed the Elijah’s of today? No, this isn’t a discussion of how we will identify the potential corporate managers of today to succeed existing corporate managers when it becomes time for them to play golf full-time.

No, how do we identify new leaders, new workers, to replace those who are older?

On the other side of the equation how do those who are older make that change. Indeed, how do they encourage and develop those who are younger so that they develop through experience and responsibility?

Frankly, in our reading today, one could say Elijah was not really helping the situation, resisting what needed to happen.

Indeed, God made the change. God took Elijah – and in one of the most dramatic ways one could imagine – a chariot of fire and horses of fire accompanying Elijah in a whirlwind as he ascends to heaven. And then Elisha picks up Elijah’s mantle and tries it out to get back on the other side of the Jordan. It works! Elisha succeeds Elijah.


Lesson Two:

What characterizes a Christian? What characterizes one who is not?

Paul in his Letter to the church in Galatia gives us two lists; “works of the flesh” and “fruits of the Spirit.”

The good list – the fruits of the Spirit – reminds me of the twelve laws of the Boy Scouts. It’s been a long time but I think we recited them at our weekly Boy Scout meetings

I tried recalling them. I could only recall: Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, and reverent. The ones I could not remember are obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, and clean. To this day I remember my scoutmaster of Troop 19 in Texarkana, Charles Gardner. My respect and love of nature, the outdoors, the environment, are due in great part to him.

I’ve had members tell me that Bill Wortham was such a scout leader here at St. Luke’s for many, many years.

As I was preparing this message, I played some word games with Paul’s bad list. I’ve removed some of the characteristics he listed…

I want you listen to this reduced list and think about the first thing that comes to your mind as you hear the list. Now listen: “…enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, and envy…” What’s you’re first thought?

I’m not a mind reader but I suspect most of us came up with the same answer.

So, what is the answer? The solution?

Paul’s answer – in his letter to his Galatian friends – “…you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters…Through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.’

This is the answer for us as Christians. And maybe the result if we do not.


Lesson Three:

The third lesson concerns some of the “hard” sayings of Jesus. Let’s take one of them:

“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.’”

“Yes,” the preacher says to himself. “This is a good Sunday to preach on Paul’s letter to the Galatians.”

We say, of course, that Jesus is fully human and fully God. Well, if he is fully human surely there are times he is discouraged, irritable, annoyed…He could have known the one who was speaking – and he could have known that the one talking was always talking about what he was “going” to do, but never doing it, was full of talk, but short on accomplishment…

Jesus speaks of the kingdom of God.

Many of us think of the kingdom of God as the church – the vehicle through which much of the work of kingdom is accomplished. For example, if I am a young person looking to get married, I would want to be married in church. I would want God to be an important part of my relationship, my life. I would want my children to be raised in a knowledge of God and his love for us. I would want church to be a place where I could continue to grow in my relationship to God. I would want it be a place where I could carry out God’s love for other people through service and ministry to others. At life’s end church would be a place to prepare for that last journey, for others to pray for me, and, finally, to assure those I love that I go to a better place, a place of God’s love…

So maybe in response to your great love for me, my response should be – and I want it to be – a love for you. A love for you, a commitment to you. Even, if the situation would suggest or require it, I drop everything for you. My hand shall remain firmly on the plow.

I do not know what tomorrow will bring.

If I think about economics I think about the disturbing trends, the uncertainty and questions. Will I be able to buy the gas to get to work, to church? Will I have enough left over to buy the food for myself and my family?

If I think about the turmoil in the streets, the seemingly selective enforcement of many of our laws…

If I think about the violence, the deaths….

I could go on and on…


And then I remember:

O Lord, you are my portion and my cup,

It is you who uphold my lot.

You will show me the path of life,

In your presence there is fullness of joy!




Richard Robertson