Scriptures: 2 Kings 2:1-14
Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer, Amen.
Apocalyptic passages in the Bible are tricky things to deal with. Commentator Trevor Eppehimer asks, “What role should the theology implicit in biblical apocalyptic accounts play in the way one thinks about the Christian faith at present? Is it relevant only for biblical literalists and premillenialists, or does it have something important to say to mainline theological liberals and moderates as well?”
He begins to answer these questions with the observation that our pericope for today is directly related to the larger struggle with the Hebrew Bible as a whole: the struggle between God and Pharaoh. The imagery of the fiery chariot in verse 11 stands book-ended with miracles reminiscent from Israel’s history: the parting of the Jordan river being a reflection of the parting of the Reed Sea.
The entire 1 and 2 Kings story cycles reflect the same struggle: who is stronger, the Pharaoh-like kings of Israel blinded by political power, or the transcendent power of the God of Elijah and Elisha? Elijah we have already heard from; his exploits as God’s hero and his victory over the prophets of Baal. In Elisha’s case, in our passage today, he is confirmed as Elijah’s successor, bequeathed with, as Eppehimer writes, the “requisite vision to perceive the reality of [God’s] activity in the midst of a world held under the illegal and illusory jurisdiction of Pharaoh and his heirs.”
The question remains for us as Christ’s Church, heirs with Christ and heirs with the prophets of old: do we have the requisite vision to perceive the reality of God’s activity in the midst of a world being held more and more under the jurisdiction of Pharaoh-like political times? Can we, like our prophet forebearers in the faith, speak out for the mercy and grace of God? What if we were able to allow our spiritual insights to infuse all aspects of our very beings – thus informing the responses, laws, mores, and customs that we employ as a community, a nation, or a world? Or, in Eppehimer’s words, can the church “see the world clearly at present, as Elisha could, or [does it find] itself lost in, and blinded by, the smoke screens of the Pharaohs among us?”
I won’t presume to interfere with your personal political choices, but I will say there are Pharaohs among us still. The age-old challenge facing the Church today is the same challenge that Noah faced, that Moses faced, that Elijah faced, that Elisha faced, that Jesus faced: When we make decisions to enact change in the world, are we choosing with God’s kingdom in mind or with our own selfish wants? Are we deciding with the marginalized in mind or with the self-preservation of the extremely wealthy in mind? Are we choosing to act and speak in terms of exclusive fear-based bigotry or do we choose to act and speak with words of mercy and grace to all God’s beings on this planet? Are we extending God’s love to the loveless and God’s mercy to the oppressed? Because if we are not, then we have missed the heart of the Gospel message we have been entrusted with.
As St. Francis once prayed, so might we make bold to pray,
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.
 Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 3: Pentecost and Season After Pentecost 1 (Propers 3-16).