Lectionary Reflections for June 30, 2013
2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14; Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20; Galatians 5:1, 13-25; Luke 9:51-62
Bold Requests and Challenges
Faith inspires boldness and God wants us to be bold in our requests and in our responsibilities. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus invites his followers to “ask, seek, and knock” trusting that God cares for the small and large details of our lives. Paul asserts that God’s power moving within our lives can achieve “more than we can ask or imagine.” Today’s scriptures assert that God’s realm promises great things, and asks us to be persistent and focused in our quest to be faithful; we may have to let go of familiar relationships and comforts to awaken to the wonders God has in store for us. Sacrifice is essential to living faith, and our sacrifices open us to surprising powers and possibilities.
When Elijah asks his successor and student Elisha what he would like for a final blessing, Elisha’s response is audacious, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” He has seen his mentor do great things, face adversity, and even in his final day perform miraculous acts. He doesn’t want to think small or live small. He wants a double spiritual blessing. Perhaps, Elisha knows that he will need all the courage, insight, and imagination he can muster to speak for God in a perilous time in the nation’s governmental and religious history. Prophetic ministry is not for those who think small; it is for adventurers who ask much of themselves and more of God to achieve God’s and their greatest dreams.
The Psalmist boldly cries out to God. He wants God’s attention so that he can remind God of all that God has done for the people and himself. He wants God to show his saving power again in a time of personal and national trial. In his cry to God, the Psalmist is also remembering God’s liberating actions and from this memory comes the ability to withstand the current crisis: God has been faithful – in the creation of the world, in the liberation of the children of Israel, and in the Psalmist’s own life. He cries boldly because he remembers God has been “our help in ages past” and will be “our hope in years to come.”
Paul proclaims boldly the gospel of Christian freedom. He is asking his Galatian listeners the question, “What will you do if you know you can’t lose? What will you do now that the big issues of life – your relationship with God and ultimate destiny in God’s realm – are settled in your favor?” You are free, he proclaims, and true freedom involves boldly going against the world’s values and your own narrow self-interest; it involves living by love, self-control, care for the vulnerable, generosity, and sacrifice for a higher good. In awakening to grace and living by God’s vision, we open to the inspiration of the Spirit that leads us toward authentic joy and abundance. Grace enables us to become large-souled persons who see our own well-being and the well-being of others as intimately connected.Jesus makes bold requests of those who wish to follow his pathway. His words are harsh, but they are words that invite us to consider our values and priorities. Followers of Jesus need to look forward rather than backward. They need to let go of familiar patterns, social requirements, and relational certainties to experience the greater joy of God’s realm. Jesus’ disciples need to let go of the need for vengeance. Everything that shrinks your world, imprisons you in the past, and ties you to habitual reactions must be jettisoned for the values of God’s realm. I am not certain Jesus’ intent is for us to forsake our families and obligations but to see them in a new light – to love, but love without possession, to own without greed, to save but to give generously, and to care for loved ones but break out of patterns that stand in the way of God’s vision for your life.
A healthy congregation is on the move, asking great things of itself and God, expecting to achieve great things, and willing to let go of the past achievements to be faithful to God’s calling today. Our churches need to take Elisha’s request seriously, praying for a double portion of spirit to face today’s challenges. We also need to put God first, not over against our commitments to family and professional life, but to see our other responsibilities in light of our vocation as God’s beloved children. God is moving through every aspect of our personal and congregational life, bringing all of the strands together in ways that promote wholeness individual, community, and planet. We need to let go of egocentrism and self-interest, even national interest, to seek the well-being of our most vulnerable companions and to express God’s love in deed and word. Such actions are bold indeed; they will cost us something, but they will also bring us more than we can ask and imagine in blessings and power to heal the Earth.