Don’t forget, if you do something voluntarily in our church, Rod and Rita are inviting you to the Vicarage so we can say thank you to you. “Open house” is on Friday, 20th December, between 10am and 12 noon, 2pm and 4pm and 5pm and 7pm. There will be mulled wine, cakes, tea and coffee. We are particularly keen that all feel able to come including the army of folk who do tasks which are hidden from the public view.
“let me inherit a double share of your spirit” (v.9) RSV
Inheritance is by no means only to do with money. In this week’s reading we see that Elisha is keen to inherit from his mentor, Elijah, a double portion of the Spirit. He doesn’t desire this for his own aggrandisement, but for the ministry that lies before him. For years he had followed Elijah and seen great works performed through him. He had also heard his fearless preaching. He was now awestruck at the responsibility of taking over this ministry. Elijah was about to be taken up to heaven and Elisha would be left on his own. How desperate he was that the same powerful Spirit that had enabled his master, should now enable him.
Is this not rather reminiscent of the imminent departure of Jesus who was about to ascend from the Mount of Olives? His disciples were about to be left behind to continue his ministry, but without his presence and his powers they were desperate that he should leave them his Spirit. Of course Jesus did just that. He had already breathed into them in the Upper Room at the Last Supper (John 20:22).
As he left them they saw him “lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). This was a sure sign that he would send the Spirit to them. How similar this was to Elisha’s experience. He too was promised the spirit of Elijah as long as he saw that prophet being taken up into heaven with “the chariots of Israel and its horsemen” (v.12). He did see it, and as a result he received a double portion of the Spirit.
Elisha returned home with the mantle of Elijah – the sign of authority. With it he parted the waters of the river. He then cleansed some foul water with salt (2 Kings 2:19-22). The signs and wonders continued from that day on. This too was the experience of the disciples of Jesus. They continued their Master’s ministry in the power of the Spirit that he sent them on the Day of Pentecost. That same Spirit is essential for our ministry too.
Lord, without you I not only am nothing but can do nothing. Grant me the fullness of your Spirit that I may live my life out and out for you. Amen.
1 What will the Spirit of Jesus enable us to do?
2 What did the disciples have to do after Jesus’ ascension?
We are now in Advent, which has four strong themes.
Firstly, it is a penitential season (the same purple liturgical colour used in Lent) when we think about reconciling ourselves with God.
Secondly, we make sure we are awake and ready for Jesus return.
Thirdly, we prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth at Christmas time.
Fourthly, we look at the last judgement and final things.
Why so much to consider in one season? The answer is that our Advent combines two different traditions. Until the 13th century the Roman Catholic Church kept the four weeks of Advent as a celebratory prelude to Christmas, whilst the Gallic Church had a time of penitence, reflecting on sobering themes surrounding the second coming of Christ. From the 13th century, these strands came together so we now celebrate God made flesh in the story of Christmas, but there is also a sense of the darkness of our world, of human wilfulness, self centeredness and the impending judgement.
Advent is, therefore, a season of contrasts, shade, light and deep drama.
“Bid my brother divide the inheritance with me” (v.13) RSV
People have come into their worldly inheritance in many ways. Some simply receive it through the Will of their parents. Some have seized it by force. Some have caused a small inheritance to grow exponentially. Some families are torn apart by wrangles over their inheritance.
Our reading today tells how one brother approached Jesus, aggrieved that his brother was not spontaneously sharing the inheritance with him. Jesus’ response was to say that he had no authority to settle the matter; that was a matter for the law of the land. However, his advice was not to be consumed with inheritance and justice, but to adopt a spirit of trust in God’s provision.
We may or may not be ‘lucky’ in what material abundance comes our way. We may seem to miss out and others (no doubt less deserving!) get all the ‘luck’. But we are not trusting to ‘luck’ but to providence. That is to say, we trust that God will provide (which is the meaning of ‘providence’) all our needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus. We are not dependant on the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”, as Shakespeare put it, but on the promises of God.
Jesus was not interested in fair play, that was up to the law court. He was concerned that no one is distracted by greed for, or dependence on, wealth. It may even be better to let go that which was legitimately ours, so that love and generosity may be maintained. The health of our soul is more important than the health of our bank balance.
So whatever we have received and however it has come our way, we have to be sure that we are not dependant on it for our security, but rather, dependant on the goodliness of our God. And if we have an inheritance, we are responsible to use it wisely and not to squander it.
Thank you Lord for all I have. I trust you with what I have lost. Teach me godliness with contentment, for I know you have promised to provide all my needs. Amen.
1 Who tricked his brother out of his Birthright and Blessing?