Daily Devotion: Elisha, Simon, and “Joe Six-Pack”

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Bible Readings for Saturday January 15th, 2011 – The 2nd Week of Epiphany

*Click on each bible passage to expand the text.

Psalm 40:1-11

1 Kings:19-21

Luke 5:1-11

What is the character of these men called by God to service as prophets and apostles?

  • Are they educated elites? No.
  • Are they from the lineage of priests or kings? No.
  • Did they have to meet some kind of training requirements? No.
  • Are they invested with their call in some lavish ceremony? No.

Everything about the calling of this farmer, Elisha,  in 1 Kings, and the first apostles, the fishermen James, John and Simon, in Luke 5, is disarmingly simple. They are simple hard-working men and salt of the earth. These men who would change the face of Israel and later the world were the “Joe Six-packs” of their day. I love that. It gives even the meekest among us a sense of ownership of this whole “Kingdom of God” thing I harp on so much on this blog!

God calls everyone and anyone. No prerequisites, no gaudy ceremony. Even you.

It is interesting, that of all the prophets, Elisha is the only prophet God commanded should be “anointed to his position” (1 Kings 19:16), which we assume meant a ceremonial covering or rubbing with oil. And yet Elijah did no such ceremonial act, but instead simply “threw his mantle (cloak) over him”. Now, this is a phrase we’ve become very familiar with in such ceremonial forms as “assuming the mantle of power” and such. Yet, even this powerful act was no anointing. Does that mean Elijah disobeyed God’s command? Not at all.

Like yesterday’s readings, today’s bible readings are teaching us about a different kind of “anointing”, “blessing” or “baptism”: an anointing in the Holy Spirit. By the ceremonial act of placing his mantle on another, Elijah was also anointing Elisha in not only his spirit, but also with God’s. In fact, this metaphor is illustrated even further when, later on in 2 Kings:9-13, Elisha asks for a “double-portion” of Elijah’s spirit, and when moments later Elijah disappears in a fiery whirlwind, it is his mantle (cloak) which Elisha receives!

An anointing in the Holy Spirit is evidenced by that outward sign of confidence and unquestioning faith instantly displayed by Elisha in the field. The Holy Spirit reinforces our heart against wavering or questioning. I don’t believe Elisha’s request to turn back to kiss his parent’s goodbye was hesitation. I believe, as evidenced by his subsequent slaughter of the oxen for a feast, that he wanted to pay proper homage to those whom he owed thanks: his parents, his family, friends, and most importantly God.

However, it is interesting that this act of paying homage is something that Jesus never allowed:

Luke 9
61.      Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”
62.      Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

The kingdom is nigh. The Messiah (Anointed One) is at hand, and there is no more time for nostalgia or etiquette. We are to answer God’s call without hesitation, and without care for worldy things anymore.

Tough stuff. Can you do it?

Trig Bundgaard About Trig Bundgaard

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Grace and peace to you!

Romans 5
"18. Therefore just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man's act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.
19. For just as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous."

Comments

  1. Interesting thoughts Trig, but I offer one caution. I have ran across more than one pastor who feels theological education and ceremonial anointing are not necessary. Maybe they took a few Bible courses or something of the sort and found a church to hire them. The problem is the fundamentalism they teach and lack of much theological depth. These pastors are one of the main reasons Christianity in America is full of fundamentalism and it is being planted in churches throughtout the third world. Your observations are correct for laity who have the intellectual gifts to see beyond fundamentalism, but a real problem for others, especially those seeking to lead congregations. I welcome your progressive theological views but unfortunately find them in the minority. For those in the fundamentalistic camp, I hope some solid education will open their eyes to the problem of simplistic Biblical literalism.

    • I think a major problem is the Old Testament, left on it’s own, promotes fundamentalism. I can’t stand it on it’s own. However, in starting these daily devotions off of the RCL, I am in a state of wonder at how men and women much smarter than myself have taken these OT passages and paired them with just the right New Testament passages to reveal something more about grace and God’s love in those very same cold OT passages.

      Many amateur (in the French sense of “lover of”) theologians tend to take the OT waaaaaayy too seriously on it’s own merits, without viewing it through the lens of Christ and his love and grace.

      Jesus wasn’t kidding when he said we “can’t put new wine in old wine-skins, and a patch of new un-shrunk cloth on a old cloak”. The Gospel is something new. It fulfills the law and the prophets, and it’s not the next chapter. It’s something new with which to view the law and the prophets in a new light.

      But you can’t be judgmental in light of this Gospel. You can in the OT. And like I love to say, “It’s a lot easier to put butts in seats with fear and judgment than it is with love and grace.”

      That’s why, in my opinion, so many new “uneducated” pastors tend to preach a more OT fundamentalism. It’s more black and white, less gray (grace), and it puts money in the coffers!

      If seminary training is the key to understanding grace, then it is a wonderful thing. However, it can’t be that clearly delineated. Many, many, negative and hurtful leaders have come out of the “seminary system”, and they are all well “educated”.

      And nobody “ceremonially anoints” better than the Catholics… we’ll leave that one alone.

      As a good Lutheran, I know you believe in a “both/and” worldview and not an “either/or” one. This means that you thrive theologically in “the gray areas”. I think the topic of formal theological education and ceremonial anointing fall into that annoying gray, too.

      By the grace of God I am a progressive -universalist grace-centered amateur theologian Christian. To many that makes me a heretic. Which is a title I wear with pride if that means that I’m speaking from a standpoint of radical grace.

      How I got here I don’t know. But it’s been years and years of struggle, sin, study, and pain.

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