Bible Readings for Saturday January 15th, 2011 – The 2nd Week of Epiphany
*Click on each bible passage to expand the text.1. [To the leader. Of David. A Psalm.] I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
2. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.
3. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.
4. Happy are those who make the LORD their trust, who do not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after false gods.
5. You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you. Were I to proclaim and tell of them, they would be more than can be counted.
6. Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.
7. Then I said, “Here I am; in the scroll of the book it is written of me.
8. I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”
9. I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; see, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O LORD.
10. I have not hidden your saving help within my heart, I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.
11. Do not, O LORD, withhold your mercy from me; let your steadfast love and your faithfulness keep me safe forever.19. So he set out from there, and found Elisha son of Shaphat, who was plowing. There were twelve yoke of oxen ahead of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle over him.
20. He left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” Then Elijah said to him, “Go back again; for what have I done to you?”
21. He returned from following him, took the yoke of oxen, and slaughtered them; using the equipment from the oxen, he boiled their flesh, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out and followed Elijah, and became his servant.1. Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God,
2. he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.
3. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
4. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”
5. Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”
6. When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break.
7. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink.
8. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”
9. For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken;
10. and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”
11. When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
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:
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?