The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the LORD will take your master away from you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be silent.” Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So, the two of them went on.” (2 Kings 2:5-6)
This Sunday is the Feast of the Transfiguration when we remember Jesus at His most weird and spectacular. As I read through this week’s scheduled readings though, I felt more drawn to the passage from the Hebrew Bible, describing the closing scene in the life of the prophet, Elijah.
Elijah’s departure was also spectacular, of course – ascending to Heaven in a whirlwind and chariot of fire, yet that bizarre moment is preceded by a far more routine account of two men doing a lot of walking – the first being Elijah and the second, his padawan, Elisha.
Forgive me for lapsing into Star Wars lingo but these prophets were indeed the Jedi of ancient Israel, and every Jedi has an apprentice. Elisha was Elijah’s apprentice.
The verses quoted above detail Elisha’s fellow prophets warning him that his master is about to be taken from him – something he already knew full well. We also get the third of three pleas from Elijah, urging his young apprentice to let him go on alone. Elisha will not leave him.
When I read of Elisha’s resolve, I’m reminded of Ruth and her loyalty to her mother-in-law, Naomi. “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay.” (Ruth 1:16). Elisha’s promise isn’t quite as elaborate, but I see it as a similar expression of what the Hebrews call ‘hessed’, which translates as ‘covenant love’ or ‘steadfastness’.
I’m conscious that what draws me to this story is the way it connects with my grief over the recent loss of my friend, Father Elias, who was actually first introduced to me as ‘Father Elijah’. Elias and I did quite a bit of walking and talking together, and although it was Elias who was officially my apprentice as a boxer and youth worker, it was me who really felt like the padawan.
I didn’t get to accompany Elias on his final walk. If I’d known he was going to be taken, I would have found a way to be there and walk alongside him on that journey. As with Elisha, I think I too would have had trouble letting go. As Elijah and his chariot are swept up in the whirlwind we’re told, “as they disappeared from sight, he tore his robe.” (2 Kings 2:16). This is generally understood to mean that Elisha tore his own robe out of grief, yet the Hebrew is ambiguous. It could mean that Elisha tore his master’s robe ss he ascended because he wouldn’t let go!
This story touches me deeply, and yet the point of the passage is not simply to pay tribute to the bond between two men. This is a succession narrative, where Elisha puts on Elijah’s mantle (quite literally) after he is taken up. The master is gone but the baton has been passed and the work continues.
My dad used to say that the work of God is like a flowing stream. When someone drops a rock in the stream, the water goes around it and the stream continues to flow. This is the reality that I must face with Elias, and that we all must face when we lose our mentors. The minister dies but the ministry continues, just as we ourselves will one day die, yet the work of God will go on.
These are sobering thoughts, I know, for a week in which we are supposed to be celebrating the spectacular vision of the transfigured Christ. Even so, visions of glory often arise out of grief. Perhaps I’ll be given a vision soon of Elias driving his own chariot of fire. Whatever happens though, the mantle has been passed, the work continues, the Kingdom comes.
Our Sunday Eucharist
We had a terrific Sunday Eucharist last weeked, and this despite the fact that Tom didn’t appear. He is OK. An Instagram video subsequently revealed that he’s in Iraq, enjoying his own visions of glory in Karbala!
Despite Tom’s absence and a plethora of technical issues, David Baldwin and I pushed forward and were joined at the last moment by Joy who completed the panel. Thank you too to everybody who contributed.
This coming Sunday I’m looking forward to having Father Mark and Rob Gilland with me again on the panel. I was trying to get one of Father Elias’ brother priests to make a contribution via pre-recorded video but I don’t know whether that will come through in time. Either way, join us this Sunday at TheSundayEucharist.com, from noon, or tune in via Facebook , YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn or Streamyard.
I look forward to sharing this Eucharist with you. 😊
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- Saturday, February 9th to Sunday 11th– @ Binacrombi.
- Sunday, February 11th – Our Eucharist from noon @ thesundayeucharist.com or through Facebook , YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn or Streamyard.
- Tuesday, February 13th – Boxing at the Mundine Gym in Redfern from 6 pm.
- Thursday, February 1st – Boxing at The Mundine Gym in Redfern from 6 pm.
- Saturday, February 17th – Concert for Julian Assange @ The Gaelic Club in Surry Hills from 5 pm. Tickets are available through Eventbrite.
- Sunday, February 18th – My birthday dinner from 6 pm @ The Public House. in Petersham. Please RSVP
Yes, I’m turning 62 next week and I invite you to join me for dinner at The Public House on Sunday, February 18 from 6 pm. This will be easier for some than for others, of course. Unfortunately, I can’t fly out all my friends from the US and from Syria to join us. If you are in Sydney though, please see if you can make it. Numbers are limited, so let me know right away if you can come via email, text, or by leaving a comment here. I’ll get back to you and confirm your place.
You will be paying for your own meal at The Public House and I don’t expect any presents. Having said that, if you feel you can’t possibly let my birthday go by without a gift, consider making a one-off donation to Fighting Fathers Ministries or taking out a monthly subscription via Patreon.com that will help keep this work going. I couldn’t ask for a better gift.
Mind you, if you’re looking for a gift that gives multiple times, consider getting some merchandise from the Fighting Fathers’ online store. The Freedom for Palestine artwork, created by my dear daughter, Imogen, is available on T-shirts, hats, bags, badges and even bedspreads! Get yourself a hat or T-shirt and you’ll be benefiting yourself and Fighting Fathers Ministries, and you’ll hopefully be making a difference for Palestine as well.
Before leaving you, let me recommend some articles we’ve published this week:
- On PrayersforSyria.com I’ve shared the news that US troops may finally be withdrawing from Syria. No, it’s not because the administration realised they’re doing the wrong thing but is symptomatic of the collapse of US influence in the region. Either way, there will be much rejoicing when it happens. Click here.
- Father Mark and I have continued to publish on IsraelandPalestine.org. As I flick over to the page, it isn’t displaying properly at the moment, most likely because another hacker is attempting to shut us down. By the time you get there, my capable web assistant, Muhammad Abdullah, will probably have it fixed. As we say, ‘if you’re not getting shot at, you’re not in the front line’.
On the subject of Palestine, I have been gratified this week to have some of you contact me, asking for solid resources on the current catastrophe there. I appreciate that there is so much conflicting information on the web. Accordingly, let me recommend to you two more resources that I’m adding to the end of this post:
- Our friend Rev. Dr. Stephen Sizer has just delivered an excellent online paper, entitled, “A Christian Critique of Israeli Apartheid in Palestine”
- Chris Hedges recently did an excellent interview with Max Blumenthal on the topic of, “What really happened in Israel on Oct. 7?” These are two of the most knowledgeable people in the field Also, in case you didn’t know, Hedges was ordained a Presbyterian Minister prior to discovering his calling as a journalist!
Let me close by saying that I’m still looking for more padawans myself. I had another young man come and join me at the Mundine gym this week. That was great, but I can handle a few more yet. Moreover, I can work with you wherever you are.
If I can’t travel to you and you can’t make it to Mundine‘s or to Binacrombi, we can still connect by phone, video or email to work on your physical and spiritual health. Make a start by downloading the Physical and Spiritual fitness assessment form, filling it out and sending it back to me. What have you got to lose?
Keep me in your prayers as I do you.
Your brother in the Good Fight,