Prepared by Adrian Roux, Learning Network

Elijah and Elisha

The story of Elijah and Elisha culminates in 2 Kings 2 and 3 (you may want to familiarise yourself with the whole story, but it is those two chapters which are important for us here).

The account is worth reading and as you read it try to place what you are reading in your present context, and you within it.  Allow your imagination to run a little. Having read it, now spend some time in quiet reflection. If you are in a group hold the silence; don’t share what you are thinking; and don’t try to guide others’ thoughts.

If Elijah is the model for someone who is leaving, what might that mean? 
What do we who are left behind see and notice?

[Positive regard for the one who is leaving; recognising that they are moving towards God; recognising that they are moving with God; they would be worse off if we held them back; and even worse if we called them back, or kept bringing them back, or tried to tie them to where we are.]

So might we be called to follow Elisha’s example? 
What would that be? 

[I want to continue Elijah’s ministry and what he has taught me; I want to model and live as much as I can of the best parts of what Elijah has shown me; and yet I am prepared to move on, to take the ministry and move forward.]

Notice where Elisha is different from ‘the 50’.
What about ‘the 50’?  What might we learn from them?

[They are still yearning after the past. There is this desire to ‘not move on’, “he couldn’t have gone too far. We can still find him where we are. Let us find him in this place and in what we are doing”.  There is the warning that not letting go, might well mean that we come back empty handed having wasted our time and energy]

Jesus’ Prayer for his disciples (John 14-16)

Again, let’s read the passage in the hope of finding ourselves, our present situation and a message from God. Let your imagination be guided by the Spirit. 

Perhaps it will be helpful to imagine Jesus as the ultimate role-model, much loved, person who is leaving. Perhaps it will be helpful to hear Jesus’ words as the words of God guiding us in a difficult time of change and loss. 

John 14
There is an acknowledgement of their pain and their sense of loss. There is no denying it. Yet there is also the sense that nothing is changing - God is who God is, that is unchanged, and with that the certainty of the promised future of God’s preferred future. 

They ask Jesus to show them the way, and in response he says, “I am the way”.  Could it be that Jesus is saying that he has taught and shown them all that he has for them? Could it be that he is saying, “You already have what you need and can move forward with the one who is to come, and without me”? Could it be a call to let go of the past and embrace the future?

They ask Jesus to show them the Father, as if to say, “We want you to teach us about God, and to keep teaching us about God”. Jesus’ response seems to be, “You know enough, now live it out. Keep loving. Keep doing what I have taught you (v15), keep being loving, and you will keep the commandments of God”.

Jesus assures them that they will find the Spirit in their midst to guide them further, they need to discern the way forward in community with the Spirit.

John 15
We have heard this image of the vine so often, and quickly understand the image of staying connected to Jesus so that we may bear fruit. We don’t always notice that inherent in the image is that the branches need to grow, and to grow out and away. “You have to grow away from me, so that you can produce your fruit. As long as I am here and you are too focussed on me you will not move forward. Stick with what I have taught and shown (remain connected), but grow outwards and go live it and produce much fruit.

Be loving and do what I have taught you, love one another (v12-17).

John 16
Sorrow will turn to joy (v16) and you will find peace (v25).
Pray for me and I will pray for you

So what might all that mean for us as those left behind?
…and for the one who is leaving
…how do we hold on, and remain rooted, while growing up and growing out?

Mark 16 v1-8So let’s use our imagination again, and see if we can find some of our present situation in this biblical account. 

You have followed Jesus this far, all the way to the cross, you have been (kind of) faithful and now you are wondering what God might want you to do , or in other words, wondering what the best path forward might be.

Notice that the message from God doesn’t come from Jesus.
Notice that while they have followed Jesus for three years they are in some ways being told that this is all over, and yet, in other ways, being told that it is not over, it is only just beginning.

So if we imagine that we are the disciples in the story, and the one who is leaving is Jesus (and I am sure they weren’t that good!) where does that leave us? …and what does that say to us?

[“Go back to the ordinary things and continue where you were before”; but also certainly it says, “Go back, but as new people; go back and continue, and even there you will find the best parts of their life and ministry among you”.]

The Big Picture of Scripture (and of our Faith)

You may not have time to read and reflect on the whole of the Bible right now, but scripture’s meta-narrative suggests that this might be what the spirit is guiding you to do:

Be gracious for your sake and for theirs:
Be loving, for God’s sake, and yours, and theirs.
Cover it all with love and grace,
Remember that you have not been abandoned, and God remains unchanged,
Mourn, be kind (to yourself as well), and move forward.
Take the best of what you have learned, treasure it and live it out, and let the rest go.

The spirit of God is like this Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Humility and Self Control.

How might that be expressed towards the leaving minister, the arriving minister, the church leaders, the church and yourself?