II Kings 2:1-18, Luke 9:52-61, Colossians 1:15-23
The second in a summer sermon series on Paul's Letter to the Colossians.
You know the situation.
--The moral ambiguity of the surrounding culture
--Competing Voices for the allegiance of the people
--Questionable leadership, if not downright bad and evil leadership
--Cries of injustice raised by citizens
--Uncertainty and fear among citizens
--Military extending its power over civilians
--High tension with bordering nations
--Religious Establishment compromising its authenticity, ethics and spiritual life
--There is a major leadership change about to occur.
I am not talking about modern American society when I describe this situation, but rather, the life of the nation of Israel during the 840’s…BC.
In Scripture, Elijah was called THE Man of God. Emphasis on THE. But his ministry is coming to an end, and his successor had already been named. Elisha. The problem was Elisha was young and inexperienced, and the people weren’t quite sure that they wanted him being the head prophet.
But Elisha embodied Elijah’s lifestyle and message. They both affirmed that there was only One God, the LORD. They both confronted kings and religious leaders with their fiery temperaments. They both performed miracles to an unbelieving nation. They both appoint new kings. They both suffer rejection and rejection. They both have a deep reverence for history, especially God’s story. And at times, they both felt alone as they set out to do God’s will.
And as the world around them worshipped the god Baal, the storm God, it is Elijah who is taken up to heaven by the Almighty, who uses the storms for his purposes. Before Elijah goes up Elisha asks for double his power. After Elijah is lifted away (there is legend that Elijah never dies),, and Elisha is angry about it, so angry that he asks: Where is God now?, he strikes the water with the cloak, just like his predecessor had done, and the waters part, just like they did for Elijah. With Elisha taking over,
The people receive continuity, a fresh water in times of uncertainty.
The people have a spiritual leader, in times when earthly powers were colliding.
The people are invited to the same relationship with the One True God.
And after 800 years of history for Israel, with its constant ups and downs, God comes to earth. Jesus is born, grows up, and is ordained to public ministry. The Son of God witnesses to the truth, speaking to a rapidly changing culture with its moral ambiguity, competing voices, Questionable leadership, if not downright bad and evil leadership, Cries of injustice, Uncertainty and fear, Military powers, High tension and Compromised Religious Establishment. And just like the unpopular Elijah and Elisha, who in the midst of all of that chaos demanded the people stay true to the One God, so does Jesus.
He has some shocking and seemingly harsh words.
Like cold water they shock the body.
Like unexpected news, they shake the comfortable
Like a front page headline, they challenge the status quo.
Like a nutrition bar, they energize the body.
Like life changing news, they stir the soul.
Jesus looks at excuses. He stares at them, deeply. And then he answers them by putting them in their place.
Ironically, the third interaction resembles when Elijah met a young, up and coming prophet named Elisha. Elijah calls him to follow. Elisha requests “First let me go and kiss my family goodbye”.
Fred Craddock writes “the radicality of Jesus’ words lies in his claim to priority over the best, not the worst, of human relationships. The remarkable thing is that those who have done so have been freed from possession and worship of family and have found the distance necessary to love them.”
The words of Jesus are hard. But all good things are worth sacrifice. And the best things are worth the greatest sacrifices.
This brings us to Paul, writing to the church in Colosse. This week’s portion of the letter brings us face to face with that Jesus. Paul, writing 20-30 years after the death and resurrection of Christ, has time to place him in his historical importance. Teaching the Colossians, Jesus is…
• An image of the invisible God
• The firstborn of all creation
• The creator of all things (in heaven, earth, visible, invisible, thrones, powers, authorities)
• The One who IS before all things
• The One who holds all things together.
• Head of the body, the church
• The beginning and firstborn from the dead
• The supreme One
• The fullness of God in human flesh
• The reconciler of all things (earth, heaven, by making peace, through blood on the cross)
Christ is Supreme.
He is the reality of the changing world, with its moral ambiguity, competing voices, Questionable leadership, if not downright bad and evil leadership, Cries of injustice, Uncertainty and fear, Military powers, High tension and Compromised Religious Establishment.
He is the one, and there really is no other.
So like Elisha, we have a message to preach regardless of how it is received.
Like the people who approached Jesus, we have to hear what is really important and follow, and not look back.
Like the Colossians, we have to remember the story…
We were alienated from God.
We were enemies with God because we were evil.
We have been reconciled to God by Christ and his physical death and resurrection
We are now holy in his sight, without blemish, free from accusation….IF
IF we continue in faith,
IF we are not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.
The gospel has been proclaimed to every creature in heaven and earth.
Are you looking back? Or are you looking to Jesus Christ, the Supreme One.