Stories have the power to help us see another way, to shake up our imaginations, and even to transform our lives. I give thanks for being able to hold this sacred book that is filled with stories from a multitude of times, cultures, perspectives, and traditions. I particularly love the stories that force us out of our logical brains and into the fertile ground of mystery and power.
We are given one such story today. Elisha walks beside Elijah in his final days. As they approach the Jordan, Elijah rolls up his cloak and strikes the water with it. The water divides, and they cross on dry land. Then a chariot of fire and horses of fire appear, and Elijah is swept up into heaven in a great whirlwind.
What a story! Does it not sound like a childhood bedtime thriller? Or a tale of magic? Or a dream no one understands when we try to retell it the next morning? It is tempting to dismiss stories like this or turn the page in befuddlement, skipping to the next reading.
Stories are not always factual, but sometimes that makes them even more true.
What a gift it is to be called to sit in messy absurdity without a clear answer. Scripture needs not just intellectuals and scholars but artists and dreamers. Again and again we are offered moments to call upon the places inside of us that can find truth and meaning beyond logic.
As we open scripture, we find an invitation calling upon our paintbrushes and poetry, our right brain and inner dreamer, our ancestral memory and our prophetic imagination!
O God who dwells in stories and mystery, breathe life into our imagination. We trust that in this messy, fertile place we can dream a world that does not yet seem possible. Amen.
This week’s readings open with the dramatic scene of Elijah’s departure. As the prophet is taken into heaven by fiery chariots, his cloak falls to his successor, Elisha—symbolic of the continuation of God’s prophetic work. The psalmist praises the Lord’s mighty works of the past and finds encouragement in them. Paul reminds us that freedom in Christ comes with responsibility. We cannot live to satisfy our fleshly desires. If we live in the power of the Spirit, then our manner of life should stand out and bear godly fruit. In the Gospel reading, Jesus challenges his followers with the cost of discipleship. His statements here may seem extreme, but he is pointing out that we can be tempted to find excuses for not proclaiming the kingdom of God.
Read 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14. When has fire—real or metaphorical—changed your life? How have you seen God working in this change?
Read Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20. Recall a time when you needed God’s help. Where did you look for God’s encouragement?
Read Galatians 5:1, 13-25. Along with our freedom, we are given a responsibility. How do you use your freedom to serve others?
Read Luke 9:51-62. When have you heard Jesus’ call to follow? What have you had to leave behind to follow the one who has “set his face to go to Jerusalem”?
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