“What Role has God Assigned?”

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14, June 26th, 2022.

Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard


“Hear now these words from the second book of Kings, chapter two, verses one and two and six thru fourteen.”

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14

1 Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. 

6 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. 7 Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. 8 Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.

9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” 10 He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” 11 As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. 

12 Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

13 He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.

“Having listen to these ancient words let us now open our hearts as we seek to understand their meaning in the context of the roles God has assigned to us.”

“What Role has God Assigned?”

We each take on roles.  Listed amongst my ‘primary’ duties as your pastor is my role as a ‘Spiritual’ Advisor, rather than an administrator, financial organizer, or manager. Likewise, I have a major role as the designated Preacher, as well as the responsibility for all Priestly duties such as administering the sacraments. Also, I am linked to every aspect of our religious services, with responsibilities to oversee their proper implementation. While on vacation the role of preacher passed over to two volunteers. Nancy Deardorff already wearing the mantel of ministry as our moderator, added to her responsibility as our preacher on June the 12th. I suspect there was a good ‘dash’ of well-articulated wisdom in her sermon. Christian Wright was tasked with speaking to us on Father’s Day; a role that he has had a great deal of experience with. Each Sunday our worship leader and our designated preacher share responsibilities ensuring that all the tasks of a full worship service are implemented, thereby filling, and overseeing my responsibly while on a short vacation. A great many of the roles of our far stretching ministries are volunteers; whom we owe our gratitude thanks to each one of them, for the roles they fill with such grace each week. Personally, I am grateful for the volunteers who make it possible for me to have some time off now and then throughout the year. For truly, pastors are only human and need to renew and refresh their spirits on a regular basis to stay fit and ready to be involved in spiritual leadership.

Our paid staff are central in, and within multiple levels of our services. From our Lead musician we get the balance of current contemporary praise music, and hymnody, which all of us older Christians grew up singing to on Sundays. It is a real art form to find the balance and make the blend of music work with the ‘theme’ of the preacher’s topic for the day. Today, for example is a tricky balance of excitement and drama as we hear about what Elijah said to Elisha and so forth. Just as the spectacle of Elijah’s assentation into heaven and Elisha’s desire to follow in his mentor’s footsteps opens to us the – ‘inner heart’ of the hearer of this event. In verse eleven we hear, “As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven.” What a spectacle that must have been! Did the other fifty men who accompanied these two prophets that day see it as well? Eddie’s job today, has been to speculate what piece of music would best set the stage, without contradicting the true essence of the preacher’s message. Therefore, we have contracted with a talented musician to help us bring this all together! Thankfully, there are also our gathering of talented volunteer instrumentalists, and singers in our choir to assist. We all have our roles; the challenge is determining what ours is.   

It takes the support and participation of our volunteers and paid staff, each with multiple roles which they must take on, each Sunday, to simply have a worship service. There are a number of roles which are hidden from everyday sight. Yet, their roles are crucial as well as those who are ‘live’ on our worship broadcast each week. Often forgotten is our Sexton, who ensures that the building is in working order; including the AC and lighting which are essential, as well as a multitude of details that takes a detailed report to list and keep track of! Let us not forget our Audio-Visual coordinator, who also ensures we have our on-line broadcast. Tyler has helped us understand that this is not as easy as it may seem. Take for example, balancing the use of the acoustics in the sanctuary with all the various speakers and microphones, each with its own purpose and function to fill.  The soloist needs a different microphone then the preacher. The Flutist needs a particular sound that the Audio Visual technical seeks out through adjustments at the sound board. So many details to deal with. Then there is the timing and balance of connecting to the internet to get our broadcast on-line at just the right minute in time. The preacher speaks in poetic riddles that seek to span the ages as he or she digs for the true message of the day’! Meanwhile the AV Tech is looking at the timing of a live broadcast so that everyone can hear, in the sanctuary, live and online, all at the same time! So many functions, so many characters and parts to fill… just for one worship service!

As I headed off on vacation, I passed the mantel of pastoral ministry to Judy Bush as she graciously visited one of our parishioners – while he was in the hospital. She did this as she continues to juggle other responsibilities of additional ministries. Furthermore, at this present time, we are a bit short on volunteers as others have gone home, moved, or no longer actively involved. We pray, they are now filling new roles where they are. There are various roles a pastor fills, we have raised up the names of a couple. Preaching and teaching seem to be the most challenging to fill, while others are subjective and hard to clarify. It is something like being a parent. Their roles are easy to write out in an organized list. Like providing the family with a place to live and assuring there is food on the table, and everyone has cloths to wear, preferably clean and well fitting. But what of the love, the dedication, and the commitment to get the needed tasks done every day, and every week without anyone supervising their activities. Yes, roles of parents, single parents especially are hard to clarify and fill – in another’s absence. Christian’s children sermon last Sunday made that quite apparent.

Michael Coffey spoke to this scripture back in 2012. He asks us this question. “Whose mantle have you had to pick up and carry?” The ‘Mantle’ of course meaning ministry, our role in service to God. Elijah was tasked and charged by God with training Elisha. When the one prophet Elijah, was ‘lifted up’ into heaven the other, Elisha, needed to take on the role of the Prophet, that being the mantel of ministry which then needed to be filled. One could say, I have picked up the mantel of ministry that my grandfather helped prepare me for. He began teaching me when I was but a child. His work at the Christian camp, which he founded, being one of the areas where he taught me a great deal. His work with helping to gather donations from those with excess and the redistributing them to those in need, was a lesson he taught well.  The challenge for each of us is to fulfill the will of God! Let us ask ourselves: have we been willing and diligent in filling the roles to which we are assigned? Have we? Throughout our journeys opportunities come our way. There are those of us who call such opportunities mystical as they realize the hand of God in the midst. Others, miss the opportunities simply because they have become too self-focused, rather than God focused.

Being a role model is an ‘ultimate’ goal – clearly Jesus worked to be such for his followers. He worked to teach his closest disciples to ‘continue on’ with the ministry he initiated. Jesus served in countless roles. He was the Good Shepherd, as such he cared for his flock. Jesus was a teacher, as such he helped his followers to better understand the scriptures through easy to remember parables and stories. Jesus was a pastor to all who came to him with their problems. Through compassion and kindness, he cared for their needs. Jesus was different than others, as he walked and lived, the way he talked. Jesus inspired others to live as he taught. Jesus’ life was an open book, just as he opened the hearts of all who listened to him. Jesus listened with his heart when people came to him. By example, Jesus taught us how to live humbly in the light of God’s love. Jesus also showed us how to seek the will of God – in all areas of our lives. Jesus taught others how to communicate with God – through prayer -selflessly on behalf of others.

As adults, we are meant to rely on our ability to think, reason, and fully utilize our experiences in life – as we live in faith. Our roles culminate in our fully living our lives; relying on God’s Spirit to inspire us to use our senses to care for ourselves, and, to care for others as we serve God.  When we do this, we will be able to complete the tasks, which our roles call us to accomplish. Thereby, giving life to the tasks and the roles to which we are responsible to fill!

Let us not miss a crucial point in this our lesson today.  Having a role – is what we do.  What we do – is our role.  All we need is to believe in ourselves as the ‘Spirit’ is already within us. All we need do – is believe in our role – which God granted, gave, and assigned to us. 

Amen.      

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