First reading and psalm: 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14 • Ps. 77:1-2, 11-20
Alternate: 1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21 • Ps. 16 • Gal. 5:1, 13-25 • Luke 9:51-62
Whether choosing 1 Kings or 2 Kings, the preacher will mind Elijah’s mantle as an outward sign of an inward blaze of glory. God, by this mantle, confers power and establishes leadership. St. Paul often tells us to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, but warns as well that we not “submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1). What we wear matters. We are vested, however, for movement; a pilgrim Church in the eschatological age packs only the essentials, preferring titanium lightness. “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:58).
Elijah rides to heaven by a whirlwind. First, however, he retraces his steps, moving from Gilgal to Bethel, and from Bethel to the Jordan River. While he and Elisha stand at the river’s edge, a choir of prophets looks on from afar. What does a man of God do when faced with a great sea or great river? “The waters saw you, O God … and trembled” (Ps. 77:16). “Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground” (2 Kings 2:8). The two stand together briefly and then, suddenly, flame and chariot and wind take Elijah to the heights. Taking the mantle of Elijah, Elisha communed again with “the God of Elijah” (2 Kings 2:14).
A different story, but the same mantle. Elijah covers his face with his mantle and hears a voice: “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus” (1 Kings 19:15). He is to appoint kings and his own prophetic replacement, Elisha. “Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle over him” (1 Kings 19:19). The transmission occurs as Elisha immediately runs after Elijah, but then Elisha begs to go home. He must dispose of one life and take up another. He kisses his father and mother, slaughters his oxen, boils their flesh, and gives it to the people to eat. Dispossessed and poor, he clears his heart for conversio morum (conversion of manners/a whole new life).
We have a mantle to wear called by this solemn name, the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace and baptism, water and oil, examination and prayers, give us this garment. Or rather, God is giving the garment of his Son. If only we touch the hem, and yet Christ is never divided. Thus wearing him we are entirely in him and he in us. What a grave mistake to add anything to this, for adding is a terrible subtraction, a falling back into slavery, a yoke of oppression. There is nothing we can do, absolutely nothing, to earn the freedom that makes us free. Stand firm, therefore. Live in the freedom of his will meeting your will, the inflowing of grace becoming the overflow of who you are in Christ. “If we live by the Spirit, let us be guided by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). This is not an invitation to “use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence” (Gal. 5:13). For this is freedom (strangely) without choice, without options, without endless weighing of preference. It is the freedom of Christ, the obedience of love. Not my will, but thy will be done. It is the freedom of a garment that fits, movement that flows.
The Son of man is homeless in the world. He moves where the Father wills in the flowing of the one Spirit, settling nowhere because he belongs everywhere. Passing by, he throws his mantle, and we become, by grace and adoption, what he is.
Look It Up
Read Luke 9:62. Admit it. You are not fit for the kingdom of heaven.
Think About It
Jesus Christ is your home.