Sunday, June 30, 2013

Alaska Mission Team: Update #1

Pastor Darryll just sent the first of many updates from Alaska. Here's how the trip is going so far. We will post more updates throughout the week! Please continue to keep this team in your prayers. 

We arrived safely in Willow at 2 a.m. local time (6 a.m. EDT) on Saturday. Today we will worship with the people of Willow UMC in the morning and then share a fellowship dinner. Among the promised dishes are moose, bear, and salmon. This is their pastor Dan Lush's last Sunday. He is retiring, moving to Homer, Alaska next week, and a new pastor will arrive on Sunday, July 7, shortly after we leave for home.

Starting tomorrow we will be cutting firewood with local families and working on new flower beds around the church. On Wednesday we work in the Food Pantry and with a summer feeding program that Fran Lynch has started for the children of Willow. On Thursday we are marching in the 4th of July parade and then joining the entire town of Willow for lunch. We also hope to visit Talkeetna, about an hour north of here toward Denali to do a bit of sightseeing on one evening.

The sun is "up" for about 20 hours and it never really gets dark, just dusk followed by sunrise. Mosquitos are huge so we have developed a new way of praising God. As frightening as it may seem to the fine folks of Church Street, it involves clapping your hand together to kill a mosquito followed by the exclamation "Praise God."  The mosquitos are still winning but we are in good spirits.  The mosquito nets that go over our hats will help also. 


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sermon: June 23, 2013

Standing Before the God of the Ages
1 Kings 19.1-15
Rev. Andy Ferguson

            What is the deal God offers us in exchange for our faithfulness and Christian service? On Easter, we talk about the promise of Resurrection, but that comes later, after natural death. What deal does God offer us in the present imperfect?

A. For the past few weeks, we have been following a series that I call, “Superheroes of the Old Testament.” I love the O.T. stories; they have a lot to teach us about living faithfully. They are inspiring and often “over the top” in contrast to this modern world that majors in living calculated lives. The story of Elijah on Mt Horeb, standing before God is one of those great stories.
            We usually read this story and find our attention drawn to the great moment when Elijah went out to stand on the mountain before God. There the wind came and broke the rocks and mountains; the earthquake followed; third, the fire roared through. But, according to the scripture, God was not in any of those. Finally, there was the sound of sheer silence (a contradiction), but there is no time to worry about the contradiction. You see, God came to Elijah following that silence.
B. Because of our focus on the wind, earthquake and fire, we interpret this as a story about the way we encounter God. Many sermons have been preached on meeting God in the quiet places or even in God’s silences. They were good sermons, but I do not think that this story is trying to tell us how God might (OR might NOT) speak to us through any of these events. Actually, God spoke to Elijah in many ways throughout this story – including the “sound of sheer silence.”
C. I think, instead, that this great story is Elijah’s crisis over his sense of God’s call. As a prophet, he was called by God *to speak* in the name of God. He was called *to act* in the name of God. Now, all his service has led to threats against his life. Elijah had become a hunted man; no wonder it led to a crisis of call. Such a crisis of call is one that we might suffer, too.
            Elijah has just come from his amazing victory over the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. You recall how he taunted the prophets of Baal to wake the god to receive their offering. When no fire came, Elijah branded them and their god Baal a “fraud.”  Then, he prayed that God would send down fire to accept the offering he had prepared before the people. Right on cue, the fire of God fell, burned up all the offering, the wood, the water and even the dust around the altar. The people standing in witness were understandably awestruck. They declared themselves followers of God, then, at Elijah’s direction, they chased down all the 450 prophets of Baal and killed them without exception or mercy.

II. [TEXT]
            As our passage opens today, Queen Jezebel has just gotten word about what Elijah has done – especially about his order to kill all the prophets of her religion. She lays down one of the great threats of the Bible. Bruce Willis in all the many “Die Hard” movies cannot make threats as cool as she laid on Elijah: **“So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow”** (19.2). Elijah was terrified. Whatever pride he enjoyed from the Mt. Carmel thing evaporates, and he runs for his life.
            A. Mt. Carmel was in the Northern Kingdom, ruled by King Ahab. That kingdom had broken away from the Southern Kingdom whose capital was Jerusalem. So, to get away from King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, Elijah hightailed it south – out of the Northern Kingdom, all the way down to the southern border of the Southern Kingdom. Fearing for his life, he kept moving until he was as far from Jezebel as he could run. At this point in the story, the only thing we see is Elijah’s fear.
            B. After running for several days, Elijah, exhausted, lies down to rest in the desert wilderness under a broom tree. It is the first time he has dared to close his eyes since the queen’s threat sent him running. He rested under the broom tree and said to God, **“It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.”** In other words, I am as good as dead. Just get it over, please.” With that, he lay down to the release he could only find in sleep.
            Now, in one of the most touching passages in the Bible, an angel of God woke him with a warm cake of bread and a jar of water. It was not much, but it shows the tenderness of God for his frightened servant. After he ate, Elijah was still exhausted so he slept again. Then a second time, an angel came with food and drink: “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” So, he did as the angel said.
            C. Now, at God’s direction Elijah gets up and walks to Mt. Horeb, also known as Mt. Sinai, where Moses met God. You recall that Moses met God on Mt. Sinai once at the burning bush and again to receive the tablets of the Ten Commandments. One of the great moments of Moses’ encounters with God on Sinai took place when Moses asked to see God. He was having a crisis of faith of his own, and he asked to see God for reassurance. God would not allow Moses to see His face, so God put Moses in the cleft of the rock, covered him with His hand. Then, Moses was allowed to see God’s back as God passed that place. The tantalizing thought is that Elijah might have taken shelter in that same cleft in the rock when he arrived on the Mountain.
            D. As Elijah waits in that cave on the Mountain, word comes to him, “Go out and stand on the Mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” After he goes out to present himself before the Lord:
·       A wind, so strong it split the mountains and broke the rocks, passed by.
·       Then, an earthquake
·       Third, fire passed by him.
·       However, the Lord was not in any of these.
Then, after the fire, there was the sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard this, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave – now presenting himself before the Lord.

III. [Crisis of Call]
            As I said earlier this morning, this is not so much a story about the ways God speaks to us as it is a story about Elijah’s crisis of call. He had been called by God to prophesy. And prophesy he had done.
·       At the Lord’s command, he had spoken out against King Ahab’s acceptance of foreign gods in Israel.
·       At the Lord’s command, he had promised drought across the land.
·       At the Lord’s command, he had challenged the prophets of Baal to the showdown on Carmel.
·       At the Lord’s command and through the Lord’s tender care, he had traveled to Mt. Horeb/Sinai to present himself before the Lord.
A. But, with Jezebel’s threat, all sense of confidence evaporated. Elijah could not see anything except his failure and her power. As a poet translated Jezebel’s threat: “You may be Elijah, but I – I am Jezebel, Queen.” Elijah’s response is understandable:
·       “I’m as good as dead; just take me now.”
·       I’m a failure; this has been a waste of my life.
·       Everything I have lived for has amounted to nothing; God, just get it over with.

B. [APPLIC:] I think there are times when we have felt the same – times when the confidence that we have been doing the very thing [God called us to do] has come to nothing.
·       I am not talking about the sadness that we call depression; that condition has many triggers and causes. Some are situational, like Elijah’s crisis, but others can be physical. The human brain is a complex part of our bodies; it is not fully understood. Depression may need specialized care.
·       Instead, I am talking about the faith crisis that comes from following God’s call only to find ourselves in disaster.
·       Shouldn’t following God faithfully bring us success?
·       Shouldn’t speaking God’s message lead people to understand and embrace what we preach?
·       Shouldn’t doing the right thing all our lives yield good results?
·       Shouldn’t there be a simple connection between doing what we believe God wants us to do and the way we are treated in this world?
·        
[ILLUS:]
            In a seminar for preachers that Will Willimon led with Stanley Hauerwas, one pastor said, in a plaintive voice, “The bishop sent me to a little town in South Carolina. I preached one Sunday on the challenge of racial justice. After only two months, my people were so angry that the bishop had to move me.
            At the next church, I was determined for things to go better. Didn’t preach about race. But we had an incident in town, and I felt forced to speak. “The board met that week and voted unanimously for us to be moved. My wife was insulted at the supermarket. My children were beaten up on the school ground.”
            Willimon says that his pastoral heart went out to this dear, suffering brother. But Hauerwas replied, “And your point is what? We work for the living God! Did somebody tell you it would be easy?”

Well, that young pastor could have been Elijah. That young pastor might have been any of us, trying to make sense of the dead ends where we find ourselves. We have listened for God’s voice! We have wanted to follow in the pathway of God! So, why doesn’t it work any better than it does?
            C. [ANS:] Elijah assumed that his faithfulness would provide some measure of protection from the world. When that assumption proved false, his faith and his sense of call were crushed. Hauerwas’ reply seems unfeeling, unsympathetic, “And your point is what?” God’s reply on the mountain was no kinder: no words of comfort, no reassurance. God’s reply was only new marching orders: “Go, return on your way north to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive I have work for you to do.” No words of kindness; no sympathy; no rest. Get busy; there is plenty yet to do.
            What God offers us is a life of eternal purpose. What God offers us is the call to spend our lives in the company of Christ. The call of God for us might be:
·       A lifetime of Christian service in a set apart ministry.
·       God’s call might be to a particular season or project.
The message of Elijah’s crisis story is that God is calling us to be difference-makers in this world. Consider the likelihood that God still calls prophets and servants and ordinary believers to do extraordinary deeds. Consider the likelihood that God is still looking for an Elijah for this time, and the Prophet for this time might be you.

CONCL: The familiar Wesley Covenant Prayer goes this way:
Lord, make me what you will.
            I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what thou wilt,
            rank me with whom you will.
Put me to doing,
            put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,
            exalted for you or brought low for you.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
            Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
            you are mine, and I am yours.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
            let it be ratified in heaven.
            Amen



Friday, June 28, 2013

Abolishing Poverty Conference

The United Methodist Church has identified eliminating poverty and engaging in ministry with the poor as one of its “Four Areas of Focus” for the next quadrennium and beyond.The Missions Ministry Team and Outreach/Advocacy Ministry Team of Holston Conference are partnering to create a Poverty Abolition Team Holston (PATH) to address that need. All are invited to attend a conference next month. 


2013 Abolishing Conference: Bringing Good News to the Poor
Saturday, July 27, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Cokesbury Center
9915 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN
$25 registration fee includes lunch
.4 CEUs available  

Keynote Speaker: Retired Bishop Ken Carder

Workshops
Beginning Ministries with the Poor 
Established Ministries with the Poor

Conversation Rooms:
Healthcare/Clinics
Rural Poverty Ministry
Inner-City Poverty Ministry
Hispanic/Immigrant Issues
Empowering Lay Leadership (for clergy)
Food and Hunger
DOWNLOAD BROCHURE.
REGISTER ONLINE.         
 

             

Church Street Group Departs For Alaska


A group of 10 people from Church Street will depart soon for a mission trip to Willow, Alaska. The group is led by Rev. Darryll Rasnake. The purpose of the trip is to build a closer relationship with Rev. Fran Lynch, the Holston conference’s own missionary based in Willow. Church Street supports her ministry each year and we look forward to this opportunity to learn more about the work she is doing on our behalf. The team will be working several projects around Willow including cutting firewood alongside local families, reading to children in the summer program at the Willow library, and helping out in the food pantry.  The team will also have an opportunity to take in some of the natural beauty of Alaska. Please be in prayer for the entire team as they travel and participate in this important work. 



Thursday, June 27, 2013

Summer Elective Series Continues in July

The summer elective series will continue on Sunday, July 7, with Grant Standefer, Executive Director of Compassion Coalition to speak on “Hope Blossoms When We Claim Our Role as Salt & Light in Our Community.”  

Then on Sunday, July 14, Jim Harb, a native of Knoxville with a Christian Palestinian heritage who has been active in efforts toward peace in the Middle East for 40 years will speak on, “Hope Springs Eternal in the Land of Milk and Honey.”  Both sessions meet in Parish Hall and begin at 9:45 a.m. All are welcome!


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

UMW Picnic Celebrates "Memorable Moments in Ministry"

Please join us for the annual UMW Picnic in Parish Hall on Tuesday, July 9, at 6:30 p.m. Our potluck dinner will be followed by “Memorable Moments in the Ministry,” a time during which members of Church Street’s clergy and staff will share humorous and meaningful stories from their time at Church Street and other churches. This is a not-to-be missed evening, so please bring your favorite dish and enjoy the fellowship as well as the program. Drinks, plates and utensils will be provided. A picnic tradition is to bring supplies for one of our UMW missions, and this year we would like to restock our Sharing Shop.  While sample sizes are always welcome, larger sizes are very appreciated and can be purchased quite inexpensively at Dollar General, Big Lots, etc. Our Sharing Shop distributes all of the following items on a regular basis:

*shampoo and conditioner
*bar soap, deodorant, body lotion, feminine hygiene products
*toilet paper, razors, toothpaste
*diapers-any size
*dishwashing liquid, laundry detergent

Those of us who have worked in the Sharing Shop and on the Benevolence Team can attest to the fact that these items are so needed and so appreciated by our Sharing Shop clients. Although the Picnic is a UMW-sponsored event, all Church Streeters and friends are welcome.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Boomsday Carnival Needs Donations


Boomsday is Sunday, September 1, and we need your help! This year’s event will feature a silent auction as well as many of the activities from last year. We are in need of the following items to use as prizes and for our auction:

Stuffed Animals
Small Toys (Happy Meal toys)
Crayons
Items for Silent Auction (gift basket, gift cards, services, etc.)

If you have any of these items you would like to donate, please bring them to the office. All money raised will benefit CSUMC Preschool and the Kay Senior Care Center.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Join Adult Council at the Cumberland County Playhouse


Join Adult Council for a summer outing to the Cumberland County Playhouse. The group will carpool and drive to the playhouse to see The King and I on Saturday, July 20, to see the show at 2:30 p.m. (Central Time). We will depart from the church at 9:30 a.m. and eat lunch before the show. The cost is $25 per person and does not include lunch. 
To reserve your spot, please take your money to the church office by Wednesday, July 10.  Space is limited so please reserve your spot as soon as possible. 


Thursday, June 20, 2013

VBS Closes with Carnival Celebration

After four fun-filled days of Vacation Bible School, we ended the week on a high note with a carnival celebration. Families gathered in the Magnolia Lot tonight for food, fun & games and fellowship. There were hot dogs, caramel apples, cotton candy, popcorn, snow cones and cupcakes. The kids were able to participate in lots of fun activities as well! From face painting to bubbles to a carousel, there was plenty for everyone of all ages to enjoy. The older kids even took turns sitting in the dunking booth! The parents were treated to a show as the kids performed several of the songs they learned during VBS. It was a special night!

Thanks again to all our amazing volunteers who made VBS possible. Our children had a wonderful week and we are grateful for everyone who pitched in to help.






Vacation Bible School: Day 4

Today was the last day of VBS at Church Street and excitement was running high! We started off with our assembly as Jenny Darden led us in the music. Even our youngest VBS participants have memorized the music and the sign language. After assembly the kids each went with their groups to have fun in the gym, crafts, snack and more. It's been a great week and we are so thankful for all our teachers, youth helpers and additional volunteers for making the week a success. We will wrap it all up with a special carnival tonight. 

Here's a look at Thursday's events:
Bible Story: Jesus Forgives Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10)
Theme: Neighbors are forgiving.
Bible Verse: "Treat people in the same way that you want people to treat you." -Matthew 7:12
Craft time: The kids made mosaic banks.
Fun Fact: The kids collected more than $1,075 in gift cards for our neighbors in Oklahoma! WOW!







Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Vacation Bible School: Day 3

The sun is shining and VBS is GREAT! Today was our third day of Vacation Bible School. The children continued to learn how God calls them to be good neighbors.  

Here's a look at Wednesday's events:
Bible Story: The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)
Theme: Neighbors are bold.
Bible Verse: "I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me." -Matthew 25:35
Craft time: The kids painted wooden houses and made door decorations. The older children decorated signs for tomorrow's closing celebration.
Fun Fact: We are collecting gift cards for the victims of the Oklahoma tornadoes. If you'd like to help, you can bring a gift card (Visa, Lowes, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Target, Kohl's) to the front office or to Sue Isbell.  Any amount is welcome!

It's been a great three days so far. We can't wait for our final day of VBS!






Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Vacation Bible School: Day 2

It has been a VERY rainy day here in Knoxville, but that didn't stop the fun at Vacation Bible School! The kids arrived excited and ready to learn more about what it means to be a good neighbor. 

Here's a look at Tuesday's events:
Bible Story: A Widow Gives Cheerfully (1 Kings 17:7-16)
Theme: Neighbors are giving.
Bible Verse: "God loves a cheerful giver." -2 Corinthians 9:7b
Craft time: Each child made a friendship bracelet
Fun Fact: Pastor Andy stopped by this morning to lead the kids in a time of prayer. 

We had so much fun sharing the good news of God's love with everyone today. We're looking forward to the blessings Wednesday will bring for everyone at VBS!





Monday, June 17, 2013

Vacation Bible School: Day 1

The first day of Vacation Bible School is in the books! More than 100 children and adults participated in the "Everywhere Fun Fair." This year's theme focuses on what it means to be a good neighbor. Each day the children will participate in a variety of activities from music to recreation to crafts. As a part of each activity they learn about being good neighbors.

Here's a look at Monday's events:
Bible Story: Sarah and Abraham Welcome Visitors (Genesis 18:1-4, 21:1-3)
Theme: Neighbors are friendly.
Bible Verse: "Serve the Lord with celebration! Come before him with shouts of joy!" -Psalm 100:2
Craft time: Each child made a windsock
Fun Fact: Some of the older children put together a newspaper, "The VBS Press," that will be printed each day this week.

Thanks to everyone who participated today! We can't wait for another great day tomorrow!







Sunday, June 16, 2013

Parish Hall Renovation Task Force Gets Underway

As many of you know, the Church Street Board of Trustees requested that a Task Force be formed to begin the process of renovating Parish Hall. Over the last several months, the Parish Hall Renovations Task Force has been busy collecting ideas from the staff and membership as it undertakes its work. Many of you (more than 200!) filled out surveys about the current uses of the space and helped identify potential new uses for Parish Hall as well. The survey also helped the congregation identify any shortcomings of Parish Hall in addition to challenges and restraints that we might face in the renovation process.

After compiling and reviewing the surveys, the Task Force requested and received approval from the Board of Trustees to take into consideration the rooms and spaces adjacent and contiguous to the Parish Hall that may be affected. Included in its research, the group will study arrival and entrance points (both from the standpoint of vehicular and pedestrian flow); disabled accessibilities; accessible restrooms; storage; food services; and a spectrum of space uses, services, and functionalities.

The Task Force has traveled to several other churches and buildings in our area to conduct research about the possibilities here at Church Street. The Task Force continues to refine the goals that include maintaining the historical integrity of the structure; identification of the needs and wishes of the congregation; improving signage; traffic flow improvement of both vehicles and people; and flexibility for use well into the future.

Currently, the Task Force is working on a projected timeline of events that will ultimately lead to the selection of an architect to begin the renovation design process. Updates will be posted here on the blog and in The Messenger. Proposals are subject to the approval of the Board of Trustees, who will then present recommendations to the Church Council for approval.

We are excited about the potential for renovating our Parish Hall and look forward to sharing in the process with the entire congregation!

Members of Task Force: Mary Ann Gibson, Chair; Rev. Andy Ferguson, Senior Minister; Bob Hertwig, expertise in food services; Bill Terry, Chair of Board of Trustees; Connie Taylor, interior designer ASID affiliate; Rik Norris, architect and Chair of Properties; Jean Galyon, attorney and Chair of Church Council


Sermon: June 16, 2013 Robed with the Mantle of Elijah

2 Kings 2.1f, 6-15 – Elijah is taken up to heaven; Elisha inherits Elijah’s mantle
Rev. Andy Ferguson

            Elisha had been the disciple of Elijah for several years. In that time, Elisha had traveled with the older Elijah just as the disciples of Jesus had traveled about with him. Elisha listened as his master taught; he knelt beside him to learn what it was to pray; he was present to witness miracles of healing. He was probably present when Elijah took on the prophets of Baal on Mt Carmel.
            What Elisha saw as he followed the older prophet was a man of great faith, someone who walked with God. In a time when different people followed different gods, Elijah was clear that he followed only the Lord, the God who had led Israel out of slavery in Egypt to the Land of Promise.
            What made Elijah’s faith different from our own? We look at one of the greats and assume that there was quality about their faith that was greater or better than the common run of faith we know. Did Elijah believe in God in a way that was inaccessible to the likes of us? I do not believe so.
[ILLUS;] Someone once complimented a vibrant Christian by saying, “You must have a great faith.” To which that Christian responded, “No, it is not I who has a great faith in God. Instead, I have a little faith in a great God.”

Elijah had a little faith in a great God, and it inspired him to live a life of clarity and power.
[ILLUS;] At Annual Conference, Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor, in her sermon at ordination told those who were being commissioned and ordained, “People you meet are not waiting for you to convince them that they should follow Christ. They are waiting for you to show them that you are convinced to follow Christ.” This is the most powerful witness that you and I offer to the world.

Well, this was Elijah – convinced, living a powerful life, walking with God.
            As our scripture opens, Elijah is coming to the end of his life. The old prophet begins a journey on foot: from Gilgal, through Bethel, then past Jericho. In the final step of his journey, Elijah parts the waters of the River Jordan recreating Israel's arrival in the Promised Land and Israel's escape through the waters of the Red Sea. Unlike the journey out of Egypt, Elijah is carried away by God’s chariots, not the chariots of Pharaoh. Through this symbolic journey, Elijah gathers up the great history of God in Israel and carries it to heaven.
            Elijah’s symbolic journey, which ends with him being carried into heaven, stands as a reminder that our history as a nation is also lived before God. We see our days as work and rest; news reports sound much the same day to day; progress is undermined by uncertainty. We miss the hand of God among us by attending to the details. Elijah gathered up the great history of Israel, then, carrying all of that, he was caught up to heaven. What a reminder to all of us that our story is held in God’s hands.

II. At every place he could, Elijah would say to Elisha, “Stay here, for the Lord has sent me further.” Ordinarily, a prophet’s disciple would follow his master’s instructions to the letter. He was not to question or ask for explanation; he was expected to obey. But Elisha, sensing that his old master was about to be taken from him, refused. “I will not leave you,” he answered more than once.
            APPLIC: I hope there are people in your life that you feel this way about:
·       People whose counsel you trust,
·       People whose path you will happily follow for yourself,
·       People who turn your life in the best direction possible.

II.  From the story in the  Bible, you get the sense that both of them knew what was about to happen: Elijah knew that God was about to take him home; Elisha knew that his master was about to be taken from him. They talk as if they are playing a bit of a game with this. Neither of them wants to talk about Elijah dying; talking about death is hard. So, instead of saying it plainly, they play this game: “Stay here; I have been sent on.” And the younger prophet, responding to the master whom he loves, “I will not leave you.” There is something very endearing about their exchange, but I think there is more to this exchange than the affection between them.
            I think I hear Elijah saying to his young disciple, “Are you sure that you want this life?” Are you sure you want to be the voice of God in Israel? Or as the Bishop put it this week at annual conference, “Are you convinced?” This is our question as well.
·       Are you sure you want this Christian life?
·       Are you sure you want to care about the things and the people God cares about?
·       Are you sure you are ready to have your heart broken by the brokenness of this world?
·       Are you sure you are ready to come clean with the people in your life about your deepest commitments?
·       Are you sure you are ready to step outside your comfortable neighborhood and circle of friends to welcome the people outside the boundaries of life?
Elijah played this gentle game with his disciple, Elisha, telling him over and over, “Stay here. God is sending me further on,” as a way of telling him that he must be sure if he follows in the way that Elijah had chosen. We too have to be sure. Here, the church is beautiful; the music inspiring, but the life that comes with following Christ will take your whole life to live enough.
            [APPLIC:] Following Christ must change us.
·       Christ will change our habits and our values.
·       Christ will lead us to make friends with the friendless and the least in this world.
·       Christ will lead us away from our comfortable places into His places.
III. 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.
             Only two times in God’s story had the waters been divided to provide a way through:
1.     At the Red Sea on the day the children of Israel escaped slavery in Egypt;
2.     At the Jordan River on the day the children of Israel crossed into the Promised Land.
In each case, the dividing of the waters so that the dry ground could appear was the miracle of God. In the biblical mind, only God has the power to divide the waters from the waters and bring forth dry ground. In this story of Elijah crossing the River Jordan, it is a sign that God is opening the way where Elijah could never go by his own power. It is a reminder that following in faith will take us in God’s holy way.
            The fearsome truth is that following God will take us to places that only God can imagine going.
·       We will find ourselves following where we do not know the way.
·       We will find ourselves walking with people through difficult times that we would not welcome.
·       We will find ourselves building for a future that we will leave for others.
This will happen as we follow faithfully the way and the path that God has prepared for us. Like Elijah, we will find God opening the way before us.
            Well, Elijah rolled up his mantle; with it he struck the water; and the water parted so they could walk between the waters on dry ground. Everyone knows there is no magic in a rolled up piece of cloth; it was the work of God in the hands of a servant of God. With that, it was enough to part the waters.
               [APPLIC:] This is the way miracles still happen: ordinary things in the hands of servants of God.
IV. When they had crossed over, Elijah asked the younger Elisha what he could do for him. Elisha responded: “I want a double share of your spirit.” Now, Elisha was not being greedy and asking for more than his share. In that time the eldest son was expected to receive a double portion of the father’s inheritance. At the death of the father, the eldest was supposed to step forward to take the place as the father of the family or the tribe or the village. All the authority but also all the responsibility rested upon his shoulders.
            Elijah asked his younger disciple, “Are you sure?” Are you sure that you want to take up this path and this task? When Elisha assured him that he was sure AND he was ready, Elijah directed him to watch as he was taken up by God. If he saw Elijah being taken, then the double portion would be his. With that, the responsibility would be his.
At annual conference, there comes a moment at the retirement recognition when one of the retiring preachers, wearing the stole of an elder, kneels, recalling this story. Then, the older pastor takes off the stole and places it upon the shoulders of one of the new pastors. It is a powerful image for us; it reminds us that we of the older generation will one day slip off the signs of our ministry and place them upon the younger.
This led me to think about the changes that are happening among us just now.
·       This is the last Sunday among us as two of our pastors.
·       This Sunday, we commission two new Stephen Ministers and one new Stephen Leader.
But these pastors’ leaving is not the end – not the end of their ministry and not the end of our ministry. In the manner of Elijah passing his mantle to Elisha, these pastors pass the mantle of their Church Street ministry now to these Stephen Ministers and to two pastors you have not met.
            Further, their ministry is not something reserved for clergy. This ministry is shared among us all. Baptism is the ordination of the laity – a life-long ordination that sets us apart for the service of God. This ministry calls for the best from each one of us if it is to have life and impact in this community and the world.
            Each generation passes its ministry along to the generation that follows.
·       The older members and older Sunday School classes pass the ministry along to the younger.
·       The departing pastors pass their ministry along to the new ones.
·       Those who have carried the burden for a time pass it along so that others can join in.

Elisha tears his clothes and grieves the loss of his spiritual father. He has to grieve and he has to face the fear of picking up the mantle. Then, he picks it up and, as he finds himself doing the things Elijah did, he begins to trust that the same Spirit at work in his mentor is now at work in him.
It is a time of change. The mantle of those who have gone before us waits for us to take it up. Whose mantle will you pick up as your own? Who are you preparing now so that they will be ready to carry on with the work of God’s kingdom after you?