Dearly Beloved, Grace and Peace to you. Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 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.” —2 Kings 2.1-2
Here’s a story about leave-taking. (It’s appropriate for a lot of United Methodist churches whose pastor may be preaching their last sermon there, or just did recently: most appointments run from July 1 to June 30). Oddly the lectionary skips a part, then picks up again. In the part it skips prophets from Bethel ask Elisha if he knows Elijah is about to go, and Elisha says, “Yes, I know. Keep silent.” Then he and Elijah go through the same routine they did earlier: “Say here.” “No, I’m coming with you.” They go to Jericho and prophets ask Elisha the same question and he answers the same: “I know. Keep silent.” Elisha and Elijah repeat their routine again and go on to the Jordan, where the lectionary picks up the story.
Why does the lectionary omit that part? The pathos? The repetition? But grief is like that. It comes in waves, it repeats itself, it asks what we don’t want to answer. And it’s a journey. It leads us on to a new place, then on again. It goes on longer than we think it will. We want to cut parts out. We do our best not to leave the ones we love, until we must. We experience it with the loss of a loved one, the departure of a beloved spiritual teacher, or really any significant change. Elisha is not in denial. He’s trying to stay in the present moment. He knows Elijah is going. But he’s not gone yet. If you spend in your energy grieving what hasn’t happened yet, it might as well have already happened. To have gone off mourning before Elijah left would have been for Elisha to have left. But he didn’t.
Don’t grieve the future. Enjoy the present. Receive the blessings and lessons of the present moment. The future will have lessons of its own. No experience is guaranteed to last forever. Be present, and enjoy it while you can. Give and receive what you can with your loved ones; learn what you can from your spiritual teachers while you have them. Listen, “mark, and inwardly digest” what you can take from them. Not only will you not have to grieve before they even go, you’ll lose less when they do, because you’ve taken more in. Say to the present moment, “I will not leave you.”
Deep Blessings, Pastor Steve
__________________ Steve Garnaas-Holmes Unfolding Light www.unfoldinglight.net
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