Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2Elijah 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. 3The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent.” 4Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here; for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. 5The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be silent.” 6Then 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. 7Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. 8Then 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. 9When 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.” 10He 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.” 11As 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. 12Elisha 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.
This passage of Elijah and Elisha reminded me of the many mentors I've had in my life. People who have believed in me, people who have corrected me, people who have nurtured me, taught me... people who saw me. Really saw me. The gifts I had or didn't have but needed. But they didn't stop there. They chose to be in relationship with me, to develop a friendship, to sacrifice their time and their resources for my benefit.
I wonder if Elisha were writing a thank you note to Elijah for all the things he learned, what would he say? What did he learn from Elijah? What did he learn by listening, by watching, by mistake? Since we don't have Elisha's thank you note, I'm writing my own today - for the mentors who have nurtured me to be who I am today. I am grateful for their mantels and for how in many ways I have tried to make them my own.
I am grateful for June Renner Cervero, one of the youth leaders at my church. She used to take me to dinner. She paid for my first manicure. She liked me and it made me feel like a million bucks.
I am grateful for Mary O'Brien Barton, the first official mentor of my adult life. She taught me about spiritual disciplines like silence and solitude. She introduced me to authors that changed my perspective on Christianity. And much of these deep conversations we had over zucchini fries.
I am grateful for Mark McGrath, a former pastor who entrusted me with his congregation and in so doing allowed me to live into my gifts as a pastor. Mark has influenced my preaching more than any other - in content and in execution. And it's about time for me to meet him for breakfast again.
I am grateful for Virginia Wiles, a seminary professor who encouraged, nurtured, and would take nothing less than my own unique voice in my writing. She taught me how to ignore rules and live into post modern methods. Mostly she somehow convinced me that I had something to say.
I am grateful for Patricia Daley, a woman who met monthly with me and a colleague over tea at her dining room table the entire first year of my pastorate. She listened, affirmed, encouraged, critiqued, and strategized. And when the year was up, she connected me with a larger group of women with whom I continue to meet weekly.
I am grateful for Elisha, who followed and stuck by Elijah til the very end - learning and grasping and watching and waiting. And who with trembling hands held the mantel of his mentor and tested it out on the waters saying, "Where is the God of Elijah?" Might the God of our Elijah's show up for us as well.
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