Sunday next before Lent – Sermon 63

13th February 2011 Off By Derek Buckthorpe

Prayer to start

May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ



Change and responsibility are not words that many of us relish

When we know there will be changes affecting our job, our houses, our daily routine, our church, it can be very unsettling, even distressing –

We like things to stay the same –

We plan our lives on a system of routines:
Breakfast, dinner and tea
Wash days
Shop days
Church days

Most of us want our village to stay the same – not to expand – not to contract –

We like fixed points to focus on and build from

But changes in responsibility are inevitable – particularly in church – people get older – new families come in –

new people mean new responsibilities – for regular worshippers as well as new ones –

We all know how important it is that God’s message of love and salvation is passed on to the next generation – for their sakes as well as ours –

So how are we supposed to cope?

Well maybe our readings can help us?

First Point   Elijah & Elisha – “ Spirit ”

Our OT reading tells us the story of how God transferred Elijah’s power and authority over to his apprentice – Elisha –

God told Elijah it would soon be his last day –time for his ministry to be passed on to someone who would carry it forward in the same spirit that he had done.

For Elisha it was time to break the ties with his master – embrace the gifts God had given him – and take up his new responsibilities

Our shows us how Elisha’s resilience and vision for the future – was tested – his dream to follow Elijah – was no passing fancy –

in every part of his journey he was discouraged – told to turn back – sit it out – and not get involved – even by Elijah –

But Elisha wanted God’s spirit in his life so much that he was prepared to go to extraordinary lengths – to get it – He openly asked for a greater share to make sure that he was fully equipped for what God had in store for him –

He knew that he would need every bit of the Spirit’s help – in his new role – if he was going to fulfill all that God would asked of Him –

The Holy Spirit is our most important ally for dealing with change and new responsibilities – the Spirit brings gifts that are essential for our ministry and mission – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control – through the Spirit we have a direct link with the past – the present – and the future – and with God Himself –

And when Elijah was finally taken up – in a world wind – his love and sorrow at losing his teacher was there for all to see – when he saw him no more – he took hold of his mantle – and tore it in two as a sign that the transfer was complete –

Elijah and Elisha were giants of their time – both had to minister in times of national decay – and worked tirelessly against Baal worship – but even though one took over from the other – their ministries were quite different –

Elijah was noted for his great public acts – ephasising God’s Law and judgment – thundering out a message of repentance for sin – like John the Baptist

Elisha on the other hand was known for his many miracles – for demonstrating God’s grace, love and tenderness –

Both men cast great shadows of influence and faith on the people they met – and stood firmly based on the word of God – so that future generations might also experience God’s grace and power in their lives


Point 2   Jesus and the Disciples – “Faith”


The next time we see Elijah in the bible is when Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him up a high mountain – there they saw Jesus transfigured – and meet and talk with Elijah and Moses –

they experienced the power and authority of God – and heard His voice –

But Jesus told them to tell no one – “until the Son of Man had been raised from the dead”

If people knew then what had happened – many would have proclaimed Him as the Messiah – without knowing who and what He was – the idea of a conquering Messiah had become so ingrained that Jesus knew that it was going to take a long time – for it to be unlearnt

Seeing Elijah also raised a question of how his arrival relates to Jesus –

The Jews believed that the returning Elijah and the coming Messiah would mark the beginning of a new conquering power –

But Jesus told them he had already come – and had not been recognized – they interpreted this to mean John the Baptist – Like Jesus – John’s way was the way of suffering and sacrifice – and like John – Jesus too would be delivered into the hands of His enemies –

Then we see a striking example of what happens if we try to cope with change and responsibility – under our own strength –

A man brings his epileptic son for Jesus to heal –

“I brought him to your disciples,” he said, “but they couldn’t cure him.”

Jesus healed the boy of his disability – but was clearly disappointed that they couldn’t cope – He knew they would have to face such situations – after He had been raised –

“Why couldn’t – we – drive it out”? they asked

“Your faith is too small”– He said – “if you have faith no bigger than a mustard seed – you will say to this mountain – move from here to here.”

Without faith nothing happens – with faith –we can overcome the most difficult of situations – faith – even the size of a mustard seed- would be enough to overcome – their most difficult problems –

Maybe the disciples thought they should have done something differently? – waved their arms or something ? –
Its something we are all guilty of – we think that if we had done this or that – worked harder at something – or learnt more – that God’s love would start to work in us –

But faith is not a matter of how intelligent or how good we are at something – it’s about us – relying on God – and its not the amount of faith that makes the impossible – possible – but the power of God –

The boy’s father had faith in Jesus – he never doubted – despite the failure of the disciples – and because of this faith – the boy was healed


Point 3   what does it mean for us –


So what have we learnt? –

Well the first and foremost we need God’s help –

From the very beginning God has worked to prepare and encourage those who are willing to continue His work –
generation after generation have been helped by Him – and we see it clearly our two passages today

And like Elisha – we need to be hungry for what He gives to us – He will give us so much – if only we are prepared to ask –
most of us only accept enough to get by – to serve God is costly – and that cost is often something we are not willing to pay –

As someone once said – you can’t have a mountain top experience – if you don’t climb the mountain –

Secondly, we need the holy Spirit – the Spirit brings us – all the power and resources that we will need – He is our character builder – without the Spirit we will not overcome the enemy within – ourselves –
with the help of the Spirit we will easily cope with what lies ahead – cooperating with God’s Spirit will bear beautiful fruit for God’s greater glory –

And the key to receiving God’s generous Spirit – is to have faith in Jesus Christ – to believe that Jesus will give you His very best –that He will keep His promises – we need to follow the way of Jesus – and to keep on following Him – just as the disciples did – through faith in Jesus – we will have God’s mighty power to help us



Elijah’s power and authority was handed over to Elisha – the mission and authority of Jesus was handed over to His Church – and in the Church the reigns are handed over from year to year – from generation to generation – and sometimes from day to day – to us

We are not all called to be prophets
We are not all called to perform miracles
We are not all called to a high profile leadership
But we are all called to be disciples of Jesus – to be loyal to those who have gone before – and take on the changes and new responsibilities He presents to us –

Like them we must be obedient to God’s leadership – embrace the gifts of the spirit – and go forward firmly fixed in the faith of Jesus Christ

You can count on God to do His part – can He count on you to do yours?



In the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit