Chariots of fire, not the movie, but the original story is our Old Testament text for Sunday, from 2 Kings 2:1-12. The prophet Elijah knows he is going to die, as does his disciple Elisha, and seemingly the groups of prophets they encounter as they walk to the river Jordon. Elijah encourages Elisha to stay at various points on the journey and Elisha refuses to leave Elijah as he travels to his death. “I will not leave you.” The prophets encourage Elisha to stay with them and he refuses. He will stand with Elijah. Finally Elijah turns to Elisha and asks him what he, Elijah, can do for Elisha before Elijah is taken. Elisha requests a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. When they reach the Jordon, “suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.” Disney could have fun with this!
Elisha’s pledge was, “I will not leave you.” Elisha’s plea was, “a double portion of your spirit.” Reading this story and these words in the midst of a pandemic where death tolls are still being broadcast daily and where one of our national strategies is isolation, causes me to reflect. How do I journey with loved ones to death when all about me is encouraging me to separate myself? Images of loved ones talking through windows to their loved one come to mind. Thank you Lord for electronic communication! Cards sent and prayers offered keep us connected as we wait – at a distance. Our bodies may be separated but our hearts are not.
What is it that is our plea, what do we want, from someone we know we must be separated from? That’s a heavy question. As I sort through old pictures and ponder how to arrange them in a scrapbook, memories flood my mind. A picture captures that moment and I can carry it forward and tell others. of the person’s spirit Or, I have different mementos sitting around the house that bring back memories of relationship. My mother had little Hummel dolls on her counter that are now on mine. For the lucky we have CDs that capture memories like weddings or Christmas programs where I hear my uncle’s voice singing. Gravesites are covered with flowers on special days. We do not want to be separated from the love and meaning we find with our loved ones.
Perhaps as we hurry through the tasks of today that sometimes leave us tired and flustered, maybe even feeling taken for granted, let us make an effort to not think about the negative but thank God for the gift of relationship. Even if we must affirm our love from a distance, we can still cherish the spirit of the person who has blessed our lives and traveled with us for part of our journey. What is your pledge to your friends and what do you want from them?