DATE: 26 June 2016

TO: Manantial de Gracia

TITLE: QUESTION AUTHORITY…?

LLAMADO A COMUNIDAD / CALL TO COMMUNITY

6 Domingo despues de Pentecoste, Arelis M Figueroa, The Riverside Church, New York City

Translated to English by E. Mendez Angulo

One: Oh Dios tu eres grande en tus acciones, O God, you are big in your actions

All: Que dios hay tan grande como tu? Is there a god greater than you?

Tu eres el Dios que hace maravillas! You are God of miracles and wonders!

Que dios hay tan grande como tu? Is there a god greater than you?

Diste a conocer tu poder a las naciones. You allowed your power to be known by all nations.

Que dios hay tan grande como tu? Is there a god greater than you?

Con tu poder liberaste a tu pueblo. With your power you liberated your people.

Que dios hay tan grande como tu? Is there a god greater than you?

Por ello alabamos y bendecimos tu glorioso nombre. Because of your greatness we worship and bless your glorious name.

Dios de amor, Dios de poder y misericordia, acepta nuestra adoracion, God of love, God of power and mercy, accept our adoration.

Que dios hay tan grande como tu? Is there a god greater than you?Amen.

ENVUELT@S EN LA PALABRA / ENGAGING THE WORD

2Kings2: 1-2,6-14 (NIV)

When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.

Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.”

So the two of them walked on. Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.”

As they were walking along and talking together, 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. Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two. Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.

He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.

Question Authority…!

Let me share a brief synopsis of the religious and secular movements that occurred during this past week.

Monday was the Summer Solstice (the 1st day of Summer), considered the longest day of the year because, “the point on the horizon where the sun appears to rise and set, stops and reverses direction after this day. On the solstice, the sun does not rise precisely in the east, but rises to the north of east and sets to the north of west, meaning it’s visible in the sky for a longer period of time.”

This particular “Summer Solstice happened to coincide with a full Moon, also commonly known as Strawberry Moon. These 2 events haven’t occurred on the same day since 1967 and will not coincide again until 2062.” Meaning that if God allows, I will be 86 years old at the next convergence of these events.

Let me ask you a question…

How many of you went to the beach this week?

How many of you immersed your bodies into a body of water?

How many of you did it while facing away from said body of water…?

How many of you made a concerted effort to walk away from that body of water without looking back at it?

Huuuuuum! Interesting…

On Monday, I went to the beach with a group of close friends. I witnessed them attempt to enact what I just described. I myself, could not quite remember what they were going on about… but I promised myself that I would try to remember later. According to my friends limited understanding of their act, they were trying to re-enact a leaving behind of their past and walking open eyed into their future. They wanted to leave behind the old, and walk into the new. Does that sound at all familiar?

Thursday, I had the privilege of gathering at Center Church in downtown Hartford for a vigil and rally of remembrance for #somosorlando. The music was themed in such a way as to acknowledge the stories of many of those whose lives were taken during this tragic event. Of particular significance to me was the singing of “En Mi Viejo San Juan”:

En mi viejo san juan, cuantos sueños forjé

en mis noches de infancia

mi primera ilusión y mis cuitas de amor

son recuerdos del alma

Una tarde me fuí hacia una extraña nación

pues lo quiso el destino

pero mi corazón se quedo frente al mar

en mi viejo san juan

Adiós (adiós adiós)

borinquen querida (tierra de mi amor)

adios (adios adios)

mi diosa del mar (mi reina del palmar)

me voy (ya me voy)

pero un dia volveré

a buscar mi querer, soñar otra vez en mi viejo san juan

Pero el tiempo pasó y el destino burló

mi terrible nostalgia

y no pude volver al san juan que yo amé

pedacito de patria

mi cabello blanqueó y mi vida se va

ya la muerte me llama

y no quiero morir alejado de ti

Puerto Rico del alma

This particular song, a Lament, was chosen in recognition that Thursday night was Noche de San Juan. A night when as the sun finally sets, people gather and bathe in the ocean, walking in facing backwards… leaving the weight of their past behind as they immerse themselves repeatedly, allowing the waves to wash away the burdens of the past, with their gaze firmly set on the sandy beaches, and their futures… That is what my friends were trying to enact on Monday at the beach.

But they did not quite understand the religious significance. And at the time, it was so long since last I thought of it, that I myself had forgotten. See Noche de San Juan has become a secular holiday… with ties deeply rooted in indigenous belief, much like Summer Solstice, but we who proclaim our Christianity, should recall that this is a tradition deeply seeded on our belief that Jesus when he began his journey and ministry, began it at baptism. Where he left behind somethings and took on new responsibilities…

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3: 13-17

So this week, each of us should be remembering our Baptism. That is what Noche de San Juan is after all. A remembrance of that ritual. And if you are not able to recall your Baptism, or if you have not yet been baptised, then recall the beginning/the commencement of your journey of faith! And if you are compelled to talk about being baptised, please see me after the service.

Let us pray: …

This week’s sermon is titled: Question Authority…!

If you have been a church goer for a number of years, you have more than likely heard a sermon about today’s Bible reading. More than likely about the chariots taking Elijah up to heaven:

Swing home, sweet chariot

Coming for to carry me home!

And in these tellings the entirety of the sermon seems concentrated on the importance of that great prophet Elijah. Or maybe we have not been taught to revere Elijah as a great prophet because unlike the “Major Prophets” Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Ezekiel who have really long books and those “Minor Prophets” Amos and Micah who have little short books. Elijah (and for that matter Elisha) were of the non-writing variety of prophets. But the story of Elijah and Elisha has us remembering Moses and his successor Joshua.

Elijah and Elisha

Mentor and Mentee

Older and Younger

Teacher and Student

Prophet and Prophet

Elijah and Elisha

“Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, Elisha; the LORD has sent me to Jericho.” And he replied, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went to Jericho. The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, “Do you know that the LORD is going to take your master from you today?” “Yes, I know,” he replied, “but do not speak of it.” 2Kg 2:4-5

Other people want to concentrate our attentions and our focus on the end of a story. On the end of a situation. On the moment of death. At the time of last breath… But is the end the most important part of the story? How about the inbetween times? How about what happens between first meeting and final farewell? How about life?

Elijah and Elisha walked together. Church how often have you considered who is on this journey alongside you?

God has gifted each of us a story. And that story is not meant to leave with you at the end. If you don’t find a person to share your story with…

We don’t all walk at the same pace. We don’t wear the same fashions. We don’t listen to the same music. But if you, in the midst of your walk, are not sharing…

Elisha received on the journey understanding of his gifts from Elijah.

Elijah got support on his walks from Elisha.

We need each other.

Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.” And he replied, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” 2 Kings 2:6

For me, theirs is a story about a mentorship program. The closer we get to the end, you might not want to talk about the specifics of that end, because you are busier than ever in attempting to get the most out of the relationship. You are trying to soak in all the knowledge that is still available for the learning. Walking together and learning from the other.

That is what we are doing each time we come together…

Even as a church…

Especially as a church.

We are being called to go against society’s divisive flow and work it out, in relationship… together.

Fifty men of the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground. 2 Kings 2:7-8

As I prepared for today’s sermon, I read that this story could be called a final tour between teacher and student. A last opportunity to remember the lessons learned. And that the location of the end of such a tour is as important as the steps to get there… But the getting there ois reminiscent of Moses and Joshua… it is a retracing of the steps that led the nation of Israel to the promised land… though Moses never entered it.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours – otherwise not.” 2 Kings 2:9-10

Elisha asked for his inheritance. He did not ask for more than what the eldest son would have a right to inherit at his father’s death. I have always been uncomfortable at what a double portion might mean, but today I think I understand this to be double the amount that Elijah himself inherited. I imagine that if we were talking about a farmer’s son, his inheritance would be all of the land that his father cared for, as well as all of the land that his father himself inherited. But with more land, comes more work. And with more work comes more responsibility.

Elisha in asking to inherit from Elijah is asking to continue Elijah’s work. He is going to take on Elijah’s role, his work, and his ministry. Have you considered whose “spirit has passed on to you?” Remember it becomes yours, you will never do it the same that they did…

But… equally important, have you considered who will inherit from you? What will be your parting gift at the end of the journey? Think about that this week!

But now let us skip to end of the chapter, after the chariots have carried Elijah away with Elisha’s steadfast gaze upon the end:

And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two. Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.

He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.

God is not afraid of our questions and our curiosities. Often many of us, or maybe it only happened to me… Have been told to stop questioning God. To stop being so curious. To stop being so inquisitive.

On today I invite you to question. To wonder. To move ever forward, eyes wide open looking towards the future, knowing that the past has occurred and being open to learn from the past and in the future.

So that when you are asked, “where is the church?” you can answer with certainty, that the church is in your heart. As you continue to learn and grow.

PASTORAL BENEDICTION (BENDICION PASTORAL)

God: allow us to see the mantle that has fallen. Dios: permitenos ver la mantilla que se a caido.

To see the work that is still in need of doing. Ver el trabajo que todavia necesita que lo hagan.

To pick up the mantle. Recoger la mantilla.

To walk back and stand fast at the banks of the rivers bend Caminar hacia atras a la orilla del mar.

To strike the water with the mantle. Golpiar el agua con la mantilla.

And to question and wonder with you as we walk towards the work ahead. Y hacerte muchas preguntas en esta jornada. Amen.

Advertisements