IV Press Article 7-5-19 ### Don’t get too caught up in the fireworks

The Old Testament reading for last Sunday, according to the Revised Common Lectionary, was about the ascension of Elijah. To those not familiar with the story, Elijah was one of God’s prophets, who didn’t die, but was “taken up to heaven by a whirlwind in a chariot of fire and horses” (2 Kings 2:6-14). Stories like these were often told about great leaders in ancient times. 

Taken up in a whirlwind of fire. Sounds a lot like fireworks, doesn’t it?

The problem Elijah faced was how to mentor Elisha, his follower and newly anointed prophet concerning the fireworks of Elijah’s ascension. The problem was a common one. All too often people focused on the fireworks, and not the life and message of the one they were remembering.

It’s like the story of Jesus’ ascension where the disciples are standing there, watching Jesus ascend into the clouds. It took two men dressed in white to snap the disciples out of their looking up into the clouds, reminding them that Jesus had given them work to do, the work Jesus had begun and had entrusted to them (Acts 1:9-14; 2:14-21).

The question facing Elijah, and Jesus as well, was how to make sure their followers paid attention to the mission that God had called them to. Prior to Elijah’s ascension, he spent time with Elisha teaching him to focus on the prophetic mission to which God had called them and not to be distracted by his fiery ascension. Jesus spent 40 days after his resurrection teaching the disciples all that the scriptures had said about his ministry, death and resurrection.

The question for Christians today is whether we are truly focused on the mission Jesus called us to, or are we simply enamored by all the fireworks around us.

One of my favorite stories about Jesus captures the essence of his mission, of what he came to teach us about our place within God’s creation, and how we grow in our relationship with God. It’s a pretty familiar story.

In a confrontation between Jesus and some of the church leaders Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was. Everyone knew the answer. Jesus responded with his own question. “You know the scriptures,” Jesus said, “what do they say?” The church leader said, “Love the Lord you God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.”

“Good answer,” replied Jesus. But in order to show Jesus up the church leader said, “But who is my neighbor?”

Jesus told a story. A man was attacked on the road, beaten, robbed, left for dead. A priest came by and ignored the man. Likewise a priest’s assistant. Both leaders in the church. Then an enemy of the Jews, a Samaritan of all people, saw the man and took care of him. He bandaged his wounds, took him to an inn and paid for his stay.

Jesus asked, “Who was the neighbor?” The church leader reluctantly replied, “The one who showed compassion.” Jesus said, “Then go and do the same.”

The one who showed compassion.

Something that often gets missed in the story that, to help the man would have made the two church leaders unclean, that is, they would not have been able to continue with their church duties until they had gone through the process of becoming clean again, which involved ritual washing, and time.

So the question they asked about the man was, “What will happen to me if I help him out?” The question the Samaritan asked was, “What will happen to that man if I don’t help him out?”

In the midst of all the fireworks this week I hope we are all asking the right question.

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/don-t-get-too-caught-up-in-the-fireworks/article_5701018a-9eab-11e9-babc-97109aea0e94.html