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Topic: Discipleship (02/23/04)
TITLE: The staff and the mantle
By Mary C Legg
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And the Lord called yet again, Samuel. And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And he answered, I called not, my son; lie down again.
And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli; and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And Eli perceived that the Lord had called the child."
1 Sam 3:1-10 story
Surely I could write, "God called to Samuel three times before he got it right," but that's not it. Repetitiion is important in the Bible. What happened? Hannah presented her son to to Eli the priest for temple service at a very young age. Understanding is not always intuitive. In the middle of the night, Samuel hears his name. Presuming Eli needs his assistance, he runs to help. Life's flame is dying inside Eli. He is becoming blind. Eli addresses Samuel as "son" connoting closeness. The relationship of a mentor to protege is likened to parents with children. Learning is passed from one generation to another. We resemble not only our parents, but our teachers also. Eli is Samuel's father in a very real way, training him in observance of temple service and law. God reaches down to man and man reaches up.
Samuel doesn't recognize the voice. Often we hear things we don't understand. As children, we need guidance to respond correctly; therefore Samuel ran to Eli, not once but three times before understanding came. Oftentimes, people outside of our lives see things we cannot comprehend about ourselves. They see clearly when we are in the midst of darkness.
But as we grow older, we learn to listen to the voice within. Teachers train us to respond and challenge us to think, to confront ourselves. The mentor is not a pedagogue, inculcating learning, but they share a mutual relationship. The student forces the teacher to explore new things, while the teacher helps the student mature.
We glimpse Elisha and Elijah as they become separated:
"And Elijah took his mantle and wrapped it together and smote the waters. And they were divided hither and thither, so that they went over on dry ground. And it came to pass that they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, ask what I shall do for thee before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be with me." II Kg 2:8-14
While they were speaking a chariot of fire with horses of fire appeared, sweeping Elijah into the heavens, but his mantle and staff fell upon the ground. Seeing this, Elisha cried out, "My father, my father!" And he took up the staff and the mantle.
How many people walk through a river on dry ground? The Israelites passed through the Red Sea. Where Elijah led, Elisha followed. The deep love of Elisha for Elijah is apparent in his reaction, "My father, my father!" How many times have you admired someone? Elisha wishes to be twice like Elijah; he longs with his whole heart to be like the man he admires. When the staff and mantle fall, Elisha assumes the staff of leadership and mantle of responsibility regardless of the conflicts he will face. Even when the waters are stormy with disaster is impending, Elisha learned to walk through on dry ground.
A wealthy man asks Jesus which is the greatest commandment. Jesus replies there are two: love God with your whole heart, soul, and mind; and second, love your neighbor as yourself.
How can you love your fellow man? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked; visit the ill; comfort the lonely and heartbroken—in short perform and keep 613 mitzvot to honor God through your deeds.
James explains that faith without works is empty: the hand must cooperate with the mouth. "If a brother of sister be naked, and destitue of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful for the body; what doth it profit?" James 2:14-26 passage.
A disciple is a reflection of his mentor.