Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Passing One's Mantle

In one the Old Testament readings last Sunday we read the story of Elijah passing his mantle to Elisha. (2 Kings 2) There was much drama and also some familiarity around that. Waters were separated and paths were walked -- first by Elijah and then by Elisha. Reminiscent of Moses and the parting of the waters of the Red Sea.

And so after the many steps and conversations and checks and double-checks to prepare for worship on Sunday, I sat down in the chancel and looked around. What a surprise --  I saw faces of dear friends who came to worship with us this day.

John and his wife Kathy, their daughter, Heather, and her son Caleb came some distance to join us. What a joy! I met Kathy over 25 years ago when Heather and my youngest were in the same kindergarten class at the church we attended. John's father was the senior pastor there for many years. Pastor Johnson died about a year ago and I was honored to attend his funeral as a vested and processing clergy. (In Pastor Johnson's faith tradition, women are not ordained; however, he felt differently.) After our worship service, Kathy, on behalf of the family, offered me the gift of one of Pastor Johnson's stoles.

As I have reflected on this very kind and gracious gift, I am mindful of the passing of the mantle of ordained ministry. In many respects, this is a laying on of hands -- an action and grace that is integral to ordination. Certainly, I am no Elisha but, as he did upon receiving Elijah's mantle, I do pray a double portion of the spirit of the one passing it. 

I am also mindful of the strong legacy that Pastor Johnson left to each of us who participated in the Bible Study he led. The Bible that he used was his Greek New Testament. He gave me the first glimpse into the richness of studying New Testament Scripture in the language in which it was originally written. Of particular note to me was his teaching on the word "grasped" as we considered Philippians 2. My understanding of this text has been forever changed as a result of his knowledge and teaching -- a time prescient of my seminary study as I prepared for ordained ministry. 

Further, I am mindful of the importance of sharing one's mantle with others. Through this gift, Pastor Johnson has invited me to share the mantle of ministry with others as he has shared it with me. This mantle of ministry necessarily includes both lay and rostered leaders. Our ministry is not our exclusive possession but is intended to be shared and mutually carried so that the Body of Christ may grow. 

Thank you, Pastor Johnson, for the gift of your ministry among God's people. Thank you John and Kathy and Heather for this precious gift that I cherish.

Shalom my friends