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UM Bishop Sprague—Stop Worshipping Jesus, He's No Better Than Other Historic Leaders

Let’s follow all the saints as we move to where God bids us

(November 1) The episode of the Elijah-Elisha saga found in the chapter of II Kings is both intriguing and instructive as All Saints Day draws near.

The imagery is vivid as Elijah is transported home and Elisha retrieves the prophet’s mantle. Readers of the story recall Elijah’s courageous faithfulness and how Elisha was prepared to follow in the prophetic office as Elijah mentored him with integrous examples of risk-taking discipleship.

Elisha saw what a prophet was. And he experienced, as well, the blessings of God because God did not leave Elijah powerless but worked wondrously through the faithfulness of the aging prophet.

Elisha was present in the midst seeing Elijah’s example and experiencing the marvels of God’s responsiveness. No wonder he cried to Elijah, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit” when he realized that Elijah was not long for this world.

Elijah responded in curious fashion: “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.”

It is one thing to venerate the saints of our lives; it is another to emulate them. It is one thing to look at their examples in mesmerizing adulation; it is another to see by their example and pick up the mantle and follow.

For Christians, this applies to our relationship with Jesus. Dorothee Soelle wrote in one of her profound books: “Jesus needs fewer worshipers and more followers.” Yes. And, as we consider that great cloud of witnesses, both living and dead, that encircles us on All Saints Day, it is only right, as we remember them affectionately and gaze at their imprints on our lives, that we so see by their examples that we, like Elisha, will dare to pick up the mantle and follow their practice.

Imagine a Church that follows Jesus, emulates Martin Luther King, imitates Gandhi, sits in for Mother Teresa, stands up with Oscar Romero, organizes like John Wesley, utters truth like Dorothy Day and simply loves unconditionally, as the unknown saints of our lives loved us through thick and thin.

As I imagine such a Church, I take heart and find renewed strength in knowing that when Elisha picked up the mantle, carried on in courageous discipleship and stood on the bank of the chilly Jordan: “When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.”

That is what seeing and believing, trusting and following can provide because the God of all the saints is able. Let’s follow all the saints as we move to where God bids us come in such a time as this.

Your brother in Christ,

C. Joseph Sprague

Bishop Sprague's Commentaries (October 2002)


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