Scripture: I Kings 19:15, 16, 19-21
II Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
Sermon: “Passing the Torch in the Wind” by Pastor Todd Buurstra
God gives every believer a torch, and Elijah’s torch was flickering. It was flickering because Elijah, like we, lived in a windy world. In Elijah’s world Israel’s King Ahab made a foolish choice. To make an alliance he married the wicked Queen Jezebel. Jezebel brought with her the fertility cult of Baal. And so Israel’s worship disintegrated into cavorting with temple prostitutes in order for families and fields to be fertile. While the goings on at the temple of Baal may have seemed exciting at first, What? I get to have sex in worship?, they became sickening (STDs) in the end. But this is what the wicked queen decreed, and this is the gale force winds that our prophet, Elijah, faced. And so he said, in effect, Lord, here I have served you for my whole career, and I have no followers to show for it! I just want to roll over and die. Take me, I’m worthless.
Indeed, it’s a depressing time to try to pass the torch of faith today, too. Just look at the history of the Somerville Reformed churches. 50 years ago there were four, strong RCA churches worshiping about 6-800 on a typical Sunday. Then 40 years ago Second Reformed merged with First Reformed to become United Reformed. Four years ago, Fourth Reformed folded, a few weeks ago Third Reformed sent a dozen, feeble seniors to merge with United, and now there are maybe 80 people, most close to 80, struggling to keep United afloat. Unless God does a miracle, what’s now 90% smaller than 50 years ago, may be 90% smaller yet in another 15 years. Passing the torch on a windy day.
How is the torch of faith passed on a windy day?
First thing to realize is that God wants the torch passed. So the lonely prophet Elijah is hiding in his cave—literally. And God beckons him out to the mouth of the cave. He steps out dejectedly to meet his Maker. And a strong wind blows up and rock is literally shattering all over, but God is not in the wind. Then an earthquake roughs up the mountain, but God is not in the earthquake. Then fire flares up, but God is not in the fire. And lastly, a still, small voice. Elijah, pass the torch: nationally to Jehu and spiritually to Elisha. And don’t worry, 7000 have not bowed their knees to Baal.
God wanted faith’s torch passed to you and me also. Who taught you about the faith? Was it your mother who brought you to Sunday School? Did a youth leader take you out to lunch and guide you? I remember my ministry mentor, pastor here 25 years ago, Bert Van Soest. Early in my ministry I would go to Bert’s house and we would walk and talk. We’d lap his development and I’d ask him questions. Bert, they say they don’t get anything out of my sermons. How do you get ready to preach on a Sunday morning? Todd, I pray it and preach it hot! What? On Sunday mornings, I get up, practice preaching my sermon, then I go for a walk, and I pray God’s power upon the people. So, I started, and I still do a rendition of pray it and preach it hot. You be the judge as to whether I am passing the preaching torch on from Bert. Have you passed on your torch?
Secondly, God passes the torch by gathering us close together. I’m thinking here of the skit our senior high youth group did for Youth Sunday. Remember how there was the devil figure in black and the Jesus figure in white, and other kids with their lit candles. And the devil figure weaved in and out blowing out the kids’ light, and Jesus weaved in and out relighting them, until finally Jesus brought them close enough together that the old devil could no longer get to them? Don’t let Satan blow it out, I’m gonna…
So Elisha got close to Elijah. Over the years Elisha watched what Elijah said. He watched what Elijah did. He observed his character when no one else could. So when Elijah neared his end, and asked, What can I give you? Elisha’s answer in this translation isn’t the usual double portion of your spirit, but more directly, Your life doubled in my life. Wow! Like most apprentices, Elisha wanted to measure up to his mentor.
When Laura Kroon came to me to start her mentoring ministry here at NBRC (which is starting with 12 people growing closer with God and each other so Satan can’t blow out their lights!) Laura named two transforming experiences with mentoring: her’s and Adam Clark’s! Since Laura has already mentioned her experience to us, I’ve asked Adam to tell us what God is doing in his life. Adam was part of the core group of Ignite.
So what happens if we get close enough to God and another through mentoring to pass the torch? Well, Elisha became such an effective prophet that, as God’s CIA agent, he was thwarting the plans of the enemy. So Aram wanted to capture him so their army surrounded Elisha’s town. His servant said, What shall we do? Elisha calmly said, Those that are with us are more than those that are against us. And the servant suddenly saw heaven’s army surrounding Aram’s army. The angels were protecting them!
What will happen as we get closer to God and each other to pass the torch on our windy day? I don’t know what God will do. But heaven’s army will defend us, and the church will advance, and God will be glorified. Who knows? Maybe there will be 5 RCA churches in Somerville in 50 years worshiping a thousand or more? That’s God’s power!
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