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2 Kings 2:13-18, Elisha Succeeds Elijah

Tuesday, November 7

Up and Down the Chain of Command

Narrative Lectionary Daily Devotions written by Kace Leetch from Clergy Stuff.

Elisha knew better than anyone that Elijah wasn't coming back. In fact, he knew, even dead, Elijah would never be found. Elijah had ascended to heaven -- his body was no longer on the earth.

The prophets saw Elisha parting the waters and coming across the Jordan, they knew Elijah's spirit was resting on him. But still, they wanted to recover Elijah's body. Maybe they needed more proof that Elisha had been chosen to succeed Elijah. Or maybe they just wanted to give Elijah a proper ceremony and burial. But Elisha knew better. He told them not to go, but they bugged him until he relented. Of course, they found nothing. Like he said.

How frustrating it is not to be trusted! Especially in a leadership role, you want people to trust that you know what you're doing. When they don't, that's when things start to fall apart.

A few years ago I worked in a place where the worker and the supervisor were at odds about the way things should be done. The worker had been in the field over 45 years and knew what he was doing. The supervisor was young and inexperienced, and although he did his own job well, he didn't know as much about the worker's job as the worker did. So they battled. A lot. It was fascinating to watch. The worker would chew out the supervisor for a decision he'd made. The supervisor would chastise and needle at the worker, keeping his cool, but also poking at the worker like a kid poking a beehive. Round and round they went, both talking, neither listening, and it never ended. Often, I found myself in the middle, as the worker would tell me to do things one way, and the supervisor another. Was I to listen to the worker, who was working with me side by side all day long, watching my every move and criticizing when I didn't do it right? Or would i listen to the supervisor, who had my job in his hands? (Ultimately, I ended up listening to both, and then deciding for myself what was the right thing for me to do.)

Most of us don't like to be told what to do. But sometimes it's necessary to get a job done, to be safe, or for general order to have a hierarchy that works. A parent has every right to direct a child not to play with the stove for the safety of the kid and the household. A soldier absolutely must follow the directions of the commanding officer or lives are at stake. And sometimes, like it or not, we have to pay taxes, do what our bosses tell us (even when we know they're wrong, and they sometimes are), and pay our speeding tickets.

We also have to listen to our subordinates when they have ideas we might not have. We need to take our kids to that birthday party when we're dead tired and just wanna climb into bed with a carton of Ben and Jerry's. And sometimes we have to share our abundant resources with those less privileged than us.

Like it or not, we are not all equal. But we can be equitable. We can be kind and patient. We can be generous and nurturing. We can be non-judgmental and compassionate. We can lead, and we can follow. We can love those up the chain and those down it. And we can love ourselves.

Narrative Lectionary Text: 2 Kings 2:13-18

He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over. When the company of prophets who were at Jericho saw him at a distance, they declared, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” They came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him. They said to him, “See now, we have fifty strong men among your servants; please let them go and seek your master; it may be that the spirit of the Lord has caught him up and thrown him down on some mountain or into some valley.” He responded, “No, do not send them.” But when they urged him until he was ashamed, he said, “Send them.” So they sent fifty men who searched for three days but did not find him. When they came back to him (he had remained at Jericho), he said to them, “Did I not say to you, Do not go?”