When I was young, whenever people in the congregation hoarded responsibilities as though they were the only person in the congregation who could do what they did, my dad used to tell me this. He would say that we might be extremely important, like a fist in a bucket of water. If the fist is removed, the water in the bucket splashes and swirls and leaves quite a turmoil in the bucket. But eventually the water calms and fills in the space that was left when the fist was removed. It was my dad’s way of saying that people might be important, but nobody is irreplaceable.
As an adult, I have often found similar experiences in the church. As a minister (and many of my colleagues would agree), I was often left to pick up the pieces for ministries where the ball was dropped. I was counseled wisely. When certain ministries are falling apart, I can pick it up (and soon end up burned out), or I can let it fail. If the ministry is important to the congregation, someone will pick it up. If no one does, it’s not a ministry that’s vital to the functioning of the congregation. It’s ok to let it go. No one person can do it all.
All this to say that God makes sure that the most important things are done by someone somewhere. And when that someone is no longer able to do it, God will provide someone else somewhere else. When Elijah’s work was not finished, but Elijah’s part in the work was finished, God lifted up Elisha to carry on Elijah’s work. Even Elijah, one of God’s most important prophets ever, was not irreplaceable. God’s work will continue with or without us.
Blessed Dia de Muertos, y’all!
2 Kings 2:1-18
Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent.” Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here; for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be silent.” Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.
When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” He responded, “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.” As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.
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?”