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Passing a Mantle

“Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.”  2 Kings 2:9b (NRSV)

Elisha was chosen by Elijah to accompany him and learn from him and train with him on the journey of being Israel’s prophet.  Many prophets and rabbis or teachers had disciples/followers who were actually being trained to pick up the work that they were doing.  We can see that with Jesus and his followers.  They continued the work of spreading the good news of God’s love to others, of sharing the ministry of Jesus, of carrying on his work once he had ascended into heaven.

When Elijah knew that he was supposed to find someone to be with him to carry on his work, he put his mantle or cloak upon Elisha’s back as a symbol of being commissioned for that work.  They traveled together while Elijah set an example for Elisha and taught him about God and how to hear God’s voice – God’s direction and guidance.  As he prepared to depart this earth, Elijah asked Elisha what he could do for him, and Elisha asked for a double portion of his spirit.  What a wonderful gift that would be! 

Think of someone who was an example and mentor in your life.  I had many mentors in my life, and many of them were teachers, choir directors, and leaders in our church.  As I trained to become a music teacher during my undergraduate work, I did my student teaching at a private high school, and that mentor (my supervising teacher) seemed to ignore me except to tell me take over with the chorus when they weren’t doing what he thought they should be doing.  I was never invited to the teacher’s lounge or saw any example of what a good teacher could be.  That was a disappointing and very unhelpful experience.

However, when I began my field education many years later in preparation for becoming a pastor, I had a mentor who faithfully met with me every week and helped me to figure out things that I needed to do in order to be a good pastor.  He was a deeply spiritual man who cared about me and the tiny congregation I was serving even as I attended seminary, and he guided me through a number of difficult situations. 

From the first one, I learned what NOT to do, and from the second one, I learned the art of listening with my heart and consulting God before proceeding.  I’m grateful for both experiences, and especially for my clergy mentor who gave of himself so that I could grow.  Sadly, he was killed in a car accident the summer after my field education, but I cherish the work he did with me and the portion of his spirit that he left with me.

We can learn from Elijah in seeking out mentors who teach us wisely and pass on at least a part of their spirit to us so that we can continue the work of Christ in the world.  And, if we are truly blessed, we will have the opportunity to be the same kind of mentor to someone else.  Thanks be to God!


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