Aloha Friday Message – June 28, 2019 – Serving the Servant

spend1926AFC062819 – Serving the Servant

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Galatians 5:14 14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

May Peace always be with you and may God bless you, Belovéd! Today marks a surprising milestone. This is the 700th post to the MBN at aloha-friday.org. Not quite the same as “The 700 Club,” but still a count not foreseen when we started. Thank you for hanging in as we worked toward this attainment. We hope you’ll stick around for the day we hit 750 – probably sometime in June, 2020.

This coming Sunday we will review the calling of the Prophet Elisha. It’s surprising how many people know about Elijah, but know little about Elisha. Elijah was a Prophet who lived outside worldly comforts and was the enemy of rulers such as Ahab, Jezebel, and Ahazaiah – a desert prophet like John. Elisha was a Prophet who lived in community and was the respected friend of the powerful. Elijah had no earthly means of support other than God. Elisha was seemingly wealthy – he had arable land, livestock and equipment to plow it, and a large family. Both worked diligently to rid Israel of idolatry. Elijah destroyed his enemies with fire and sword (See 1 Kings 18:17-40). Elisha called upon the army of the Lord to dispatch the enemies of Israel (See 2 Kings 6:8-23) In this account, Elisha’s strategy was to pacify the enemy through charity – and it worked! Does that remind you of something Jesus states in Matthew 5:43-47? Jesus commands us to treat our enemies with compassion because in doing so, we are behaving as his servants.

Elijah (“my God is Jehovah”) and Elisha (“God is Salvation”) found favor with God because they served him without distraction. They followed “the straight path” Jesus later described in his ministry. (See Matthew 7:13-14) Going straight toward God sounds like a very reasonable course. Where else would we like to be except in his Grace, in his Will, and in his Presence? Sadly, the answer is, “almost anywhere else.” When it comes to serving God, we are so easily distracted! There’s an interesting pairing of Scriptures in this weekend’s readings. In the Old Testament reading – the calling of Elisha – Elijah drops in on him while he’s plowing with “12 yoke of oxen.” That’s a lot of plow-power! It also indicates Elisha’s wealth as well as his physical strength. He’s plowing straight furrows in the land; that means he was paying attention to what he was doing and in control of himself and his surroundings. Elijah approaches and throws his cloak over him. This is an ancient practice that indicated adoption. Elijah apparently abruptly turns and walks away because Elisha chases after him and asks Elijah if he can go back and kiss his parents (and his whole life!) goodbye. Elijah says, “Go back! Have I done anything to you?” Elisha goes back, slaughters the oxen and uses the materials of the plough to boil their meat and feed his family; then he follows the Prophet. There’s a link to this in Sunday’s Gospel.

Jesus tells one of his Disciples, someone who wants to follow Jesus (↔ Music Link) to Jerusalem for whatever reason, in Luke 9:62 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” What? What can this mean? Let’s start with a modern example and then extrapolate to what Jesus’ disciples heard.

   Who among us has spent part of a day mowing the lawn? Many a yard has a rectangular shape, and we mow along the edges of that shape in straight rows, carefully overlapping the rows so that no pesky little strips of uncut grass are left. We have to keep an eye on how those mower-rows go so that we get a nice even cut; it can even be artfully pleasing when well done. The same goes for plowing large areas. Think of the mower paths on a Major League Baseball field, or on a golf green. Now think of those long, incredibly straight rows in corn fields or other crops. How do they do that? You have to be watchful to get it done well. It is the same way in our relationship with Christ. We need to keep a steady hand on the plow, and focus on what’s ahead. If you’re distracted by what’s off to the side, you’re liable to go a little askew. How do you think it would turn out if you turned around and looked back at your furrow while you’re plowing ahead toward the end of the field? Isn’t there a pretty good chance you’ll make even greater errors? Elijah’s half-joking scolding of Elisha hints at the cost of hesitation (he might lose out on God’s call), but Elisha goes plows straight through that objection and closes up that portion of his life immediately, and then unswervingly follows Elijah. In the end, Elisha ends up receiving “a double portion of [Elijah’s] spirit” which lead to performing twice as many miracles as Elijah. He the former master, Elisha, becomes the servant of the Servant of God. Elisha serves God in the same manner as he plowed the field – without distraction or deviation. What then of the Disciple to whom Jesus spoke of as being unfit for the Kingdom of God? Did Jesus “forget” about Elisha?

Of course not; however, the lesson he taught there was a powerful reminder to those present (and to us as well) that we should not be distracted by what we have passed. One of the most important things I learned years ago was “Don’t look back unless you want to go back.” Are memories, families, position and power, physical pleasures – are any of these of greater value that serving the Servant King? What has he asked from us? He simply said, “Follow me.” Where should our eyes be then? (↔ Music Link) what happens if we look back? Just as with mowing the lawn or plowing the field, we go astray. We lose our way and become unfit for the Kingdom of God. Bummer. In this age when multitasking seems to be (seems to be) a virtue, it turns out that might be what could make us unfit servants of the Servant King. Often, when that happens, we just give up – as did some of Jesus’ Disciples (← Check it out!)

Not everyone can afford the extravagance of giving up, and certainly not true and intentional Disciples. You know, many of us think we have this Christianity thing all figured out and we can handle it on our own. The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:13-14 13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

The Apostle Paul kept his eyes on the prize, and what a prize! He truly was a servant of the Servant! He never deviated from his mission. He left everything, lost everything several times, and eventually lost his life on the straight and narrow road. That required a singular focus on one thing: Love. Today’s Key Verse is another excerpt from Sunday’s readings: Galatians 5:14 14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” It sounds so familiar that we think we have already done it. That’s looking back. If we think we’ve completed that, we’ve claimed the extravagance of giving up. We need to look ahead and see how much more we can Love. We’ve looked at this passage several times: Isaiah 30:2 21 And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” What is “the way?” The way is Love. But it is tiring to always focus ahead and struggle along that straight and narrow; we exhaust ourselves fighting against the natural impulse to turn aside from our labors. There’s a cure for that: Hebrews 12:13-14 12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.14 Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. When it hurts to look back, and you’re scared to look ahead, you can look beside you and your BEST FRIEND will be there. (↔ Music Link) God speaks to us through his Word (the Christ) and his Word (the Scripture). When we are listening, then we are nearer to him because he is near to us. When we see him acting in our lives, he is near. We see him defeat our enemy, and he is near. Whenever we notice he is near – SURPRISE! HE IS NEAR!! The more we know him, the more we love him because we know better how much he Loves us. So look back? Not really, there’s no point in that if we want to move forward. Remember? Yes, especially remember history so we don’t repeat it – which is going back instead of just looking back. Look ahead? Yes, with eyes on the Prize and our the eyes of our heart carefully focused. We just need to be careful how that focus works.

  • If anger is your lens, don’t look forward or back
  • If Peace is your Goal, let loose of everything that is not Peaceful
  • If Joy is your hope, be joyful even in adversity
  • If you cannot be reconciled with the past, it will use up your future

The Disciple to whom Jesus spoke hadn’t settled on his decision to hit the road on the straight and narrow and go to Jerusalem and Calvary. He was unfit then. One wonders if, perhaps later on, he set his eyes toward The Kingdom and has arrived thereby serving the Servant of God. If we are going to follow Jesus, then we have to go where he goes, do what he does, say what he says, and be what he is – a servant of the Servant: John 12:26 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

Don’t look back unless you want to go back.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever

— at your service, Belovéd!

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Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

 

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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