September 16, 2020
Evening Prayer (Vespers)
You may wish to light a candle and place it before you as you begin.
Jesus Christ is the light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome.
Stay with us, Lord, for it is evening, and the day is almost over.
Let your light scatter the darkness and illumine your church.
HYMN: Seek Ye First, WOV 783
FIRST READING: 2 Kings 2:1-18 (CEB)
A reading from: 2 Kings
2 Now the Lord was going to take Elijah up to heaven in a windstorm, and Elijah and Elisha were leaving Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, because the Lord has sent me to Bethel.”
But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives and as you live, I won’t leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.
3 The group of prophets from Bethel came out to Elisha. These prophets said to Elisha, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master away from you today?”
Elisha said, “Yes, I know. Don’t talk about it!”
4 Elijah said, “Elisha, stay here, because the Lord has sent me to Jericho.”
But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives and as you live, I won’t leave you.” So they went to Jericho.
5 The group of prophets from Jericho approached Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master away from you today?”
He said, “Yes, I know. Don’t talk about it!”
6 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, because the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.”
But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives and as you live, I won’t leave you.” So both of them went on together. 7 Fifty members from the group of prophets also went along, but they stood at a distance. Both Elijah and Elisha stood beside the Jordan River. 8 Elijah then took his coat, rolled it up, and hit the water. Then the water was divided in two! Both of them crossed over on dry ground. 9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “What do you want me to do for you before I’m taken away from you?”
Elisha said, “Let me have twice your spirit.”
10 Elijah said, “You’ve made a difficult request. If you can see me when I’m taken from you, then it will be yours. If you don’t see me, it won’t happen.”
11 They were walking along, talking, when suddenly a fiery chariot and fiery horses appeared and separated the two of them. Then Elijah went to heaven in a windstorm.
12 Elisha was watching, and he cried out, “Oh, my father, my father! Israel’s chariots and its riders!” When he could no longer see him, Elisha took hold of his clothes and ripped them in two.
13 Then Elisha picked up the coat that had fallen from Elijah. He went back and stood beside the banks of the Jordan River. 14 He took the coat that had fallen from Elijah and hit the water. He said, “Where is the Lord, Elijah’s God?” And when he hit the water, it divided in two! Then Elisha crossed over.
15 The group of prophets from Jericho saw him from a distance. They said, “Elijah’s spirit has settled on Elisha!” So they came out to meet him, bowing down before him. 16 “Look,” they told him, “there are fifty strong men among us, your servants. Please let them go and search for your master. Perhaps the Lord’s spirit has picked him up and put him down on some mountain or in some valley.”
Elisha said, “Don’t send them.” 17 They insisted until he became embarrassed and said, “Okay, send them.” So they sent fifty men who searched for three days. But they couldn’t find Elijah. 18 When these men returned to Elisha, who was staying in Jericho, he said to them, “Didn’t I tell you not to go?”
Word of God, word of life. Thanks be to God.
PSALM: Psalm 77:1, 7-15 (CEB)
I cry out loud to God—
out loud to God so that he can hear me!
7 “Will my Lord reject me forever?
Will he never be pleased again?
8 Has his faithful love come to a complete end?
Is his promise over for future generations?
9 Has God forgotten how to be gracious?
Has he angrily stopped up his compassion?”
10 It’s my misfortune, I thought,
that the strong hand of the Most High is different now.
11 But I will remember
the Lord’s deeds;
yes, I will remember your wondrous acts from times long past.
12 I will meditate on all your works;
I will ponder your deeds.
13 God, your way is holiness!
Who is as great a god as you, God?
14 You are the God who works wonders;
you have demonstrated your strength among all peoples.
15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people;
redeemed the children of Jacob and Joseph.
Gospel: Mark 11:20-25 (CEB)
A reading from: Mark
20 Early in the morning, as Jesus and his disciples were walking along, they saw the fig tree withered from the root up. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look how the fig tree you cursed has dried up.”
22 Jesus responded to them, “Have faith in God! 23 I assure you that whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea’—and doesn’t waver but believes that what is said will really happen—it will happen. 24 Therefore I say to you, whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you will receive it, and it will be so for you. 25 And whenever you stand up to pray, if you have something against anyone, forgive so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your wrongdoings.”
Word of God, word of life. Thanks be to God.
Elijah and Elisha have a long history together. Years before this story, Elijah selected Elisha as his follower, and now he has named Elisha as his successor. Elijah knows it is time for God to call him “home” but Elisha is not ready for his mentor to be out of his life. Elisha doubts his own ability to be God’s prophet. It will turn out that he is just as gifted. But, in this story, we have caught the two at the very moment of transition.
As Elisha accepts the idea that Elijah must leave, he asks for a special kind of blessing. He asks that he may have double the spirit Elijah has. Elijah responds, if you see me leave, then it will be granted to you.
Elisha does see Elijah leave, in a golden, fiery chariot. This image shows another feature, the cloak finding its way from Elijah to Elisha. This is the cloak, the mantle, of the prophet. Elisha is now the lead prophet among a group of about 50, who insist on looking for Elijah’s body, but Elijah knows it will never be found.
Elijah and Elisha were both prophets, God’s messengers. They spoke God’s words to God’s people in their time and place. This is what prophets do. Elisha prayed for an extra serving of God’s spirit, and that prayer was granted.
Jesus says, “Whatever you pray for in my name, it will be done.” We get hung up on the word “whatever.” Although it appears to be an all-inclusive term, it has limits. If I say to Mike, “What would you like for dinner?” and he responds with, “Whatever you are planning,” it doesn’t mean I can offer him boiled shoe leather or sauteed pencils. He means whatever I am planning that is edible.
In Jesus’ mind, “whatever” refers to the bigger picture, to God’s purposes. So, when we pray for healing for loved ones, that fits God’s purpose of health for everyone. Sometimes the healing is a physical cure; sometimes healing is an acceptance that the time has come to leave one’s body. When we pray for an end to hurricanes and wildfires, we are praying for the healing of creation, which fits within God’s purposes.
When Elisha prayed for a double helping of the prophetic spirit of Elijah, he was asking to be able to do ministry that fulfilled God’s purposes. We, too, are called to speak with prophetic voices, using the gifts of the Spirit promised at our baptism. Like all the prophets in scripture and in the centuries since then, we are called to pray for God’s purposes to be fulfilled.
When Abraham was called to follow God, God told him he was blessed so that the whole world would be blessed through him. This is God’s purpose. This is our purpose also, to bless others with the blessing we have already received.
We are commissioned as God’s prophets to call attention to the imbalance of nature, to the imbalance of power and wealth, and to the lack of well-being among so many of God’s people. If we do this prophetic ministry, if we do it prayerfully, if we do it in Jesus’ name, it will be done. This is what Jesus is telling us. Amen
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets,
but in these last days, God has spoken to us by the Son.
For the peace from above, and for our salvation, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.
For the health of creation, for abundant harvests that all may share, for plentiful water, and for peaceful times, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.
For essential workers, public servants, the government, and those who protect us; for those who work to bring peace, justice, healing, and protection in this and every place, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.
For those who travel, for those who are sick and suffering, for those who are in captivity, and for those who are living in isolation, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.
For deliverance in the time of affliction, wrath, danger and need, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.
Other prayer petitions may be offered here.
O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go forth with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only trusting that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory, are yours now and forever. Amen.
HYMN: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
Let us bless the Lord. Thanks be to God.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, + keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen
Liturgy from ELW Annual Liturgy License 26504