This week the readings speak to me of the joy and the heavy price of freedom.
As I write this post, Nelson Mandela is gravely ill in hospital. The thought of a world without Nelson Mandela’s smile and strength makes me weep. I grew up with freedom, and was devastated as I learned others were not as free to live, grow and play as I was. Nelson Mandela and all those who fought with him against apartheid taught me that freedom is never free, and that my freedom is wasted if it is not used to free others.
How poignant is the heartbreaking farewell between Elisha and Elijah, how desperately Elisha clings to Elijah to share every last minute with him? Many in South Africa and around the world, like me, are trying to imagine a world without Mandela, hoping that his spirit and his strength has passed on enough to those who would follow him. Isn’t that Elisha’s hope? He asks for the strength and the spirit to continue Elijah’s work as prophet to the kings of Israel, helping the people of Israel claim their identity surrounded by many nations. And then, that amazing moment that ends the reading. Elisha takes Elijah’s cloak and, with all his might, smashes the cloak into the water, and the waters divide. So much power and it continues through Elisha.
Our psalms have been heavy of late, and remind us that the people of the Bible lived difficult lives. Their faith drew them back to God. When things looked their worst, they remembered the times when God’s people were delivered, when God acted powerfully against injustice and oppression, and their hope is restored.
Galatians continues the theme of freedom and reminds us that freedom is not license, but a gift. Our freedom means very little if we do not use it to promote the fruits of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”.
In our gospel Jesus promises a freedom, but at a great price. To follow Christ is a freedom, but it means letting go of our other identities that distract us from our identity as baptised followers of Jesus. The Christian faith pits us against many things in this world. This morning, Jesus asks, is it worth it for you? If it isn’t, go home.
What other themes are coming to you as you encounter these readings this week?
I’ve been hearing this song all morning. For “Madiba”.