Rising to New Heights Rev Dr Durrell Watkins (Ascension 2016) There is a story in the bible, in the book of 2 Kings that tells of the end of the life of a man named Elijah. The prophet Elijah was a healer and teacher. He had a disciple, a spiritual son, named Elisha wanted to […]
Rising to New Heights
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins (Ascension 2016)
There is a story in the bible, in the book of 2 Kings that tells of the end of the life of a man named Elijah.
The prophet Elijah was a healer and teacher. He had a disciple, a spiritual son, named Elisha wanted to be like a Elijah. he even asked Elijah to give him a double portion of his own spirit, his life-force, his talent, his enduring nobility.
Elijah told his disciple that if he saw him when he left the world, that he would receive the spiritual gift he requested. Soon, Elisha saw Elijah carried away by a whirlwind beyond the sky. Since he witnessed Elijah’s departure, we are left to believe he received the spirit of the prophet. The story says he picked up Elijah’s mantle and continued his work. Elisha became a healer and teacher just like Elijah.
The Ascension story from the Acts reading today is a retelling of that older story. But in the Acts version, the ascending prophet is Jesus and instead of one disciple there are many. But those disciples will soon be immersed in the spirit of their Teacher, and they will pick up his mantle and continue his work as the early church.
These stories aren’t literal history; they are theological poetry. They are creative ways of encouraging us to be prophetic, courageous, and healing; and, of course, they are meant to give us hope.
What Ascension stories tell us is that wherever we are in life, we can rise higher. We can rise above fear, regret, and shame, and we can help others do the same.
Once I was able to help someone rise above their terror and into a new realm of existence. His church had told him he was beyond the reach of God’s love because he was gay, and so he left the church, and religion, and faith.
When he was lying in a hospital bed dying from AIDS related complications, his fundamentalist mother reached out to me. She had heard that the church I served wouldn’t condemn her son. He hadn’t been to church since he was a teenager, but now all those old tapes tormented him. He was too sick to live and too afraid to die. He was afraid an eternity of torment was waiting on him simply because of who he was born to be.
I told him about how loving his mother was to reach out to someone to try to comfort him. I asked him if he trusted that his mother loved him, and he said yes. I then quoted Isaiah 66.13 to him, where the writer imagines God saying, “Like a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” I promised him that God loved him at least as much as his mother did, and that God was waiting to embrace him with a love that would never let him go. That night, he died peacefully in his sleep. The hospital probably thought it was just one more AIDS death. I thought it was a healing miracle.
A beautiful woman, Rev. Kay, once helped me rise above my fear. I had been given my own frightening diagnosis. I called her up, hoping for comfort, or maybe some miracle working prayer that would make it all okay. She could hear the pain and sorrow in my voice as I told her about my diagnosis (which at the time was not only considered incurable but often fatal). And this dear mother, grandmother, and minister said to me, “Oh Darling, that’s just information.”
She let me know it wasn’t a curse, it wasn’t a verdict, it wasn’t a guarantee, it was just an experience; it was just information. I still had the power to choose how I would respond to it. Fear, anger, self-pity…that was an option. Courage, hope, and peace…that was also an option. I decided I would choose the latter. I could play the victim or claim the victory; I could get bitter or I could get better. The story wasn’t over yet. How would I shape it going forward?
Once I realized that my experience was just an experience, the news I had received was just information, and the future still had infinite possibilities, I ascended to new levels of hope and peace.
On this Mother’s Day, I want you to hear again these words of scripture…they are human words, but in them God’s voice is heard: They say, “Like a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.”
Whatever your need is today, a divine mother’s love is present to help you ascend above your pain and fear to new heights of hope and peace. And this is the good news.
(C) Durrell Watkins 2016
I am rising on currents of divine love.
I am rising above fear, shame, and regret.
I am rising to new heights of hope and peace.
And so it is.