The End & The Beginning (Graduation Sunday) - Wellington First Assembly

Wellington First Assembly

326 W Botkin Lane, Wellington Kansas ........Family Faith Lessons - 9:30 AM........ Sunday Worship - 10:30 AM


Monday, May 21, 2018

The End & The Beginning (Graduation Sunday)

The End & The Beginning...
New Years Eve 1879.  A New beginning and the start of the end.  Its was only one cylinder – and it didn’t go faster than the horse and carriage (it was only 0.75 HP).  But that night, Carl Benz started the first gasoline powered engine.  The age of the automobile was beginning.  And the end of the horse as primary transportation was soon to be over.  Every end has a beginning.  Every beginning has an end.  They are bookmarks united by common narrative, double sided coins fused in the middle.  One originates when the other ceases.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell where the crease even is.  But graduation is a bright marker.  Paired with the 18th birthday and often united with a decision to leave the family home and start a new journey, young students are suddenly adults, nervously and eagerly awaiting the next chapter in life’s story.

Marco Polo, Ferdinand Magellan, David Livingstone, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, Amelia Hart, Neil Armstrong.  What do these names have in common?  They are some of the greatest travelers of all times.  They embarked on journeys to unknown destinations.  They were explorers pulled on by a purpose – the chance to experience something new.
We know these names from history.  Why? because they were successful.  They were the pioneers who survived to tell their stories. Stories of hardship.  Stories of triumph.  Stories of Tragedy.  Stories of Success.  But most importantly, stories of a successful journey. Their journeys opened up the doors of many who came behind them.  We share in their success.  Journey’s are not for self glory – but so that those coming behind will have an example to follow.
But lest we think the journey’s are just for the greats in history, we must thing again.  Every single one of us is on a journey, in this life.  Each day is a new opportunity for us to forage through another jungle, shine light into the darkness, grow in courage, and lead by example.  So don’t wait around.  Don’t linger in the past.  Start anew.  Begin again.

Our text today is about beginnings and endings.  It’s about a journey interrupted and started again.  It’s not just a journey zig zagging from one place to another, back and forth, it’s a journey of succession, anointing, and prophetic calling.  Please remain seated as I read from 2 Kings 2:1-12.
2 When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were traveling from Gilgal. 2 And Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, for the Lord has told me to go to Bethel.”
But Elisha replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, I will never leave you!” So they went down together to Bethel.
3 The group of prophets from Bethel came to Elisha and asked him, “Did you know that the Lord is going to take your master away from you today?”
“Of course I know,” Elisha answered. “But be quiet about it.”
4 Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, for the Lord has told me to go to Jericho.”
But Elisha replied again, “As surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, I will never leave you.” So they went on together to Jericho.
5 Then the group of prophets from Jericho came to Elisha and asked him, “Did you know that the Lord is going to take your master away from you today?”
“Of course I know,” Elisha answered. “But be quiet about it.”
6 Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, for the Lord has told me to go to the Jordan River.”
But again Elisha replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, I will never leave you.” So they went on together.
7 Fifty men from the group of prophets also went and watched from a distance as Elijah and Elisha stopped beside the Jordan River. 8 Then Elijah folded his cloak together and struck the water with it. The river divided, and the two of them went across on dry ground!
9 When they came to the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I can do for you before I am taken away.”
And Elisha replied, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit and become your successor.”
10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah replied. “If you see me when I am taken from you, then you will get your request. But if not, then you won’t.”
11 As they were walking along and talking, suddenly a chariot of fire appeared, drawn by horses of fire. It drove between the two men, separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven. 12 Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father! My father! I see the chariots and charioteers of Israel!” And as they disappeared from sight, Elisha tore his clothes in distress.
The two scrolls which make up the books of the Kings is dramatic, action packed, influenced by tragedy.  The nation of Israel, chosen by God, saved by God, journeyed by God to the land of plenty – turned its back on God and lost everything.  Written at the time of the exile, centuries later, the author struggles to understand and make sense of the story that God is working in their journey.  The author comes to conclusions – That God is a God of both salvation and judgement – who really, really, really wants to save his people.  The book is written through the lens of Moses, the Ten Commandments, and the Exodus from Egypt into the Promised Land.  As we read this passage on the succession of leadership from Elijah to Elisha, we can’t help but see the connections made between Moses and Joshua. 
·       The zig-zagging journey from Bethel to Gilgal, to Jericho, to the Jordan brings to mind 40 years of wandering.
·       The parting of the Jordan brings to mind the parting of the Red Sea.
·       The fiery chariot and the cloudy whirlwind remind us of God’s presence symbolized by the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.
What is the author of Kings trying to say?  That God didn’t just work once in the time of Moses, but he continually works in the lives of his people throughout history. 
·       There was hope for the tribes of Israel in the time of Moses,
·       there was hope for the national of Israel in the time of Elisha,
·       There was hope for the exiled people  scattered in Babylon, and
·       there will be hope for the people of God in the future.  That means –
·       there is hope for you and I today, Gentiles, grafted into the lineage of David – worshippers of the One True God and His Son, Jesus Christ, Equal with the Father, Breather of the Holy Spirit, The Three in One – the Holy Trinity.  This God will lead us when one event ends and the other begins!
Our text today is often used in sermons for leadership succession or graduation.  It gives us some principles for the journey that we embark on.  Up to this point, Elisha had a master.  But coronations do not happen overnight.  A high school diploma is not handed to you on the first day of 9th grade.  Time has to elapse, a journey undertaken, new things experienced, tragedy endured, losses happen.
So, what are some principles from this passage that we can use in our journey today?
1)   A new beginning originates with a God idea.
Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal.
It’s difficult to see the hand of God in our lives at time.  Because in our lives, we often don’t see the first phrase of this verse!  We live in the second half:  We’re on the way.  Don’t know what we are doing, we are just trudging along…
But behind every action we do --- God has a purpose.  We must pray to understand that purpose.  God, reveal it to us.  Let us see clearly!  I don’t want to see through a glass darkly – I want clarity.  Pray that prayer and God will slowly reveal to us his plans, his purposes, and his procedures.  The prophet Jeremiah echoes this thought – I know the plans I have for you!  Declares the Lord.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans to give you hope and a future.
God ideas are good ideas!  What’s your God given idea?
Want to be successful in your new beginning?  It’s not about accumulating riches, getting the right job, living in the best house – Here’s the secret.  Grab a hold of God’s idea for your life and don’t let go.
Which is why I know this.  If you are not using your God given gift in your God gifted idea – you are missed and the church needs you.  The body of Christ needs you in Wellington.  The body of Christ needs you in Fort Hays.
But I don’t know what my gift is?  I don’t know what I’m going to do.  That’s OK.  Begin and you will find out.
There is a scene in the movie of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe which illustrates this point.  Early in the story, Father Christmas gave each of the children gifts.  Lucy had been given a vial of healing ointment.  It wasn’t until later in the story, when some were wounded, that she was reminded of the gift she had been given.  The ointment was of no use locked up in the bottle.  Its curative properties could only be accessed when applied to the wounds of others. She learned along the way.
So too, we learn on the way.  On the job training is usually the best way to incorporate all the classroom learning into the skills one really needs in a job place.  No matter how much I read about how to drive a forklift or a car,  I’m never going to become an expert at it until I get behind the wheel and occasionally bump into a few things!  Its easier to change direction in a car that is moving a little than it is to change directions in a car that is parked. 
When we walk from our endings into new beginnings,
we discover the God ideas!
2)  A new beginning does not equal a short cut!
Hang on to the God idea.  Because once the journey begins it can be long. If you plotted on the map where Elijah and Elisha started and where they ended – they took the longest route possible, zig zagging back and forth.  In crazy journeys like this, it’s easy to forget the destination, much less where you started from.
It’s tempting to take the short cut.  Just hang a left there and cut across the field.  But you will miss the joy of the experience.
I doubt many of you watched the Royal Wedding yesterday.  Weddings are also beginnings.  At the conclusion of the ceremony, the processional carriage took the new couple down the Long Walk.  2.4 miles from the wedding chapel back to the castle.  The streets were lined with well wishers wanting to catch a glimpse of the couple in their new beginnings.
You know, it would have been a lot faster to just come out the chapel and walk across the moat to the castle.  They would have reached their destination faster – but everyone would have missed out on the experience of a lifetime.  Sometimes 3 Lefts are better than 1 right – because it allows you to savor the experience of the beginning.  Short-cuts often lead to bittersweet memories and a lifetime of regrets.
Notice that in our text, this journey has repeated twists and turns.  The repetition is key to providing us a point.  In other words, the author is saying – if you didn’t get it the first time, listen up again, and then again.
Elijah gives Elisha numerous opportunities to end his journey.  Each time, Elisha said, nope.  I’m not quitting.  I’m in it to win it!  I want to begin it! 
Then Elisha’s friends give him some advice… You know, Elijah’s leaving, why keep doing this.  Come join us in our God idea.  We run a prophetic ministry!  We are working for God.  And it was true – they were.  But this was not Elisha’s purpose, so he said, no thanks and please stop bugging me!
Elisha endured this time after time after time.  He could have jumped off the train and several different stations and probably done okay.  But he knew what God’s perfect will was for him.  It was being revealed to him each and every day of the journey.  Which as not an easy one by the way. 
You will hit bumps in the road.  You will blow out a tire doing 80.  You might even get a ticket once in a while.  Or a lower grade than you ever anticipated.  Or a set back in a job or a late paper.  Those events may even cause tears – but they are not endings.  They are just opportunities to get up again and set one foot in front of the other.
And when you do that long enough, you build up your muscles.  Your stamina gets longer.  You begin to know the highways and the biways.  You see the little things you missed before.  You are no longer tired.  You begin to hear the cry of the people and the land.  It is in this training that your purpose, your God idea becomes clarified and you prove yourself ready for what God has for you next.
3)  A new beginning requires the presence of others.
Ever gone to a family reunion?  The more the merrier.  The older adults chat aboutway back when while all the cousins run around getting into trouble.  Family reunions are no fun when only one person shows up.
Do not think you can do new beginnings alone.  You won’t succeed in college alone.  Find friends.  Find study groups.  Find support groups.  Find prayer and Bible study groups.
Elisha’s friends, the sons of prophets, may have bugged him a bit – but they were his family.  He hung out with them, knew them, ate with them.  They reflected to him what God was doing in his life.  They asked him the hard questions.  They sharpened him as iron sharpens iron.  They made him better.
This is one reason why we do “church.”  It’s why we gather.  Each of us could stay at home and watch this service on the computer or just read our Bible and never interact with each other.  But the communion of the saints, the gathering of the believers is not just so a pastor can preach, but so that each one of us can help the other person grow in Christ while serving each other’s needs.  We need each other.
Each stop of the journey, each new town, had another school of prophets that knew Elijah and Elisha.  This would become important later, because it was this same group of prophets that would be able to confirm as a witness to those around them that Elisha had discovered his unique gift and was now the prophetic leader who spoke the Word of God to his people.
4)  A new beginning allows for questions.
Today is the First day of your new beginning.  Today is the first day after high school graduation.  You don’t look any different than you did the day before.  You aren’t smarter than you were 2 days ago.  Sometimes these milestones that were longed for so many years, have a way of being a let down a few months later.  But something has changed.  Your status has. When you feel out a job application and it asks if you’ve completed high school.  You can check that box. The kids in the class below you can’t.  You are now able to do things you never could before.  New doors and opportunities await.
This is where the choice comes in.  Do I open those doors, or do I stop here?  Do I keep going on the journey, or do I pitch my tent? 
Elijah asks this same question to Elisha.  Congratulations!  You’ve endured the journey.  What do you want to ask me?
Elisha goes for broke.  He could have settled for a hug and a cry, and a long goodbye.  He would still have been a prophet, with a successful ministry – but he was allowed to ask a question.
You will have questions.  You will encounter challenges to the faith that has developed inside you.  And I’m going to tell you that’s OK.  God can handle those questions. 
Not everyone dares to ask these questions.  The other prophets, great people as they were, didn’t get to ask it.  But Elisha had a God idea, had stuck with Elijah through thick and then, and had been shaped by the community of believers.
So, he asked – Will you give me more?  The phase used is literally give me a second helping, another serving.  Make the ice cream cone 4 scoops high, not just 2!  It doesn’t necessarily mean make him twice as great as Elijah – but he’s asking for a double portion of the inheritance.
All the prophets and Him already have inheritance.  They’ve been trained.  But you see, Elijah is not just content with what God has already given him.  He desires more.  Give me more.  Thank you for what you’ve given me so far.  But I’m not content.  You’ve given me an idea, you’ve birthed in me a plan.  I can camp here and do it on a small scale, or you can give me more.  With what you’ve given me, I can do the possible.  Give me more, and I can do the impossible.
Elisha’s new beginning did not end at this graduation ceremony.  It was just beginning. 
Remember this!
When my wife and I were young, we used to jump in the car at 5 PM on Friday and just start driving.  No plans, no destinations, no reservations.  We got to meet amazing people in wonderful places.  We have stories that we can tell and retell, experiences that few others can imagine.  BunBoy.  The Cowboy Museum.  The future was open and full of possibilities as the snaking ribbon of asphalt unfolded in front of us.
Every morning, we would wake up and say, lets go start a new adventure.  Let’s begin again.  Whatever crazy stuff happened yesterday is in the past.  What does today hold.  The scripture says – His mercies are new every morning.  It’s never too late to redeem the old endings; its never to late to begin again.
I asked my daughter Marissa if she would be willing to share a few things, reflecting on her new beginnings as a freshman in Virginia this past year.  Some of the things she will share touch on these points.  New beginnings are life transforming, scary times.  I think she’s had 3 different majors / academic advisors.  There’s been bumps.  She will tell you, don’t do it alone – she tried!  There’s been plenty of questioning and frustration.  But let’s hear her in her own words.  This is for you, Andi.
Think This Through
Am I willing to go with God where ever he leads me?
Are you really willing to go with God where ever He leads you?
I like to have things planned out.  Scheduled.  But sometimes God reminds me I operate on His schedule – he doesn’t operate on mine.
All Elisha knew was the promise.  He didn’t know they would end up at the Jordan.  But he was willing to travel back and forth – knowing that every experience he endures, God was leading him to be closer to him.
God will take you to new places.  All you have to do is ask for more.  He gives you the end and the new beginning.
Shall we pray.