God is Speaking! Transfiguration | RISE UP!
Our guest writer for the Season after Epiphany is Rev. Dr. B. Kevin Smalls. Dr. Smalls is a native of Washington D.C., and an elder in full connection with the Baltimore-Washington Conference. He currently serves as the senior pastor of Hope United Methodist Church in Southfield, Michigan.
Dr. Smalls holds a Bachelor’s Degree in History from Claflin University, a Master of Divinity from Interdenominational Theological Center, and a Doctor of Ministry from United Theological Seminary, where he focused on postmodern preaching to contemporary audiences with an emphasis on hip hop culture. During his twenty years in service to the United Methodist Church, Dr. Smalls has served in a variety of appointments. He is the founder of the Young Adult Christian Cafe and the Off the Hook Bible Study. He is an author who has published a book and a number of articles in periodicals, and he is a contributor to the Africana Worship Book.
Dr. Smalls is married to Lisa Karen Smalls. They share parenting responsibilities for their six children. We are pleased to share Dr. Smalls’s unique voice, poetry, and insights into the Scriptures with the wider church during this season.
I will never forget my deep sadness when I placed my grandmother in hospice care after her doctor informed me that my grandmother was probably dying. I began to wonder if I wanted to be there when she breathed her last, or if Iwould prefer to come after her passing. I decided that I didn't want to be there when she breathed her last breath. I didn't think I could handle it emotionally. It's one thing to watch someone walk out of the room, and it's another to come to the room, once the person has gone. When the nurse called me to inform me that my grandmother had passed, I was angry with the nurse for not calling me to tell me her time was near. Yet, I knew that was grief. I arrived and found that my grandmother had quietly slipped away from us.
Elisha made a different choice than I. He chose to be there the entire time. When given opportunities to turn away and pursue his own path, he decided to remain with his mentor, Elijah, even to the time of his earthly death. Elijah's impending death was not a secret. We read that the prophets were aware and even talked this over with Elisha (2.7) so he would be fully aware of what he was walking into. Elisha, like these fifty prophets, was aware of the dramatic conclusion centered around Elijah's death.
Then this issue appeared, again. Will Elisha stay the entire time, or will he leave early? Elisha remained faithful even when he was asked by Elijah, "what can I do for you before I leave?" Elisha requested a hard thing: a double portion of his spirit. The only way, however, to get it, was to somehow be around when he "is taken from him"(2:10).
There is something to be said of this type of relationship. I wasn't there with my grandmother when she left, but she's been there with me before and even since. Losing those who have led us is hard. It hurts. We'll never forget them. And through our own living, their lessons extended to us will continue to come to life with everyone we love beyond measure, touch in spite of resistance, and heal in spite of the injury.
Elisha grieved deeply when he saw his mentor being taken up in glory. He ripped his clothes. But he also picked up the mantle to carry on.
Black history calls all of us to pick up the mantle and continue the work that ancestors and leaders have begun to ensure freedom for all people. Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Mary McLeod Bethune (all of whom were Methodists) were some who left us with a mantle. Also, the folks in our neighborhoods, schools, communities who have helped us grow in wisdom and grace are worthy of our recall as we call people to remember the struggle for freedom. Youth and young adults also grieve the loss of grandparents and prominent figures who have passed away. Congregations long for those leaders they can't seem to replace. The preached word should require us to pick up the mantle, not as a replacement for grieving, but as a treatment of it.
The hope in this message is often found in our affirmation of faith, the Apostles’ Creed, as we believe in the communion of saints. This communion comes alive in us as we do the work that has been left to our hands.