TEEZ Sunday: Equipping the Called
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Yesterday was TEEZ Sunday, an annual event for all of the member churches and their congregations across Zambia. As part of my duties when I first arrived in Kitwe, I prepared this sermon outline to be sent to all of these churches. The hope was that we would have a shared, ecumenical message across the country that could then be contextualized. I had the blessing of preaching it for both services at Chimwemwe Presbyterian Church.
TEEZ SUNDAY 26TH JUNE 2016
THEME: EQUIPPING THE CALLED
READING: 2 KINGS 2:8-15
Today’s reading was suggested by the Revised Common Lectionary, which is used by Protestant and Catholic churches across the world. As an organization rooted in ecumenism, TEEZ celebrates this joining together of Christians around the globe in shared worship. Elijah has struck the waters of the Jordan River with his mantle, causing them to part. Elisha, his constant companion, crosses over with him on the dry land between the waters as the company of prophets watches. Elisha and the company know that their great teacher is about to be taken up into heaven by the LORD, and they must be asking that age-old question, “What happens next?” They have walked with him all over the countryside, witnessing his ministry—the performance of miracles, the formation of relationships with widows and orphans, the resistance to corrupt power, the communication with God. Now it is time to carry this ministry forward. The good news is that in partnership with God, Elijah passes on his mantle. The vital mission of doing the work of God’s Kingdom can continue. At the closing of the passage, we often focus on the fantastic image of Elijah being carried up to heaven in a chariot of fire in a whirlwind sent by the LORD. Perhaps the more significant miracle, though, is that Elisha crosses back over the Jordan River, having parted the waters himself.
We see here the model of leadership promoted over and over in the Scriptures. A teacher trains disciples through word and action. The disciples, both women and men, actively engage the process of learning. The teacher allows the disciples to carry on the work of the mission. God empowers the disciples to be effective leaders in their own right. Elijah enacted this model with Elisha and the company of prophets. Jesus enacted this model with the disciples. Paul enacted this model with the many churches he visited. This is the model that forms the basis of the ministry and mission of TEEZ. The following points outline the importance of this way of equipping the saints.
1.THE WORK OF GOD’S KINGDOM REQUIRES MANY HANDS
No matter how powerful Elijah was, he could not fulfill his mission alone. It was necessary that Elisha and the company of prophets travel with him, learn from him, and share in his labors. This community of teacher and disciples did the work of God while fully trusting and relying upon each other. Churches today must understand and implement this truth. All are called to service in God’s Kingdom, and all should be active in responding to that call.
2.THE WORK OF GOD’S KINGDOM REQUIRES TRAINING
Elijah trained Elisha and the company of prophets through word and action. They walked alongside of him in his ministry and learned from all that he did. The only way they could be effective in continuing his mission was by acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary for that ministry. We must always remember that God does not call the equipped. Rather, God equips the called. This means that God calls everyone based on their identity as God’s children, regardless of where we come from and what we have accomplished. Being called, though, God equips us. We receive training so that we are equipped to effectively do the work of God’s Kingdom.
3.GOD IS ACTIVE IN EQUIPPING THE CALLED
When Elisha picks up the mantle he says, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” With this said, he is able to part the waters of the Jordan River and cross back over to the company of prophets. Elisha’s question is his way of asking for God’s blessing in the work ahead of him. God responds by empowering him to strike the river with his new mantle and to part the waters. It is always God who calls us, equips us, and empowers us.
4.THE CALLED HAVE TO TAKE UP THE MANTLE
Elisha is not just a passive observer in the process of being trained and equipped to carry the mission forward. He actively persists in following Elijah to the Jordan River even when Elijah tells him not to do so. He actively requests a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. He actively takes up the mantle after Elijah ascends in the whirlwind. He actively asks for God’s empowerment. We must be active agents in our own training and equipping. We must do our part to prepare for the work of God’s Kingdom. We must take up the mantle that is offered to us and truly become leaders in the Church.
Let us review these four points. 1) The work of God’s Kingdom requires many hands. 2) The work of God’s Kingdom requires training. 3) God is active in equipping the called. 4) The called have to take up the mantle.
As Christians we are all called to do effective, well-informed ministry in order to best fulfill God’s mission. God must always be active in this process. We must always rely upon each other in this process. This is exactly the mission on which we continue to endeavor with TEEZ. Your continued support of TEEZ will help to ensure the equipping of the called across Zambia. Just as Elisha took up that mantle at the Jordan River after seeing Elijah ascending int he whirlwind, may we take up the mantle of Church leadership here in Zambia and make sure that all are equipped and empowered to do the work of God’s Kingdom! Amen.