When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over (2 Kings 2:9-14).

I work every week in an historic home that used to be the “manse” or pastor’s residence for First Presbyterian Church in Amory. Since the new manse was purchased years ago, the older home has served as the church office and historical room and is now known as “the Annex.”

The other day, merely out of curiosity, I opened the old-fashioned medicine cabinet in the bathroom. I was intrigued by what I found in it: an Allen wrench and a lovely little vintage water glass about four inches tall. The latter had an etched leaf pattern encircling it maybe a half inch from the rim and sat on a flared foot. The former, the wrench, was a typical tool used to assemble those shelving units, dog gates, etc. that come in big boxes.

How did these two completely unrelated items come to be left behind in a medicine cabinet in Amory, MS? Who had left them? Why? No doubt members of the church reading this will be able to tell me.

In the meantime, my discovery has led me to reflect on what we leave behind, whether when we die or when we move on to another place or job. Maybe the Old Testament lectionary reading for this Sunday quoted above has put me in such a frame of mind or maybe it’s my work as an interim pastor or maybe it’s because I’m not getting any younger.

What’s left behind could be actual physical objects, like that glass or the wrench, books or files or money or a home. It could be the values inculcated in a younger generation that sustain, inform, and guide them and which they will pass on to their children. And unfortunately, it could be anger, resentment, glee at our departure. (Let’s hope not.)

What we leave behind depends a great deal on what lies beneath. I mean what’s in our hearts and souls, whether we live with faith, hope, and love, what the focus of our lives has been. Those who live with positive values, who care for others, who center their lives in the Word of God, Jesus Christ, will leave a positive, beloved legacy (see Psalm 1).

What we leave behind also depends on our belief about what comes next. Do we see the future as promising? Do we have faith in those who will come after us? And, most importantly, do we believe tomorrow is held in God’s hands, and God will not fail us, no matter what mortals may do?

If so, like Elijah, we may confidently pass the mantle.

© 2010 Tom Cheatham