For St Thomas’ Episcopal School Chapel, May 25, 2012, by the Rev Chris Bowhay
Every year we come to this same emotional point. Every year, the day after Graduation, we see our recent graduating class—Hello, Class of 2012!—return to the last chapel to bequeath their Senior Robes to the rising class of Seniors—Hello, Class of 2013! Every year we wonder at the accomplishments of such a terrific group of young men and women, friends and students, as they taken away from us at their graduation. How can we replace them? Who shall do what they did?
Every year on this day we feel the way I imagine Elisha felt as he saw his friend, mentor, and master Elijah ascend into the heavens, riding a chariot of fire, as we read in today’s Old Testament Lesson. You might recall that in the time of wicked King Ahab, the mightiest prophet in the land was Elijah. He was so great in the spirit of the Lord that he defied even that wicked king. We all know of his amazing works, even calling down fire from heaven. About four years before the death of Ahab, Elijah chose Elisha to be his successor and dearly beloved heir. For the next seven or eight years Elisha followed Elijah, apparently not doing much worthy of note because we hear nothing about his actions. Perhaps he was overshadowed by his great mentor and predecessor. Finally, Elisha followed Elijah on one last journey. Together they passed through the River Jordan, whose waters Elijah parted by laying his mantle, or coat, over it, so as to permit both to pass over on dry ground. Elijah asked his faithful servant and friend what he wants. Elisha answered that, if it were possible, he would want a double-portion of Elijah’s spirit to descend upon him. Elijah agrees to pray for this, though he warns that such a gift is a hard thing. Elisha then was separated from Elijah by a chariot of fire. As Elijah ascended, he let drop his mantle, which Elisha caught. By means of the mantle let fall from Elijah, Elisha miraculously recrossed the Jordan, and so won from the prophets at Jericho the recognition that “the spirit of Elijah hath rested upon Elisha” (2 Kings 2:1–15). Elijah’s prayers were answered: Elisha went on to do twice as many great things as he predecessor did.
Class of 2013: These robes that you now wear are your mantles, which have fallen to you not only from the class of 2012, but from the class before them, and the class before them, for many years. Think of all the amazing accomplishments of those who wore the robes you now wear. Like the prophet Elisha, you might at first feel daunted and fearful at becoming the next generation of leaders in this community. But the Spirit of the Lord is with you, as He was with Elisha. If you entrust yourself to God, if you love each other and love every student in our School down to the smallest Kindergarter the way you love each other, then God will help you do great things, perhaps even greater things than your predecessors.
In today’s New Testament reading, Jesus told his followers that they would do even greater things than He did. So, too, are you called to even greater accomplishments and to greater character in your spiritual leadership of love. And so, class of 2013, you workers of wonder in this wonderful place, you will abide in our highest hopes and our most sincere prayers. May God bless you this summer, and may He continue to bless you in your Senior year and beyond.