Passing the Mantle
It makes sense that mentors are important in church life, too.
How many of you are here today because someone a little older and wiser took an interest in you?
Churches are in fact a great place for this to happen,for the church is one of the few places in our society where generations mix.
In the common worship and community life, there is opportunity to be intergenerational
And to form relationships across the span of age and life stage.
This started for me in very simple ways when I was young.
There was Dick Lyndes, who I got to know when we were both in the Christmas pageant. I was only 8 years old, but Mr Lyndes would always check in with me on Sunday morning, And ask me about school, my favorite teacher, or what I was learning in Sunday School.
There was Nancy Feole who sat next to me in a tent at a rainy camp out,
engaged me in conversation and actually listened to my answers.
There was Elaine Ramshaw, who invited and trained me to be an assisting minister when I was HS.
There were so many people along the way who simply by taking an interest me and listening to me Encouraged me in my life, my Christian faith, and in discovering my gifts.
I see this happening at St Matthew as well.
The Sunday school teacher makes a point of chatting with a former student at coffee hour. The seasoned volunteer invites a new person to join them on the altar guild.
The youth advisor cultivates leadership in an upper classman, giving her to plan an activity. he crew that meets for coffee on Monday morning befriends another regular at the shop, listening and sharing life experiences, and eventually, that coffee shop regular starts coming to church.
I see this as a very biblical model of mentoring. After all, Elijah and Elisha did not follow a formalized plan of instruction—
They simply spent time together, talking over situations, acting when needed.
In our congregation, mentoring begins that same way—with building a relationship.
It’s about asking questions and remembering to follow up on an interest of another person. It’s about being real yourself and sharing your own interests and questions and stories with others. It starts with relationship, but true mentoring grows into something more—Sharing power and responsibility when the mentee is ready. I see this in our congregation as well.
An adult leader invited a middle school student ti help lead the Sunday School musical opening Sunday school teacher asked a high schooler to co-teach. You all raised the names of people you wanted to lead our congregation, And our nominating committee called each person to talk with them about serving on church council. In each of these situations, someone with responsibility and authority in the congregation- A leader or a teacher or a staff member—took at little bit of their own power, knowledge or skill, and invited another person to share it.
You could say that’s what happened with Elijah and Elisha. After spending six years together, Elijah had surely given Elisha chances to try out his prophetic skill. Just before Elijah was taken up into heaven, Elisha asked for a double portion of his spirit.
It was a bold request, but in the end it was granted. It was proved by the parting of the waters. Many of you may wonder if young people today are looking for this inter-generational thing. I have been reading a book entitled Growing Young about best practices of congregations that are attracting people aged 15-34. Of the young people in the study, almost half responded that what they liked about their church was that
they had accepting and caring relationships with leaders in the congregation--
Relationships that grew into an invitation to make a genuine contribution to the life of the congregation And a positive impact on the world at large.
Christian mentoring has many examples in scripture, but its theology comes from Baptism. In baptism every person is gifted by the Holy Spirit, and made a valued member of the body of Christ. That means that we as Christians take seriously that people at every age and ability have something of value to share From the youngest child to the surly teen, from the homebound member to the distracted parent.
The last thing to know about Elijah is that just before he found Elisha, he was about to hang up his mantle And quit the prophet business. But mentoring Elisha brought Elijah back from the brink—The relationship restored his hope and faith.
The same gift is there for us, too. As we build relationships across the generations, we are enriched
We are blessed
We are restored.
So who has mentored you? Who have you passed the mantle to? Who might you pass the mantle to next? Let’s continue to build the kind of relationships and community that take seriously our need for each other And gift we are together.