At McDonalds, we get asked if we want to supersize it. It doesn’t cost much more. Unfortunately, there isn’t a fast food restaurant that offers super-sizing for spiritual things. In the movies, the dispirited protagonist always walks into a bar and asks for ‘a double.’ I can never see how two extra fingers of whisky will make the situation better. Perhaps when we are praying about something really important, we should ask for ‘a double.’ In Bible times, first born sons stood to inherit a double share of the family farm. This was a real commodity that could be measured in furlongs and feet. When Elisha asks for a double share of Elijah’s spirit, he is imagining a real commodity. I always tell people that spiritual passion is measurable. We don’t deal with intangibles. We deal with something that matters.
Let that be your starting point in the familiar story of Elijah’s chariot ride to heaven (II Kings 2:1-15. The lectionary stops this great story short, but if you keep going you hear people affirming that the same quantity of spirit that rested on the old prophet now rests on his successor. We don’t have any problem with Elisha inheriting the Prophet’s office, though the people who knew Elisha weren’t as sure about it. We tend to miss the way this story speaks about the physicality of the Holy Spirit. It picks Elijah up (notice the chariot is made of fire), it falls in the form of a mantle, it splits the water, it manifests itself in a way that is obvious to theological undergrads (who don’t grasp much else). Something this real can be supersized.
It can also be halved and halved again. This is what is happening to the American church. We barely notice Lent, even though Christians through out all time have used the season to grow their faith. We hardly ever pray with the expectation that God’s Spirit will do something tangible because of our prayers. We treat the Bible as if it is irrelevant, even though we know that churches without a spiritual foundation die like flies. We don’t speak with job about how the Spirit connects us with Jesus. We seldom find our worship to be inspiring.
Okay, I’ll say it. Make mine a double.