“From time to time we lose our edge. We come to a defining moment, engaged in our work, ministry, vocation but not with the same sharpness of mind, clarity of commitment, spiritual focus,” said the Rev. Raphael Warnock, Week Three chaplain, at the 9:15 a.m. Wednesday morning worship service. “We have lost our mojo and morale, we are here but not fully present, we are present but we feel feckless and burnt out.” His sermon title was ”On Recovering Your Edge” and the Scripture reading was 2 Kings 6:1-7.
“Sometimes when we lose our edge, we don’t know how to push the reset button, to recover our edge,” he said. “It happens to individuals and institutions, like the decline in church attendance and millennials who are not terribly interested and there is a reason why. It is tough to lose our edge but if we are a Type A achievement personality like my friend Jim Wallis or Elisha, we will find it.”
Elisha was a Type A, in the “Who’s Who of Prophets,” on the Forbes list of 100 people with prophetic power. Elisha started out on the cutting edge and his ministry was growing, he was a mentor and teacher and “iron sharpens iron.”
His movement needed to move. The place where he and his followers were living was too small.
“Elisha underestimated his potential and the power of his own influence,” Warnock said. “Have you ever woken up and said to yourself, ‘This place is too small, there are other ways to be faithful. I don’t want to rest on my laurels; I want to do more.’ When your influence outgrows your infrastructure, don’t underestimate your influence, grow your infrastructure.”
“God is telling us that our thinking is too small, our dreams are too small. We don’t need to build walls to keep people out; this is not a zero-sum game,” he said. “If we have enough imagination, we have enough for everyone.”
Elisha and his followers went to the Jordan to cut down trees to build a new place to live. As one of them was cutting down a tree, his ax head broke and it flew into the water.
“He literally lost his edge. Iron was expensive and mostly used by the military. There was no Home Depot to go to; this was no small loss,” Warnock said.
“Has anybody here, other than me, lost your edge? Not everything, just your edge,” he said. “Work is hard, your personal life is unsatisfying and your prayer life is dry. You need to know what to do when you lose your edge.”
The first action is to recognize your situation. People and institutions lose their edge long before they recognize it is lost, Warnock said.
“Jesus’ parents lost him when he was 12. God does not leave us; we leave God. Mary and Joseph should have been reported to child services; they went a whole day without realizing he was not with them,” Warnock said. “I know many churches that don’t recognize they left God in Jesus a long time ago. Like Samson, they don’t know that the Spirit has left them.”
To the credit of the young prophet in the reading, he recognized that he lost his edge and cried out for help.
“But he lost his edge before he lost his edge. The ax head fell off because it was already dull,” Warnock said. “If it was sharp, the tree would have been no match for it; the tree confirmed that he had lost his edge.”
If you don’t sharpen your tools, you won’t know they are dull until you have a head on collision with a hard thing, he said.
“That hard thing leaves you splintered and broken; tribulation confirms it,” he said. “Ax heads don’t become loose all at once; they fly off the handle all at once but something was already loose.”
The second action is to refuse to settle. The young prophet called upon Elisha to do something.
“We want God to do something. Our gifts are borrowed and when we are distracted, they become dull,” Warnock said. “We lose them or use them.”
Elisha asked where the ax head had fallen. Where was the prophet when the ax head fell off?
“Have you ever lost your keys or cellphone? You say, ‘If I were a key, where would I be? Where was I the last time I remember having them?’ You used to serve with a willing heart; where were you when you lost it?” Warnock said. “David said, ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.’ Is that anybody’s prayer this morning?”
“In closing, and I do mean, in closing, when we lose our edge, we rely on the Savior. When we can’t get the edge back we have to sit still,” he said. “As Howard Thurman said, ‘When we have a lull in the business of days, we rely on the Savior.’ ”
Elisha cut a stick and threw it in the water and made the iron float; he defied the laws of physics.
“Now that doesn’t make sense. In church we act like this stuff makes sense,” he said. “A preacher once preached such a powerful sermon that a member of his congregation stood in front of him for five minutes and said, ‘My God, Reverend, you actually believe this stuff.’ ”
“Since when did ax heads float? Since where is there a magnetic attraction in wood? Only God can give us our edge back. I know that sin has caused all of us to fly off the handle. God took a stick and he stuck it in the earth and he stuck himself on it,” Warnock said. “He died until we got our community back. He died until we got our life back. He died until we got our love back. He died until we got our faith back. He died until we got our edge back.”
“He stayed there all day Friday and Friday night, and all day Saturday and Saturday night, but on Sunday he rose with all power in his hand,” Warnock said. “When nothing else would do, Love lifted me.”
The Rev. George Wirth presided. Pamela El Ghreichi, a scholarship student with the International Order of King’s Daughters and Sons, read the Scripture in French and English. El Ghreichi, from Lebanon, studies psychology and art therapy at Lebanese University. The Motet Choir sang “Mornin’ Glory” by Rollo Dilworth, under the direction of Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music. The Samuel M. and Mary E. Hazlett Memorial Fund supports this week’s services.