“…To This Day”   2 comments

Above:  Solomon Dedicates the Temple

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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1 Kings 8:1-13 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Then Solomon convoked the elders of Israel–all the heads of the tribes and the ancestral chieftains of the Israelites–before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD from the City of David, that is, Zion.

All the men of Israel gathered before King Solomon at the Feast, in the month of Ethanim–that is, the seventh month.  When all the elders of Israel had come, the priests lifted the Ark and carried up the Ark of the LORD.  Then the priests and the Levites brought the Tent of Meeting and all the holy vessels that were in the Tent.  Meanwhile, King Solomon and and the whole community of Israel, who were assembled with him before the Ark, were sacrificing sheep and oxen in such abundance that they could not be numbered or counted.

The priests brought the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant to its place underneath the wings of the cherubim, in the Shrine of the House, in the Holy of Holies; for the cherubim had their wings spread out over the place of the Ark, so that the Cherubim shielded the Ark and its poles from above.  The poles projected so that the ends of the poles were visible in the sanctuary in front of the Shrine, bu they could not be seen outside; and there they remain to this day.  There was nothing inside the Ark but the two tablets of stone which Moses placed there at Horeb, when the LORD made [a covenant] with the Israelites after the departure from the land of Egypt.

When the priests came out of the sanctuary–for the cloud had filled the House of the LORD and the priests were not able to remain and perform the service because of the cloud, for the Presence of the LORD filled the House of the LORD–then Solomon declared:

The LORD has chosen

To abide in a thick cloud:

I have now built for You

A stately House,

A place where You

May dwell forever.

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The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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From June 1982 to June 1985 my father served as pastor of the Hopewell United Methodist Church, outside Baxley, Georgia, on Red Oak Road, in Appling County.  I was in the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Grades at the time.  Being young and generally well-trained, I deferred to my elders much of the time, even when I knew they were factually mistaken.  Some of my Sunday School teachers were poorly informed, yet I stayed quiet when I heard them make a basic mistake, such as what the “ninth hour” was in relation to Christ’s crucifixion.  One Sunday School teacher did not know that this was 3:00 P.M., for example.  And at least one Sunday School teacher misinterpreted “to this day” references in the Bible to apply to the early 1980s.

1 Kings 8:8 uses “to this day” to refer to the position of the Ark of the Covenant’s position (and the position of its poles) in the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s Temple.  Yet Solomon’s Temple has not stood since 587/586 B.C.E., and the Ark of the Covenant had ceased to be at the Temple before then.  So “to this day” helps one date the writing of that verse.  The statement was accurate when the author wrote that line.  As a history buff, I find such markers quite helpful.

The reading from 1 Kings 8 is part of the description of Solomon’s dedication of the First Temple.  The lesson conveys a sense of great mystery and reverence, down to the cloud, an indication of the divine presence, filling the House of the LORD.  I do not know what actually happened, for the prose poet in me suspects that words were inadequate to describe well what really occurred.  But it was, simply put, mystical.  That satisfies me.

Yet God seems both close and distant in 1 Kings 8.  ”God is here, so we cannot perform our service,” the priests seemed to have said to themselves in Hebrew.  As a Christian, I believe in approaching God with reverence, but consider God approachable nonetheless.  God has come to us as a baby who grew up and became a craftsman who worked with stone and wood.  This craftsman also healed many people (as in the reading from Mark), uttered many wise sayings and great moral truths, suffered, died, rose from the dead, and atoned for human sins.

By the act of the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth, God approached us, so I feel free to approach God–reverently, of course, but quite personally.  In fact, my preferred way of addressing God is “You.”  I mean the second person singular and informal pronoun; if I were speaking in French, I would call God Tu, a practice consistent with every French translation of the Bible I have seen.

God has approached us.  That is true to this day, Monday, June, 20, 2011, when I write these words, and afterward.  A reciprocal response is appropriate and respectful.  That is also true to this day.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ONESIMUS NESIB, TRANSLATOR AND LUTHERAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/20/week-of-5-epiphany-monday-year-2/

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