Archive for the ‘Exodus 35-39’ Category

Metaphors and Repentance   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Transfiguration

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be to us both a sacrifice for sin,

and also an example of godly life:

Give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive that his inestimable benefit,

and also daily endeavor ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life;

through the same your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), pages 95-96

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Exodus 33:18-23

Psalm 40

Hebrews 12:18-29

Matthew 17:1-9

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The safest language to use when writing or speaking of the nature of God is that of poetic metaphors.  God is like a father.  God is like a mother eagle.  God is like a consuming fire.  God is literally none of these, and each of them is insufficient for the task of describing God adequately.  No human language can accomplish that job.

Perhaps anthropomorphizing God is impossible for a human being, for each of us has a human perspective.  The Bible contains much anthropomorphizing of the divine.  A ubiquitous assumption in the Hebrew Bible is that God has some kind of physical (probably human) form.  Related to that assumption, as in Exodus 33:18-23, is that to see the divine face is, in the words of a note from The Jewish Study Bible-Second Edition (2014),

too awesome for humans to survive.

–Page 179

That sense of the lethal holiness of God is absent from stories of Abraham, who literally walked with God, according to Genesis.  That sense of the lethal holiness of God is also absent from all the stories of Jesus.

The reading from Exodus 33 occurs within a narrative setting.  Prior to it Moses is pleading with God, who is refusing to dwell among the Hebrews.  In Chapter 34 God renews the covenant.  Then, in the construction of the Tabernacle (to replace the tent pitched outside the camp in Chapter 33) occurs and the Presence of the LORD fills the Tabernacle.

There is never a bad time to recommit to God, of course.  The season of Lent is a liturgical time set apart to emphasize such matters.  We all need reminders, do we not?  Fortunately, the church calendar proves helpful in that regard.  May we respond faithfully year-round to God, whose compassion is great, who desires that all turn to Him, who balances judgment in mercy in ways we cannot imagine, whose nature eludes us, and who approaches us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT:  THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, ABOLITIONIST AND FEMINIST; AND MARIA STEWART, ABOLITIONIST, FEMINIST, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB AND DOROTHY BUXTON, FOUNDERS OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF MARY CORNELIA BISHOP GATES, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED HYMN WRITER

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The Golden Rule, Part IV   Leave a comment

Above:  The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE EIGHTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Lord, you have taught us that all our doings without unconditional, sacrificial love are worth nothing.

Send your Holy Spirit, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love,

the very bond of peace and of all virtues, without whosoever lives is counted dead before you.

Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 86

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Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18

Psalm 47

Ephesians 4:17-32

Luke 10:25-37

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God is the King, Psalm 47 reminds us.  Furthermore, the text states, all nations should acknowledge this reality.  Not only is this true, but so are the following statements:

  1. We depend on God for everything.
  2. We depend on each other.
  3. We are responsible for each other.
  4. We are responsible to each other.
  5. We are interdependent and dependent, not independent.
  6. We have no moral right to exploit one another.
  7. How we treat each other matters.
  8. Piety (or at least the appearance thereof) does not justify not helping each other.

Those statements, taken together, summarize the readings from Leviticus 19, Ephesians 4, and Luke 10 well.  To that list of statements I add another:  The identity of those who help us might prove so surprising as to be scandalous to many.

I notice the selective reading from Leviticus 19.  I have no desire to insult the deaf or to place a stumbling block before the blind, for example, so verse 14 does not disturb me.  Many other omitted verses also prompt me to respond with, “Of course that is a fine law.”  Some of them are timeless principles, but others are culturally specific examples of such principles.  The particulars of verses 9 and 10 might not apply at all times and in all places, but the commandment to provide for the poor remains.  I note, however, that verses 20-22 allow for slavery.  Furthermore, the wardrobe prohibition in verse 19 applies neither to priestly vestments (see Exodus 28:6 and 39:29) nor forbids mandatory fringes on Israelite clothing (see Numbers 15:37-40).  The wording of certain passages of the Law of Moses, taken out of context, makes those passages seem more cut-and-dried than they really are.

Biblical interpretation is a frequently complicated and subtle enterprise.  So as to avoid becoming lost in the proverbial forest and slipping into legalism, I side with the tradition of Rabbi Hillel:

That which is deplorable to you, do not do to your fellow; this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary; go and learn it.

We read in Matthew 5:17-20 that Jesus came to fulfill, not to abolish, the law.  The critique of scribes and Pharisees in the Gospel of Matthew is that they do not keep the law properly.  We also read the following in Matthew 7:12:

In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That is the Golden Rule.  It means no slavery, does it not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2017 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND PEACE ACTIVIST; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, JOHN NEVIN SAYRE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PEACE ACTIVIST

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The Failure of the Flesh   1 comment

Above:  High Priest Offering Incense on an Altar

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 18:19-22; 19:19, 27-28

Psalm 118:5-9

Romans 1:8-2:11

Mark 10:32-34

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While the reading from Mark 10 marks the movement of Jesus toward his death and Psalm 118 reminds us of the wisdom of trusting in God and not in flesh, we read frequently misinterpreted passages from Leviticus and Romans.  Although the homosexual orientation has existed since antiquity, the recognition of its reality is much more recent.  The assumption in the readings, therefore, is that there is no such thing as the homosexual orientation, hence the allegedly unnatural nature of the acts.  Furthermore, Leviticus also condemns wearing clothing (except in fringes and in priestly vestments) made of two or more types of cloth and recognizes the existence of slavery.  The illicit sexual encounter in Leviticus 19:20 is allegedly wrong–and a capital offense–because someone has reserved the slave woman for another man.  As for combining linen and wool (except when one is supposed to do so), mixing them is wrong in the text, as are mixing seeds of two plants in the same field and breeding animals across species barriers.

The real theme seems to be mixing.  As Everett Fox summarizes,

Mixtures in the Bible seem to be reserved for the divine sphere alone.

The Five Books of Moses (1997), page 603

And God mandates some mixing in the Torah, as I have indicated.  Exodus 28:6 and 39:29 prescribe the mixing of different types of cloth in priestly vestments and Numbers 15:37-40 commands fringes on clothing.

Mixing has long obsessed many people.  Race mixing has long occurred in the United States, for example.  It was ubiquitous on plantations–often via the rape of slave women by masters.  The social offense was getting caught.  Consensual race mixing via marriage used to be illegal in 27 states, until 1967.

The truth, of course, is that many of us are genetic hodge-podges.  I am, for example, somewhat Cherokee, although my ancestry is mostly British and Irish, with contributions from elsewhere in Western Europe.  Purity is not a matter of ethnicity or of any other form of identity, despite the fact that many people insist that it is.  Thinking vainly that is otherwise exemplifies claiming to be wise yet really being a fool.

The real point of the reading from Romans is not to judge others for doing what one also does (2:1).  Besides, judgment resides in the divine purview alone.  In Pauline theology to break one part of the Law of Moses is to violate the entire code–a thought worthy of consideration in the context of divine patience, meant to lead people to repentance.

Guilt in the reading from Roman 1-2 is both individual and collective.  Individual sins are staples of much of the theology of Protestantism, which does not handle collective sins as well as Judaism and Roman Catholicism do.  To focus on personal peccadilloes to the marginalization or denial of collective sins is to mis the point and the means of correcting the relevant social problem or problems.  And all of us are partially responsible for faults in our societies.  Will we accept that reality and act accordingly?

The natural conclusion to this post comes from Psalm 118.  Rely on God, not on flesh.  God is faithful, but flesh fails.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK LUCIAN HOSMER, U.S. UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY GIANELLI, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF SAINT ALPHONSUS LUGUORI AND THE SISTERS OF MARY DELL’ORTO

THE FEAST OF CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER THEN EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERT OF NEWMINSTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-in-lent-ackerman/

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The Clean and the Unclean   1 comment

Peter's Vision of the Sheet with Animals

Above:  Peter’s Vision of the Sheet with Animals

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Holy God, mighty and immortal, you are beyond our knowing,

yet we see your glory in the face of Jesus Christ.

Transform us into the likeness of your Son,

who renewed our humanity so that we may share in his divinity,

Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit,one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 26

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 35:1-29 (Monday)

Ezekiel 1:1-2:1 (Tuesday)

Psalm 35:11-28 (Both Days)

Acts 10:9-23a (Monday)

Acts 10:23b-33 (Tuesday)

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[Jesus] said to [his Apostles], “Even you–don’t you understand?  Can’t you see that nothing that goes into someone from the outside can make that person unclean, because it goes not int the heart but into the stomach and passes into the sewer?” (Thus he pronounced all foods clean.)  And he went on, “It is what comes out of someone that makes that person unclean.  For it is from within, from the heart, that evil intentions emerge:  fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly.  All these evil things come from within and make a person unclean.

–Mark 7:18-23, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Ritual purity has long been a religious concern.  Separating oneself from the world (not always a negative activity) has informed overly strict Sabbath rules and practices.  (Executing a person for working on the Sabbath, per Exodus 35:2b, seems excessive to me.  I am biased, of course, for I have violated that law, which does not apply to me.)  Nevertheless, the Sabbath marked the freedom of the people, for slaves got no day off.  Ezekiel, living in exile in an allegedly unclean land, the territory of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, experienced a vision of the grandeur of God before God commissioned him a prophet.  Perhaps Ezekiel had, suffering under oppression, prayed in the words of Psalm 35:23,

Awake, arise to my cause!

to my defense, my God and my Lord!

The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Those who took Judeans into exile and kept them there were unclean and not because they were Gentiles but because of their spiritual ills, on which they acted.  As St. Simon Peter learned centuries later, there is no unclean food and many people he had assumed to be unclean were not really so.

The drawing of figurative lines to separate the allegedly pure from the allegedly impure succeeds in comforting the former, fostering more self-righteousness in them, and doing injustice to the latter.  May nobody call unclean one whom God labels clean.  May no one mark as an outsider one whom God calls beloved.  This is a devotion for the last two days of the Season after the Epiphany.  The next season will be Lent.  Perhaps repenting of the sins I have listed above constitutes the agenda you, O reader, should follow this Lent.  I know that it is one I ought to follow.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 29, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAUL MANZ, DEAN OF LUTHERAN CHURCH MUSIC

THE FEAST OF JOHN BUCKMAN WALTHOUR, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/10/29/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-last-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Active Faith II   1 comment

jmdp-56

Above:  Jonathan Myrick Daniels Memorial , August 9, 2013

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

(https://plus.google.com/photos/114749828757741527421/albums/5910907140282601969/5910903135957646082?banner=pwa&pid=5910903135957646082&oid=114749828757741527421)

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The Collect:

O God, in the transfiguration of your Son you confirmed the

mysteries of the faith by the witness of Moses and Elijah,

and in the voice from the bright cloud declaring Jesus your beloved Son,

you foreshadowed our adoption as your children.

Make us heirs with Christ of your glory, and bring us to enjoy its fullness,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 6:2-9 (Thursday)

Exodus 19:9b-25 (Friday)

Psalm 2 (Both Days)

Hebrews 8:1-7 (Thursday)

Hebrews 11:23-28 (Friday)

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 19:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/week-of-proper-11-thursday-year-1/

Hebrews 8:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/week-of-2-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/devotion-for-the-first-day-of-easter-easter-sunday-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Hebrews 11:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/week-of-4-epiphany-monday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/devotion-for-tuesday-after-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/devotion-for-january-4-and-5-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/devotion-for-the-fifth-day-of-easter-thursday-in-easter-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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The kings of the earth rise up,

and the rulers take counsel together,

against the Lord and against his anointed:

“Let us break their bonds asunder

and cast away their cords from us.”

He who dwells in heaven shall laugh them to scorn;

the Lord shall have them in derision.

–Psalm 2:2-4, Common Worship (2000)

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But when Moses repeated those words to the Israelites, they would not listen to him, because of their cruel slavery, they had reached the depths of despair.

–Exodus 6:9, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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Active faith by which we follow God has changed the world for the better.  In the United States of America, for example, it fueled the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.  Such active faith overturned Apartheid in the Republic of South Africa.  This continues to compel people to work for social justice all over the planet.

Yet passiveness born of resignation stymies progress.  Giving up on improving conditions in this world and seeking a better lot only in the afterlife does nothing to work for a just society on this plane of reality.  The Hebrew prophets condemned social injustice.  Our Lord and Savior did likewise.  Indeed, seeking to improve this reality is part and parcel of loving one’s neighbor and pursuing the great Jewish ethic of healing the world.

So may each of us never make peace with oppression.  May all of us take to heart and act on the following prayer:

O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served, and to give his life for the life of the world.  Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.  Through us give hope to the hopeless, love to the unloved, peace to the troubled, and rest to the weary, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 22, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK PRATT GREEN, BRITISH METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMEW ZOUBERBUHLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF PAUL TILLICH, LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-the-last-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Exodus and Luke, Part X: Just as the LORD Had Commanded   1 comment

tabernacle

Above:  The Tabernacle

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 38:21-39:8, 22-23, 27-31 (19th Dayof Easter)

Exodus 39:32-40:16 (20th Day of Easter)

Exodus 40:17-38 (21st Day of Easter)

Psalm 47 (Morning–19th Day of Easter)

Psalm 96 (Morning–20th Day of Easter)

Psalm 92 (Morning–21st Day of Easter)

Psalms 68 and 113 (Evening–19th Day of Easter)

Psalms 50 and 138 (Evening–20th Day of Easter)

Psalms 23 and 114 (Evening–21st Day of Easter)

Luke 8:1-21 (19th Day of Easter)

Luke 8:22-39 (20th Day of Easter)

Luke 8:40-56 (21st Day of Easter)

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 40:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/week-of-proper-12-thursday-year-1/

Luke 8:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/week-of-proper-19-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/week-of-proper-19-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/week-of-proper-20-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/04/week-of-proper-20-tuesday-year-1/

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The long and detailed description of the setting up of the Tabernacle in Exodus contains the refrain

…just as the LORD had commanded Moses.

(TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

The Tabernacle complete, Gods Presence fills the space.  God and the people will meet there.  Thus the Book of Exodus ends.

Foster R. McCurley, Jr., in his 1969 adult Christian education volume, Exodus (Philadelphia, PA:  Lutheran Church Press), concludes on page 128:

At the same time, the Book of Exodus means something for us because in some ways we stand in a similar predicament.  The people of Exodus had received the gift of deliverance and had been brought into a new relationship with God. They waited for the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham–the promise of land, descendants, and blessing.  We of the church look back to the Cross and Resurrection, and we have been brought into a unique relationship with our Father.  We rejoice in our salvation and in the new covenant which God has established with us in Christ.  Yet we wait for the consumation of the kingdom–to a time when Christ will come again to make all things new.  We stand as participants in the last act of God’s triumphant drama, but the final curtain has yet to fall.

It sounds like an Advent message, does it not?

The Kingdom of God was evident among those whom Jesus healed, the marginalized people whose dignity he affirmed, and the women who financed his ministry.  Yet that was nearly 2000 years ago.  We wait for the final curtain to fall.  As we wait may we do as the LORD commands us.  So may our fate be different from that of the liberated generation of Israelites.  May we live in gratitude to God, who has freed us from our sins.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBA OF IONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY AND ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/devotion-for-the-nineteenth-twentieth-and-twenty-first-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Exodus and Luke, Part IX: Intimacy with God   1 comment

moses-jose-de-ribera

Above:  Moses, by Jose de Ribera

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 34:29-35:21

Psalm 99 (Morning)

Psalms 8 and 118 (Evening)

Luke 7:36-50

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 34-35:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/last-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/week-of-proper-12-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/feast-of-the-transfiguration-august-6/

Luke 7:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/devotion-for-the-twenty-eighth-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/27/week-of-proper-19-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/week-of-proper-19-thursday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-19-friday-year-2/

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Each of the four canonical Gospels contains a version of the story of a woman anointing Jesus.  She was either a anonymous or Mary of Bethany.  She was either of undefined character or of good character or a forgiven sinner.  The host was was either Mary of Bethany or Simon the Leper or Simon the Pharisee.

As I understand oral tradition, based on reading Historical Jesus books written from various points of view, oral tradition is neither ironclad nor completely unreliable with regard to details.  It is flexible, with a certain set spine.  (See N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, Minneapolis, MN:  Fortress Press, 1996, pages 135-136.)  So, as I read and read the Synoptic Gospels, I find parallel versions of the same incidents, sayings, and parables.  They are similar yet not identical.  To apply this to the anointing of Jesus, something happened at Bethany.  But who was the woman?  What was her background and character?  Who was the host?  And which part of Jesus did the woman anoint?  The Bible does not provide consistent answers.  This does not disturb me.  It did not bother the bishops who approved the canon of the New Testament either.  So I take the Lukan account as we have it, in textual context, and interpret it in relation to its paired reading from Exodus.

The woman expressed her gratitude for forgiveness.  Meanwhile, in Exodus, a distance between God and the people remained.  There was even a distance between Moses and the people.  But there was not distance between Jesus and the woman.  And there need be no distance between Jesus and any of us.

As long as I can recall, I have always had a sense of God.  My relationship with God has had its ups and downs, with the latter being my fault.  And, when times have been darkest for me, I have felt God wither drawing nearer to me or seeming to do so; I cannot be sure which was the reality.  It was, however, a distinction without a difference.  God, as the Sufis say, is closer to me (and to you) than my (and your) jugular vein.  Experience has taught me this.  Perhaps it has also taught you, O reader, the same lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBA OF IONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY AND ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/devotion-for-the-eighteenth-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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A Perfect Sacrifice   1 comment

Above: A Flock of Sheep

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Exodus 11:10-12:14 (An American Translation):

So Moses and Aaron performed all these portents before Pharaoh; but the LORD made Pharaoh stubborn, so that he would not let the Israelites leave his land.

Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt,

This month shall be the first of the months for you; it shall be the first month of the year for you,’ announce to the whole community of Israel; ‘on the tenth day of this month they must provide for themselves one sheep each for their several families, a sheep for each household; if any household is too small for a sheep, it shall provide one along with its neighbor who is nearest to its own household in the number of persons, charging each for the proportionate amount of the sheep that it ate.  Your sheep must be a perfect male, a year old; you may take one of the lambs or goats.  You must keep it until the fourteenth day of this same month, and then the whole assembly of the community of Israel must slaughter it at twilight, and taking some of the blood, they must apply it to the two door-posts and the lintels for the sake of the houses in which they eat it.  That same night they must eat the flesh, eating it roasted, along with unleavened cakes and bitter herbs; do not eat any of it raw, nor cooked in any way with water, but roasted, its head along with its legs and entrails; and you must not leave any of it over until morning; any that might be left over until morning you must burn up.  This is how you are to eat it:  with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; you must eat it in trepidation, since it is a passover to the LORD.  This very night I will pass through the land of Egypt, striking down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast, and executing judgment on all the gods of Egypt, I, the LORD.  The blood will serve as a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood, I will pass by you, so that no deadly plague will fall on you when I smite the land of Egypt.  This day shall be a memorial for you; so you must keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you must keep it as a perpetual ordinance….

Psalm 116:10-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

10 How shall I repay the LORD

for all the good things he has done for me?

11 I will lift up the cup of salvation

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

12 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people.

13 Precious in the sight of the LORD

is the death of his servants.

14 O LORD, I am your servant;

I am your servant and the child of your handmaid;

you have freed me from my bonds.

15 I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

16 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people,

17 In the courts of the LORD’s house,

in the midst of you, O Jerusalem.

Hallelujah!

Matthew 12:1-8 (An American Translation):

At that same time Jesus walked through the wheat fields, and his disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of wheat and eat them.  But the Pharisees saw it and said to him,

Look!  Your disciples are doing something which it is against the Law to do on the Sabbath!

But he said to them,

Did you ever read what David did, when he and his companions were hungry?  How is it that he went into the House of God and that they ate the Presentation Loaves which it is against the Law for him and his companions to eat, or for anyone except the priests?  Or did you ever read in the Law how the priests in the Temple are not guilty when they break the Sabbath?  But I tell you, there is something greater than  the Temple here!  But if you knew what the saying means,”‘It is mercy, not sacrifice, that I care for,” you would not have condemned  men who are not guilty.  For the Son of Man is master of the Sabbath.

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The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Overlapping material occurs in the devotion for Maundy Thursday, a link to which is here:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-eighth-day-of-lent-maundy-thursday/.

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What is a perfect sacrifice?  This question hinges on the word “perfect.”  In the Biblical context it means “suitable for its purpose.”  This is how Matthew 5:48 can quote Jesus as saying,

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect  (New Revised Standard Version).

Our story in Exodus jumps a few chapters from the burning bush incident to the latter stage of the plagues in Egypt.  The blood of a perfect sacrificial lamb smeared on one ‘s doorpost will be the sign of being spared from the death of the first-born.  The blood of the lamb will spare one from the sins of others-namely the Egyptian leadership, not oneself.  This is a vital point to understand, for to make the analogy of Jesus as Passover Lamb cannot support Penal Substitutionary Atonement, the idea that the blood of Jesus saves us from our sins.  No, the Atonement works differently, and blood is involved in it in a way I do not pretend to comprehend.  At St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, when I hold a chalice of wine and say

The blood of Christ, the cup of salvation,

I mean it.  Whenever I say this to one particular gentleman, he says, “Thank God.”  That is an appropriate response.

I wonder why there was not passover blood for those little boys.  I have no easy answers.

So the Israelites are spared, but what about the Egyptians?  Are not their lives just as valuable?  I am not shy about arguing with the Biblical texts, for I engage them, not worship them.  The Bible is the most ubiquitous idol within Christianity.  This is not its purpose, but that is what well-intentioned people have made it.

Speaking of accidental idolaters, let us turn to the Pharisees.

Consider this verse:

When you enter another man’s field of standing grain, you may pluck ears with your hand; but you must not put a sickle to your neighbor’s grain.

–Deuteronomy 23:26 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

And, of course, there is Hosea 6:6, also from TANAKH:

For I desire goodness, not sacrifice;

Obedience to God, rather than burnt offerings.

The reference to David comes from 1 Samuel 21:1-6, set during a time when David was on the run from King Saul.  David and his men were hungry, so, with the aid of a priest, Ahimelech, eat the only bread available–consecrated loaves reserved for priests.

Consider the context in Matthew.  Jesus has just completed his “Come to me, all who are heavy-laden” invitation. The day is the Sabbath, and his disciples are hungry.  They obey Deuteronomy 23:26 by reaping with with their hands.  Religious legal codes subsequent to Deuteronomy 23:26 forbade reaping on the Sabbath, and the disciples had violated this law.  Jesus replies by referring to David, whom the Pharisees revered, and to the fact that professional religious people worked at the Temple on the Sabbath legally.  So why is satisfying the basic human need to eat considered improper?

The verses following incident immediately tell of Jesus healing on the Sabbath.  He has to defend himself from criticism then, too.

William Barclay offers the most succinct analysis of the moral of these stories:

The claims of human need took precedence over any ritual custom.  (The Gospel of Matthew, Volume, 2, Philadelphia, PA:  Westminster Press, page 23)

A previous owner of my copy wrote the following comment in the margin:

People more imp. than things!

Indeed, people are more important than things and ritual customs, and goodness and mercy are more valuable than sacrifices and legalistic proscriptions.  To quote Barclay again, this time from page 25:

Jesus insisted that the greatest ritual service is the service of human need.

This statement is so obvious to me that I stand in dismay at someone having to argue for it.  This should be a given, something people assume and to which they stipulate and then act upon.

So the service of human needs is the perfect sacrifice to God.  May we read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest this concept and act accordingly, as our circumstances dictate the particulars.

But lest we pat ourselves on the back and cast historical stones at the Pharisees, we need to examine ourselves spiritually.  The late Shirley C. Guthrie, Jr., a U.S. Presbyterian theologian, offered the following in the first edition of Christian Doctrine:  Teachings of the Christian Church (Richmond, VA:  CLC Press, 1968, pages 247-248):

One danger of the sacrificial imagery is that the significance of Christ’s work can easily be corrupted in the same way the sacrificial system of the Old Testament was corrupted.  It easily becomes a kind of bargaining with God.  A sacrifice has been offered to satisfy his demands and appease him–so now we are free go go on being and doing anything we like without interference from him.  How did the prophets protest against such a perversion of the sacrificial system?  See Isaiah 1:10-31; Amos 5:21-24; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8.  Is the prophetic protest against the misuse of sacrifices relevant also to our understanding of the sacrifice of Christ?  Would the prophets allow the split we sometimes make between preaching concerned with social action and preaching concerned with salvation from sin?

Think about it.  Pray about it.  Learn what God teaches, and act accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 29, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS:  THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS BECKET, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF JOSIAH CONDER, ENGLISH ABOLITIONIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF AUSTIN FARRER, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN BURNETT MORRIS, JR., EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/29/week-of-proper-10-friday-year-1/

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