Archive for the ‘Miriam’ Tag

Pointing to God, Not Ourselves   1 comment

Moses Striking the Rock in Horeb

Above:  Moses Strikes the Rock in Horeb, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

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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 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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Numbers 12:1-16 or 20:1-13 (14-21) 22-29

Psalm 106:(1) 7-18, 24-18 (43-48) or Psalm 95

Luke 1:(57) 58-67 (68-79) 80

Hebrews 3:1-19

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Many times he delivered them,

but they were rebellious in their purposes,

and were brought low through their iniquity.

Nevertheless he regarded their distress

when he heard their cry.

–Psalm 106:43-44, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,

as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,

when your ancestors tested me,

and put me to the proof, though you had seen my work.

–Psalm 95:8-9, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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In most of the readings for this day we read of grumbling against God and/or Moses despite God’s proven track record, frequently in the presence of those who go on to grumble.  Miriam and Aaron question the authority of Moses in Numbers 12. Miriam becomes ritually unclean because of this (Do not question Moses!), but her brother intercedes for her.  People witness then seem to forget God’s mighty acts in Psalms 95 and 106, as well as in Hebrews 3.  And, in Numbers 20, Moses disobeys instructions from God.  He is supposed to speak to a rock to make water come out of it, but he strikes it instead.

By word and act Moses is thus appropriating to himself an act of God.  In doing this he is undoing the message that God and Moses himself have been conveying to the to the people up to this point.  The people have continuously directed their attention to Moses instead of to God….Until this episode Moses has repeatedly told the people, “It is not from my own heart,” and “You are congregating against YHWH,” but now his words and actions confirm the people’s own perception.

–Richard Elliott Friedman, Commentary on the Torah with a New English Translation and the Hebrew Text (2001), page 495

Moses was generally trustworthy in the sight of God, per the positive assessment of him in Hebrews 3.  At Meribah he gave into human weakness.  All of us have caved into our own weaknesses on multiple occasions, have we not?  Have we not, for example, sought our own glory instead of that of God?  Have we not yielded to the temptation to be spectacular, which Henri J. M. Nouwen identified in The Way of the Heart (1981) as one of Satan’s temptations of Jesus in Luke 4 and Matthew 4?   If we have lived long enough, yes, we have.

And you, my child, will be called Prophet of the Most High,

for you will be the Lord’s forerunner to prepare his way

and lead his people to a knowledge of salvation

through the forgiveness of sins:

for in the tender compassion of our God

the dawn of heaven will break upon us,

to shine on those who live in darkness, under the shadow of death,

and to guide our feet in the way of peace.

–St. Zechariah in Luke 1:76-79, The Revised English Bible (1989)

St. John the Baptist grew up and became one who admitted the truth that he was not the Messiah (Luke 3:15-17 and Mark 1:7-8).  He pointed to cousin Jesus instead (Matthew 3:13-14 and John 3:25-36).

The spiritual vocations of Christians vary in details, but the common threads run through those calls from God.  We who call ourselves Christians have, for example, a responsibility to glorify God, not ourselves, and to point to Jesus.  We also have an obligation to lead lives defined by gratitude to God, not rebellion against God.  We can succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/08/20/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-of-advent-year-d/

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Inclusion and Exclusion   1 comment

Moses Prays for Miriam To Be Healed

Above:   Moses Prays for the Healing of Miriam

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and most merciful God, your bountiful goodness fills all creation.

Keep us safe from all that may hurt us,

that, whole and well in body and spirit,

we may with grateful hearts accomplish all that you would have us to do,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 14:33-53 (Thursday)

Numbers 4:34-5:4 (Friday)

Psalm 111 (Both Days)

2 Timothy 1:13-18 (Thursday)

2 Timothy 2:1-7 (Friday)

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Hallelujah!

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,

in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.

–Psalm 111:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The word “leprosy,” in the Bible, has a broad definition, applying to a variety of diseases of the skin.  Such conditions also fall under the heading of ritual impurity (consult Numbers 5:2a) and require a time of isolation before one returns to one’s community and to a state of ritual purity (consult Leviticus 13).

In Numbers 12 Miriam spoke negatively of Moses.  Her punishment was a bad case of snow-white scales, which usually would have caused her to go away for two weeks.  It became seven days, however, due to the intercession of her esteemed brother.  The rabbinical name for her condition was metzora, from motzi’ shem ra’, or “uttering an evil name.”  Her sin was slander, but the object of that offense pleaded to God on her behalf.  A time of removal from the community was inevitable, but the goal of the leadership of that community was always restoration.

In Luke 5 Jesus healed a man with some kind of skin disease.  It was not leprosy, in the narrow, clinical definition of that term, but it was enough to render the man ritually impure and to isolate him from his community.  Then Jesus commanded him to obey the requirements of Leviticus 14 and not to tell anyone (other than the priest, per Leviticus 14).  Perhaps the man went to the priest, but he certainly spread the word, causing crowds to deny Jesus as much solitude as he needed.

Salvation was Christ’s primary task on the Earth; healing was something he did.  Did crowds come to him mostly to hear the words of salvation or to seek healing?  Quite often they flocked to him for the latter purpose.  There was nothing wrong with seeking wholeness and restoration, of course, but there was much more to Christ’s mission than individual wholeness and restoration.  There was, for example, collective wholeness and restoration.

A community cannot be at its best when people who should be part of it are not.  Such people might be outsiders by their choice or the decisions of others.  Many people are outsiders because self-identified insiders exclude them, often wrongly.  Frequently we human beings define ourselves negatively–according to who or what we are not.  This practice harms us and those we exclude improperly.  As Professor Luke Timothy Johnson says, one message in the Gospel of Mark is that those who think they are insiders might actually be outsiders.  And, as Edmond Browning, a former Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, writes, in Christ there are no outsiders.

May we who follow God (or at least attempt to do so) identify as children of God who bear the divine image and respect the image of God in our fellow human beings.  Theological and personality differences will persist, of course, but we need not seek to define ourselves negatively and, by extension, others in the same way.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-23-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Numbers and Luke, Part VIII: The Sin of Pride   1 comment

moses-striking-the-rock-pieter-de-grebber

Above:  Moses Striking the Rock, by Pieter de Grebber

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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:

Numbers 20:1-21 (48th Day of Easter)

Numbers 20:22-21:9 (49th Day of Easter)

Psalm 96 (Morning–48th Day of Easter)

Psalm 92 (Morning–49th Day of Easter)

Psalms 50 and 138 (Evening–48th Day of Easter)

Psalms 23 and 114 (Evening–49th Day of Easter)

Luke 20:19-44 (48th Day of Easter)

Luke 20:45-21:9 (49th Day of Easter)

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Some Related Posts:

Numbers 20-21:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirtieth-day-of-lent/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/week-of-proper-13-thursday-year-1/

Luke 20-21:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/week-of-proper-28-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/week-of-proper-29-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/week-of-proper-28-friday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-28-saturday-year-2/

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The readings for today occur against the backdrop of death.  Miriam and Aaron die.  Jesus will die soon.  And, in the midst of all this, the main sin common to the readings from Numbers and Luke is pride, being spectacular.  That was the sin of Moses, whose disobedience detracted from the glory of God.  And the scribes in Luke 20:45-47 reveled in public acclaim while devouring the property of widows.  Furthermore, those who wasted our Lord’s time with a political trap and with sophistry earlier in Luke 20 probably thought their rhetorical powers and mind games clever.  They were mistaken.

To have a balanced self-image, or ego, is crucial.  We are neither worms nor demigods.  We are, however, bearers of the image of God.  And, as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote in poetic terms, we are slightly lower than the angels.  So we ought to acknowledge our potential, its source, and our limitations.  To miss the mark–to aim too high or too low–is to arrive at an inaccurate estimate of our true worth.

May we therefore think neither too highly nor too lowly of ourselves.  And may we let God appear as spectacular as possible.  Not to do so is to commit the sin of pride.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 23, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETAS OF REMESIANA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WIREMU TAMIHANA, MAORI PROPHET AND KINGMAKER

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/devotion-for-the-forty-eighth-and-forty-ninth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Numbers and Luke, Part III: The Kingdom of God   1 comment

lazarus-and-dives

Above:  Lazarus and Dives

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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:

Numbers 10:11-36 (39th Day of Easter)

Numbers 11:1-23, 31-35 (40th Dayof Easter)

Numbers 11:24-29; 12:1-16 (41st Day of Easter)

Psalm 99 (Morning–39th Day of Easter)

Psalm 47 (Morning–40th Day of Easter)

Psalm 96 (Morning–41st Day of Easter)

Psalms 8 and 118 (Evening–39th Day of Easter)

Psalms 68 and 113 (Evening–40th Day of Easter)

Psalms 96 and 138 (Evening–41st Day of Easter)

Luke 16:19-31 (39th Day of Easter)

Luke 17:1-19 (40th Day of Easter)

Luke 17:20-37 (41st Day of Easter)

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Some Related Posts:

Numbers 10-12:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/17/week-of-proper-13-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/proper-21-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/week-of-proper-13-tuesday-year-1/

Luke 16-17:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fourteenth-day-of-lent/

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Numbers 10:11-12:16 constitutes a unit in that book.  The narrative tells how the Israelites moved to the desert of Paran. they moved in a particular order but not without grumbling.  Manna could not compare with Egyptian food, apparently.  And even Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses.  The narrative says that God afflicted the people with fire or their murmuring until Moses convinced God to stop, and that God afflicted Miriam with a skin disease which rendered her ritually unclean for a week.

If I were to decide whether to stand in awe or terror of such a deity, I would choose the latter option.  That terror would also be appropriate in Luke 17:22-37.  And Dives, the rich man in the parable in Luke 16:19-31, should have learned terror of God in the afterlife, yet did not.  He still thought that the could order Lazarus, the poor man, around.

The Kingdom of God is among us.  In one sense it has always been present, for it is where God is.  Yet the Incarnation inaugurated the Kingdom of God via Jesus.  That Kingdom has not gone away since the time of the historical Jesus any more than it went away after the Crucifixion or the Ascension.  The full reign of God has yet to arrive on the planet, of course, but the Kingdom of God remains present via the Holy Spirit and the people of God, regardless of national, ethnic, or racial origin.

The Kingdom of God remains present in many ways.  It remains present anywhere the people of God work for the benefit of their fellow human beings.  It remains present anywhere one person corrects a fellow or sister human being in Godly love.  It remains present wherever people forgive and/or reconcile.  (Reconciliation is a mutual process, but one person can forgive another in absentia.)  It remains present wherever a person of God chooses not to hold a grudge.  It remains present wherever people of God care actively and effectively for the less fortunate.

May we remember that the shape of a society, culture, or subculture is what people have made it.  So, where injustice exists and persists, we humans are responsible.  May we, with God’s help, correct injustice and forge better societies, cultures, and subcultures.  This will not constitute God’s full reign following the apocalypse, but it will be an improvement on the present arrangements.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BAIN OF FONTANELLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, MONK, MISSIONARY, AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ONESIMUS NESIB, TRANSLATOR AND LUTHERAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/devotion-for-the-thirty-ninth-fortieth-and-forty-first-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Exodus and Hebrews, Part III: The Supremacy of Christ Jesus   1 comment

christ-pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image Source = Edal Anton Lefterov

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jesus-Christ-from-Hagia-Sophia.jpg)

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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 9:29-10:20

Psalm 34 (Morning)

Psalms 25 and 91 (Evening)

Hebrews 3:1-19

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Some Related Posts:

Hebrews 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/18/week-of-1-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/prayer-for-tuesday-of-passion-weekholy-week/

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It is true that Moses was trustworthy in the household of God, as a servant is, acting as witness to the things which were yet to be revealed, but Christ is trustworthy as a son is, over his household.  And we are his household, as long as we maintain the hope in which we glory.

–Hebrews 3:5-6, The New Jerusalem Bible

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[Aaron and Miriam] came forward; and [the LORD] said, “Hear these My words:  When a prophet of the LORD arises among you, I make Myself known to him in a vision, I speak with him in a dream.  Not so with my servant Moses; he is trusted throughout My household.  With him I speak mouth to mouth, plainly and not in riddles, and he beholds the likeness of the LORD.  How then did you not shrink from speaking against My servant Moses?”  Still incensed with them, the LORD departed.

–Numbers 12:5b-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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In Exodus 10 we find a new wrinkle in the narrative:  Courtiers of the Pharaoh criticize him for his obstinancy.  They understood what he ought to do.  Confronting such a monarch was no small risk, and this was no sympathetic king.

Moses, meanwhile, was faithful to God’s instructions.  This is a point the author (probably the Elohist–E) wanted the audience to understand.  It was a point the author of the Letter to the Hebrews grasped.  In Hebrews Jesus was greater than the prophets (1:1-4), the angels (1:5-2:18), and Moses (3:1-6), who was very close to God.  Moses was great, but he was only a servant in the household of faith, a household with Jesus built (3:2, 3, and 5).

We who have read the Bible know the outline of the rest of the story.  Yes, God will liberate the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.  (The name of the book isExodus!)  But almost immediately afterward the troubles will start.  Grumbling will ensue.  People will express nostalgia for Egypt.  And the next generation will be the one to enter the Promised Land.  The liberated generation will not enter the Promised Land because it will not believe and will not abandon its slave mentality.  It will not enter the Promised Land because it will insist on hardening its collective heart.

Likewise, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote, Christians ought not to harden their hearts.  Our Promised Land is spiritual, not geographical.  And Jesus, whose Hebrews name translated directly into English is Joshua, will lead us there.  The parallels between the Old Testament and the New Testament are beautiful, are they not?

This is a devotion for Tuesday in Holy Week.  This day has meaning only in relation to subsequent days, namely Maundy/Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday.  Most of all it derives meaning from its position relative to Easter Sunday, for that Sunday gives us a Resurrected Jesus, not a dead one.  As scholars of the New Testament observe accurately, the point of perspective in the canonical Gospels is a post-Resurrection one.  And that is appropriate.  We Christians follow a Resurrected Lord and Savior, not a dead Messiah.  We follow him, who is superior wo even the greatest figure of the Hebrew Scriptures.  We follow the one of whom St. Paul the Apostle wrote

But what were once my assets I now through Christ Jesus count as losses.  Yes, I will go further:  because of the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, I count everything as loss.  For him I have accepted the loss of all other things, and look on them as filth if only I can gain Christ and be given a place in him….

(Sorry for the ellipses, but the text is a run-on sentence in The New Jerusalem Bible.  The citation is Philippians 3:7-9a.)

St. Paul summarized the case well; I cannot do better.  So I encourage you, O reader, to ponder the supremacy of Christ during all weeks, but especially during Holy Week, and to do so while remembering St. Paul’s words from Philippians 3.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 30, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EUSEBIUS OF CAESAREA, HISTORIAN AND ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF APOLO KIVEBULAYA, ANGLICAN EVANGELIST

THE FEAST OF JOACHIM NEANDER, GERMAN REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPHINE BUTLER, WORKER AMONG WOMEN

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/devotion-for-the-thirty-sixth-day-of-lent-tuesday-in-holy-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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