It took a year to read the Bible, then almost 9 months to read the Apocrypha. Now, I'm going to try to offer reflections on the Narrative Lectionary. But, I won't be posting daily--at least, for a while.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Reflection on readings for February 6

Hear, O Lord,
and be gracious to me!
O Lord,
be my helper!
(Psalm 30:10)

Exodus 23:14-25:40

For several chapters, Moses has been relaying the Lord's instructions to the people, what they need to know about how they are to live in the land promised to them. In the passage we are reading today, Moses returns to the top of the mountain where he had heard the Lord speak the Ten Commandments (He'll get the stone tablets in Ch 31). He is accompanied part way by elders, but the Lord calls him to come up alone.

The Lord says to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain. Wait there. I will furnish instructions to ensure community.

Moses climbed up the mountain. 

Do we have holy places today? How do we discern God's will for us? Are we willing to climb a mountain to find out what God wants us to do? How important is community to us anyway?

Moses came up the mountain alone as the Lord had instructed him. The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. A cloud covered the mountain. A fire appeared. (Remember that from the beginning of their journey, the presence of the Lord has been visible to them through a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night; see Exodus 13:21-22).

God appears on the mountain. But, God is not restricted to the mountaintop. God moves with them, leads them.

In these verses in Exodus, only Moses is allowed to get close. Although God's presence is visible to the others, Moses is needed to be the communicator with them.

What do we do with this? We think we can approach God directly. We consider some places to be holier than others, but we believe we can pray to God wherever we are.

Matthew 24:29-51
Jews had been awaiting the coming of the Messiah. The early Christians identify Christ as the Messiah had expected him to return in their lifetimes. In speaking to them, Matthew is addressing our needs and concerns as well. "No one knows when; so, stay ready."

Jewish hope and Christian hope had (can I say "has"?) been for a Messiah to come to rescue them from their earthly enemies and troubles by setting things right. No more war. No more poverty. No more oppression. No more sin.

If we think that the Messiah is coming immediately and will end the world as we know it, we might be tempted just to sit around and wait for that event. But, that attitude might interfere with our living our lives the way God intends.

With the rescue, Matthew ties in judgment. He cites the examples of many who had been living lives not in accordance with the ways of the Lord. He warns, "If they had known when, they would have prepared; so, you be ready."

Someone once told me the difference between prophetic and apocalyptic texts is that prophecy is telling us to change, but apocalypse is saying that it's too late to do anything about it, just hold on, it's almost over. Then someone else later told me that the prophets were also calling for perseverance and the apocalyptics were also calling for repentance. Whoever is right about that, I am hearing both repentance and perseverance in Matthew's text. And, I think both attitudes are appropriate for us to assume.

Psalm 30:1-12
"O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the pit."

We can pray this psalm of gratitude for the healing that God has provided us.

And not just healing from physical diseases. Sheol is that lowest of places, a separation from all friends, a separation even from God. We are in Sheol at those moments of greatest distress and isolation.

But, even in Sheol, we remember our Lord.

Prayer for Today: Hear, Lord, and grant me grace. Lord, become helper to me. You have turned my dirge to a dance for me, undone my sackcloth and bound me with joy. O, let my heart hymn You and be not still, Lord, my God, for all time I acclaim You. (Psalm 30:11-13, A Translation with Commentary, The Book of Psalms, Robert Alter)

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