Friday, January 25, 2013

The Challenge continues, Day 19: Genesis 49-50; Psalm 17; Matthew 17

Setting the scene for the next stage of the journey, or how to find a shekel in a fish...
Israel dies in Egypt, and his body is preserved for return to the Promised Land
Israel, himself, is dying. All his children, and their families, are now safe from famine in Egypt. All of Joseph's dreams have come true. We have reached the end of this stage of the journey, and God is about to compose the next chapter. As well, in the Gospel, Jesus takes Peter, James and John up the mountain and there unfolds his followers' experience of his transfiguration. This moment stands at the crux of the Gospel stories, with their descent signaling the switch from Jesus' earthly sojourn in ministry and his beginning to focus more strongly on his fate, that the Son of Man must suffer and die in order to rise again. We are entering into a time of suspension, and tension. We are caught in the in between of these two great sagas of God's love for us. Sitting here this morning, I can feel that sense of suspension as an almost physical sensation. I want to read ahead. I want to see and experience what I know is going to happen, both the bad and the good. And yet, the readings leave me hanging. The next stage of our journey through the Bible has to wait until tomorrow, and the following weeks.

Two things to ponder...not everything is given to every generation in our creation's journey in God's purpose for us; and, we only get to see a portion of that purpose revealed in our lifetime, but God's fidelity to that purpose is manifest in the continuing revelation of grace in our walk with the Divine.

Joseph and Israel offer us their great "exeunt" speeches. Each counsels the the assembled family to be true to themselves, to embrace reconciliation with God and each other and to hold on to their connections to each other and to God. The tension of being caught up in the middle of an unresolved story is seen in the separation of the remains of Joseph and Israel. Israel is buried next to his wife, parents and grandparents in Canaan. Joseph's remains are kept in Egypt, with a promise made by his brothers that they will one day be returned, with their descendants, to the Promised Land. Hold on...more to come!

In the same tension, Jesus' telling his disciples to hold on to the memory of the transfiguration until after the Son of Man is raised, and his frustration with their lack of faith, tells us that the vast work of incarnation experience is no where near fulfillment. We are still seeing Jesus in the process of deepening his revelation as the Son. He heals, he teaches and he mends...

My tidbit for the day, a shekel in a fish?...when Jesus and his disciples return to Capernaum, the people who collect the temple tax ask Peter is Jesus has paid his half-shekel. Peter says yes, without counsel from Jesus and then Jesus asks a "render taxes" teaching. We live in the world as children of God, but in order to NOT offend, fulfill your obligations. We are in the world, but not of it. Jesus puts that concept into a physical, tangible form...and tells Peter to go catch a fish and use the shekel he will find in its mouth to pay the tax for both of them. In the grand expanse of God reconciling creation into union with the Creator we see this small, intimate aside. God is with us at both the cosmic scale, and in the immediate moments that we have in the day to day.

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