Saturday, February 09, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 34: Exodus 37-39; Psalm 29; Mark 2

Living up to expectations...
We are reaching the end of Exodus, and with that we are revisiting the construction and work orders God issued for the construction of the place of meeting. This curtain should be such-and-so, while this table should measure this, and these items shall be constructed of that....these passages are both overwhelming in their accounting of the scope of the work accomplished in the making of these furnishings, and off-putting. I keep thinking of these folks in the desert. They are far from homes they cannot return to and on their way to a place they have been promised, but have never seen. They are living on flint-rock water, manna and the occassional desert quail. In the midst of these challenges, they take up collections of materials that will form the sanctuary for the place of meeting. They pull it all together, and make it just as God has asked of them. It is beautiful. It is frustrating, because I want the narrative to move on. I want them to get on...but first things first, and God's priorities for us are not always the ones that we assume, are they?

The second chapter of Mark, and the continuation of Jesus' debut of his earthly ministry, seeks to have that point sink in, among the faithful as well as among Jesus' critics and detractors. He hasn't been preaching, teaching and healing for long. He hasn't even told his first parable, and yet some folks who note that he seems to be working across the grain of their expectations of a holy person are already grumbling and kvetching about his way of being and leading.

Jesus is impressed by the loyalty and faith of a crippled man's companions, who are willing to remove a roof from a dwelling to gain their friend access to the teacher. Seeing their devotion, he expulses that the man's sins are forgiven, and kindles outrage among the "text-checkers." Only God can forgive sins! OK, so then he heals the man as tell me, which is easier? I will be praying on that one when I stand to pronounce the absolution tomorrow during Sunday services....

As well, the text-checkers note that while John's disciples fast at times (and as the pharisaic tradition dictates), it seems on the face of it that Jesus' disciples do not fast. In fact, someone notices that on the Sabbath as Jesus and his disciples are walking through a field of grain, that some of them pluck a few heads of grain and crack the berries between their teeth for a snack. OUTRAGE! They are working on the Sabbath! Jesus justifies it by saying that one wouldn't expect guests to fast while celebrating with the bridegroom...and besides, the Sabbath was made for humans, not the other way around. Even David ate the bread of the presence (forbidden) when he and his men were starving and on the run....

Finally, this Jesus sits down to eat with tax collectors and sinners at Levi's house, thus igniting the great controversy of identity that churches will continue to struggle with until Christ's second coming...who belongs at the table with Jesus? The righteous? The "Faithful?" Surely, not these wretched, unclean and not so holy people! And yet, Jesus invites us all, without regard to the status of our holiness membership cards, to a feast that forgives, cleanses and restores us to a place of rest in God's love.

As I sit here this morning, scripture in hand, I am impressed by God's attention to detail, by Bezalel's incredible skills and by Jesus being willing to confront self-righteousness with love, respect and forgiveness. On this Sabbath day, as I finish up shoveling snow and typing this missive, I give thanks to a God who in Christ will allow me to crack a few proverbial wheat berries between my teeth as I celebrate a life restored, not because I earned it, but because God chose us for it.

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