Week of 4 Epiphany: Thursday, Year 1   12 comments

Above:  Sunrise of Mount Sinai

The Approachable God

FEBRUARY 2, 2017

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Hebrews 12:18-24 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers entreat that no further messages be spoken to them.  For they could not endure the order that was given,

If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.

Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said,

I tremble with fear.

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel.

Psalm 48:1-3, 7-9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised;

in the city of our God is his holy hill.

2 Beautiful and lofty, the joy of all the earth, is the hill of Zion,

the very center of the world and the city of the great King.

3 God is in her citadels;

he is known to be her sure refuge.

7 As we have heard, so have we seen,

in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God;

God has established her for ever.

8 We have waited in silence on your loving-kindness, O God,

in the midst of your temple.

9 Your praise, like your Name, O God, reaches to the world’s end;

your right hand is full of justice.

Mark 6:7-13 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And he called to him the Twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.  He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.  And he said to them,

Where you enter a house, stay there until you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet for a testimony against them.

So they went out and preached that men should repent.  And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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An understanding of the reading from Hebrews requires a firm grasp of the Hebrew Scriptures.  Most of the images come from the accounts of the time during which Moses was on Mount Sinai, communing with God.  The emphasis on the majesty of God led to a sense of terror of a deity perceived as unapproachable.  And the reference to the blood of Abel is to the fact the shedding of his blood led to vengeance, but the shedding of the blood of Jesus leads to reconciliation.

In the reading from Mark Jesus sends out his Apostles.  They are to pack lightly and to trust God to provide their needs.   Not only did God provide the Apostles’ needs, God empowered these men to perform great deeds.

God is majestic, of course, but this reality need not distract us from the approachability of God.  Indeed, God, especially in the form of Jesus, has acted to make approachability plain.  The Incarnation demonstrates approachability in an impressive way.  And sending Apostles out to the people constitutes approachability of a different form.

Lest anyone think that divine approachability is absent from Jewish texts, I refer you to Psalm 121, just to choose a passage off the top of my head:

The LORD is your keeper;

the LORD is your shade

on your right hand.

(verse 5, Revised Standard Version, 1952)

God has approached us in love.  Have we responded?  If so, how?  If we have not done so already, may we respond in love and awe.  May this response be evident in how we think of and treat ourselves and others.  If we have done this already, may we continue to do so.

It is what Jesus would have us do.

KRT

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