Archive for the ‘Ark of the Covenant’ Tag

Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Ark in Jerusalem

Above:  David Brings the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

Jesus and Uzzah

DECEMBER 21 and 22, 2017

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

With your abundant grace and might,

free us from the sin that would obstruct your mercy,

that willingly we may bear your redeeming love to all the world,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Samuel 6:1-11 (Thursday)

2 Samuel 6:12-19 (Friday)

Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26 (Both Days)

Hebrews 1:1-4 (Thursday)

Hebrews 1:5-14 (Friday)

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Your love, O LORD, for ever will I sing;

from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness.

For I am persuaded that your love is established for ever;

you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens.

–Psalm 89:1-12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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God, I am convinced, does not change, but human perceptions of God do.  They have transformed, in fact.  The Bible records some of those inconstant perceptions of the divine.

Consider, for example, the Ark of the Covenant, O reader.  It was a tangible link to the intangible God.  Unfortunate Uzzah, out of piety, reached out to steady the Ark, which oxen were causing to tip.  He died.  2 Samuel 6:7 tells us that God was angry with Uzzah and struck him dead.  That verse does not reflect my understanding of God.

Later in 2 Samuel 6 King David danced immodestly in public.  Michal’s scorn was justified.  The author of the text seemed to have a different opinion.

In contrast to the deity who allegedly struck Uzzah dead, we have a high Christological text in Hebrews 1:1-14.  Jesus, the reflection of the divine glory, is greater than the angels, it says.  Yet people touched Jesus and found healing, not death.  He was God in the flesh (however that worked), among people, dining in homes, and weeping.  Although the scriptures do not record any such incident, I think it likely that he had some deep belly laughs.  In Jesus, my faith tells me, I see God.

Uzzah should have lived a few centuries later, for Jesus would have blessed him.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CAMPBELL AINGER, ENGLISH EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AEDESIUS, PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; AND SAINT FRUDENTIUS, FIRST BISHOP OF AXUM AND ABUNA OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH

THE FEAST OF THE VICTIMS OF THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/jesus-and-uzzah/

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Week of 5 Epiphany: Monday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  Solomon Dedicates the Temple

“…to this day”

FEBRUARY 10, 2020

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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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Once again I have changed translations, something I do from time to time.  It is good to read biblical texts, especially ones with which one is familiar in one version, in a different one.  The act of translating a biblical text out of its original language is also one of interpreting it, for there are shades of meaning in ancient Hebrew and Greek.  Which shade of meaning does one emphasize? So a very helpful way of reading the texts, which I like to type out, is to have at least one other translation available and to compare and contrast the renderings.

The versions I use for this week are:

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985), of the Jewish Publication Society,

and

The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972), by J. B. Phillips.

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1 Kings 8:1-13 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Then Solomon convoked the elders of Israel–all the heads of the tribes and the ancestral chieftains of the Israelites–before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD from the City of David, that is, Zion.

All the men of Israel gathered before King Solomon at the Feast, in the month of Ethanim–that is, the seventh month.  When all the elders of Israel had come, the priests lifted the Ark and carried up the Ark of the LORD.  Then the priests and the Levites brought the Tent of Meeting and all the holy vessels that were in the Tent.  Meanwhile, King Solomon and and the whole community of Israel, who were assembled with him before the Ark, were sacrificing sheep and oxen in such abundance that they could not be numbered or counted.

The priests brought the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant to its place underneath the wings of the cherubim, in the Shrine of the House, in the Holy of Holies; for the cherubim had their wings spread out over the place of the Ark, so that the Cherubim shielded the Ark and its poles from above.  The poles projected so that the ends of the poles were visible in the sanctuary in front of the Shrine, bu they could not be seen outside; and there they remain to this day.  There was nothing inside the Ark but the two tablets of stone which Moses placed there at Horeb, when the LORD made [a covenant] with the Israelites after the departure from the land of Egypt.

When the priests came out of the sanctuary–for the cloud had filled the House of the LORD and the priests were not able to remain and perform the service because of the cloud, for the Presence of the LORD filled the House of the LORD–then Solomon declared:

The LORD has chosen

To abide in a thick cloud:

I have now built for You

A stately House,

A place where You

May dwell forever.

Psalm 132:6-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

6  “The ark!”  We heard it was in Ephratah;

we found it in the fields of Jearim.

7  Let us go to God’s dwelling place;

let us fall upon our knees before his footstool.”

8  Arise, O LORD, into your resting-place,

you and the ark of your strength.

9  Let your priests be clothed with righteousness;

let your faithful people sing with joy.

10  For your servant David’s sake,

do not turn away the face of your Anointed.

Mark 6:53-56 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

And when they had crossed over to the other side of the lake they landed at Gennesaret and tied up there.  As soon as they came ashore, the people recognised Jesus and rushed all over the countryside and began to carry the sick around on their beds to wherever he was.  Wherever he went, in villages or towns or hamlets, they laid down their sick right in the marketplaces and begged him that they might “just touch the edge of this cloak”.  And all those who touched him were healed.

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The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 5 Epiphany:  Monday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/week-of-5-epiphany-monday-year-1/

Matthew 14 (Parallel to Mark 6):

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

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From June 1982 to June 1985 my father served as pastor of the Hopewell United Methodist Church, outside Baxley, Georgia, on Red Oak Road, in Appling County.  I was in the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Grades at the time.  Being young and generally well-trained, I deferred to my elders much of the time, even when I knew they were factually mistaken.  Some of my Sunday School teachers were poorly informed, yet I stayed quiet when I heard them make a basic mistake, such as what the “ninth hour” was in relation to Christ’s crucifixion.  One Sunday School teacher did not know that this was 3:00 P.M., for example.  And at least one Sunday School teacher misinterpreted “to this day” references in the Bible to apply to the early 1980s.

1 Kings 8:8 uses “to this day” to refer to the position of the Ark of the Covenant’s position (and the position of its poles) in the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s Temple.  Yet Solomon’s Temple has not stood since 587/586 B.C.E., and the Ark of the Covenant had ceased to be at the Temple before then.  So “to this day” helps one date the writing of that verse.  The statement was accurate when the author wrote that line.  As a history buff, I find such markers quite helpful.

The reading from 1 Kings 8 is part of the description of Solomon’s dedication of the First Temple.  The lesson conveys a sense of great mystery and reverence, down to the cloud, an indication of the divine presence, filling the House of the LORD.  I do not know what actually happened, for the prose poet in me suspects that words were inadequate to describe well what really occurred.  But it was, simply put, mystical.  That satisfies me.

Yet God seems both close and distant in 1 Kings 8.  “God is here, so we cannot perform our service,” the priests seemed to have said to themselves in Hebrew.  As a Christian, I believe in approaching God with reverence, but consider God approachable nonetheless.  God has come to us as a baby who grew up and became a craftsman who worked with stone and wood.  This craftsman also healed many people (as in the reading from Mark), uttered many wise sayings and great moral truths, suffered, died, rose from the dead, and atoned for human sins.

By the act of the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth, God approached us, so I feel free to approach God–reverently, of course, but quite personally.  In fact, my preferred way of addressing God is “You.”  I mean the second person singular and informal pronoun; if I were speaking in French, I would call God Tu, a practice consistent with every French translation of the Bible I have seen.

God has approached us.  That is true to this day, Monday, June, 20, 2011, when I write these words, and afterward.  A reciprocal response is appropriate and respectful.  That is also true to this day.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/to-this-day/

Week of 3 Epiphany: Tuesday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  A Jewish High Priest; His Ephod is Yellow

Family Squabbles

JANUARY 28, 2020

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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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2 Samuel 6:12-19 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And it was told King David,

The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.

So David sent and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; and when those who bore the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling.  And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was belted with a linen ephod.  So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the horn.

As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart.  And they brought in the ark of the LORD and set it in its place, inside the tent which David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts, and distributed among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins.   Then all the people departed, each to his house.

Psalm 24:7-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7  Lift up your heads, O Gates;

lift them high, O everlasting doors;

and the King of glory shall come in.

8  “Who is this King of glory?”

“The LORD, strong and mighty,

the LORD, mighty in battle.”

9  Lift up your heads, O gates;

lift them high, O everlasting doors;

and the King of glory shall come in.

10  “Who is he, this King of glory?”

“The LORD of hosts,

he is the King of glory.”

Mark 3:31-35 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And his mother and his brethren came; and standing outside they sent to him and called him.

Your mother and your brethren are outside, asking for you.

And he replied,

Who are my mother and my brethren?

And looking around on those who sat about him, he said,

Here are my mother and my brethren.  Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 3 Epiphany:  Tuesday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/week-of-3-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

O Blessed Mother:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/o-blessed-mother/

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Sometimes Michal gets a bad rap.  She had loved David, but how much did David love her?  Michal, a daughter of Saul, had married David then protected her husband from her father in 1 Samuel.  But politics, namely David’s rebellion, intervened, and Saul married her off to one Paltiel, who apparently adored her.  Nevertheless, in 2 Samuel 3, David demanded Michal back–this time as one of several wives–and Ish-bosheth, her brother, consented to the demand, much to Paltiel’s grief and disappointment.

In 2 Samuel 6 David is established as King of Israel, with Jerusalem as his capital city.  He is celebrating the transfer of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.  He is doing this while wearing an ephod–basically an apron–and nothing else–while dancing then performing priestly functions.  David was sometimes so devoted to lofty ideas that he forgot royal dignity, but Michal, a born princess, could not forget royal dignity.  By the way, an argument between Michal and David rounds out the chapter.  The two are married in name only from this point forward.

David seemed not to care how foolish he looked; dishonor did not matter to him in this context.  Sometimes, however, there is much to say for decorum, or at least wearing something beneath one’s ephod.

I side with Michal.

Meanwhile, in Mark, Mary and some of our Lord’s “brethren” (probably children of Joseph and Mary–why not?) are concerned that Jesus might, in the words of Cotton Patch Gospel, might be talking to the man upstairs while living in a one-story house.  If anyone should have known better, it was Mary.  At least her heart was in the right place.

I side with Jesus, without condemning Mary and her children.

Nevertheless, there is a transcendent message here.  Sometimes, in our obedience to God, we will act in ways which concern others.   Some of the Hebrew prophets were truly marginal characters–eating scrolls, walking around naked, et cetera.  They were either holy or in need of psychiatric care.  And, in modern terms, that was the concern Mary and her children had regarding Jesus.  But he was quite well.

Mary and her children misunderstood Jesus.  Often the people we misunderstand the most are those who are closest to us.  Notice, however, that Jesus did not reject them.  Rather, he expanded the definition of family to make it spiritual, not just emotional and genetic.

So my brothers and sisters are those who do the will of God, as Jesus knew and understood God.  It is a large family, one in which squabbles take place.  These are, however, family squabbles.  That said, family squabbles can be quite destructive, so may there be fewer of them.  Instead, may there be more understanding and attempts at reconciliation, so that the family will be more functional.

And may the peace making begin with you, O reader, and with me.  (Conventions of the English language do dictate that I place “you” before “me.”)

KRT

Week of 1 Epiphany: Thursday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  Nazis and the Ark of the Covenant, in a screen capture from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Overconfidence and Misplaced Confidence

JANUARY 16, 2020

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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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1 Samuel 4:1c-11 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines; they encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek.  The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who slew about four thousand men on the field of battle.  And when the troops came to the camp, the elders of Israel said,

Why has the LORD put us to rout today before the Philistines?  Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD here from Shiloh, that he may come among us from the power of our enemies.

So the people sent to Shiloh, and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, who is enthroned upon the cherubim; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

When the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded.  And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said,

What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?

And when they learned that the ark of the LORD had come to the camp, the Philistines were afraid; for they said,

A god has come into the camp.

And they said,

Woe to us!  For nothing like this has happened before.  Woe to us!  Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods?  These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness.  Take courage, and acquit yourselves like men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; acquit yourselves like men and flight.

So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, every man to his home; and there was a very great slaughter, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers.  And the ark of God was captured; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.

Psalm 44:7-14, 23-26 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7  Surely, you gave us victory over our adversaries

and put those who hate us to shame.

8  Every day we gloried in God,

and we will praise your Name for ever.

9  Nevertheless, we have rejected and humbled us

and do not go forth with our armies.

10  You have made us fall back before our adversary,

and our enemies have plundered us.

11  You have made us like sheep to be eaten

and have scattered us among the nations.

12  You are selling your people for a trifle

and are making no profit on the sale of them.

13  You have made us the scorn of our neighbors,

a mockery and derision to those around us.

14  You have made us a byword among the nations,

a laughing-stock among the peoples.

23  Awake, O Lord!  why are you sleeping?

Arise!  do not reject us for ever.

24  Why have you hidden your face

and forgotten our affliction and oppression?

25  We sink down into the dust;

our body cleaves to the ground.

26  Rise up, and help us,

and save us, for the sake of your steadfast love.

Mark 1:40-45 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And a leper came to him begging him, and kneeling said to him,

If you will, you can make me clean.

Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him,

I will; be clean.

And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.  And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, and said to him,

See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.

But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

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The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 1 Epiphany:  Thursday, Year 1:

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

Matthew 8 (Parallel to Mark 1):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/week-of-proper-7-friday-year-1/

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1 Samuel 3:1b sets the stage for this day’s reading from Chapter 4.  Consider this short text:

And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.

The Ark of the Covenant was powerful, mysterious, revered, and feared object.  Many Israelites believed that its presence at a battle made their army invincible, and the Philistines, who were accustomed to thinking in polytheistic terms, feared that this was true.  But the Philistines fought through their fear while the Israelites went into battle with misplaced confidence.

What happened next?

  1. The Philistines discovered the power of the ark for themselves, so they returned it.
  2. Eli died.
  3. Samuel succeeded him as priest, prophet, and judge.

That summarizes the portion of 1 Samuel we will skip over in the lectionary.

Back to the main idea now…

The narrative of much of the Old Testament, written in the historically-themed books with the benefit of hindsight, is that YHWH smiles upon worshiping him alone (not as part of a pantheon) and working for social justice, much of which is economic.  God, in the Bible, frowns upon polytheism and economic exploitation.  Consider the words of Hebrew prophets in relation to why a Hebrew nations rises or falls.  The Hebrews were supposed to be a light to the nations; they were not supposed to blend in with them.

Yet, as we read in 1 Samuel 3:1b,

And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.

Many in the Confederate States of America believed honestly that God had ordained the institution of slavery.  So, they thought, those who argued from the Bible against the Peculiar Institution were heretics, and God would surely grant the Confederacy victory in the Civil War.  The Confederacy’s loss therefore left many of these partisans puzzled.  Surely, they told themselves, slavery was still ordained by God, so maybe they had carried it out in the wrong way.  They were not only overconfident; they also had misplaced confidence.

In my nation, the United States of America, income inequality has become much more pronounced in the last few decades.  Ironically, many of the most Social Darwinian defenders of those who have aided and abetted this transfer of wealth are would-be theocrats, self-appointed experts in morality.  Yes, they are quick to condemn sins of the flesh yet oblivious to the sin of economic exploitation.  These are false prophets.  When they speak, the word of the LORD is not heard in the land; their religion is one variety of what Karl Marx understood correctly as the opiate of the masses.  Yet there is a true religion, one which is a liberator, not an opiate, of the masses.  Eli, Samuel, John the Baptist, Jesus of Nazareth, Paul of Tarsus, Francis of Assisi, Menno Simons, and Walter Rauschenbusch were prophets of this religion.  May we hear, understand, and obey, for the common good.  May we neither place in confidence in the wrong places nor become complacent.  And may God save us from ourselves.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/overconfidence-and-misplaced-confidence/