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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Here we go!

Like thinking of a snappy, perfect retort two days after someone insults you, it is forever my bane to see much more clearly what i should have told the Redwoods Sunday school class in the week following my getting to teach them.  We were looking at the Jewish Calendar as God and Moses laid it down in Leviticus 23 and 25.  And i saw as through a glass darkly part of what i see now so they got a tidbit of this, but not the whole enchilada i see now, with mole sauce, salsa and sour cream.

The Jewish year began in the Spring.  In the time of sowing seed.  In the time of new birth.  A new growing season, new life all around, wildflowers and trees blooming and sprouting, the weather warming, the snows retreating, lambs and kids frolicking and even baby goats!  In this time God calls his people out of slavery, out of death, he calls his firstborn, his chosen son and says, 'You are my beloved, in whom I AM well pleased.'  He buys his firstborn out of death and slavery with the blood of his own firstborn.  The Lamb of God is sacrificed and feeds his people for the start of their journey.  His blood covers them, the angel of death passes over them and spares them for the sake of the Lamb of God.  The bread they eat has no yeast, no sin, because the work done is all Jesus'.  All righteous, not mixed or mitigated by selfish motives.

Then comes the blessed day when they are finally able to gather the first fruits of the harvest, early results, the first ripenings of this year whenever they came.  Decided completely by God!  No date could be given for this.  The first fruit of life!  The first gift!  Waved in the air by the priest before God.  A lamb again sacrificed.  No bread, no roasted grain, no meal.  This offering is totally consumed by fire, devoted to destruction before God as a pleasing aroma.  Christ, raised up in the air by the priests, cut off, no descendants, buried in a tomb.  A pleasing sacrifice to God, a promise of things yet to come.

Then seven sevens counted off, a number of perfection, completion.  The feast of weeks!  Pentecost!  The first harvest!  The lamb is sacrificed with bulls and rams and goats and fellowship offerings and sin offerings and now the work is taken up.  The church, messy and chaotic and mixed with sin, bread with yeast, our work is beginning!  The Spirit gives us fruit!  Eat, feast, the journey is too great for you!

Then, at the end of the season, a ram's horn is blown.  A shofar.  The feast of trumpets.  On the first day of the seventh month, at the time of completion, an announcement, a call to arms, a call to assembly and remembrance.  A herald of God the King coming!  Thus begins the time of testing to see what is in the hearts of men.  Ten days, ten commandments, ten plagues, the number of testing, leads us to...

The Day of Atonement.  The day of judgment.  The terrible day of the Lord!  The Harvest is brought in.  The reaping is done.  When the books of Life and Death are opened and all deeds are made known.  When the sheep are separated from the goats.  The temple is entered by our great high priest and we are atoned for by his blood.

But that is not the end!  Oh no!  Not by a long shot!  For just five short days later, the Sabbath begins the Feast of Tabernacles!  The Feast of Booths!  The seven days of celebration of the time when we lived in skin tents, wandering the wilderness, led by God, led by faith, before we entered this beautiful land where we inherited fields and vineyards we did not have to plant!  Before we lived in the Kingdom!  A week of festival and joy and celebration and craziness living in the streets where everyone shares and dances and feasts and remembers and tells the story of what God has done!

God has been telling the same story all along.  He weaves it into everything he does, everything He's created.  Are we seeing it?  Are we remembering it?  Are we telling it to our children and our children's children?  Are we celebrating?

Today is Fat Tuesday.  A feast designed as the antithesis of what God does.  God's gonna make us fast for forty days of Lent, let's party while we still can.  i don't much care for that story.  It's man's story.  It's short sighted.  It sees neither what God has done nor what He is going to do.  And that's not the story i want to be a part of.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Faith, it's what's for dinner. (i swear i've used that title a half dozen times.)

"In the meanwhile the disciples were asking him, saying, “Rabbi, eat something!” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”"  John 4

Why didn't Jesus eat?  The woman was gone.  It would be a while before the rest of the villagers came.  Doesn't seem to be anything going on, what would be the logical reason for refusing food at that point?  i don't get the impression 1st century peasants in the Middle East ate anywhere near as much as we Americans peasants do twenty centuries later.  Maybe i'm wrong but while wandering on the dusty road by foot, i'm guessing they didn't eat three squares a day.  So anytime food was offered i'm gonna guess they didn't pass.  "No thanks, man, I had a sticky bun and a sardine three days ago, i'm stuffed."  So why does Jesus take a rain check on the food he sent the twelve into town to get in the first place?  He seemed to see what was coming.  Crowds.  Two days of preaching.  Why would he want to weaken his body?

"So the disciples began to say to one another, “No one brought him anything to eat, did they?” Jesus said to them, “My food is that I do the will of the one who sent me and complete his work."  John 4

 i'm not saying i know, but the only reason i can think of is because he didn't necessarily see what was coming.  He is God but as a man, it seems his foreknowledge was not always perfect.  The Spirit showed him and told him some things but not everything.  We don't know when.  We don't know how.  He was in communion with God, yes, but he still got off by himself to pray.  He used the same channels you and i use to speak with the Father.  To listen to the Father.  To be in communion with His Father.  He prayed.

And he fasted.  He had just pulled the pin on a grenade and sent it back into town in the form of a woman in the joyous shock of having possibly just met the Messiah of God!  Like the messengers He chose to send news of His resurrection, Jesus chooses this woman to be the herald to her own people.  Now, it seems to me, he is fasting and praying upon the outcome.  That God would be exalted by the good news spreading and changing more hearts than just this one.  That the harvest would produce fruit.  He's no longer alone but that doesn't mean he can't discipline his body, submit it to his eagerness to the work.  Every pang of his stomach only serves to sharpen his vision as he gazes down the road and prays for the ears about to hear.  After a long day of walking in the heat, food may make him drowsy.  He wants his wit for the work, both the work of praying and the hoped for work of receiving the hopeful.  For this time, he did not have to send someone healed of a physical disease.  The crowds, if they came, would come seeking the cure for the spiritual, not the bodily ailments.  They would come perhaps just to see and hear a prophet, but to hear the words of God.  They wouldn't be dragging along everyone afflicted with everything from leprosy to restless leg syndrome.  They would come seeking God.

But i wonder too.  Is that all?  Did angels minister to him as they did to Elijah?  i don't know.  Maybe they did or maybe the joy that comes from being exactly who God made you to be, doing exactly what He made you to do completely cancels out, at least temporarily, all other needs and considerations.  Can we be so filled with the Spirit that we are full?  Can it be that actually loving God and obeying him can drive out the sins we cling to?  The idols we find so hard to throw away?  The fragile identities we cultivate so carefully?  The identities and comforts and treasures of this world we so hunger and thirst for?  

"Blessed are the ones who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    because they will be satisfied."  Matt 5