Monday, October 31, 2011


Numbers 5

Now here's a chapter I wish I could find a positive spin for.  But, it's just not happening.

Nothing in here about what happens if a woman is jealous and her husband has been cheating on her.  If through this ancient ritual the woman is deemed guilty as the man suspects, then she will suffer the inability to bear children.  In fact whether she's innocent or guilty she will have to suffer being put to the test by drinking dirty water because of her husband's accusation.  The man on the other hand will not bear any guilt for falsely accusing her and putting her through this ordeal.  He will be free from iniquity.  But, what about the marriage?  How will that fare after an ordeal like this?   

I am not real appreciative of this one-sided rule.  Sometimes, there is no positive spin that can be found for some things.  Sometimes, that's just the way it is.  But, this morning's reading is a reminder this morning that neither adultery or jealousy bring about anything that is good. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Carrying Stuff and Bearing Burdens

Numbers 4

To every clan of the Levites, God appointed tasks related to the tent of the meeting.   Different families were designated to carry various parts of the tabernacle as they traveled in the wilderness.  God had a job for everyone between the ages of 30 and 50.   Now that makes me smile just a bit this morning...  I think about the age of workers in most congregations and the majority are not even between the age of 30 and 50.  Thanks be to God, we have people of every age serving God in our congregation.  This morning (Sunday) there will be people from age 8 to 80 plus busy at various modes of service with the congregation.  But, for the most part it is the group that is over 50 or under 14 that you would see most often serving.  Where are all our teens and younger adults?  Did they all move out of town?

Can you imagine following God through the dessert - packing up and carrying the tent of the meeting and then setting it back up again according to God's specific directions over and over again for 40 years?    Others carried their own personal belongings and shelters with them, as well as their children.  Everyone who followed God in the wilderness, would have had tasks to take care of.  Every able body had a burden to carry. 

Everyone who follows Jesus has a task as well.  "Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me."  (Matthew 16:24 NLT)  And he also calls us to serve with a promise:  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30)

I left my parents home almost 40 years ago.  With each passing year, I find that indeed his burden becomes lighter as I learn to trust more and more in Him.  There is much rest - much peace - for the soul when we take up our crosses and follow Him.  But, I must admit, too, that there are days, when I hopefully wonder and pray:  "Have I almost reached the promised land?" 

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Numbers 3

God calls the Levites to service.  Actually, they are more of a substitute sacrifice for the first-born of Israel who did not die when the Lord passed over the first-born of Israel and took the lives of the first-born of all other humans and animals who lived in Egypt.  God wants the whole house of Levi as a substitute for the lives of the first born of Israel that he spared in Egypt.  No, the Levites will not die in their place, but they shall belong to God, in order to serve Him.  Their lives will not be there own, they belong to God.

God insisted that there be a payment for the lives of the first-born that were spared in Israel and so two census' were taken.  There were 22,000 Levites and there were 22,273 first-born of Israel.  Since their were more first-born than Levites, in order to make up the difference redemption money, in temple currency, had to be paid.  Moses collected the redemption money and gave it to Aaron and his sons.

That's about as good a synopsis of chapter 3 that I can give in a blog.  Lots of good stuff in this chapter, as long as one can get past trying to figure out who all these children of Jacob (Israel) were.  It's easy to get hung up on that (at least for me) and indeed there is importance in it.  But, for this morning I think it enough to realize that those whose lives were given in exchange for those who were spared, were given in service to God. 

It is way more than enough to understand, that the great High Priest, Jesus the Christ, gave himself in exchange for our lives.  Because of Jesus, because of his blood that marks and seals us the destroyer shall have no power over us and we shall live.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Military Strategy In The Wilderness

Numbers 1-2

As I read these first two chapters of Numbers I was reminded of something I have read on a few occasions (I rarely read any thing twice):  "The Art of War," the military strategy of the ancient Chinese General, Sun Tsu.  These first two chapters of Numbers deal with how to defend not just the people of Israel, but the tablernacle, as well.

The men are divided up by families or clans and all the men who are of the age to go to war are counted in a census.  They are essentially drafted.  They are assigned positions of both defense and offense according to their clan.  God assigns a position around the camp for each family unit; each regiment and company.  From these positions they will defend the camp and when they go forth into the wilderness, they will also travel in these same positions prepared for war.   

In the center of this mulitude of people (warriors?) will be the Levites.  If I am understanding the reading properly, they are not for offensive engagement.  They are strictly defensive - to stand guard duty over the tabernacle of the covenant.

I have titled today's blog as Military Strategy In The Wilderness.  I've already mentioned the military strategy part of these first two chapters.  In The Wilderness refers to the first verse in the book; when the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness.  The Hebrew name for the book of Numbers is called Bemidbar which means "in the wilderness."  Being in the wilderness, is the story of Israel.  It is probably a story that most of us recognize as our own, as well; if we would take an honest look back at where our life's journey has taken us and where we find ourselves today.  In the wilderness, we would be lost without the presence of God (and probably have been a few times when we turned away from God's presence).  In the wilderness, we are in imminent danger without the guidance and direction of God.  God is with us in this wilderness and has provided a strategy that we might be protected from all evil, harm and danger.  That strategy was implemented through Jesus the Christ, God with us, Emmanuel. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gifts or Taxes

Leviticus 27

We finally come to the end of Leviticus and will begin Numbers tomorrow.  For me, these are the two hardest books to get through.  But, we have completed one of them.  Hopefully, we have learned something from Leviticus. 

This closing chapter speaks about vows, dedicated gifts, to the Lord.  Now apparently, if you dedicate some of your property and change your mind about the gift you gave, you can buy it back.  But, it appears to me that you have to pay interest to get it back, cost plus 1/5 of value.  As I was reading about the equivalents and apportionments to be paid, it kind of made me feel like I do when I'm reading about the tax laws in this country.  Really confused!

I am not too sure about verse 29, either.  It's one of the things that really makes me uncomfortable as I don't understand it and it sure doesn't sound good.  What exactly does it mean:  "No human beings who have been devoted to destruction can be ransomed; they shall be put to death."?

Here ends the reading regarding the commandments that LORD gave to Moses for the people of Israel on Mount Sinai.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Leviticus 26

     Hmmm....  Reminds me of a conversation I had this past week regarding whom we should fear.  Young people (and old) sometimes like to act tough and run roughshod over others.
     Truth is:  God is Almighty.  If you're going to fear anyone - that would be God.  We should fear, love, and trust God above all things.  (Small Catechism - 10 Commandments)
     Truth is:  Some people just really get into trying to bully and intimidate others - they seem to enjoy causing fear in others.  Their acts of intimidation are lame.  They are not gods, even though they would try to make one of themselves.  They are simply trying to intimidate others because of their own fears and inadequacies.
     The real truth is that we should not fear things of this world.  The demons feared and fell down before Jesus.  They knew who he really was.  Jesus was crucified because the Romans and the Jewish hierarchy feared him - they feared his power and his authority. They didn't want to become worthless in the eyes of the world, themselves.  They like the power they wielded in this world.  Paul was persecuted because he was a follower of Jesus.  He was willing to take up his cross and die for "the way."  All of the disciples were persecuted because they knew the truth and spoke it.  People, even today, are being imprisoned and executed because of what they believe and who they represent does indeed cause fear in those who would persecute them and others.  They are willing to live to live and die under the sign of the cross. 
     2 things: 
          1.  Christians represent Christ.  That's why we're called Christians.
          2.  The only sign that anyone who claims to be Christian should be exhibiting to
          the world is the sign of the cross. 
     Years ago, in a small group I led, that included teen-agers of rival gangs, one of the young men told a story about a gang fight that had been instigated during a worship service.  It started inside the church.  They had each shown up representing - their colors were obvious.  Their was a lot of aggressive non-verbals (gang signing) going on and following worship there was a confrontation.  This young man was actually bragging.  Thankfully, the other members in the group called him on his disrespect to God and to the house of worship by representing anyone or thing, other than Christ.
They let him know that the only sign that belongs in a sanctuary, is that of the cross.
     This is not just true of how a Christian should conduct themselves in a church building.  We are the Church.  Christ abides in us and we in him.  And if that is true for you... why would you even consider representing anyone else in this world? You shall have no other gods.  You shall make for yourself no false idols!
     Well, here you see where I've been this week.  Worrying about God's children who have little to no comprehension who their Father is. Worrying about those who are busy representing other gods, rather than the God who created and redeems them, rather than the only One with real power.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sabbath Rest

Leviticus 25

Even the land shall have a sabbath.  Even the land shall rest!  Now this makes sense to anyone who has farmed or gardens.  The ground needs to be replenished so that it can produce fruitfully.  Every living thing needs to rest from time to time.

I think I missed my personal year of Jubilee.  I'm a bit past 50 years.  Every week, every year, I think next week, next year, I will have the time to rest; I will have real time to just spend time resting in God's presence, without any distractions.  But, these Sabbath rests elude me.  If I want to be alone and aware of God's presence, I really have to get up really early in the mornings to just pray.  No phone calls that way.  With everyone else sleeping there is no one to interrupt this time to have me "do" something.  I can just be.

Well, usually that happens.  My husband just woke up to tell me to go back to bed.  Here's the deal though... Rest does not always mean sleep.  Just like the land, we need replenishing.  Yes, we need to sleep, but to be fully replenished we also need to connect with God, spend time with Him, spend time reading scripture, spend time in prayer with Him, speak to Him and listen to Him! 

In this chapter, God promises that when Israel observes this sabbath time, a year away from working the land, God will provide not only a rest for the land so that the land can be replenished, but he will provide for the needs of the people of Israel.  He will make sure that they are fed and nourished.

There are quite a few ordinances in this chapter regarding sabbath and the year of Jubilee.  As you read them, may God help you to understand that these ordinances were meant to benefit His people. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Remembering and Respect

Leviticus 24

This Saturday, I will be leading a remembrance service as a guest preacher in the cemetery in Covington, MI for all the Saints.  We will then go to the Bethany Lutheran for a dinner, followed by Worship in the sanctuary which will include the dedication of a sanctuary lamp.  There will be a few saints in attendance.  It is a small congregation, presently without a permanent pastor.  As I wonder where the rest of the community will be, I realize that many will be celebrating at Halloween parties, at haunted houses.  So this morning I thank God for all the Saints at Bethany Lutheran who have dedicated a Saturday evening (when others will be out partying or sleeping) to remember the Saints who have gone before us and to come before the Lord to Worship and give Him thanks and praise.

When I first heard about this yearly event, I was not sure what I thought about it.  It's not something I knew as a usual practice for Lutherans.  I appreciate being asked to be a part of it, because I understand that as they gather to remember all the saints it gives them comfort in their grief to remember the promises through Jesus Christ for all who believe, for all who have gone before them.

I feel I must also comment on the blasphemy of the Name of God, again...  It is a more common occurance than most people realize.  Blashemy of His Name, as I teach our youth, is more than just invoking His Name in a curse.  Blasphemy includes any misrepresentation of His Holy Name.  Here it is:  plain and simple.  When we represent ourselves as Christians, as children of God, and then go around representing other false gods (ex:  money, sex, gangs, clubs, self, ego, etc.) with the words of our lips, with our actions, and sometimes even with the clothes that we wear, then we are blaspheming His Holy Name.  Sadly, we have taught our children that it is acceptable.  It is not..  There is only one God.  He is the one who died that we might live.  Do not disrespect or misrepresent the name of the one who gave His life for you.  Bad, bad idea..

May God grant us a greater understanding of the faith that was passed down to us through the many generations preceding us - may we not take it lightly - but with all due respect honor His Holy Name in all that we say and think and do.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Leviticus 23

Holy Convocations...  A convocation is simply this:  a gathering of the people for a specific purpose.  Chapter 23 describes the appointed festival of the Lord, the calling of God's people to gather together for specific holy purposes.

This morning at Zion we will gather together twice to worship and give thanks to God, to glorify His holy name.  This afternoon we will will have another convocation.  We will gather together for another very specific purpose:  to hear the music of some of the most talented musicians in the area, glorify God's holy name and God's work in all the earth.  We will be bringing free-will offerings that will help our youngest neighbors, the children of this county, to celebrate Christmas.  Our offerings will go to the Toys for Tots program, led by Marines (resigned and/or retired - I know - once a Marine always a Marine) of the area.  These men and women will distribute the gifts to the families during the weeks prior to Christmas with the hopes that every child in the county will have a gift to open on Christmas morning.  My prayer is that as we advance toward the Advent and Christmas seasons, all would realize and receive the greatest gift ever given to humankind:  Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

Back to convocations...  I am so glad for the opportunity to mention the convocation I attended yesterday.  Yesterday the Wisconsin/Upper Michigan District of the North American Lutheran Church gathered together for the first time.  What a marvelous time it was as we looked forward to doing mission together; as we planned for a future that included evangelism.  I have never enjoyed a convocation called for planning purposes as much as I did this one.  Thanks be to God!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Glorify His Name

Leviticus 22

You shall not profane my holy name.  Chapter 22 begin and ends with this admonition.  Be very careful to not do anything that will profane the name of the Lord.  Watch how you give your offerings and what offerings you bring.  Be careful.  God's name is holy and the people who have been saved by Him are to make sure that His holiness is represented in their lives, in how they honor and worship him.

I was checking out Facebook pages last night instead of finish painting the living room walls.  It never ceases to amaze me how many Christians take God's name in vain, how God's name is dishonored in the words, in the attitudes, in the lifestyles of so many Christians.  There are times when I probably slip into this category myself.  It does not make it right or good.  I need, we all as Christians, need to be cautious how we represent ourselves, because we are representing the one to whom we have dedicated our lives to.  We really cannot separate our secular lives from our Christian lives.  Christianity is not a social club.  It is a lifestyle and our faith should be reflected in what we say and do outside the church building as well as inside.  We are members of the Church, the Body of Christ and all that we say and think and do should reflect that. 

Everything we say and think and do should be to honor and glorify God's name.  Is it?

May God help us to be more faithful to Him, as He is faithful to us.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Made Holy

Leviticus 21

A few more holiness laws...  Not that there are a lot of them, but there is a great amount of detail given regarding the ones that are there.  Also, seems that God is a little picky regarding who can be called to serve him.  Today, I think we'd call it discrimination.  God has his own ideas of what it is to be unblemished and holy.  We have, it seems, a whole different set.  I'm wondering how things managed to change so much over the years.  I'd say it has something to do with Jesus' attitude toward the lame, the leper, those whom society, even many today, would reject. 

Whenever we discuss holiness laws, I think about the story of Peter's vision in Acts, Chapter 10:9-15 (NIV):

"About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”   The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”"
Just some food for thought this morning.  How did God make these unclean animals clean?  When did He do that?  Why, the change?  I don't know the answers to these questions.  Just a few more things to think about...
Bottom line always is for us though, is that we who were unclean are now clean.  We have been made holy by the blood of Jesus the Christ poured out as he died upon the cross for us. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mediums & Wizards

Leviticus 19 & 20

2 Chapters this morning...  Both have to do with holiness laws and the consequences.  There is a lot in these 2 chapters, but the law regarding mediums and wizards stood out for me. 

It is one of those things that just gets under my skin.  So many people I encounter who profess Christ have no clue that these things of the occult are taboo.  Every now and then someone will tell me what their horoscope for the day is, or they will attempt to tell me what their latest reading from their fortune teller was, or how they got a message from the dead.  The list goes on...  These are Christian people.  They would never consider slandering their neighbor to me.  They know what my response would be. They know better.  But, they are not aware of what my response is going to be when they start telling me about their latest venture into the occult - simply because they don't recognize what they are doing is of the occult.  No one has told them and believe it or not - not everyone who says they believe in Jesus actually opens their Bibles to find out what it says in there.

I usually try tactfully to warn people that dabbling in any aspect of the occult is asking for trouble.  However, every now and then someone will respond trying to minimize the consequences of inviting what is not holy, what is evil, into their lives.  They will try to justify  their dabbling in the occult and my response to that is not always so tactful.  The pastor in me disappears and the prophet comes out with even sterner admonitions. 

If you are one who thinks these things are harmless - think again!  Christians have no business involving themselves in anything that would be of the occult.  There is only one God and it is God alone to whom you should turn.  Keep away from all things occult that will lead you in ways away from the living God.

Other references (NIV): 

Deut 18:10-11 "Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead."

1 Chron 10:13-14  "Saul died because he was unfaithful to the LORD; he did not keep the word of the LORD and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the LORD. So the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse."

Acts 13:8-10  "But Elymas the sorcerer opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, 'You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?'"

May our God who is holy, keep you far from all things that are not holy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sex and Kingdoms

Leviticus 18

I see I forgot to name yesterday's blog.  I think maybe it was because I saw what was in today's chapter!  Churches have been talking about sex a lot this last decade or so (maybe longer and I was just unaware).  Members as well as whole congregations were uncomfortable with discussing it, but it happened anyway.  I discussed sex more in the church once I hit middle age than I had my entire life anywhere else.  This is a good thing according to some.  I disagree.  First off, no one needs to be informed of the particulars of anyone's sex life.  Unless that is, of course, someone feels the desire to discuss their own promiscuity in context of a confession and then it goes no further than the confessional.  Second of all, some of us would rather proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ than think and talk about sex as much as the church on earth has been doing.  Where is the priority?  Where should it be?   

No, I don't think I'm prudish in desiring to talk about Jesus instead of the sex lives of others.  Maybe prudent, as I just think the church has a mission and I don't think that mission includes dividing the church on earth.  It is not part of our mission to divide the wheat from the tares or to decide which are wheat or tares.  The discussions that Lutherans (and other denominations) have been involved in have been dividing.  They have been hurtful to people on every side.  So many congregregations, families, friends divided over sex talks in the church. 

There are times when we must discuss sex.  One of the times that I feel like it is necessary to do so is in confirmation class when we are discussing the commandments - specifically adultery.  No adultery!  I remind our young people that when God joins two people and they become one - they are really joined - they are really one.  For better or worse they will never be separated again so I caution them very strongly to stay far away from pre-marital sex.  Sex is not only a physical, but a spiritual event.  For those two spirits will be intertwined forever.  No matter how many partners they may have in the future, they will take a part of their previous partners into bed with the next and that could be devastating to future relationships and to their own happiness and peace of mind.

I also discuss this intertwining of not just body, but spirit when I am meeting with couples who are planning to marry - to be joined as one.  No adultery!  No promiscuity!  Do not make unholy what God has made holy.  As I've said before in this blog, God did not make up these laws for his sake, but for ours.  There's good reasons for them, even if we don't always quite get the reasons. 

Jesus Christ came to reconcile all people to God in His Kingdom.  If something is threatening to separate you from your first love, the love of God, then don't do it!  If you are so focused on something that is of this world that you have forgotten about the pleasure to be found in the presence of God in His Kingdom, then please consider where your priorities (your treasures) really are. Yes, God gave us life here on earth to live abundantly.  We should enjoy that life.  But, don't forget to live that life in God's presence.  That is where you will find real joy.

This is getting long, but a story....  Years ago while teaching a confirmation class, one of the young people asked me why they should want to be saved and go to heaven.  "What's so good about heaven?" she asked.  Really good questions.  Why indeed?  Is it not so that we can be reconciled to God?  If it's not that, what is the purpose?  If it's not to live in God's presence in His Kingdom, but  merely the fear of death that incites us to claim to believe, then are we really Christians?  In the church we often talk about why we need to be saved (we're sinners), but how often do we actually discuss for what are we being saved?  How about for life in God's loving presence, in his Kingdom?  What was Jesus' proclamation and what good news did he tell the disciples to go and proclaim if it was not the kingdom of God?  I've a taught a few classes on the two kingdoms to lay people and it has never failed to amaze me how many Christians of many years have never heard of the two kingdoms.  How could they not? Is no one teaching and preaching the kingdom of God? 

Notice how I've moved from talking about sex to the kingdom of God?  I do that a lot...  That is... move toward the Kingdom of God in most of my conversations.  I guess that may be because I find sex talk (and a few other topics) in the church being about the law (what you can or can't do) and the law it seems has been superceding the proclamation of Good News of the Kingdom of God through Jesus Christ.  I have been called to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom through Jesus Christ our Lord to all people.  That is what I do.

May God grant you joy in His Kingdom, even now.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Leviticus 17

Leviticus 17

Life is in the blood!  The sprinkling of blood is necessary for atonement. God demands that he receives life as a sacrfice for atonement.

Seems the Israelites may have had a bad habit of sacrificing animals to pagan gods, goat-demons according to verse 7.  Maybe there is something to the theory that when the scapegoat was sent out (16:10) into the wilderness to Azazel, the goat was being sent out carrying the sins of the people to a demon, after all.

No one, it seems is exempt from this law - not the Israelites and not the aliens who live in the land.  All must make sacrfice to the LORD, alone.  In all of Israel, no one may make sacrfices to other gods.   This people belong to God and apparently he does not want anyone in the midst of them who would dare to worship other gods.  God tolerates a lot, but his people must not be tainted by such outside influence.  They must not be tempted to worship other gods and sacrifice that which belongs to God to other gods.

Sorry, but for whatever reason, I have been led lately to focus a lot on the worship and sacrifice that this world makes to other gods.  The world, it seems is bent on worshipping and sacrificing life to false gods; to gods who cannot bring atonement; to gods who only bring loneliness, misery, and death.  My sermon this past Sunday was on this subject of false gods as well as stewardship - give to God what is God's. (Luke 20:25) Those of you who were there, will remember that I reminded you all to check your checkbooks, see where you treasures are for that is where you heart is. (Matt 6:21)  You sacrifice long hours of work, away from your family, your home and what benefit does that bring to you, your loved ones, to anyone?  Are you happy?  Or alone and miserable?  Has all that time at work been nothing more than striving after the wind (Eccl 1:14) evidenced by the checks written from the barstool that you sat on or in the casino where you deposited your earnings into a machine that did not give you any returns? 

Give to God what is God's. Give to your creator what belongs to Him.  Dedicate your whole life to Him, for without Him, there is no life.  Forget those false gods - forget the goat-demons - they can do nothing for you.  To God and God alone belongs all things under the sun.  They are His.  Our very lives belong to Him, for without Him, we would not be.  He is our life and our salvation.

For atonement for our sins; blood that carries life He gave in the first place is required.  In Leviticus it was presribed as an animal's blood to take the place of our own blood.  That type of sacrifice ended with the ultimate sacrifice - the life - the blood of God's first-born Son, Jesus the Christ.  It was poured out for us.  Will we then continue to sacrifice to false gods?  Can we do anything less than turn and thank God for the blood of the lamb that was offered as our atoning sacrifice?  Our life has been redeemed by the life, by the blood of the perfect lamb, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. 



Monday, October 17, 2011


Leviticus 16

The scapegoat...   Now I know that tradition has it that this goat was led out to a cliff and pushed off, but these are not the instructions of the text today.  The instructions are that Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat confessing over it all the sins of the people of Israel.  Someone, who has been chosen, shall take the goat bearing the burden of the people's sins out to a barren region in the wilderness and set it free. 

One lone goat, on the day of atonement, is sent out into the wilderness bearing the sins of the people. Of course he must be sent out.  Who wants a constant reminder of one's sins hanging around camp?  The people need a fresh start.  They need to have their consciences cleared of any reminders that in fact they are the ones who are guilty.

How many scapegoats do you know?  At least a few, is my  guess.  We sin against God and one another and then to justify ourselves, we blame others.  Watch the news tonight and look for the scapegoats in today's society.  You'll see a few.  Blamed for the ills of the world as the world seeks to bring them down and cast them out.  Check out your local community.  How many scapegoats do you see?  How many times do you attempt, with excuses, to lay the blame of your sin upon another, and then ostracize him or her - attempting to cast them out of the community?  All this justifying of ones own sins, casting them upon another takes a lot of work.  It involves a lot of physical and spiritual energy.  It really is a lot of work to try to place our guilt upon others.  It is distracting to say the least.  Who has time to actually enjoy living in God's presence, in his kingdom, when we're so busy trying to hide our own sin and making scapegoats out of others?

There is a better way.  One day as John the Baptist was busy preaching and baptizing he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared,  "Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."  (John 1:29)  This one, Jesus the Christ, was willing and did bear the sins of the world upon the cross.  He freely took our sins upon himself so that all who believe might be forgiven and be reconciled to His Father, our Father.  I would not say that Jesus is a scapegoat for the scapegoat doesn't have a choice.  The sins of others are forcibly placed upon the scapegoat.  Jesus did this freely because of his love for you and out of a desire that you would be reconciled to God our Father in the Kingdom of God.  No one forced him to die for you.  He knew what was coming and he chose to give his life for you.  He could've run off into the wilderness and not faced the consequences of our sin, but he did not. 

Wouldn't it be a lot easier and much more peaceful, rather than attempting to make scapegoats out of others, to just acknowledge and repent of our own sins; thanking God for his mercy and grace; thanking God that through the blood of Jesus Christ our sins have been washed away; thanking God that we shall live eternally in His presence?
And is that not what peace is, but living in God's presence, being aware that God is with you no matter what troubles the world around you brings to you? 

May God bless you this day with his peace in the knowledge that you are His child.  That through the blood of Jesus Christ you are forgiven and reconciled to God, our Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rules for Healthy Living

Leviticus 15

Seems like I am always reminding my grandchildren to dress warmly enough, or wear a hat in the winter, to get enough sleep at night, to eat right or exercise.  Lately, I have been reminding them not to befriend people on FaceBook that they don't know.  Seems like I have to keep reminding them of the same things over and over again.  Honestly, they both think I'm a really mean gramma.  They just don't seem to get the why of all these rules for health and safety.  And, it doesn't matter to me any more if they get it.  It only matters that they follow the rules, not for my sake, for theirs because I love them.

We don't always get the why of some of the rules that God laid out for his people, either.  These rules for bodily discharges seem a little much to many of us.  But, let me assure you that God did not come up with all these rules just for his sake.  They are there for our sake because God loves us.  Think of some of these things as not just rituals that might appease God, but more like guidelines to healthy living - Dr's orders.  What diseases was God worried that people might be spreading?  How about gonorrhea as one example?  It is quite possible with the advancement of Science many of the health codes of early days are no longer necessary.  But, let us not write God off as a mean God, who likes to make rules for the sake of controlling.  God does not force His will upon us.  But, he will guide and lead us in His Way.  We can choose or not to follow, to do what is right and good and even healthy for our own sake and the sake of others.  But, remember too, although we are free to choose how we live our daily lives in this world, that does not make it good or right or healthy for us or others. 

May God help us to see His graciousness to us in that he cares enough to give us guidelines (laws if you will) for daily living.  May He help us to listen to him.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Blood and Spirit

Leviticus 14

I woke up this morning congested still or again or even more than yesterday, I wondered if I had the time and energy to do a thorough housecleaning.  Just maybe my sinus infections are due to allergies and I need to get the dust out of my home.  Maybe my house is unclean.  Don't laugh...  I really did think that and then I read this chapter. 

I've also been falling asleep on the couch a lot lately and I've noticed that when I do that I usually wake up the next morning feeling really bad.  Maybe, just maybe, I could convince my husband that the couch is unclean and it needs to be carted out of the house and a new, clean one brought in.  I'm thinking he won't buy into that story.

On a more serious note...  I finally felt well enough to go out and visit a few members yesterday.  At one particular home, we had a wonderful time talking about three of my favorite subjects:  the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We talked about how all things belong to God and how sadly we have failed to be good stewards of his gifts to us; how we are saved by faith alone - faith in the blood of Christ shed for you; and lastly (but not least), we talked about the annointing of the Holy Spirit at baptism and what that means or should and could mean for the church on earth.  We talked about blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and that according to scripture denial of the Holy Spirit is the only unpardonable sin.  That led to a discussion on whether one can deny the Holy Spirit, if one does not know the Holy Spirit, if one has not been introduced to the Holy Spirit.  We talk a lot in the church about knowing God the Father and having a relationship with Jesus Christ.  But, when was the last time you heard of anyone living in relationship with the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit?  I'm guessing not too often. That third person, is usually relegated from personhood to power of the first two persons, after all according to the Nicene Creed, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son and that's about where we usually leave it.  We talked last night a lot about our desire to see a renewal, a revival of faith and how without the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit that cannot happen.

How did I get to this conversation this morning?  I got there when I read that the blood had to be put on the right ear lobe, right thumb, and on the big toe of the right foot.  (Relate this to being cleansed by the blood of Christ.) Then the priest had to annoint this same parts with oil.  (Oil being symbolic of the Holy Spirit).  To be clean both the blood and spirit were necessary.  Are they not necessary today?  I could write a lot more on this subject.  But, this is suppose to be short to help you stay immersed in the word, as you read one or two chapters at a time, so just please think and pray on these things...  Pray that God our Father who sent His only begotten Son to die for us would fill us to overflowing with the Holy Spirit, that we might go forth, in power, proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Leviticus 13

Quarantined!  The priests had the job of quarantining people who might infect others. The dread disease of that day was leprosy. They diagnosed, but could not heal leprosy and consequently to protect humanity they had to quarantine those they pronounced unclean with this dread disease leprosy.  Modern medicine has brought us a long way.  There are still quite a few fatal diseases that there are no cures for.  Mostly they are not contagious and we do not have to be quarantined, destined to suffer and die alone... 

But, I think there are times we should probably be quarantined for a time all the same.  I am sitting here wondering if I dare go out and visit our shut-ins today.  It has been way over a month.  I was diagnosed with shingles (still have them) over a month ago which has slowed me way down.  Then with the fall season, the changing weather, and many allergies, I have been coughing and sneezing for quite awhile.  I've been on antibiotics twice in the last month, the last time for bronchitis.  Just finished a dose and now I think I've got a head cold.  My doctor knows there is no sense in putting me on bedrest, quarantining me.  It just doesn't work that way today.  No one can take that much time off.  I've tried to quarantine myself as much as I could so that I'm not passing it around.  I've stayed away from seniors to the point I have got to get out very soon or they will think I've forgotten them.   

Alas, it seems it's impossible to be able to keep from human contact today, for our sake or for the sake of others!  So, in a sense as I read about the quarantine laws this morning, I almost wish we had some kind of laws that would help us to keep us from spreading so many physical ills today until modern medicine can really heal us.   There are so many diseases it seems today and it all takes time to both find the right diagnosis and heal. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Don't Know

Leviticus 12

Well, now this is interesting.  Not sure what one can say about it.  Can't quite figure out why the time that a woman is ceremonially unclean and her time of her blood purification is double the time if she bears a female child rather than a male child.  I read a few commentaries on this text and they all seem like they're kind of drawing straws.  Some of them related to the menstrual cycle and said something to the effect that because the mother is birthing a child who would one day enter into this cycle of uncleanness herself, the mother's time was longer.  The fact remains, scripture does not say. We cannot know for sure why God has ordered this.  He just has.

I find it also interesting that God (as at other times) has made provisions for the women who are of poorer means to be able to offer substitute sin offerings after the days of purification.  Those who cannot afford to sacrifice a lamb may bring two turtledoves or pigeons to the priest so that she might be clean.  God recognizes the inequities among his people and does in fact require more of some.  Although, if we consider the story of the widow's mite in Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4, we realize and understand that offering of the set of two birds may be a larger portion of what they possess, than the one who owns a sheep. Yet, the offering is required.  It is not optional.

There are many things in scripture that we simply do not understand.  That is ok.  No one knows all the answers.  Just because we don't understand everything in scripture does not mean we should give up on reading or hearing it.  Some things may seem confusing.  We may feel like we are totally lost in a forest of words and places and people we just don't quite understand.  But, there will many other things that we will learn by staying the course and keeping ourselves immersed in God's word.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Eat or Not to Eat

Leviticus 11

Clean and unclean animals.   It has been so many generations that we have been consuming unclean animals it is hard to tell any more why we do.  Whenever I am asked by someone why God put these restrictions on food, I am aware that maybe my response is at least partly biased by the fact that I do indeed eat unclean food.  My response in effect is an attempt to justify my actions.  I have used Acts 10 and the story of Peter's vision of clean and unclean animals and a voice telling him to eat when he was hungry.  Peter protested, but he was told “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”  (Acts 10:15) 

Actually, that one story from Acts, I use almost exclusively to justify my eating food which is declared as unclean.  Now, having said that I will also say that I actually don't eat much food that is on that list of unclean foods.  Some of it is just plain repulsive to me, maybe because of the culture I have grown old in.  I would never consider eating any of the birds listed as unclean.  They just don't seem like creatures that one should eat.  The prohibition on pork makes a lot of sense to me.  It makes me ill.  Not deathly ill, but ill enough that after I have consumed some of it, I wish I hadn't. 

I don't know why God decided that some animals were clean and others unclean.  Maybe it was just because he is God and he can.  Maybe it's because we were not created to consume these types of food and still live long and healthy lives.  It's been suggested that among the creatures there are many creatures who they themselves eat meat and the blood that is in the other animals that they consume.  Maybe, some of it goes back to the prohibitions about eating blood.  But, even if some of it does, not all of the creatures listed eat the blood of other living creatures.  I'm pretty sure that shrimp don't eat any kind of meat or consume the blood of other animals, yet the laws in Leviticus prohibits eating any sea creature that does not have scales and fins.  Yet, there are people who cannot eat shrimp without becoming ill.  Also, thinking on the life-style of the people of the Bible we should remember that in those days, there was no good means of refrigeration.  How many of the foods on that list would go bad quickly without it?

Honestly, knowing how much God loves us, I tend to think that any rules or laws that God handed out are not just for his sake, but for our sake.  Take a look at this list again.   Think about these various creatures.  Think about the ones you would not eat, unless you were lost in the wilderness and had to eat them in order to live.  I would be hard pressed to eat a vulture or any bird that eats meat that has has been laying on the side of the road dead for a few days. Think about the various meats you actually consume that you've been told or learned from experience that they actually are not all that good for you.  I tend to think that what God does and says is for the good of us, not our harm.  Eating unclean foods may not always be in our best interest.  On the other hand as the voice told Peter,  “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

Pretty ambiguous this morning... It has been ages (more than ages) since any culture that I am connected to as a whole has kept strict compliance with these food restrictions and it is hard to say why it has all changed so much from the days when they were given.  All I can say is look at the whole text in context with what you know about the whole of scripture, including New Testament teachings, and discern for yourself, with the help of God, what is good, what is God's will for you.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Serious Service to God

Leviticus 10

Oh dear!  This is an unsettling chapter!  Either they were as confused as I was when I read all these laws regarding the offerings or they just really didn't take what the LORD required of them as serious as they should have.  But, Nadab and Abihu, died, consumed by the fire that came out from the presence of the LORD.  Their father and brothers were commanded not to mourn for them and out of fear of what just happened to Nadab and Abihu at the hand of God, they listen to that command for sure.  They do not mourn as the rest of the house of Israel mourns for them.

It's probably fair to say that Eleazar and Ithama, Aaron's remaining sons, were also treading on dangerous ground and had not been paying too close attention either.  The LORD indeed requires more from his ordained priests than he does from the people that they represent, particularly when they come before Him to intercede for them with the sin offerings.  They are to know the difference between what is holy and what is unholy. 

Annie Dillard's short story, "An Expedition to the Pole" wonderfully points out how when we gather to worship on Sunday mornings sometimes (probably more often than not) maybe we are not fully aware of whose presence we are purposefully entering, whose name we are invoking.  In this short story she writes about an Hasidic Jew who was a slaughterer.  His work required invoking the name of the LORD.  Whenever he left home to serve the LORD, he would hug and kiss his family with a tearful good-bye as if it were the last time he would ever see them.  He was very aware that as he called on the name of the LORD, that God might notice him and before he could finish with "Have mercy" God might destroy him.

In this short story she recommends that when we go to worship to enter into God's presence we should all be wearing crash helmets and ushers should hand out life preservers and signal flares, "For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return." Sometimes, maybe we don't take this service to God as seriously as we should. 

The priests were intercessors for the people.  They sometimes profaned the holy with the unholy when they were supposed to be interceding for the people.  In spite of the fact that the pastors and priests who are called to serve the LORD, make mistakes - we sin; we still have reason to celebrate.  We can thank God that our intercessor is the High Priest Jesus Christ and he is holy and the offering up of his sacrifice for us was completely pure and holy.  Thanks be to God!  

Monday, October 10, 2011

Called and Ordained

Leviticus 8 & 9

In Exodus, Aaron was busy helping the Israelites fashion a false god while Moses was away getting instructions from God.  Yet here in Leviticus God's grace and mercy is revealed in that one who so quickly fell away from serving the one true God is ordained and inaugurated into the service of God.  With much ritual, Aaron and his son's are ordained into the priesthood. 

God will call whom God will call and sometimes, no most often, it is amazing to behold.  Pastors and priests are human.  Sin pervades our very beings.  Yet, God in his infinite mercy forgives our sins and leads us to serve him.  For some of us, I think that sometimes it is our very falling away in years past that has prepared us for this ministry.  We are aware of our sinful natures.  We are aware of our need for forgiveness.  Therefore, we can have empathy and compassion for those in the flock who have fallen as well.  We understand their need for forgiveness; the need of others to know that even though they have turned their backs on God, he has not turned his back on them.  For those whom he has called to follow him into the kingdom; he will never stop calling.  By the blood of his own Son, he ordains and inaugurates them into the priesthood of all believers.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Freewill offerings

Leviticus 7

More offerings!   There are so many kinds of offerings no wonder the Lord had to give such detailed instructions.  After reading these last few chapters, I'm still not sure what the difference is between a sin offering and a guilt offering.

Many congregations have come up with their own designations for various offerings.  These offerings usually (hopefully) have nothing to do with purchasing forgiveness or freedom from guilt.  Usually, these offerings are broken down into things like the freewill offering that usually goes to the general fund; maybe a building fund and/or a memorial fund; maybe a fund for a specific mission; or a specific capital improvement that may be needed.  We even have a kitchen fund at Zion, although I'm not sure what it is for.  It's just been sitting there for awhile.  There was a time when that fund was necessary.  But, now we have about the most updated church kitchen in the county.  All these accounts can be extra work for the bookkeeper as she tries to make sure that funds are deposited and withdrawn from the accounts they need to be and prays that while all these offerings sit in designated funds we have enough in general fund to pay the heating bill.  We have cleaned up these accounts a couple of times since I've been here, but it seems we keep adding them back on. 

Not everyone likes to give freewill offerings.  Some, it seems, find it more beneficial to designate.  The freewill offering was an offering given simply because of one's happiness or joy.  It causes me to wonder where our joy is when we choose not to give freely.  I spoke with one the other day who has difficulty giving to anyone.  They neither give to the church or any social organization that helps people in need.  Their attitude toward giving was definitely not one of joy.  So that brings me to another question:  do we give freely because of the joy we feel over what was first given us, that being among other things life and salvation through Jesus Christ, or does freely giving instill in us a sense of joy knowing that as we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we help others to know peace and joy or do we give freely because of a combination of both? 

As I look at the chapters ahead, I see that we are about through with the chapters on sacrifices so this morning (today being Sunday) I will give freely in joyful thanksgiving for that being accomplished :) 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Stewardship of Humankind

Leviticus 6

"When any of you sin and commit a trespass against the Lord by deceiving a neighbor in a matter of deposit or a pledge , or by robbery, or if you have defrauded a neighbor..." (vs 2)  Interesting that this passage tells us that if we do these things, as well as other things, we are committing a trespass against God. 

It reminds me of David's prayer in Psalm 51:4.   "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge." 

David's sins were not such small ones from a human point of view.  Through trickery and deception another man's blood was spilled in order that David could have that other man's wife.  Yet, David says that his sins were against God alone. 

It is the season for stewardship and so I am reminded that we are to be stewards of all of God's creation.  Everything belongs to him, including the people - the people we love, the people we lust after, the people we envy, even the people we might consider to be our enemies.  God is God over all of them and as his stewards we are to care for them, helping them in their needs, lifting them up, rather than knocking them down.  And, when we don't... when we do just the opposite, we sin and we trespass against God.  

May God grant that we should always help rather than harm our neighbors that we might glorify God in all that we say and think and do.

Friday, October 7, 2011


Leviticus 5

Rash oaths....I wondered at the first reading of this lesson this morning how anyone could be unaware that they are making rash oaths.  Then I remembered the countless times I've talked to young people who have made them boldly and loudly in front of me.  They really didn't know.  The sin was unintentional because they didn't know that they should not be swearing.  One of the responses I've heard (way too many times) is that their parents let them talk like that.  They don't think there's anything wrong with it.  If they are unaware that they are sinning, how will they ever know if we don't start teaching them what sin is and what it does to their relationship with God and others around them?  How are they going to know how damaging sin is to their own lives if we don't teach them?  There are days when I think that maybe teaching some of our children is way too big a job for me.  I wonder if I should start with their parents.  But, then I think about the next generation of children, those that are still unborn and I know that I have to keep on focusing on this generation of children so that they will know enough not to be making rash oaths or swearing falsely or to the harm of others.  The children of today may be able to know enough to teach their children rightly. 

In order to not incur guilt, a special offering called a guilt offering had to be given for these unintentional sins that were committed by people who were unaware that they had even committed them.  A sacrifice had to be made.  A sacrifice had to be made for our unintentional sins as well - even the sins that we are unaware that we commit.  That is why we confess our sins both known and unknown.  That sacrifice was made on the cross for us - once and for all.  A question remains for me though:  If we do not acknowledge these sins, if we do not repent, then was the sacrifice for nothing?   Is the sacrifice for your sin, if you have no sin?

Referring you over to the New Testament and 1 John 50-10 (NRSV) for more reading and thinking this morning: 

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.   

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Laying on of Hands and Sprinkling of Blood

Leviticus 4

This whole ritual of laying on of hands on the sacrifice and sprinkling blood on the altar is a mystery to me.  Lots of questions about details arise here for me... So today I am doing a lot of pondering, which really amounts to a lot of guessing.  Bear with me, please. 

The sinner would lay his hand upon the head of the sacrifice he has brought to offer to the Lord and it appears the sinner is imputing his own sin upon that sacrifice.  The blood of the animal is then drained - that includes the life which is in the blood (Gen 9:4; Lev 17:11; Deut 12:23) - and the animals blood is sprinkled on the altar or poured at its base, along with the burning of the fat.  This is how the priest would make atonement on the behalf of others for the sins they had committed.  And... they were forgiven. 

Our sin offering, was/is Jesus Christ.  He is the unblemished sacrificial lamb.  Humankind took hold of him and offered him up on the cross.  What a sad story of human nature that we should be willing to suffer an innocent man to die.  But, that is what happened and it happened because he was willing to die for us.  He was willing to bear our sin as the sacrificial lamb.  And... we are forgiven. 

I have a lot more questions running through my mind this morning about this laying on of hands.  So some things to think about...  Were the sins actually imputed to the animal?  When we lay hands on others do they receive ours?  Do we receive theirs?  Maybe we are simply reconciled in peace - God's peace. What actually happens when two people make physical contact in this way?  Is there something more than just greeting one another?  When I served in the youth correctional facility there were some young men who thought they were pretty tough.  Some of them really were :) I was advised not to make physical contact with them except for the occasional restraint I might have to be involved in.  I didn't listen.  I found that when someone is trying to intimidate me, one of the quickest ways to break down the wall that they are trying to build between us is to reach out and shake their hands.  I found that if I took the initiative and reached out in peace, then there was peace.   

How about when we lay hands on someone to pray with them or to absolve them of their sins or in baptism, or confirmation, or ordination?  What exactly takes place when we lay hands on another, when we reach out in in peace, with words of forgiveness, when we pray for healing?  What miracles are possible when we lay hands on them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fat, Anemic Wafers, and Salt

Leviticus 2 & 3

"All fat is the Lord's." My first thought on reading that is that God could take mine away.  I wouldn't mind - as long as he leaves the rest of the body intact.  Now I know that I could sacrifice it myself with just a little more self-discipline.  But, it hasn't been happening.

Honestly, for those who think genealogies are tedious reading, these laws for sacrificing can be pretty difficult to wade through as well.  This morning other than "All fat is the Lord's" in the 3rd chapter, the only other things that caught my attention were the wafers (2:4) and the salt (2:13).

I've always kind of wondered why we use flat dry wafers at Communion instead of unleavened bread with a little more substance.  Is 2:4 it?  I really appreciate the unleavened bread that Clyde bakes for Maundy Thursday and Easter Sunday.  It is something you can sink your teeth into.  I can't imagine that when Jesus was passing the bread, which he said was his body, was passing around anemic looking wafers.

And salt... Salt caught my attention.  I love it!  Even though my cholesterol is a bit high, I don't have a problem with sodium.  My husband likes to leave it out when he cooks.  He believes the hype about it being bad for you.  I keep telling him that we can't live without it.  I've visited more people in the hospital with low sodium than with high.  Salt has more purposes than just flavoring or preserving food.  Salt get rid of unwanted pests.  I never use pesticides to get rid of ants.  Sprinkle some sea salt on an ant hill and watch what happens.  Those that live will pick up and move on out of there.  These little pests cannot survive in earth saturated with salt.  Try it on a few slugs or bloodsuckers (know this from having sons).  And so I wonder what are all the positive effects that salt might have on various mircroscopic intruders in our bodies? 

And last, but definitely not least, according to the scripture today, in their grain offerings the Israelites were not to omit the salt of the covenant with God.  What does this mean?  Definitely something to ponder... Salt will come up again in our readings if you hang in there long enough!

Now time to prepare for a Bible Study on Mark at Zion, hopefully, our conversations there will have a bit more fat and salt to them than this blog this morning.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Burnt Offerings

Leviticus, Chapter 1

Remembering that it was the Levites who were the priests, those who served at God's altar, the book of Levi might be described as a book pertaining to the rules and regulations, the laws concerning serving God.  It does not just outline what the priests must do, but involves instruction for the laity as well.

"If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you shall offer a male without blemish..." (vs 3)  This instruction is to remind us that we are not to be bringing leftovers (what is useless to us) as an offering to God.  It is to be the best of the best - without blemish.  How many of us when buying a gift for a loved one spends hours thinking about what to give them and then even more time shopping for that gift in order to give them the best gift that you can possibly give them?  But, when it is time to bring our offerings to the Lord - the God who created us, the God who saved us from ourselves - it is the leftovers? 

One of the questions I often ponder is why God would want burnt offerings in the first place.  I have no real answers - just conjecture.  First of all maybe it is in part to see how faithful we are.  Are we willing to give Him the best of all that he has first given us?  And why burnt offerings?  I'm not convinced that a slaughter house or burning entrails gives off an odor that most of us would find pleasing.  But, apparently, God does, at least according to verse 9.  And... why turn the whole of the offering into smoke?  Was that in some fashion suppose to be a transformation of the offering from the physical world to the spiritual world (kingdom) of God.  After all, it was in a cloud and fire that he often appeared to the Israelites and not in a form that one could actually touch.

Leviticus I think will be a challenge as we try to understand the world and the ways of the Israelites so we can put all these rituals into perspective.  May God give us a clearer understanding of their meaning for the Israelites and hopefully for us overall as well.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Exodus 40

The final chapter of Exodus - the consecrating of the tabernacle.  Have you ever put up a tent?  I don't know about you, but whenever I set up one for the first time, it can get pretty chaotic.  It takes practice for it to go smoothly.  But, here we have Moses setting up this huge tent like tabernacle and then consecrating it and everything that is put in it all in one day.  This is not a moment for chaos.  It is a holy ritual, a holy moment, a holy day.  It would, it should I think, be a time of reverence.  Moses washes Aaron and his sons and consecrates them as the priests to serve God.  Moses' hand anoints and consecrates all these things and then the big moment comes... the cloud covered the tent and the glory of the Lord fills the tabernacle, sealing the consecration.  It was not just Moses, but everyone saw this cloud.  It was this cloud they followed throughout their journey in the wilderness.  They went where the cloud went.  They stopped when the cloud stopped.  At night, they saw the fire in this cloud.

This morning, my hands will wash a child.  A child will be brought forth for the Sacrament of Baptism.  My lips will speak the word of God.  My hands will pour the water.  But, it is the Lord God who baptizes. It is the Lord who washes this child, who consecrates him with the Holy Spirit and makes him his own.  It is the the Lord who  seals this covenant with the Holy Spirit and who will guide this child through the wilderness journey he is about to embark on.  The journey will not always be easy as he will be tested and tempted in his journey. He will be tempted to stay put when the Lord says to go and when he says be still, stay here, the child will be tempted to go off in other directions on his own.  But, this I am sure:  the Lord will be with him to guide him, throughout his journey here on earth. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Exodus 39

I'm thinking descriptions of the vestments are way more tedious than any genealogical list!  Had to read this chapter a few times to be able to even begin to focus.  Personally this morning, I am thinking, I really prefer an off-white alb... with a hood. The reading though, is a good reminder that the priests stood out.  They were set apart and it was quite apparent by the vestments they wore.  They were set apart from the people for something specific: for ministering in the holy place.  This is what God had called them to do. 

The chapter closes telling us that when Moses saw that all of the work of the tabernacle had been completed just as the LORD had commanded him to do, Moses blessed the people.  Me personally, I pretty much need the LORD to bless me before I do the work, if anything is going to get done.  Afterward is good, too.  But, without the blessing of the LORD nothing good is ever done.

I remember an elderly woman I use to help out now and then.  She had dementia.  She no longer had any clue who I was.  But, whenever I visited her or took her to her Dr's appointments, as I was leaving she would take my hands, look me in the eyes and bless me for having done such a "good deed."  It didn't matter if my visit was only 5 minutes.  She was ecstatic that God would send her someone to share a few moments with.  I was always a little uncomfortable with this blessing.  But, in her own way, I understood that what she was doing was thanking God for sending someone to be with her in her last days.  Of course, I was not the only one who spent time with her.  There were many others.  But, due to the disease, she lived in the moment and she thanked God for the moment.  She enjoyed each and every visit as if it was the greatest gift that she'd ever received.  So she blessed the one who carried the gift to her.          

I wonder if Moses may have felt this kind of joy when they brought the finished tabernacle to him.  Yes, the people have done all the work that the LORD has commanded us to do in preparing His tabernacle!  It is finished!  And so... he blesses them.

Hmmm...  That reminds me...  Where have we heard those words before?  On the cross Jesus uttered those words, "It is finished" and so we are blessed.