1st Scripture Reading: Exodus 32:1-14 & Isaiah 25:1-9
People have very different views about the importance and veracity of scripture – especially the ancient Hebrew scripture. It seems to me, the more and more time I spend with these writings, that what Spirit is showing me is a description, using many literary devices, of the spiritual evolution of humanity.
Collectively we see that the Israelites have been released from the bondage and oppression of the Egyptians. We also see that led by Moses they have trudged deeply into the wilderness of Sinai protected only by the light and smoke cloud of God, and provided for only by the water and food manifested for them supernaturally during this period of intense dependency and great uncertainty.
We have seen that they were not very happy with the leadership of Moses, assisted by Aaron. Moses has the “hot line” and he has gone to the mountain to commune with God. They have no cell phones, no email, no twitter accounts. Moses is gone – was gone a long time – they had no idea when or even if he would return, and the people began to grumble amongst themselves, and to demand that Aaron provide some leadership.
Collectively the people were not very spiritually evolved. They still wanted idols to worship – something concrete – something that did not ask anything of them, and allowed them to celebrate without consequences. The golden calf did not judge them, did not teach them, and certainly had no expectation of personal transformation.
On a personal level, Aaron did not demonstrate spiritual leadership in this situation. His spiritual evolution was not great either! And when Moses did return, he lost his temper, broke the stone tablets, and unleashed a wave of fury and destruction that today we would find abhorrent.
And what about this God who Moses was reportedly in contact with? Is this the God we know? Or is this the God these early, unsophisticated people identified and communed with as best they could, given the education and the social structures of those times.
I remember a sermon by Rev. Jim Erb here in this church quite a few years ago where he likened the development of spiritual acumen to the forging of a Samurai sword: you had to keep firing up the blade and turning it and turning it to make the blade sharper and cleaner while building tremendous integral strength into the entire shaft. The perfection of the weapon was not a quick, one-shot sort of a thing, and neither is the formation of faith, or spiritual development.
Moses was not ready at his death to see the promised land – and most probably neither are we. Our worship of the “bottom line”, our undisciplined consumerism, and our lack of concern for the millions of God’s children, and other creatures who lack the basic necessities of life – all these things are not consistent with the expectations of the God we know: the God of Love. In the reading from the prophet Isaiah we read that when we reach that mountain top, that pinnacle of spiritual awareness, there will be a huge celebration – a banquet such as has never been seen before, and the darkness that has shrouded our eyes and slowed our development will be destroyed forever.
I believe that day is coming, that we are on a path of spiritual evolution, and someday we will see clearly as we have never seen before. Thanks be to God for Spirit’s direction so alive in all of our hearts and minds.
Hymn # 401 VU “Worship the Lord”
2nd Scripture Reading: Philippians 4:1-9 & Matthew 22:1-14
I wrestled with how to present my thoughts about both these readings in the same reflection. In Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast we have another reference to the abundant generosity of God, and the arrogance and disrespect displayed by those who refuse or disdain that generosity, including the gift of a son – a clear reference to the teachings and spiritual healing offered by Jesus.
Within that reading from Matthew we also see a reference to someone who did accept the invitation to the feast, but was not appropriately dressed. My interpretation of that is that the person was not clothed in the right attitude of respect and appreciation, and was an opportunist just in it for what he might personally gain from it.
Paul was in prison when he wrote the letter to the church in Philippi that we also read this morning. Generosity and sharing as manifestations of God’s great love were obvious themes of this letter, but the exhortations we might find a bit troubling.
Paul was a great teacher and preacher and church planter. His mission was clearly to establish Christ’s church. As such he was a careful and thorough manager – some might call him a micro-manager. These are the skills that are necessary to create, from the ground up, an new and successful organization.
But as with most things, there is a darker side to this approach. Things grew out of Paul’s intolerance of anyone else’s thinking that he would never have dreamed of. I think of the Inquisition, during which millions of “witches” and other “heretics” and free-thinkers were tortured and murdered in the name of the Christian religion. I think of the dogmatic refusal to recognize the scientific discoveries of the last few centuries – a kind of blindness that has curtailed the application of much knowledge that would have been of great benefit to humankind.
We must think as of one mind, Paul said. But putting on the mind of Christ is something each of us is admonished to do – and that might lead us into communion with the Living God thru Jesus, and that might help us to overcome our blindness and see more clearly the path ahead. Paul was after all just a man, with many of the prejudices of his time and his social context.
God offers us a banquet! Participation means freedom and joy and love and peace such as the world has never known. There is no talk of restriction and rules and codes of conduct. There is only the Law of Love, and the proper garment: respect and appreciation for all that has been given.
Let us celebrate the Good News, brothers and sisters in Christ! The gospel as brought to us by Jesus is good news indeed!
Hymn #664 VU “What a Friend We have in Jesus”