Friday, April 09, 2010

Redeem

Friday, April 9, 2010 -- Friday in Easter Week

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 959)
Psalms 136 (morning)       118 (evening)
Exodus 13:1-2, 11-16
1 Corinthians 15:51-58  
Luke 24:1-12

"Redeem" is an important word in the Biblical tradition.  To redeem means to pay a ransom in order to set free and regain possession of a family member or plot of land that has been taken over by another person or owner.  In the Exodus, God redeemed Israel from its bondage and oppression.  To remind future generations that God redeemed them from slavery by the death of the firstborn of all human and animals in Egypt, the people of Israel are to perform an act of redemption for every human and animal male who is firstborn, to redeem them in memory of God's original act of redemption. 

The book of Numbers instructs the congregation that a firstborn son may be redeemed with a sacrifice of five shekels, or, since the priestly tribe of Levi belongs to God, a member of the tribe of Levi may substitute for another firstborn.  In essence, the lives of the firstborn are being purchased back from God who owns and claims them because of the Exodus.  Because a donkey is an unclean animal, a clean animal, a sheep, may be substituted in sacrifice for the firstborn male donkey.

The early church picked up the language and symbol of redemption as an interpretation of the death and sacrifice of Jesus.  The early church said that Jesus redeemed us.  Jesus, who was clean and perfect, offered himself in sacrifice to redeem us from our bondage. 

Paul speaks in today's passage in 1 Corinthians about the threefold bondage of sin, death and the law.  According to Paul's theology, Adam's sin introduced death to all humanity, and sin exercises its power through the Mosaic law which instructs us on what is sin, trapping us in our consciousness of sin and separation, leading to death.  Through Christ's death and resurrection, the power of sin, death and the law is broken.  Christ has redeemed us from our bondage.  We are free; free to love and to live in response to the acceptance, forgiveness and new life that is our gift from Christ.  

Paul insists that those who have died will share in the same gift of freedom and resurrection as those who are alive.  He expects the imminent return of Jesus at any minute, when those who are alive will escape death and Jesus will return to reign over a new earth where death and sin will be no more. 

One of the biggest challenges that faced the early Church was the delay of the expected return of Jesus.  It helps us date the various books of the New Testament to examine how they handle this aspect of early faith.  The earlier writings anticipate and expect an imminent return and reflect an ethic in that spirit -- Why marry?  There won't be time to raise a family anyway.  Stay single as you are.  But everybody still needs to work in order to eat.  Other books presume an extended delay in Christ's return and speak to the need for institutional structures and the maintenance of an established community, such as 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus.

One more note, just for fun.  The more literal translation of 1 Corinthians 15:51b is "We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed."  The NRSV and others render the passage "We will not all die, but we will all be changed."  One of the cutest uses of a scripture passage is a sign I saw in the infants' room of a Church nursery:  "We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed."  1 Cor. 15:51

Lowell

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About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.


Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas

1 Comments:

At 3:52 PM, Anonymous janet said...

Lowell,

And the freedom from sin, if one takes that seriously, brings with it the freedom to love - to develop one's compassion and care for all. I'm still happy to be singing Alleluia and I think the spring trees and flowers today are saying it too, in a phenomenally colorful manner.

Gods Peace,
Janet

 

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