Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Three Expansions

Wednesday, June 8, 2011 -- Week of 7 Easter, Year One
Roland Allen, Mission Strategist, 1947
To read about our daily commemorations, go to our Holy Women, Holy Men blog:
http://liturgical.wordiness.com/category/holy-women-holy-men/

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 964)
Psalms 101, 109:1-4(5-19)20-30 (morning)      119:121-144 (evening)
Ezekiel 11:14-25
Hebrews 7:1-17
Luke 10:17-24

Three of our readings involve ways of expanding our traditional notions about God and about holy things.

Verse 21 of our reading from Luke was a key verse in the early church's development of the doctrine of the Trinity.  "At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, 'I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth...'"  Here we see the nascent expression of what became the classical
 theology of Christian prayer to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. 

The reading from Ezekiel expands the notion of divine location.  Earlier tribal tradition held that a god was sovereign over a particular land and its tribe.  The god's dwelling was located in the temple dedicated to that god.  We see evidence of such an understanding in the story of the healing
 of Naaman, the Syrian general who was healed by the God of the Hebrew prophet Elisha.  When Naaman left Israel, he took "two mule loads of earth" with him to Syria so he could worship the God of Israel on Israel's soil.

Ezekiel writes to the exiles of Israel who now live in a foreign nation, far away from the Jerusalem temple and from the land of Israel.  Ezekiel insists that God is also sovereign in Chaldea and among the nations.  Ezekiel speaks in the name of God, saying, "though I scattered them among the co
untries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a little while (or to some extent) in the countries where they have gone."

Furthermore, Ezekiel insists that it is with these exiled Israelites that the future revival of the nation of Israel rests.  When they return to Israel, they will purify and reform it, removing "all its detestable things and all its abominations."  (Ezekiel's commentary on the people who think t
hey are God's chosen because they remain living in Israel and worshiping in the Jerusalem temple.) 

Ezekiel prophecies a new revival of spirit among the people when God returns the people from exile to their homes.  Speaking in God's Name, he says, "I will give them one heart (or a new heart), and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a h
eart of flesh, so that they may follow my statues and keep my ordinances and obey them.  Then they shall be my people, and I will be their God."  It is a glorious vision of an anticipated homecoming and a growth in faithfulness.  Ezekiel continues with another critical commentary on those who re
main behind in Israel during the exile:  "But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, says the Lord God." 

Not only does Ezekiel insist that the God of Israel has power and sovereignty outside of the borders of Israel among the other nations, the nations of other gods, Ezekiel goes so far as to say the sanctuary of God's presence with the exiles among the nations is more authentic than the traditiona
l sanctuary in Jerusalem where the people are practicing abominations.  Ezekiel is clear that the God of Israel transcends the soil and sanctuary of Israel.

The writer of the book of Hebrews makes an argument about the expansion of the priesthood, claiming that the priesthood of Jesus is greater than the ancient Levitical line of priests.  The author posits two lines of priests from the Hebrew tradition -- the traditional priestly tribe of Levi and
the mysterious figure of Melchizedek (Genesis 14).  Melchizedek comes from the time of Abraham.  He was the King of Salem and he was the priest of the Most High God.  Upon their meeting after Abraham's great military victory, Abraham gave to Melchizedek a tithe of the spoils and received from Me
lchizedek a priestly blessing.  The author of Hebrews claims that Jesus is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, and that this is a greater order of priesthood than Levi.

He argues that the priesthood of Melchizedek-Jesus is greater because of three things.  First, Melchizedek is given no ancestry in the Biblical account.  "Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God, he remain
s a priest forever," claims the author of Hebrews.  Second, the patriarch Abraham gave Melchizedek the tithes, a traditional offering given to the priestly office.  Since Abraham is the ancestor of Levi, "one might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for
 he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him."  Third, Melchizedek blessed Abraham, and it is understood that the greater blesses the lesser. 

The author of Hebrews is claiming that Jesus is our great High Priest, now sitting at the right hand of God, far superior in every way to the traditional priesthood of Levi.  Jesus' one priestly offering has accomplished forever the priestly work of atonement and redemption before God.

Three expansions of thought about holy things today -- the priesthood, the location of God and God's sovereignty, and the Trinitarian nature of God.  These things are greater than we once thought, the scripture attests.

Lowell

__________________

Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Click the following link:
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Morning Reflection Podcasts

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 missionstclare.com -- Click for online Daily Office
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 --  Click for Divine Hours

Discussion Blog:  To comment on today's reflection or readings, go to http://lowellsblog.blogspot.com, or click here for Lowell's blog find today's reading, click "comment" at the bottom of the reading, and post your thoughts.

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

See 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

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