1 The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their ways are vile;
there is no one who does good.
2 God looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
3 Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.
4 Do all these evildoers know nothing?
They devour my people as though eating bread;
they never call on God.
5 But there they are, overwhelmed with dread,
where there was nothing to dread.
God scattered the bones of those who attacked you;
you put them to shame, for God despised them.
6 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When God restores his people,
let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!
Eating Blood Forbidden
1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Speak to Aaron and his sons and to all the Israelites and say to them: ‘This is what the LORD has commanded: 3 Any Israelite who sacrifices an ox, a lamb or a goat in the camp or outside of it 4 instead of bringing it to the entrance to the tent of meeting to present it as an offering to the LORD in front of the tabernacle of the LORD—that person shall be considered guilty of bloodshed; they have shed blood and must be cut off from their people. 5 This is so the Israelites will bring to the LORD the sacrifices they are now making in the open fields. They must bring them to the priest, that is, to the LORD, at the entrance to the tent of meeting and sacrifice them as fellowship offerings. 6 The priest is to splash the blood against the altar of the LORD at the entrance to the tent of meeting and burn the fat as an aroma pleasing to the LORD. 7 They must no longer offer any of their sacrifices to the goat idols to whom they prostitute themselves. This is to be a lasting ordinance for them and for the generations to come.’8 “Say to them: ‘Any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice 9 and does not bring it to the entrance to the tent of meeting to sacrifice it to the LORD must be cut off from the people of Israel.10 “‘I will set my face against any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who eats blood, and I will cut them off from the people. 11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. 12 Therefore I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may any foreigner residing among you eat blood.”13 “‘Any Israelite or any foreigner residing among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth, 14 because the life of every creature is its blood. That is why I have said to the Israelites, “You must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off.”
7 Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.8 These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.
Our readings today begin with Psalm 53, where the psalmist reflects on the depravity of mankind. He concludes, “There is no one who does good, no not even one.” This is repeated in Romans 3:10-12, as Paul makes a case that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:22). He will then proceed to share the Good News that we are justified (or made right with God) through grace by faith. But in the Old Testament Jesus had not come yet, so the forgiveness happened through the sin and burnt offering of innocent animals whose blood shed made atonement for the people by the High Priest in the tabernacle.
As we see in Leviticus 17, there were two strong admonitions given. 1.) No sacrifice could take place outside the Tent of the Meeting, which was prescribed as the people gathered before a holy God. And then second, no one could drink the blood of the animal. In our day this seems almost grisly, but the point was the blood was a symbol of life, and the innocent blood of the lamb or goat was offered up to make sacrifice for the people. To drink that blood would have been tantamount to saying we don’t need to any sacrifice, I will do it myself. As we understand the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, and the purity of the ritual, we have greater appreciation for Jesus’ who sacrificed his blood for us on the cross. It also gives new meaning to the sacrament of the Holy Communion, as we drink the wine as a symbol of Christ’s presence and forgiveness of our sin.
Finally in the Gospel lesson in Mark 6, we see the transition from Jesus doing the ministry to sending out the disciples to do the very same things he did. Notice they mimic what he did. They preach that people should repent (from trusting in themselves to trusting in God), and they drive out demons (as a sign of the authority and kingdom coming in) and they anoint people with oil and heal them (another sign of God’s in-breaking kingdom coming in through Jesus’ through the authority Jesus gave them). Notice it take Jesus very long before he started equipping his disciples to do the very same things he did.
If this is the model Jesus used, why would we think we could improve on it? The very essence of what we are called to do as the church, is what Jesus did and then trained his disciples to do. At our church we are trying to reclaim the essence of what Jesus came to do in the culture he lived in, in our culture. A challenge for sure, but we feel it honors what Jesus called us out of the world to do. Where is God calling you to be his disciple by living out these principles? You may not cast out demons out of someone out at work today, but God can use you to be an example of someone who follows Jesus and it may move them a little closer to His kingdom and power. Pray that God might open your eyes to see what He is doing in the world and what He might do through you.
Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength is spent.
Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.
2 Corinthians 4:16
Dear God, you renew our strength in ways we cannot imagine: teaching us hope and giving us new ways to spend our energies for you. Direct our paths, sustain our hearts; we serve you with awe. Amen.