Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Rock That is Higher Than I...

Psalm 61
For the director of music. With stringed instruments. Of David
1 Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.
2 From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
3 For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.
4 I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
5 For you, God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
6 Increase the days of the king’s life,
his years for many generations.
7 May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever;
appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him.
8 Then I will ever sing in praise of your name
and fulfill my vows day after day.

Reflection: Psalms 61-64 pray for a restoration of God’s presence. Psalm 61 speaks of a king, perhaps, David; who was king; and was often being hunted down. It also has overtones for the future King, the Messiah, who would come and deliver Israel from her enemies. The prayer is for protection and lifting up our earthly trials to the rock that is higher than I. God is our refuge and ever present help in time of need. Take a moment to lift up your troubles to the Rock of your Salvation, that is higher than you.

Numbers 3:1-32 This is the account of the family of Aaron and Moses at the time the Lord spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai.2 The names of the sons of Aaron were Nadab the firstborn and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. 3 Those were the names of Aaron’s sons, the anointed priests, who were ordained to serve as priests. 4 Nadab and Abihu, however, died before the Lord when they made an offering with unauthorized fire before him in the Desert of Sinai. They had no sons, so Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests during the lifetime of their father Aaron.5 The Lord said to Moses, 6 “Bring the tribe of Levi and present them to Aaron the priest to assist him. 7 They are to perform duties for him and for the whole community at the tent of meeting by doing the work of the tabernacle. 8 They are to take care of all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, fulfilling the obligations of the Israelites by doing the work of the tabernacle. 9 Give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to him. 10 Appoint Aaron and his sons to serve as priests; anyone else who approaches the sanctuary is to be put to death.”11 The Lord also said to Moses, 12 “I have taken the Levites from among the Israelites in place of the first male offspring of every Israelite woman. The Levites are mine, 13 for all the firstborn are mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set apart for myself every firstborn in Israel, whether human or animal. They are to be mine. I am the Lord.”14 The Lord said to Moses in the Desert of Sinai, 15 “Count the Levites by their families and clans. Count every male a month old or more.”

Reflection: We continue to see the organization of the Israelites in the wilderness. We are reminded of the sin of Aaron’s sons, and the severe consequence (death) for Nadab and Abihu as they made an offering that was unauthorized. We also see God’s grace in the provision of the Levites to carry out the many activities prescribed by the law for offerings in the temple. The Levites were taken from the Lord, instead of the firstborn, to be wholly devoted to the Lord. That is why they were given no land, because they were the Lord’s possession and administration of the holy temple was to be their residence. This reminds all those who are set apart for the work of ministry in an ordained sense, of the holiness of their calling. While we are all called to serve God with the gifts he has given us, some are called to lead and minister the Word and Sacraments Jesus has given us in the New Covenant by His blood and the presence of His Holy Spirit.

Mark 10:1-12

10 Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them. 2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”3 “What did Moses command you?” he replied.4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”5 “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. 6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”10 When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11 He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

Reflection: Divorce in Moses day was an accommodation to human weakness, and used to bring order in a society. In the Jewish society men could divorce women without a judicial court, so part of Moses’ allowing it Moses’ was not making it acceptable but reducing the consequences of hardship to the person being divorced. (NIV Study Bible, p.1545) But this was not ever God’s intention.

In Matthew’s version there is the exception given for adultery. Obviously this continues to affect us today both in the world and in the church. Many churches are stepping up efforts to offer Marriage Courses (including ours) to help couples rediscover God’s purposes for marriage as the fundamental building block to healthy families that pass on faith to the next generation.

If you are married what are you doing to protect the oneness and unity in your marriage based on God’s oneness and unity? What threatens to destroy that unity? What steps will you take to protect your marriage and your family? How can God being at the center of your marriage help you to remain faithful to each other? One example: Do you pray on a regular basis with your spouse? I know it is easy to forget this discipline, but I have found it can be a very valuable tool to strengthen your marriage and remember God as the center of marriage.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. Deuteronomy 6:4

There are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 1 Corinthians 12:6

You, Lord God, are one who blesses. You give us life. You give us your love. You give us the work of sharing your love, and the power to do it. For this we give you thanks and praise. Amen.

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