The Bible Challenge 2015 – Day 36

Exodus 40, Psalm 30, Mark 3
Staying close together as family and honoring our own kin

Exodus 40
Psalm 30
Mark 3
Key Verses
Questions
Prayer

Exodus 40

As I read chapter 40, I think of the flurry of activity that occurs in our church every Sunday morning and in churches across our country and around the world. Acolytes scamper to put on robes, light torches and carry the processional cross into the church. The altar guild prepares the altar.

The choir slips into place in the back of the church. Ushers pass out leaflets. Greeters welcome worshippers with a smile. The verger and chalice bearers take their place. Church members slip into their favorite pew as the organist plays a beautiful prelude, and the carilloneur strikes the church bells.

All of this unfolds like a ballet slowly evolving until we march down the aisle singing and service begins. It’s a pageant that we do each Sunday, week after week and year after year. We might keep this in mind as we read the final chapter of Exodus and hear:

The Lord spoke to Moses: On the first day of the month you shall set up
the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. You shall put in it the ark of the
covenant, and you shall screen the ark with the curtain. (Ps. 40:1-3)

God commanded, and Moses obeyed. Like all of us at church each Sunday, we are eager to please God. We try to conduct worship well and offer God our best. Just as God commanded Moses to set up the tabernacle on the first day of the month, we worship each Sunday as God commanded us to do. What we are doing is ancient. Its roots go back over 2,500 years. We humans are still on a journey with God, wearing vestments, consecrating priests, caring for God’s sanctuary and celebrating our God.

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Psalm 30

The psalmist makes a wonderful observation about God, noting,

For [God’s] anger is but for a moment;
his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning. (Ps. 30:5)

Anyone who has been on a journey with God will recognize the truthfulness of these words. Each one of us will experience God’s anger at some point in our life. We disappoint God, just as we have disappointed parents, siblings, teachers, coaches and employers at various moments in time.

God remains steadfast, however, even when we have done things that frustrate our Creator. God’s focus is always outward, trying to help us and to guide us to care for others.

You have turned my mourning into dancing;
You have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy… (Ps. 30:11)

We cannot repay God for all that God has done for us. We can, however, praise and worship God.

So that my soul may praise you
and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever. (Ps. 30:12)

When I was in college, a professor of philosophy at Emory University named Tom Flynn played a great role in my life. He became a lifelong friend and mentor and is even a godparent for one of our daughters. I learned more from Tom than anyone else in college. He taught me not just about philosophy, but about how to be generous, wise, kind and prayerful and how to be a scholar.

At the end of college I stopped by his office one day to thank him for all that he had done for me. I said, “Dr. Flynn, I wish there was a gift that I could give you to express my gratitude.” He said, “You don’t need to give me any gift.” Then I said, “Perhaps one day I can do for someone else what you have done for me.” He leaned forward in his chair, clapped his hands and said, “Now you’re talking, scholar.”

That moment was a turning point in my life – like a Copernican Revolution. I suddenly realized that life was not all about me. It was about giving gifts to others and doing things to improve their lives more than mine. We don’t need to give God a gift. What we can do is pass on to someone else some of the good measure that God has given to us. In so doing, we will give God a very fine present.

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Mark 3

Mark’s Gospel reminds again how effective a healer Jesus was and continues to be. Chapter 3 opens with Jesus healing a man with a withered hand. Because Jesus healed so many people, word spread and a great crowd of infirm persons assembled. Jesus fearing the growing crowd, instructed the disciples to prepare a boat for him so that “they would not crush him.” (Mark 3:9) In verse 10, we see that it is the demons who recognize Jesus as the Messiah. They are the first to recognize Jesus’s identity and power.

Jesus’s own family did not appreciate his gifts or understand his ministry. “When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’” (Mark 3:21) How often the people closest to us misunderstand us, even our own family. Jesus’s family was worried about him, but Jesus told his followers, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister.” (Mark 3:35)

The Church is similar. We have witnessed a lot of fights about human sexuality and gender issues during the last 20 years. The Church in Africa and other areas have suggested that the Episcopal Church is immoral and does not follow the Bible. The family has thought one of their own members had “gone out of his mind.” (Mark 3:21) Only time will tell. What we do know, is that Jesus himself said,

If a kingdom is divided against itself, that Kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. (Mark 3:24-25)

There is no reason for the Church ever to split. We must think long and hard before condemning other Christians. Anytime we demonize our fellow Christians, Satan has a field day. A church that is divided against itself, cannot stand. There will be no winners when it falls.

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Key Verses

If a kingdom is divided against itself, that Kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. (Mark 3:24-25)

Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister. (Mark 3:35)

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Questions

Have you found an active role in worship? If not, why not? Is God calling you to serve as a worship leader? Who has mentored you? How can you pass that gift along to someone else? Has your own family ever failed to appreciate your gifts and what you were doing? Is your house divided?

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Prayer

Almighty and All Loving God, help our house to be united and strong. Let us speak positively about each member of our family and our church and Christians everywhere. You never delight when we speak negatively about one another. Lord, help us honor each other. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.

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© The Rev. Marek P. Zabriskie
Rector of St. Thomas Episcopal Church
Fort Washington, Pennsylvania