Monday, April 24, 2017

Day 83: There be giants and Messiah is born

Deuteronomy 1, 2 and Luke 2:1-24

These passages give us a look once more at the Law of Moses. The people are facing giants, literally and figuratively in these chapters of Deuteronomy. In Luke we are given the birth story of Jesus, the Messiah.

Deuteronomy 1

Deuteronomy is the translation of the first few words of the book, these are the words. It also is often called the second law. It is the last book of the Pentateuch and it serves as not only a way to remember the past of God’s people, but to anticipate their future.
It begins with Moses telling that God has given instructions for the people, which the people chose to disobey. This disobedience led to a military defeat, but also to the generation of Israelites not being allowed to receive the Promised Land.

Deuteronomy 2

The people are told to pass through the land of Esau, but not to antagonize anyone there, for God gave this land to Esau. They also pass through the lands given to Lot. Here we are told about the strange people, giants of the region. These so called giants held mythic stature in the area. Thought to be the descendants of angels and women, they were fierce warriors.
God tells the people to pas through the land of Sihon, as they did the lands of Esau and Lot, but king Sihon will not let them pass. Thus begins the bloody conquest of the Promised Land.

Luke 2:1-24

The theology of Luke is based in the idea that Jesus’ mission was divinely necessary. There is often harsh language about the Jews and Jewish authorities. It is important to note that almost all of the followers of Jesus in Luke are Jews. These issues were more of a family struggle than pitting a whole religion against another.
In Chapter 2 we get the birth story of Jesus. His parents have traveled to Bethlehem to be registered. The most likely scenario is that they are with Joseph’s family, and therefore not lone travelers, two people against the world, as we often see them characterized.
Shepherds are the first to learn of Jesus’ birth. Shepherds were not the cream of the crop. They were not the kind of witnesses one would expect for any birth, let alone the birth of the Messiah, yet here they are. Mary ponders these things, the sayings and stories of the shepherds when they visit, in her heart. Mixed with the angelic proclamation to Mary and the greeting from Elizabeth, they must have made for very interesting food for thought.
Mary and Joseph are observant Jews. At 8 days of age they take Jesus to be circumcised and bring along the appropriate sacrifice. They bring two doves, not sheep, not bulls, for their first born son. This indicates that they were anything but wealthy. However, they did not let their lack of funds keep them from following the traditions.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Day 78: Faithfulness and Fear

Numbers 23, 24, 25 and Mark 16

Numbers switches from a talking donkey to God speaking directly to Balaam about God’s faithfulness to the people of Israel. God will not abandon them, even when, as we learn their faithfulness is in question. In Mark we see the faithful women going to the tomb and being filled with fear.

Numbers 23

Balaam is asked by Balak to curse the people of Israel. God, however has other plans. Balaam shows faithfulness to God by sharing God’s word even at great personal risk. He gives two oracles that proclaim God’s favor for the Israelites.
When do people ask you to deny God or ask you to go against God’s purposes?

Numbers 24

This time Balaam’s preparations for speaking with God are different. The sacrifices are still ordered, but Balaam does not approach God thinking he can coerce God into cursing the Israelites. He returns with words that Balak does not want to hear.
These words in favor of Israel anger Balak and he sends Balaam on his way without any of the promised rewards/payment for his speaking with God. Balaam then warns that no one will crush the Israelites because the Lord is with them. After Balaam leaves, Balak leaves dejected as well.

Numbers 25

In this chapter we get a glimpse of the lack of faithfulness on the part of some of the people of Israel. God here tells Moses that all who have brought the religion of the Midianites into the people should be impaled. This word impaled can mean crucified or exposed. Moses does not make a public gathering, he tells the chiefs that these individuals are to be executed. But we have no language suggesting this was carried out by Moses or the chiefs.
Then we zoom in more closely and are told the story of one man taking a Midianite wife with Moses’ full knowledge and Moses does not stop it from occurring. It needs to be stated here that Moses himself had married a Midianite woman, so not all of Israel held the idea of intermarriage to be a bad thing.
This passage is really used as a way to elevate Aaron’s family, aka the priesthood, over Moses and his family. This is one of the times you see the priestly sector trying to step into the role of leadership in all things, not just worship.
We are told that the people are wailing at the tent of meeting. We then learn it is because of a plague that is seen as God’s judgement against Moses’ inaction. Elaezar is praised for killing the man and his wife and credited with ending the plague that killed 25,000.

Mark 16

The resurrection account in Mark 16 is unique. The women, three named here Mary, Mary mother of Joses and Salome, come to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. They worry over the size of the stone. They are met by a young man, some say it might be the same young man who ran naked from the garden of Gethsemane, not an angel. He tells them of the risen Lord. The women are terrified and said nothing to anyone. The women here would be the first to actually keep the Messianic secret pushed throughout the gospel of Mark. Only we know that they told someone, or else we would not have an account of the event!
The other endings of Mark were added later by communities that had been influenced by other Christians and letters or perhaps even other Gospels. These endings are in line with what has become fairly “orthodox” Christian thoughts surrounding the events following the resurrection of Christ.

Day 77: A serpent, a donkey, and two bandits

I apologize for falling behind on posting. I will be catching up over the next few days.

Numbers 20, 21, 22 and Mark 15:26-47

These passages deal with a more than slightly bizarre serpent, a very interesting donkey, and two bandits. Whoever said the Bible was boring has obviously never read these accounts!

Numbers 20

After 40 years of wondering in the desert the Israelites are approaching the Promised Land. However, as we know, not all of them will make the crossing because of their lack of faithfulness. Miriam dies and is buried here. We are given the story of Moses getting water from a rock at Meribah and this is where Moses and Aaron are told they will not enter the Promised Land.
In verse 28 we are given an odd account of Aaron being stripped of his robe and dyeing on a mountain top. There is not really a good explanation for this described and I am left to wonder how he died. If perhaps his death was not an execution. It certainly seems ceremonial enough for such.

Numbers 21

Here is one of the oddest passages of scriptures. Israeli is attacked by poisonous snakes, called fiery ones, perhaps because of the pain from their venom. God tells Moses to make a serpent of bronze, a poisonous snake of bronze, and hang it on a pole so that everyone who is bit might look at it and live. This seems a bit like sympathetic magic to me. Perhaps this is was leads to the snake worshiped in the time of Hezekiah in 2 Kings 18:4.
This passage continues with descriptions of what can only be called holy wars against the people of the area in their attempt to arrive at the Promised Land.

Numbers 22

Balaam enters the scene as a divination expert of the king Balak. It is interesting that this non-Israelites knows God, even calling the name Yahweh. Balak wants Balaam to curse the Israelites that are arriving from the wilderness. God tells Balaam not to curse them for they are blessed. God tells Balaam to go with Balak’s men to share what God has said.
On the way, Balaam’s donkey keeps acting funny. He stops in the middle of the road. He turns into odd fields and even gets Balaam stuck in an odd place between walls. Balaam cannot figure out what is going on with his beast and in anger strikes him. God opens the donkey’s mouth and the donkey tells Balaam that there has been a messenger from the Lord scaring him and that’s why he has changed direction. Yes, the donkey talks, Disney did not created talking animals. Balaam’s eyes are opened and he sees the messenger and listens to his words.

Mark 15:26-47

In Mark’s gospel there are three crosses. Jesus is hung in the middle with a bandit on each side. Bandits were political up risers. These are not thieves, but rather individuals who have committed a crime against the Roman government and their political actions. Jesus is hung in the middle, perhaps because he was the one with the most prominence in the area. Jesus offers grace to these rabble rousers even in the midst of his own suffering and death.
Jesus quotes the opening lines from Psalm 22 during his crucifixion. This psalm has very evocative language and allows you to imagine Christ’s agony.
Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses stay the whole time and see where Christ’s body is laid. This is important scene setting for the next chapter in Mark.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

All Shook Up: Easter 2017

Matthew 28:1-10 All Shook Up
He is risen.
He is risen indeed,
The great greeting on Easter in many Christian communities worldwide is a far cry from the words most likely uttered by Christ followers that first Easter morning.
Mary, the Magdalene and the other Mary, met early in the morning and walked together to the tomb of Jesus. I wonder what their conversation consisted of as they walked along the path to the grave. I wonder if they were sharing stories of Jesus that made them smile, like the time he welcomed little children to hear his words and receive his blessings.
Perhaps they talked about the things he had done that they did not understand. Why had he cursed that fig tree? What had he meant by saying they should hate their family?
Perhaps there were no words at all, just a deep shared grief as they went to the place where Jesus was buried.
When they arrived, no doubt, they expected to see a tomb. They expected to see all of the things you see in a burial ground. But what they expected, was not what they received.
As they sit there looking at the tomb, Matthew tells us that a great earthquake shakes the land. This is no random event. Matthew tells us that this earthquake happens as an angle of the Lord rolls the stone away from the tomb.
This is not the first earthquake in the book of Matthew. Just a few short verses before, when Jesus breathes his last breath, there is an earthquake that splits rocks. It opens the graves of some of the saints who have gone before and in tears the curtain in the temple from top to bottom.
These earthquakes, these tectonic shifts in the foundation of earth, are moments when heaven and earth connect. They connect in such a powerful way that the world as we know it is changed, upended, disturbed.
No one is safe from the divine reality that is ushered in at this moment. This moment, when everything is changed, when the resurrection of Christ occurs.
We have all heard the stories, seen the Facebook and YouTube videos, of people who have survived death, or even be resuscitated. We hear of people whose hearts have stopped, who have followed a great light only to be turned back. Perhaps we know personally some of these individuals.
But what happened to Jesus is not a resuscitation. It is not a reviving in the cool of the tomb. God breaks into the world and resurrects Jesus from the dead. New life and life abundant, the living water, life everlasting.
And, my friends, if even death is no longer a sure thing, what else might God have changed?
The angel speaks to the women telling them not to be afraid. Don’t be afraid, though the earth may quake, though the soldiers by the tomb are petrified with fear. They don’t understand that God is at work for good. Jesus is not here. He has been raised! Go and tell. He will meet you in Galilee.
And in Matthew’s account the two Mary’s begin running to tell the disciples what they have seen and heard. They go with fear and great joy. I love that line. I love it because it shows us that fear and joy can go hand in hand, much like doubt and faith often keep company.
The Mary’s are afraid of the unknown, of the tectonic shift in the world, of the earthquake that has just changed everything; but, but they are joyous over the news of the resurrection. They cannot wait to share what they have been told.
Suddenly, there on the road, they are met by Jesus. As they are going to do the thing they have been commanded to do, they find the risen Lord.
I took a youth group on a mission trip to Mexico in 1999. We were going to build a house for a family in the squatter’s section of a border town. We had spent time trying to prepare the kids for the extreme poverty they would witness. We talked with them about the difference between their homes and the 20 by 10 cinderblock home we were building. But there is no better teacher than experience.
Every night we would gather together back at the hotel and have a devotional time. On our next to last night a young man broke down in tears as he told us about his day.
Christian had watched a woman bath her two-year-old boy in a bucket of water that he knew was not clean enough to drink from. He had been shocked. A little later that same mother had come out to our work site with a basket full of homemade tortillas for the workers and a large jug of purified water for us to drink. Christian was overwhelmed by the love she had shown to us as strangers, when she had nothing to spare.
How many of you have had this experience? You go someone where thinking you are bringing the good news of Christ, only to find that he is already there!
These women, go to do what they have been told and along the way encounter Christ. Their response is not to question him about what he is doing there. They do not ask for identification or become frozen with fear. They see Christ and they fall at his feet and worship him.
When the risen Christ enters the world, nothing is ever the same, my friends. When God’s resurrection power intercedes, nothing is ever the same. The world is turned upside down, shaken to its very core.
When the kingdom of God breaks in the ways of thinking, living, being, the philosophies of scarcity, hate and fear, they are defeated.
Droughts are replaced with living water. The blind see, the lame walk. The last shall be first. These things that make no sense in the eyes of the world, are the cornerstone of the kingdom of God.
Today, I pray that we are all shook up by the resurrection presence of Jesus the Christ. I pray that the tectonic plates of what should be shift to what will be through Christ. I pray that the foundations of the earth are shattered, so that we might build on Christ’s foundation of love.
New life my friends, that’s the gift of Easter. New life, that shakes everything up.

Sunrise Service Easter 2017

Easter, April 16, 2017, Sunrise John 20
In 1650, Thomas Fuller, English theologian and historian said in his travelogue A Pisgah-Sight of Palestine and the confines thereof “It is always darkest just before the day dawneth.” People have debated for hundreds of years whether this is a fact or just a thoughtful notation. But there is no debating that this phrase has captured the human imagination.
There is an element of truth within it that speaks to us on deep levels. We’ve experienced the darkness and we know it can seem the most overwhelming just before the light breaks through.
Mary began her journey in this passage surrounded by the darkness. While it was still dark, John tells us, Mary made her way to the tomb where Jesus’ body had been placed. The darkness she walks through may indeed be the darkest time of her soul.
She is going to the grave of a man who gave her everything. Jesus had healed her from seven demons. Jesus had given her a spot among the faithful followers, roaming the countryside, sitting at his feet, soaking up the joy of his presence.
What will happen to her now? What will become of the life she has been shown? How will she ever be able to move past the darkness?
I think this is when Mary is the most relatable to me on a personal level. I’ve battled with depression throughout my life. There have been times when the darkness seemed impenetrable. Times when I could not imagine ever seeing sunshine again.
I, like most of us here today, have felt the pain of losing a loved one to death. We understand how it feels to go to the graveside, in the darkness of our grief and sit and wait, gathering that darkness like a blanket around our shoulders.
In her grief, in the dark, Mary went to the final resting place of Jesus, and when she arrived she saw that he was not there.
He was not there. Jesus’ body was gone. I wonder if she took a quick step back and counted the graves, just to make sure she was at the right place.
This past January, I returned to New Mexico for my Aunt Joyce’s funeral and while we were there the family decided to visit my grandparents grave site as well. Only, we couldn’t find it.
I’m sure it looked odd to see close to sixty people walking around that small cemetery looking for a headstone. Each of us remembered that the grave was on the West side, with the name facing the road, one row in from the edge. But it wasn’t there.
Finally, someone spotted it, two rows in, with the name facing a different direction. The confusion was caused by an extra row of bodies being added since their passing in 1983 and 1997 respectively. But no one can account for the stone being turned.
This confusion cannot begin to compare to Mary’s. Jesus is not misplaced. She has not miscounted tombs. He is simply no longer there.
In her angst, while it is still dark, she ran back to tell the disciples. Peter and John, the beloved disciple, return to the tomb with Mary. They ran to the tomb and find it empty, just as Mary had said. They entered the tomb, found it empty and believed. Believed what exactly? I think they believed Mary. They believed that Jesus’ body had been taken. They believed the darkness. The next verse says, “for yet, they did not understand the scripture, that he must be raised from the dead.”
Peter and John return home, still in the dark, still unaware of what this might mean. Still bound to and by the darkness.
Mary could not leave the place she last saw Jesus. She began to weep outside of the tomb. She cried tears of frustration, of loss, of fear, of love. It was bad enough to have Jesus die, but to not know where he body was? To not have a concrete place to take her thoughts and memories? This was like losing him all over again!
She looked into the tomb and saw two messengers, angles, dressed in white, one at the foot and one at the head. And in her darkness, she didn’t even seem shocked or surprised. She asked to know where Jesus’s body had been taken.
She turned around from the tomb and bumped into a man. And supposing him to be the gardener she asked, “If you have carried him away please tell me where you have laid him and I will take him away.”
In the darkness, she could not recognize who was speaking with her. In the darkness, her grief kept her blind. In the darkness, she was bound to earthly understanding.
In the darkness, we too sometimes do not recognize the voice of Jesus. In the darkness, we too allow grief and loss to keep us blind to truth. In the darkness, we are bound to earthly understanding.
“Mary” With a word the sun began to shine. With a word, the scales fell from her eyes. With a word the creator of the universe reminded Mary of who she was, and whose she was.
“Teacher.” She responds. In that moment, the sun shined out. In that moment, Mary not only identifies Jesus, she also identifies herself; for what good is a teacher without a disciple?
“Do not cling to me,” Jesus told her. Don’t cling to the old way of understanding. Don’t let the darkness, the past, hold you captive any longer. You are free of all that darkness now!
This is the message for us as well my friends. As the sun dawns brightly in our lives, let us set aside the darkness that clings so tightly. Let us be unbound, set free.

And when we have been unbound, when we have faced the dawn, let us go and boldly proclaim “We have seen the Lord!” Alleluia! He is Risen! He is Risen indeed!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Day 64: Love and the Least of these

Leviticus 19, 20 and Mark 9:30-50

These chapters give us the origin of Jesus’ greatest commandment, to love. They also chow us how Jesus turns things upside down with his teachings by elevating the least of these.

Leviticus 19

This section continues more prohibitions and rules for faith and practice. This is also where we get one of the most profound statements about the reality of God’s character. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love is a key aspect of God and as people who are seeking to become more Godlike we should seek to love. This verse specifically speaks to loving the alien in your midst.
Lending weight to the cultural verses descriptive for all times nature of some of these passages, in verse 20 we get a specific punishment for men who sleep with slaves that are not their property. They will not be put to death, because she was not free, not really a woman but property. It is hard to imagine that this is attempting to bring justice to a situation. The man is guilty and is to offer sacrifices, but the woman is not addressed. We hopefully see women as individuals, as creations of God, and as not property. Unfortunately, slavery is still alive and booming in our world, so would this section still apply to a person in these situations? I would say no, because even if someone else considers slavery acceptable we who profess in Christ’s lordship over all would have to find it detestable.

Leviticus 20

This chapter addresses punishment and penalties for those found to have broken statues. These include death for those who have sacrificed their children to other gods. These punishments serve to focus the people on the establishment of rituals and cultic practices unique to the nation of Israel.

Mark 9:30-50

Jesus speaks again here of his death and resurrection and the disciples do not understand. It makes me wonder how many times God tells me something before I actually believe it as truth?
There is an argument that starts about who will be the greatest in Jesus’ kingdom. This argument shows us a little bit about where the disciples thought things were headed. They expected a revolution and the positions of power that might come with a new regime. Jesus turns the table by telling them that the least of these is the greatest. Children had no special status in the ancient days, no value in and of themselves. I wonder who Jesus might pull forward today to demonstrate this truth to us?
Jesus then begins a litany of sins and actions. I don’t think Jesus is advocating self-harm or self-mutilation. I believe these are hyperbolic in nature. The idea here seems to be that we cannot acknowledge our sins and then do nothing to correct them. We must be prepared to make changes, even ones seen as drastic, to live kingdom lives.

Day 63: Vampires and Demons

Leviticus 17, 18 and Mark 9:1-29

These sections of scripture remind me of modern day horror obsession with vampires and demons. All the talk about blood leads me to imagine one of the vampires from a popular television series reading this chapter and deciding to become a “vegetarian,” and the casting out of a demon reminds me of other popular shows. Perhaps it is time for a “scary stories from scriptures” show.

Leviticus 17

Again, in Leviticus we are given rules dealing with the killing of animals. This is part of what leads scholars to believe that there are two sources for this particular book. His discussion of the slaughter of animals is twofold. It is placed here to keep people from the practice of idolatry. Apparently, people were sacrificing to other God’s in the fields instead of giving all honor to the One God. It is also to keep people from indiscriminately killing animals without plans to consume them.
This section then continues with the vampires prohibitions. There is to be no eating of blood. Period. Blood is the life source for living things and therefore sacred. Vampires aside, this practice was often associated with the worship of other gods. For someone who prefers all meat well-done, this is not a difficult prohibition to follow.

Leviticus 18

This scripture deals with sexual relations between people. There is an extensive discussion of incest, thirteen verses to be exact. This includes prohibitions of relationships between people related not by blood, but by marriage. I guess no one told soap opera writers about that little nuance.
Of course, the verse that in our day gets the most attention is verse 22. I really struggle to understand our inordinate level of interest in it. Some say that the use of the word abomination is what makes it stand out. I would beg to differ, as the word abomination is used over 100 times in scriptures and we do not have the same reaction to those issues as we do with male on male sexual activity. This word is applied to:
  • Eating meat three days after sacrificing
  • Egyptians and Hebrews eating at the same table
  • Eating birds of prey
  • Acts of idolatry
  • Using false or unfair weights during exchange
  • Mixed marriages
Very few of these things (idolatry perhaps, but only when its not about our own personal wealth or spending habits) get much play in the angry Christian rhetoric of our day. If we do not still hold to these as abominations, why does this one verse seem unchanged?
Proverbs 6:16-19 lists six things God hates and seven that are an abomination to the Lord. Guess what is not found in the list?
16 There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that hurry to run to evil,
19 a lying witness who testifies falsely,
and one who sows discord in a family.
I think our obsession about this verse says more about us than it does about God.

Mark 9:1-21

Mark continues showing Jesus’ miraculous works as he journeys closer and closer to the cross. Here we have the transfiguration of Jesus, where three of the disciples see Jesus speaking with Elijah and Moses. Dear sweet Peter even offers to build them shrines to dwell in so that all might know of this miracle.
They engage Jesus in a discussion about why Elijah came first, which just seems odd to me. Jesus responds that the prophet came first to offer a way of seeing things as God does, but the people would not listen. Here he might also be referencing John the Baptist and his gruesome ends.
The disciples bring a boy to Jesus who has been held by a demon for years. They were not able to cast the demon out, even though they had successfully healed and cast out demons previously. Jesus’ response reminds me of those snickers commercials where the catch line is “you’re not yourself when you’re hungry.” This response of calling the disciples faithless and crying out about not being with them long seems out of character to the Sunday School Jesus we all know and love.
It is important to remember that Jesus’ ministry is only one year in Mark and very fast paced. JI believe Jesus is earnestly concerned that the disciples are not picking up what he is putting down.
It is here that we find my favorite verse in Mark “I believe, help my unbelief.” This is my prayer quite frequently. Jesus hears this prayer and is able to heal the boy. He later tells the disciples that this one could only come out through prayer.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Day 62: Ritual cleansing and the Ritual of Healing

Leviticus 15, 16 and Mark 8:22-38

These passages both tell us of ritual occurrences. Leviticus talks about the rituals associated with clean and unclean, specifically related to reproduction and reproductive organs. Jesus initiates an odd ritual to heal a man.

Leviticus 15:

This chapter deals specifically with reproductive organs and the laws associated with them. It is a hard section to read for many modern readers. The idea of blood and semen and other body excretions being ritually unclean is difficult. The ancients seemed to have equated the loss of these things with the loss of life, or potential life and therefore saw them as signs of death.
The discharge spoken of is an abnormal discharge, more than likely gonorrhea.
Again, with the iniquity! Men are “unclean” until sundown after ejaculating, as are the beds they are on, cloths, and any woman who is with him. Women however are unclean for seven days after their menstrual cycle. It is interesting that they can stay at home, clean and cook for others without the others becoming unclean during this time period.

Leviticus 16

In priestly theology, it is the transgressions that are willful or brazen committed by the people who make the Holy of Holies impure enough to be cleansed once a year. The priest gives an offering for his sin and other priests sin before offering up a sin offering for the people and a scapegoat for the transgressions of the people. The scapegoat carries the sins of the people away from the camp into the wilderness where they can no longer make things impure.

Mark 8: 22-38

Jesus again takes someone aside and heals them using a ritual that includes spit, and putting his fingers in their ears. Two things that are less than comfortable for this preacher to think about. He tells this individual to not even go back to the village. Jesus knows that his time is running short and each excited new believer gets him closer to hot water.
Jesus then talks openly with his disciples about his death and resurrect. Peter rebukes him and Jesus rebukes back. I wonder how often I have told God that God could not, should not behave in one way. I wonder if I am willing to admit to being rebuked.

Day 61: Homes and Yeast

Leviticus 14 and Mark 8:1-21

In Leviticus, we continue with the priestly orders for declaring people, things and homes clean or unclean. In Mark Jesus continues to try to teach his disciples that the kingdom of God is unlike anything they have reference for in their lives.

Leviticus 14:

This passage gives rites for purification of those suffering from scale illnesses. It also however addresses homes, specifically homes that seem to have some sort of disease, perhaps like mold. What is unique to me are the rituals for discussing cleanliness of homes. They only fall under the first set of steps to clean or rather declare clean. If the disease is not stopped by the removal of stones and plaster affected, then the house is destroyed.
This I’m sure is twofold. One, people are worth more time an effort to find clean. And, a house cannot make the sanctuary unclean because it cannot enter the sanctuary.

Mark 8:1-21

Here we have the account of the feeding of the 4,000 with seven loaves of bread. There are seven baskets left over. There is that number of completion once more!
As they are traveling in the boat Jesus tells the disciples to be wary of the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod. The disciples think he is mad at them for not having enough bread. I can almost see Jesus rolling his eyes and wanting to call them knuckleheads. He just fed 5,000 with 5 loaves and 4,000 with 7 loaves. Jesus has this bread thing down!

Day 60: One Day You're In, the Next You're Out

Leviticus 13 and Mark 7:14-37

These passages draw lines between in and out. That is to say, between what is acceptable and what is not. They both look at those who are out, or outsiders, and those who claim special in status.

Leviticus 13:

Let me confess that I do not like this particular part of Leviticus. As someone with eczema and psoriasis I find it extremely painful to read about being cast out, or seen as unclean because of such conditions. There are distinctions made between raw skin and flaky skin, and how to report, review and make reparations for these conditions.
It is important to note that priests are not physicians. They do not treat or heal. God heals and God alone. The priests are only to give witness to healing and to offer the appropriate responses liturgically for healing. The priest is also charged with making sure that those with conditions that could spread are kept out of the community until healing has been confirmed.

Mark 7: 14-37

Jesus teaches here about what comes out of a person making them unclean. He here seems to declare all foods clean well before Peter’s vision of the sheet coming down from the sky filled with unclean animals.
This passage has my personal hero, the Syrophoenician woman. This woman who by all accounts is outside of the chosen people still dares to stand in Jesus’ presence and claim a right to the love of God. His claiming heals her daughter. Too often people turn her into an object lesson, but I think she genuinely is a child of faith, unapologetically asking God for what she needs. I wish I was that bold.
Then we have Jesus healing a man who had been deaf and mute. Jesus takes him aside, takes him out of the city, and heals him completely. There is something interesting about Jesus taking him out of the city so that he can be welcomed back into society.

Day 59: Clean Hands and Dirty Hearts

Leviticus 11, 12 and Mark 7:1-13

This section of Leviticus begins the rules of clean and unclean. Clean in this regard is speaking about ritual cleansing, not washed in the way we think of clean. Jesus also talks with people about being clean in Mark. Jesus explains that clean doesn’t mean the same thing as people have made it seem.

Leviticus 11:

This chapter begins the discussion of clean and unclean. We get a list of what animals, birds, bugs, fish etc. are clean. I find it very interesting that there is such a specific list of birds that are unclean. I’m also surprised that crickets, locust, and grasshoppers are clean.

Leviticus 12

This chapter enters the more personal of the clean and unclean standards. I am perturbed that there is a different level of ritual cleansing from a male verses a female child. 7 days unclean for male, 14 days for female. They can be cleansed 33 days after a male and 66 after a female. We are not given the reason for these differences.

Mark 7:1-13

Religious leaders complain to Jesus that his disciples do not eat with clean hands. This accusation does not mean that they forgot to scrub well, it refers to ritual washing to be done before eating. Jesus points out how hypocritical this line of thinking is. While the rules may say, honor mother and father, there were ways around them by declaring things a gift to God. If these things were to be used as a gift to God, usually after one’s death, they could not be used now to care for loved ones in need. Jesus says that hearts that would allow such actions are unclean.