Sunday, July 15, 2018

A Better "Left Behind" Series? :P

Woodcut of "Elijah leaving for heaven in a chariot of fire, leaving Elisha behind to take his place."

Yesterday, while reading the lectionary text, which read as follows...

Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, 2all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, 3the Negeb, and the Plain—that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees—as far as Zoar. 4The Lord said to him, ‘This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, “I will give it to your descendants”; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.’ 5Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command.
Deuteronomy 34: 1-12

I had a bit of a Kairos moment. I noticed that, quite possibly, in the narrative story of the New Testament, Deuteronomy 34 parallels this....

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

Matthew 4: 8-11

So if what I was seeing in my Kairos moment is really there, then the temptation stories are elements of Jesus' embodying a reenactment of the Exodus, and Jesus is faithful and obedient where Moses was not....

As I was conversing about this with a dear friend, he pointed towards a further parallel that I hadn't thought of. (More evidence that Lectio Divina and scriptural love-study is better done in groups :D ). He noted that, after Moses' death, Joshua received the benefits of his labor (this comes up in today's lectionary reading)...

1 :1 After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' assistant, 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore ARISE, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.
Joshua 1: 1-3

So, Joshua completes the Exodus that the Lord initiated and called Moses into. Moses "left Joshua behind" to carry on his work. In the New Testament, then, Joshua's work would then parallel Christ's call to the disciples to complete the work that he had begun: Go and make disciples of all nations!

My friend, not always the party pooper, then noted: "Except Joshua murders the nations lol. We need a better Joshua."

OK. So Jesus, obviously not in complete discontinuity from the story of Moses, nevertheless trumps - or is "is the better" Moses (see the book of Hebrews). And the church (Paul and Barnabas? Phillip and the Eunuch?) "are the better" Joshuas, perhaps. I'm referring to the scriptural narrative parallels present in the story that we, as the church, are called by said story to live out. Joshua basically commits genocide on the Canaanites. But that's not what Peter, Phillip and Paul do to the Ethiopian eunuch and Gentiles in the N.T.

So, just to be clear, I'm saying there may also be a narrative parallel here between Matt 4 - Jesus was "carried" to the top of the mountain and "led up" to the wilderness - and the stories of Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch and Paul and Barnabas.

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “RISE and go toward the south to...And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him [I never noticed that Peter RAN to him, btw, like the undignified father of the Prodigal; he must have been pretty exited!]...And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at...and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until..."
Acts 8: 26-39 (emphasis added, see Joshua 1, above)

I always wondered about that. It always struck me as so random, not that the Spirit told Phillip to go to the road where he would meet and be told to speak to the Eunuch, but that "the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away." I was always like, "Umm, he couldn't just walk?" "The Eunuch must have been pretty confused?" Lol. Well, apparently it's purposefully meant to be a pretty significant - and even driving - element of the story!

Later, by the Holy Spirit falling on the gentiles after Peter begins to spread the gospel to "the nations" according to the word of Christ and in both continuity and discontinuity of the narrative of Moses' Exodus and Joshua's conquest, Paul and Barnabas get in on the Act.

"While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off."
Acts 13: 2-3

So, Moses "left behind" Joshua, and Jesus "left behind" the disciples. That's quite the coincidence!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

And as they were COMING DOWN THE MOUNTAIN, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” 10 And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 11 He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. 12 But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands...”
Matthew 17: 9-12 (emphasis added)

Moses "left behind" Joshua, Jesus "left behind" the discipes, and Elijah "left behind" both Elisha and John the Baptist! There seems to be a pattern here :)

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church... - Colossians 1: 24. If this sounds intriguing to you, "Now, go and do likewise." :)

Sunday, July 01, 2018

My Death At A Funeral

Pictured: Exile Painting, by Faiza Bayou

I am from there. I am from here.
I am not there and I am not here.
I have two names, which meet and part,
And I have two languages.
I forget which of them I dream in.

- Mahmoud Darwish

(Notice in the painting that there is no solid ground to stand on, and the mostly faceless figures blend together with each other; it's difficult to identify with any of them)

Yestreday was Matt's Grandma's funeral.

I've been struggling lately because of being overloaded and exhausted by work. Because of the competitive and greedy way that capitalism structures our lives (which is the latest and local version of the whole "thorns and thistles" thing from Gen. 3), we are all burdened by death like slaves in exile. My life has been consumed by a vain cycle of exhaustion and attempts to recover from said exhaustion with not enough rest. Even in hospice, I can't escape it.

Reduced to Ashes, by Faiza Bayou
Turning to God in the liturgy revealed to me first - early on in the liturgy and in spite of my cold and hardened heart - that I am angry at God. The very act of turning to God and in re-memberance embodying his goodness juxtaposed and revealed my very self against His goodness and mercy. I realized that, deep in my gut, I felt that God is who led me to this place. I ended up a hospice nurse precisely by following God's promptings and receiving God's gifts. And now I basically hate my life, generally not so much struggling with but succumbing to anger, apathy, and frustration. And, because God lead me to a path of life I hate, I realized I had blamed Him for my hate. Hence my previous use of the term "juxtaposition."

Later in the liturgy - as Matt and his Mom told stories of grace and proclaimed good news of His victory over death - I realized that my juxtaposed hate had kept me from turning to the Only One in whom I can and will ever find true rest. Reflecting on this only after the fact, God helped me to remember some key parts of the liturgy that I had only half glossed over the first time around:

Cain Flying Before Jehovah's Curse, by Fernand Cormon, 1880 (Am I Cain, or am I Abel?)

He "heals our diseases," "forgives our sins," crowns us with love and compassion," and in Him we are "renewed like the eagles." (Paslm 103)

"He makes me lie down in green pastures
He leads me beside still waters
He restores my soul."
- Psalm 23

"The Lord is my light and my salvation
The Lord is the stronghold of my life
[and how will he even help!? These evil capitalist structures will remain even after I do turn to God]
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock." - Psalm 27
[In other words, He gives me "food to eat" that the angry, anxious, fearful, and hateful me "knows nothing about" - John 4: 32]

and from the liturgy reading of Zephenia 3:
"in his love, he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing
At that time I will deal
with all who oppressed you.
I will rescue the lame;
I will gather the exiles....
At that time I will gather you,
at that time, I will bring you home."

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