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Day 11- Lay Ministry & Spiritual Gift Development: Sharing the Burden: Read Exodus 18:13-27
Moses tried to carry by himself the full weight of the burden of the 600,000 adult Hebrews who left Egypt! Does this sound like a prescription for burnout? Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, certainly thought so and gave him advice that is wise and empowering to this day: delegation. He told Moses to appoint wise and God-fearing persons who were trusted by the people to handle the majority of legislative and administrative matters that came up while submitting to Moses the cases that were too difficult for them. This left Moses free to perform the tasks of leadership without wearing out both himself and his people. It also trained people to use their gifts.
Today, while we don’t have many congregations that even come close to the size of Moses’, the task of leadership remains the same: train future leaders, delegate tasks based on which gifts of the spirit an individual has, consult the Lord through prayer, administer the Eucharist and sacraments, exhort and provide inspiration and guidance.
How much of the delegated work that our leaders offer do I accept as my own obligation? Do I realize that I will develop my talents and spiritual gifts by accepting these tasks? Does the Church have a good system for identifying and developing the gifts of its members? What do you imagine some of the qualities and characteristics sought by Moses in selecting “capable leaders?”
Day 12- The Need to Experience God: The Great Theophany at Sinai: Read Exodus 19:1-25; 20:18-21
Earthquakes! Shaking Mountains! Smoke and Thunder! Lightning and Deafening Trumpet Blasts! All of these phenomena accompany the descent of the Lord on Mt. Sinai. The event is so holy and tremendous that anyone or any animal that touches the mountain must be put to death either by stoning or arrows. No one may even touch them! The Lord wanted the Hebrews to remember this meeting and did anything that would imprint it on their collective minds. Thirty-three centuries later it is still vivid! God has come to a people.
Moses met with God and received instructions for the people. He was told to consecrate them. They were to wash themselves and prepare to come to the mountain of the Lord.
Moses spoke and the Lord answered him. The people stayed at a distance. They feared death if they heard God’s voice. The fear of God was with them to keep them from sinning.
What is the difference between fear of God and being afraid of God? Are we afraid to get to close to God? Do we stand far off while others get close to God and hear His voice?
Day 13- Guide for Behavior: The Ten Commandments: Read Exodus 20:1-26
The Ten Commandments are a kind of summary of the legislation that will follow in the Books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. These are the key demands of any relationship with God; they cover duties toward God and toward one another, and are limited to ten for easy teaching to children who can count them on the fingers. .
Today, we continue to use them as a guide to our behavior but in a deeper way than spelled out in Exodus. We may not kill, but do we get angry with others? We may not commit adultery but do we lust? We may not think we worship other gods but due we love money or our looks too much? We may not bear false witness against our neighbor in a legal sense but do we slander them? We may not overtly steal but do we cheat on our taxes? We may go to Church on Sunday but do we really honor the Sabbath?
Spend some time thinking about these deeper meanings of the Commandments that you began on Day 1. Skim through Chapters 21-23 of Exodus to get a fuller flavor for how the laws were applied and what would happen if they were disobeyed. Remember that to the Israelites the Law was not originally a burden, but a gift from God to His chosen people. How did they misunderstand this gift? Do we misunderstand this gift?
Day 14- Covenant of Blood and Meal: Ratification of the Covenant: Read Exodus 24:1-18
“This is the blood of the Covenant which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all of these words of His.” With these words the people give their full assent with the divine offer of a covenant and sealed with two rituals: the sprinkling of the blood of a sacrificial lamb and a covenantal meal where the elders banquet with God. It is the culmination of the whole covenant process: purification (Ex. 19:1-25), summary of covenant (Ex: 20:1-21), the covenant code (Ex: 21-23) and covenant ratification (Ex. 24:1-18). The scapegoat, the innocent lamb, is sacrificed.
“This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me. This is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in memory of me.” Today, we celebrate the new covenant of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharistic meal. As it was thirty-three centuries ago, so it is today: remember, enact, and partake of the sacred feast. The innocent Lamb of God offers Himself as the Sacrifice.
Do I recognize the new covenant as a perfection of the old? What is important about the shedding of blood? What is important about a shared meal? Do I give proper honor and thanks when I partake of the Eucharist? Do I take the Eucharist lightly? Why is it critical that I partake often of the Eucharist?
Day 15- The Power of Intercession: The Golden Calf: Read Exodus 32:1-35
The Golden Calf was not meant to be a “false god” but an image of the Lord, which the Hebrews were forbidden to make. They imaged a calf/bull to represent a god of strength. The people were so used to idolatry that it is not likely that they understood in their hearts and minds the difference between an image, a false god, and the real God. In addition, there was much revelry in the camp which implied that much partying was going on (the Flesh). Finally, it is apparent that no one was willing to wait on the Lord’s timing by waiting for Moses to return from his visit with God and thus took matters into their own hands. God believed that the people were unteachable and wanted to raise up a new people to replace them. Moses interceded with God for the people, standing in the breach, and God listened to him. Moses reminded God of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God relented and did not destroy the people.
Why did people rebel against God and the leadership of Moses? How was Aaron an unfaithful leader?
Today, God still desires to make us a holy people. Often we make God in our own images, making Him less than He is. We then become much less than we are created to become. We are all called to talk with God and intercede for others as Moses did for the Hebrews in the desert. Our prayers may soften hearts, open the doors to grace, and allow God’s love to raise them up to Himself. There is always hope!
Do I pray for others regularly? Have I learned to pray as well as to intercede? Am I sure that I can distinguish between an image, a false god and the true God? Am I learning patience by learning to wait on God’s time to act?
Day 16- Prayer and Meditation: Moses’ Intimacy With God: Read Exodus 33:7-34:8, 34:27-35
Moses spoke face-to-face with God and was called God’s friend. This intimacy was developed through long periods of prayer coupled with the extreme humility of Moses. This humility and prayer enabled Moses to become one of the great prophets/leaders, in the entire history of the Jewish faith.
Today, we are all called to this kind of intimacy with the Father, through Jesus’ name by way of the Holy Spirit. It is still accomplished through humility, the king of virtues, and long periods of prayer and meditation. Humility is not humiliation although at times I need to be humiliated to get back on track. Humility (the opposite of pride, one sin of Satan) is found in recognizing that I am not God but only a limited and imperfect created being called to be a son of God. Long periods of prayer (talking to God) and meditation (listening to God) enable one to live up to this calling. The Church is also to be humble, a people on their knees in prayer.
How often do I still try to play “god” in my life instead of submitting myself to my loving Creator? How much time do I spend in prayer? How much time in meditation? Has my intimacy with God grown over the years? In what ways has it grown?
Day 17- Life As A Journey: Departure from Sinai: Read Numbers 10:11-12, 33-36
Moses and the people left Sinai in the second year of their journey. They traveled in stages as the Lord prompted them; staying as long as He wanted them to stay. The people were to learn obedience by listening to and following the instructions of the Lord on a day-to-day basis. Only in this way could faith in God be cultivated.
We are to learn and grow on our life’s journey by trusting God on a day-to-day basis as well. In general, over time, we are to learn to grow in our relationship with ourselves, others and God. We learn to be authentic with ourselves by being totally honest with ourselves. We learn our significance by being in a growing relationship with God (There is evidence that those who fail to discover their significance in relationship to God by age 35 or 40 will invariably become sick mentally and psychologically.) In order to love and be loved by others we need to learn to be persons of integrity (transparency). Finally, we need to learn how to relate as a community (solidarity). These areas of growth seem to occur in approximately twenty-one year cycles as we move from childhood to old age. If we don’t grow in these areas in accord with our ages, we tend to become stuck and do not become the people God intended us to be. God seems to have made us this way but we need to respond to these inner promptings to grow. It is a choice and a test of our free-will.
Will I follow the inner promptings that will result in my psychological and spiritual growth? Many people have adult bodies but are still psychologically adolescents (or even children in some cases). Addictions will halt our growth in its tracks. Do I have any addictions resulting from my fear of growing by experiencing necessary emotional pain? How can we as a Church help in our collective growth? How can we help our brothers and sisters in Christ to grow? .
Day 18-The Holy Spirit: Descent of the Spirit On the Elders: Read Numbers 11:16-30
In the reading for Day 11 we saw how Moses learned to share the burden of leadership through delegation. In today’s reading, the Lord’s ratification of the ministry of the elders is completed by the descent of the Spirit upon them. The proof of the ratification is that the elders are able to prophesy; not foretelling the future but speaking with enraptured enthusiasm. Even those leaders who were not at the meeting but were at the camp began to prophesy. Moses’ wish was that all of the Hebrews would receive the Lord’s Spirit.
When Jesus ascended into heaven He promised that He would send the Holy Spirit on all those who believed in Him, not just the elders. The initial pouring of the Spirit on Pentecost was followed by the spread of the Spirit like wildfire throughout the community. Two-thousand years later, this same Spirit has been given to us to use to build up each other, the Church, and the world.
How has the gift of the Holy Spirit been manifested in my life? Do I stifle the Spirit through inaction on His promptings? How is the Holy Spirit revealed in our Church?
Read 1 Corinthians 12-14. What spiritual gifts are evident in my life? How are they used for the building up of Christ’s body, the Church?
Day 19- Rebellion Within the Church: Jealousy of Aaron and Miriam: Read Numbers 12:1-16
Moses was a very humble man who did not jealously guard his position of authority. As we saw in the reading for Day 18, his prayer was that all the Hebrews would receive the gifts of the Spirit and develop leadership capabilities. Not so with his sister and brother. They were jealous of the authority given to Moses (his marrying a ‘despised foreigner’ was only a pretext to give it voice). The Lord made it abundantly clear that while others may experience the Lord in visions and dreams, Moses sees God face-to-face as a friend. The Lord stopped the rebellion in its tracks and Moses had to intercede for his family.
Today there is much rebellion in Jesus’ Church. There are literally thousands of denominations and it is getting to the point where it seems like every family wants to be its own church, play by their own rules and maybe even define a god in its own image. The Body of Christ seems to be loosing its organs and limbs and is becoming only a huge group of single-celled organisms that overall have the shape of a body but may not function as one. While there may be good reasons to go church shopping, today’s reading gives a warning that Church unity is a priority and that anyone disrupting the Church had better have a good and God-inspired reason for doing so!
Do I work toward unity in my Church? Am I a person who is constantly church-shopping to find a church that is most nearly one created in my image? How does jealousy play out in my life? What am I jealous of? How can I counteract and repent of this vice?
Day 20- The Scourge of Fear: The Scouting of Canaan: Read Numbers 13:1-14:38
“The land we explored consumes its inhabitants! All the people we saw there were giants! We felt like grasshoppers and so we must have seen to them!” With these words nearly all of the men who scouted the land of Canaan discouraged the people (who had seen the power of the Lord at least ten times) to the point where they were making plans to appoint a leader to return them to Egypt! Because of their fear and lack of faith in the Lord, the Lord swore that none of that generation would enter the Promised Land. He turned them back from the land they were to enter toward the desert for an additional 38 years until that generation died off. This is what fear and lack of faith will do. It will delay all the good that the Lord has in store for us.
Today, our fears will do the same: prevent the good that Jesus has in store for us. Fear is an evil ally and one the Lord never uses. He encourages by faith and love. If we are afraid, Christ’s love has not yet been perfected in us. We need to learn to trust the Lord and act on faith and not the fears of our own making and egos. This is true for us as both individuals and as Church.
In what ways does fear control my life? What are my fears? (List them below.) What are the fears of our Church? (Fear of financial need? Fear to evangelize? Fear to give up the comforts of a middle class life in a secular culture? Etc.) How can I counteract these fears? How, as Church, can we grow beyond our fears?
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