Archive for the ‘Ark of the Covenant’ Tag

Devotion for Wednesday After Easter Sunday, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Women at the Empty Tomb--Fra Angelico

Above:  Women at the Empty Tomb, by Fra Angelico

Image in the Public Domain

Jesus, the Resurrection, and the Presence of God

APRIL 20, 2020


The Collect:

Almighty God, you give us the joy of celebrating our Lord’s resurrection.

Give us also the joys of life in your service,

and bring us at last to the full joy of life eternal,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 32


The Assigned Readings:

2 Samuel 6:1-15

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Luke 24:1-12


The presence of God was a frightful thing in much of the Old Testament.  It was not always so, for Abraham and God got along quite well and casually, according to much of Genesis.  God seems to have been the patriarch’s best friend.  God seems to have been more distant (at least in presentation) by the Book of Exodus.  In 2 Samuel 6 unfortunate Uzzah, who reached out to steady the Ark of the Covenant because the oxen pulling the cart had stumbled, died.

The LORD was incensed at Uzzah.  And God struck him down on the spot for his indiscretion, and he died there beside the Ark of God.

–Verse 7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Why acting to prevent the Ark of the Covenant from falling to the ground constituted an indiscretion, much less an act worthy of death by the proverbial hand of God, eludes me.  I do not think that it was indiscretion, but a faithful and respectful action.  Nevertheless, I acknowledge that the faith community which repeated this story as part of its oral tradition until someone thought to write it down understood the matter differently.

Getting too close to the presence of God was, according to many for a long time, fraught with peril.  But what about those stories of God and Abraham taking strolls together, once with the patriarch haggling with God over the lives of people he did not know?  Perceptions of God have changed much over time.

This is a devotion for Wednesday in Easter Week, hence the reading from the beginning of Luke 24.  There the tomb is empty and Jesus is elsewhere.  The narrative catches up with him in the pericope which begins with verse 13.  The link between the two main assigned readings is the physical presence of God.  It is a cause of peril for one who touches the Ark of the Covenant in 2 Samuel 6 yet not in the Gospels.  There Jesus walks, talks, and dines with people, much as God did with Abraham.

To focus on the resurrection theme in Luke 24 I turn to two other readings.  I imagine certain followers of Jesus, once they had recovered from the shock of the resurrection, reciting part of Psalm 118:

The same stone which the builders rejected

has become the chief cornerstone.

This is the LORD’s doing,

and it is marvelous in our eyes.

On this day the LORD has acted;

we will rejoice and be glad in it.

–Verses 22-24, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

I think also of 1 Corinthians 15:17-19 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989):

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those who have died in Christ have perished.  If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

I admit to doubts regarding certain doctrines and dogmas of the Church, but affirming the resurrection of Jesus is mandatory if one is to be a Christian.  Without the resurrection we are left with Dead Jesus, who cannot redeem anybody from anything.  The resurrection is therefore an indispensable of the process of atonement.  Actually, the resurrection is the final stage in that process, one I understand as having commenced with the Incarnation.







Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

Fleeing from Grace

MARCH 14-16, 2024


The Collect:

O God, rich in mercy, by the humiliation of your Son

you lifted up this fallen world and rescued us from the hopelessness of death.

Lead us into your light, that all our deeds may reflect your love,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 30:15-18 (Thursday)

Exodus 30:1-10 (Friday)

Habakkuk 3:2-13 (Saturday)

Psalm 107:1-16 (All Days)

Hebrews 4:1-13 (Thursday)

Hebrews 4:14-5:4 (Friday)

John 12:1-11 (Saturday)


Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness;

in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

Wash me through and through from my wickedness

and cleanse me from my sin.

–Psalm 51:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


Through all generations you have made yourself known,

and in your wrath you did not forget mercy.

–Habakkuk 3:2b, The Revised English Bible (1989)


For thus said my Lord GOD,

The Holy One of Israel,

“You shall triumph by stillness and quiet;

Your victory shall come about

Through calm and confidence.”

But you refused.

“No,” you declared.

“We shall flee on our steeds”–

Therefore you shall flee!

“We shall ride on swift mounts”–

Therefore your pursuers shall prove swift!

One thousand before the shout of one–

You shall flee at the shout of five;

Till what is left of you

Is like a mast on a hilltop,

Like a pole upon a mountain.


Truly, the LORD is waiting to show you grace,

Truly, He will arise to pardon you.

For the LORD is a God of justice;

Happy are all who wait for Him.

–Isaiah 30:15-18, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)


The concept of God changes between the covers of the Bible.  God is physically immediate to Abraham, for example, yet proximity to God is fatal in much of the Hebrew Scriptures.    Even touching the Ark of the Covenant accidentally proved fatal, according to the texts.  There was no fatal holiness in Jesus, however; St. Mary of Bethany anointed him in John 12:1-11, shortly before the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.

So we can draw near to God, who has drawn close to us and become incarnate (however that worked) as one of us.  The theological point of the full humanity and divinity of Jesus is one of those difficult knots great minds have tried to understand.  (For details, consult a history of Christian theology.)  I will not tread in their steps here except to assert that one ought to seek a balance between the humanity and the divinity of Jesus; one should not emphasize one at the expense of the other.  My experience in congregations (especially during my formative years) has been that people have usually been more comfortable with the divinity of Christ than with his humanity.  They have committed the heresy of Apollinarianism, or acknowledging his humanity while giving short shrift to it.

If attempting to untangle the mysteries of the Incarnation and of the nature(s) and will(s) of Christ proves insufficiently challenging, what about the balance between divine judgment and mercy?  I can provide a partial answer; the rest I am content to leave as a mystery.  Some things we do to ourselves, so we suffer the consequences of our actions.  Forgiveness of sins does not remove those consequences in this realm of existence, however.  Also, sometimes good news for the oppressed is catastrophic news for oppressors who refuse to change their ways.  That is the way life works.  In addition, some divine judgment is discipline meant to prompt repentance.  In such cases the metaphor of God as parent works well.  In some circumstances (especially from the Hebrew Scriptures) I refuse to affirm the argument that God has commanded people to commit genocide and other atrocities.  Maybe those who committed those deeds thought they were fulfilling a divine mandate, but they were wrong.  Against which population would Jesus commit or condone genocide?

Often we seek to use theology to justify our sins when we ought to confess and repent of those offenses.  Frequently we seek not God–in the context of whose holiness our sinfulness becomes evident–but confirmation of our imagined righteousness.  We flee from God, so we doom ourselves to face certain consequences.  We run away from God, who waits to show us mercy.  Maybe doing that is easier than facing the reality of our spiritual lives.  If that is true, this statement is a sad one.








Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After the Third Sunday in Lent, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Temple of Solomon

Above:  Temple of Solomon

I scanned the image from a Bible salesman’s sample book from the late 1800s.  The volume is falling apart, unfortunately, but it is quite nice to have nevertheless.

Faults of the Temple

MARCH 4-6, 2024


The Collect:

Holy God, through your Son you have called us to live faithfully and act courageously.

Keep us steadfast in your covenant of grace,

and teach us the wisdom that comes only through Jesus Christ,

our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28


The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 6:1-4, 21-22 (Monday)

2 Chronicles 29:1-11, 16-19 (Tuesday)

Ezra 6:1-6 (Wednesday)

Psalm 84 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 3:10-23 (Monday)

Hebrews 9:23-28 (Tuesday)

Mark 11:15-19 (Wednesday)


How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!

My soul has a desire and a longing to enter the courts of the Lord;

my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

–Psalm 84:1, Common Worship:  Daily Prayer (2005)


The Temple at Jerusalem was the heart of Judaism for a long time.  There, for centuries, was the Ark of the Covenant.  The Temple was where one had an especially palpable sense of the presence of God, although God dwelt everywhere.  King Solomon, using forced labor (see 1 Kings 5:27-30), oversaw the construction of the first Temple, an elaborate structure.  Forces of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire destroyed Solomon’s Temple in 587 B.C.E., but the Persian Empire provided support for the construction of the Second Temple.  King Herod the Great, a client ruler within the Roman Empire, expanded the Second Temple greatly, creating the Temple of which we read in the Gospels.  That Temple was the seat of Judean collaboration with the Roman occupiers.  It was also the site of the sacrifices of animals which poor people had purchased with currency they had exchanged for a fee; Roman currency was technically idolatrous.  The rich got richer and the poor got poorer in the name of piety.  The Temple system was corrupt.

This was why our Lord and Savior criticized that system and competed with it.  Thus many of his staunchest opponents benefited from that system.  Regardless of the number of purifications and rededications of the Temple, the flaw therein remained, for the upkeep of the Temple depended greatly upon money from people who could not afford to pay.

Thus Jesus, in the New Testament, replaces the Temple and the accompanying system.  In him are no political conflicts of interest related to collaboration with an occupying power.  In him are no demands for fees the poor cannot afford to pay.  In him there is no corruption.  He is the Passover lamb, whose blood, death, and Resurrection have atoned for sins.  (The Passover lambs in the Book of Exodus protected Israelites from the sins of Egyptians, not themselves, by the way.)  He is the Alpha and the Omega.  He is, in the words of 1 Corinthians 3, the foundation of the Church, God’s building.

And Judaism has done quite well without a Temple since 70 C.E., not that one should celebrate the Roman destruction of Jerusalem during the First Jewish War.