Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Bethany Bullet - Week of February 26, 2017

Sermon: “You Shouldda Seen It!”

This past week I spent a few days in Arizona at a ministry conference called Best Practices with a few other staff members from Bethany and you shoulda seen it. 

It is an annual conference hosted by Christ Church Lutheran in Phoenix and attended by almost 2000 people from all across the nation. 

Let me tell you a few things I witnessed.  
  • I watched as church workers jumped off a perfectly good two-story tower.  
  • I moseyed in the grass with a herd of fake cows. 
  • I got a Klondike bar from a pastor dressed up as a cockroach. 
  • I ate fajitas surrounded by a Mariachi band. 
  • I watched three people dressed as ketchup, mustard, and a hamburger run a race. 
  • I received a warm doughnut from a parrot. 
  • I heard Darth Vader play the trumpet. 
  • I was called into a session by a gorilla with a bullhorn.

No, I’m not playing Mad-Libs all this really happened.  But besides all of that, we did hear some amazing speakers, were inspired in worship, made some awesome connections, and saw the hands and feet of God serving, sharing, and learning together. 

We heard and experienced the sweetness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and truth be told, we were fed very well, both spiritually and physically.

You shoudda seen it!  It was amazing!  It was like nothing I have ever witnessed.  It was almost unbelievable. I almost wanted to set up a tent and just stay there.

It reminds me of the account in our Gospel reading (from Sunday morning). 

Today we remember the events that took place on the mountain of transfiguration.  Let’s look at the text again from Matthew 17, “After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John (the brother of James) and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone.  Jesus’ appearance changed in front of them. His face became as bright as the sun and his clothes as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared to them and were talking with Jesus.  Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it’s good that we’re here. If you want, I’ll put up three tents here—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  He was still speaking when a bright cloud overshadowed them. Then a voice came out of the cloud and said, “This is my Son, whom I love and with whom I am pleased. Listen to him!” 

It was a “you shoudda seen it” moment.  Peter was entranced by the notion of seeing Moses and Elijah and then the radiance of God Himself in Jesus Christ shining in the darkness. 

It was almost unbelievable.  It was like nothing He had ever seen and what did Peter want to do?  Yep, set up a tent and stay there.

If you were not at the Best Practices conference you might never believe the sights and the sounds I witnessed, but you might catch a glimpse by looking at pictures on Facebook or you could ask the others who were there with me.  Eyewitness accounts can be powerful testimonies of actual events.

It would be nice to sit down with Peter, James and John and talk to them about what they witnessed that day.  How great it would be to see their Facebook posts or tweets about the event.  But we can’t.

Not only was there no social media at the time, Jesus told them to keep the events to themselves until after He was brought back to life on Easter morning.

And Peter did just that.  But later he records his eyewitness account in our New Testament reading from today.  Listen to part of it again, “When we apostles told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, we didn’t base our message on clever myths that we made up. Rather, we witnessed his majesty with our own eyes.  For example, we were eyewitnesses when he received honor and glory from God the Father and when the voice of our majestic God spoke these words to him: “This is my Son, whom I love and in whom I delight.”  We heard that voice speak to him from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.  So we regard the words of the prophets as confirmed beyond all doubt. You’re doing well by paying attention to their words. Continue to pay attention as you would to a light that shines in a dark place as you wait for day to come and the morning star to rise in your hearts.”  (1 Peter 1:16-19)

Peter is the eyewitness that we yearn for, the one we desire, the one that will help us contemplate the enormity of the event from that Transfiguration Day and indeed the entire incarnation.

Peter’s words preserved for us in the pages of Scripture make his witness, sure, more believable and can strengthen our faith in the one true God who revealed His nature on that day.

But how often have you said, “I’ll believe it when I see it”? 

When doubts creep in, when the devil starts to whisper his lies in your ear that the accounts of the Bible are too outlandish to believe let alone trust in, when you start to wonder if this story is really true, ponder the events of Transfiguration, rest on the words and witness of Peter, hear the powerful Word. 

For the witness of Scripture is not something that was fabricated by humanity...Hear the witness of Peter again, “First, you must understand this: No prophecy in Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.  No prophecy ever originated from humans. Instead, it was given by the Holy Spirit as humans spoke under God’s direction.” (1 Peter 1:20-21)

“You shoudda seen it!”  I’m not sure those are the exact words the followers of Jesus used when they started talking about the work of Jesus but I’m sure it was something like it. 

It was almost unbelievable what they did to Jesus on the cross.

The open and empty tomb was like nothing that had ever been witnessed before.

But it’s absolutely true.  It’s not a fabricated fairy tale or antiquated worldview.

And you too can see it today.  As the Word is proclaimed, as the water and Word combine in baptism, when the body and blood of Jesus are in with and under the wafer and the wine and when we witness the work of God’s people, we see Jesus!

It’s a story that continues today as the Word comes all the way to you, to dispel your fear and doubt, to bring forgiveness of sin and to remind you that the witness accounts contained in this book are true, all of ‘em. 

At the very end of the conference yesterday afternoon we had a service of sending in the sanctuary of Christ Church where we were encouraged by fellow brothers and sisters in the faith, we sung hymns, heard Scripture and at the very end we got, what I believe was a brief glimpse of the glory of heaven once again. 

It was not the dazzling white radiance of the Lord but was His light shining in all of us as hundreds sang the Doxology a cappella in multipart harmony. 

I had goose bumps as I felt the presence of God in that place. I wanted to set up a tent and stay right there in that place. You shoulda seen it! 

And you will one day because you see, there is more to being a follower of Christ than an earthly convention, for there will be an eternal convocation of all the saints who will all see with their eyes the brightness of God in all his radiance and splendor for all eternity!

-Pastor Seth Moorman

Monday, February 27, 2017

The One Year Bible- February 27th

Congratulations on almost two months of reading the Bible! This is a big accomplishment and you should be proud. We are in a tough stretch right now with our readings from Leviticus but hang in there. I hope you have settled into a routine and that spending time in the Word is becoming a habit. Before we get into the meat of the study I want to touch on one of the Psalms we read this week. Psalm 40 has had a special place in my heart for a long time. It wasn’t that it spoke to me in a time of trouble; it wasn’t that I heard a great sermon about it; it wasn’t even the fact that it was written by David. The reason this Psalm is one of my favorite is because the rock band U2 has a song called “40” that uses the same words. If you are not familiar with U2 you might have heard of their lead singer who goes by the name Bono. When they started out as young musicians in Ireland in the late 70’s, their music was influenced by their faith. You can still hear the message of faith in many of their songs today. The best way to share this song with you is for you to hear it. Thanks to good old YouTube here is the video:
Seth’s Thoughts
The Old Testament
I want to spend some time talking about one of the most important days in the life of the Jewish people. The Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, is the holiest of days in the worship life of God’s chosen people. This was the day that the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies (the inner part) in the Temple and offer a sacrifice for the forgiveness of the people. We read about its regulations this week. Let me put it into some easier terms for you. God had set up a system of blood sacrifice that was to be done for the forgiveness of sins. Originally it was to be the one who committed the offence, but God in his mercy and grace said that he would take a substitute in the place of the person (most of the time this means a lamb or bull without anything wrong with it). The people were to come to the temple at least once a year to make a blood sacrifice for the atonement of their own sins, and then once a year a special sacrifice was to be made for all the people. On Yom Kippur, all the people were to fast and the High Priest was then to enter behind the curtain in the presence of the Ark and the other sacred objects including the mercy seat, which was the covering of the ark. This is where the blood was to be poured to cover the sins. This whole event is ripe with symbolism and New Testament parallels. A few interesting things about the actual event: the High Priest was the one who represented all the people. His sacrifice was sufficient for everyone in Israel. He was the only one allowed to enter the presence of God and as soon as he went in he had to make a sacrifice for himself first. Jewish tradition says that the High Priest would tie a rope around his midsection and another priest would hold the other end. The High Priest would also have bells tied to his robes. In the event that he did something wrong, or he angered God and was struck down, the other priests could pull him out without endangering themselves by going into the Holy of Holies. This act of sacrifice could only be done at the temple and was the only way of forgiveness. Let’s bring the forward to Jesus. When Jesus died on the cross the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. This was a physical symbol that the Day of Atonement was no longer necessary. Jesus, who called himself a temple, became the High Priest and offered a sacrifice for the forgiveness of all people for all time. The New Testament speaks of this as the fulfillment of the Old Testament requirements. Paul, in Ephesians speaks of Jesus dividing the barrier of hostility, a possible image of the temple. The book of Hebrews speaks of Jesus being the High Priest and that this sacrifice meets the requirements of the Law and that at the Temple (Jesus) atonement has been made. Theologians call this Vicarious Atonement, meaning that we are now at one with God because Jesus was our substitute sacrifice.
One last thing, we have seen a lot of blood in Leviticus and we have talked about this before but to a Jew blood = life. In fact the Hebrew word for blood can also mean life. That makes some neat comparisons to Jesus. We have life because of the blood (life) of Jesus. We drink his blood in communion and that gives us life. Once again, we see that understanding the Old Testament really brings the things in the New Testament to life (no pun intended). Here is a picture and map of the temple that may help you get a visual of its structure:
The New Testament
In our readings in Mark we see more miracles and stories of Jesus. In Mark 7, Jesus makes reference to some of the washings we have been reading about in Leviticus. Jesus makes some people angry when he says it’s not all about keeping the laws and traditions. In fact, there is much more to it. We need to not only be clean on the outside, we must be cleaned on the inside as well. It is not what comes from inside that makes us unclean, but what comes out of our heart. Just a small aside here; the heart was seen by a Jew as the center of not only the emotions but also the entire soul, including the intellect. When Jesus says these things come from our heart, he is saying that our entire being is full of wickedness. This is something we all need to hear. We are all sinful and unclean. There is not one who does good. And we all fall short of the glory of God. We are in need of a Savior. Jesus has some words for the disciples about being a servant. The disciples were fighting about who was the greatest and once again Jesus turns conventional wisdom on its ear. He tells them that they must be a servant of everyone else. They must put the needs of others before their own. This was a radical way of thinking. We sometimes forget how radical Jesus’ words were.
Bits and Pieces
We will finish up the book of Leviticus this week and start with the book of Numbers. The book of Numbers continues the story of the people from Mt. Sinai on to the Promised Land. Here are the vital stats for Numbers:
Purpose: To describe how the LORD preserves Israel despite the obstacles from Sinai to Canaan
Author: Moses
To Whom Written: The People of Israel
Date Written: 1450-1410 B.C.
Setting: The vast desert of the Sinai region, as well as the lands just south and east of Canaan
Key Verses: “Not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times—not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.” Numbers 14:22-23
Law Themes: Duties; uncleanness; punishment for complaining; rebellion; cursing.
Gospel Themes: Redemption, “I am the LORD your God”; consecration; purification; atonement; blessing.
Numbers records the story of Israel’s unbelief and should serve as a dramatic lesson for all God’s people. God loves us and wants the very best for us. He can and should be trusted. Numbers also gives a clear portrayal of God’s patience. Again and again he withholds judgment and preserves the people. But his patience must not be taken for granted. His judgment will come. One of the recurring themes in Numbers is that of complaining. It is complaining that gets the people into trouble. Complaining and grumbling become very destructive for the people. Many of them even wanted to go back to Egypt. They had already forgotten that in Egypt they were slaves!!
Have a great week and let me know if you have any questions!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Bethany Bullet - Week of February 19, 2017

Sermon: “But…”

In his fifth chapter Matthew records Jesus’ explanation of the law and in so doing reveals the absolute holiness of God, the seriousness of the law and the radical reality of sin in our lives.

Take some time to read through Matthew 5:21-48.  (In this particular case the CEV or NIV is best)

Notice how each time Jesus mentions something His hears no quite well…for example, “You have heard it said, ‘Do not murder.’”  You can almost picture the crowd nodding in affirmation, confirming His preaching on each occasion as He declares things they know and believe from the Decalogue.  When suddenly, each time, Jesus explains and in their minds expands the law and in so doing ends up blowing their minds.  BUT…I say to you.  That is how Jesus opens their minds to the seriousness of the law, the holiness of God and the radical reality of sin in their lives.

On each occasion Jesus leaves them with no escape; no way to claim a righteousness of their own.  On each occasion Jesus leaves us with no escape; no way to claim a righteousness of our own.  BUT…for the promise of Christ we would be lost!  BUT… there is a righteousness that is ours!  One that comes by faith in Jesus Christ! 

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer

Monday, February 20, 2017

The One Year Bible- February 20th

It seems like every year we get busier and busier. Life seems to add things to our plates on a daily basis. This past week I have been busy planning Bible studies, writing sermons, leading worship with our Bethany family in the desert, getting ready for Lent and Ash Wednesday, as well as gearing up for Mission Alaska. Right now time seems to be at a premium. To put it mildly, I am busy. The one constant this week has been my daily readings. I have managed to read every day and it has been a source of strength and a blessing for me. When you have days, or, weeks, or months like this I hope you will lean on the strength that you will find in God’s Word. On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
Not much to talk about from a theological perspective on this week’s readings from the Old Testament. The big thing is the rules and regulations regarding offerings and health. Last week I gave you some info on the different kinds of offerings. Please refer back to that if you need to as we continue to read. The other thing about this week is the copious use of blood. I think we have talked about this before, but remember that this was a different time and culture. In our day, blood is seen as bad and possibly containing diseases. For the people of Israel the spilling of blood gave them life. This all points to Jesus and we have talked about that time and again. I got an email a few years ago at this time from someone who was reading The One Year Bible and I want to share the question and the answer with you:

Good Morning Seth,

In Leviticus 11:1-12:8 today the Bible states the following:

"And the pig, though it has a split hoof completely divided, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you." What does it mean when God says it is unclean? Is it His law that we not eat pig or does it just make us unclean? This was interesting this morning as I did not know that God has commanded us to eat or not eat certain foods.

Any insight you could offer would be greatly appreciated.


My Reply:

I just finished that reading myself. The thing you need to remember about all these laws and regulations is that they are for the people of Israel in the wilderness as God is forming them to be his people. All these laws were not written for us in the US in the 21st Century. The reason that God placed some dietary restrictions on the people was two-fold. First of all many of the animals that were considered unclean had problems with parasites and other things that could make the people sick if they were not cooked or handled properly. God needed the people to be healthy. Secondly, many of these animals were used by the pagan people they would encounter in the Promised Land in their worship of false Gods. God did not want them to associate with them so he set them apart.

Fast forward to today...some people still follow these dietary laws but they are no longer required. The ceremonial law was fulfilled in Jesus and we now have freedom. This does not mean that we can abuse our freedom, but we are not bound to all of the requirements of the Old Testament Law. If it were so we would have many more things to do every day (like ceremonial washing, staying outside of the city until sunset if we are unclean, men not shaving beards, etc.) Rest assured that eating pork, or lobster, or a cheeseburger (all would be unclean in the OT) is OK. I hope this helps.

Pastor Seth

You may have had the same question and I hope this helps you as well. Please feel free to email me your questions or better yet make a comment on the blog, I will answer it and others can benefit from the discussion. You can always comment as “anonymous” if you would like.

The New Testament
The book of Mark is filled with miracles and parables. It is no wonder many point new believers to this Gospel. Mark lays out the evidence that Jesus is the savior of the world and Jesus proves it by his miracles. Jesus also is a good teacher and as all good teachers he uses the power of stories. Stories teach in ways that other words cannot. Stories captivate our imaginations, they take us to places we have never been, they can help us understand complex ideas. Jesus knew the power of story and he used it. In our reading for the 20th we see that “He did not speak to them without a parable.” (Mark 4:34a ESV). What better way to teach to a bunch of uneducated people. I think at times we have lost the art of storytelling in our Churches. We do a good job of it in Sunday School but we often forget it with Adults. I feel that we all can benefit from a good story and what better story to start with than the story of Jesus Christ.

I also want to address one historical point today. In the reading for Feb. 22nd we are introduced to King Herod. We have not seen that name since Matthew’s Gospel. What you need to know is that the Herod in Mark 6 is not the same one as in Matthew 2. A bit of history here; in Matthew 2 we are talking about Herod the Great who was the king of Judea, Galilee and other areas at the time of Jesus’ birth. He was the one who ordered all the baby boys killed to try to take care of the new king that was born. When he dies his kingdom is split between his three sons, Herod Philip II, Archelaus, and Herod Antipas. Herod Antipas was the ruler of Galilee and is the one who puts John the Baptist to death and is mentioned in Mark 6 (And Matthew 14). This is also the same Herod we will see in Luke 23 when Pilate sends Jesus to see him just before the crucifixion. We will see two more Herods. In Acts 12:1-24 we will see Herod Agrippa I who is a grandson of Herod the Great. Herod Agrippa I is the one responsible for killing the apostle James, who put Peter into prison and was killed by an angel. In Acts 25 and 26 we will see Herod Agrippa II who is the son of Herod Agrippa I. This is the Herod who Paul has a trial with before he is sent to Rome. If you didn’t follow all of that don’t worry. Just remember that we are talking about one royal family with the same name.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Bethany Bullet - Week of February 12, 2017

Sermon: “But…”

Growing up as a kid in the ‘70s meant that most Saturday mornings was spent in front of the TV eating Captain Crunch cereal and watching cartoons.  In an effort to infuse a little education into the minds of children up at the crack of dawn ABC Television created a series of cartoon shorts called Schoolhouse Rock! 

These educational episodes covered a myriad of topics including grammar, science, economics, history, mathematics, and civics. The series' original run lasted from 1973 to 1985. Unlike my childhood, you can watch them today on the internet anytime you wish. 

I give thanks to these tidbits of wisdom for teaching me the preamble to the constitution, how a bill is passed in Washington, how three is a magic number, and how we all are victims of gravity. 

One video that is forever etched into my long term memory was called “Conjunction Junction.”  It first aired in 1973 and in word and song asks the question, “Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?”  It goes on to describe the function of conjunctions such as “and, but and or.”  Here is a link so you can watch the video: https://youtu.be/4AyjKgz9tKg

The function of a conjunction is to connect phrases, words and clauses to make complex sentences or to make comparisons. This Schoolhouse Rock! Video used a train car analogy to describe how the parts of the sentence are connected by the conjunction. 

Why do I say all of this?

Last week Pastor Kevin dropped a big “but” on us.  He connected a counter proposal to what the world would say.  

He introduced evidence from scripture that overwhelms the hypothesis of the masses.

The cross is a big but!  Now, I know that sounds kinda silly, especially to my often immature ears.  It’s not like I’m asking, “Does this robe make my butt look big?” 

It’s the counterproposal to what the prince of this world wants you to hear.  The cross is a big but, not anatomically, but grammatically. 

The cross, the tool of torture and death should have been the end of Jesus at least that is what the Pharisees and religious leaders thought. 

Yeah, but…the the cross is the beginning of life and the tool by which we are freed from sin and set apart for service.  In the cross we see the power and the wisdom of God for us! 

It is an outlandish position to take that when God is at His weakest and His lowest—that is hanging on a cross—there He is the strongest as He brings to all humanity grace, mercy and forgiveness of all our sins. 

In his ministry that led to the cross of Calvary Jesus himself dropped some big “buts.”  We see them over and over again in Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount. 

For the next few weeks our assigned Gospel readings will focus on Jesus teaching words from this event and we will see some big buts. 

Let’s dig into our text (from Sunday), from Matthew, the 5th chapter, “You are salt for the earth.  But if salt loses its taste, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled on by people.  You are light for the world.  A city cannot be hidden when it is located on a hill.  No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket.  Instead, everyone who lights a lamp puts it on a lamp stand.  Then its light shines on everyone in the house.  In the same way let your light shine in front of people.  Then they will see the good that you do and praise your Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:13-16)

Notice what Jesus doesn’t say.  He doesn’t say that we are “to be” salt and light, but that we “are” salt and light.  It is an important distinction.  He has done the work for us and He simply releases us into the world, to connect with the world.

Jesus answers the question many have, “What is my function in this world?”

It would be very easy to simply stick around and relish in the victory of the cross.  Yes, the victory over sin, death and the devil has been won, BUT, Jesus pushes us forward into service.

Salt is useful, not just as a seasoning as we think of it today, but when Jesus walked the earth, the only real way to preserve food, especially meat, was to use salt.  We are also useful in this world.  We can serve as a preservative in this corrupt and sinful world as we give glory to God and connect others to Jesus.  It is our function this side of heaven.

Of course Jesus is also the light of the world.  He said so Himself.  He came to overcome the darkness of sin, wickedness, ignorance and unbelief.  We are called as light in the world and to reflect the light of Christ just as the moon reflects the light of the sun.

It is the nature of light to shine.  There is no such thing as light that does not shine.  That would be impossible, it would be like cold heat or dry water, but (there is that word again) light can be covered up. 
This is what Jesus is warning us about. 

In the old Sunday school song, “This little light of mine,” we are reminded to let that light shine, let it shine, all the time!

But I know there are times when I want to hide it, extinguish it, or deny it.  But it is precisely for those moments that Jesus came.  In our weak and lowly moments He is strong and is there to remind us that His grace is sufficient for us and He came to connect us to the source of the light, and to connect us to the one who gave us life now and for eternity.

He desires a deep and abiding connection with us.

We might try to go our own way at times, BUT, our good and gracious God pursues us with His mercy.  And He sends you and me, as salt and light to the world, even when we might argue, yeah, but, “I’m not very good at this”, or “But I don’t know what to say”

As salt and light we are called to interact with others, to help others get connected to the true light.  As His light shines through us, it is God our Father who is praised. 

Often times, we get uncomfortable talking about what we are to do in our life of faith.  We know that Jesus has done it all, our salvation is secure.

BUT this is not an issue of our salvation; it is an issue of our sanctification.
Jesus sends us out into the world to bring His light to others.

We must never forget what God has done.  But we must never think we had anything to do with our redemption, and that does not mean that we sit on our hands and do nothing. 

We are His hands, we are His feet, you have been called to action, called to serve passionately, to give proportionately, and to share intentionally. 

That is what it means to live as salt and light in this world, always keeping Christ and the cross in our sight and giving glory to God —BUT—remember that we have been released for service that will connect others to Jesus.  It is our function until he returns.

-Pastor Seth Moorman

Monday, February 13, 2017

The One Year Bible- February 13th

This week we will start the book of Mark and right at the beginning of this Gospel there is a verse that jumps out at me, “News about him [Jesus] spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee” (Mark 1:28 NIV). Just think of the power of Jesus. Mark tells us “At once” everyone around knew about him. It reminds me of living in the Internet age. We can get information “at once” as soon as events happen. It is amazing how fast news travels. But what has happened to the good news about Jesus? Why is his fame not being spread everywhere? Well one reason is because the Devil doesn’t want it to. Satan is waging war against the good news of Jesus Christ and at times he seems to be winning. Satan is not happy that you are reading the Bible this year and he will work on your soft spots to get you behind and tempt you to give up. Don’t let his tricks get you down. You have the most powerful weapon in the fight, the Word of God. Remember that the battle belongs to the Lord and even though we may loose a few skirmishes here and there the ultimate victory is the Lord’s. Keep up the good work and fight the hard fight as you pick up the sword of the Spirit daily. On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
The end of Exodus is just a foretaste of what is to come in the book of Leviticus. We will be taking a break from the narrative story for a while and read about many of the nuts and bolts of religious life of the people of Israel. We usually do not read these sections of scripture in Church so they may be brand new for you. Exodus ends with the building of the tabernacle and all the furnishings. This place (and later the temple) is the physical representation of Yahweh on earth. It is quite literally, God’s house. The building of this structure is important for many reasons. First of all, it gave the people something tangible in their relationship with God. Secondly, it was a place where God could interact with his people bringing mercy and forgiveness. Third, it sets up the life and ministry of Jesus. Jesus referred to himself as a temple that would be destroyed and build again in three days. Jesus himself came down to be a physical representation of Yahweh on earth. In John 1:14 we read, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” The word we translate at “made his dwelling” literally means that Jesus “tabernacled” among us. When Jesus came to earth he becomes another tabernacle, this one wrapped in flesh and poised to be the ultimate sacrifice for the forgiveness of the sins of the world. Now the tabernacle had its own purpose in the days of the Israelites, and the temple as well for that matter, but they both point to a greater tabernacle and temple in the person of Jesus Christ.

One other thing I want to do this week is give you an introduction on the many different offerings that are mentioned in Exodus and especially in Leviticus.

Burnt Offering: Leviticus 1; 6: 8-13; 8: 18-21; 16: 24 The burnt offering was for unintentional sin. This was a blanket sacrifice for wrongdoing in general. The price was a male bull, lamb or goat. It had to be a perfect animal, without defect. The poor could offer a pigeon or dove. The penitent would present the animal at the entrance to the tent, which housed the altar and the tabernacle. After presenting the animal, the sinner would place his two hands on the animal and thus, it was accepted as an offering for sin. Probably this act transferred the sin from the human to the animal, which paid the penalty and was sacrificed. They would kill their own offering and then the priests took over.
The priests bled the animal and cut it up ceremonially. The priests sprinkled the blood on the altar. Some of the internal organs and legs were washed. They then burned it whole on the altar. The aroma was said to be pleasing to God. The fire had to be continually burning and was never extinguished.

Grain Offering: Leviticus 2; 6: 14-23 Voluntary worship and thanks: A grain offering is just what it says. The grain had to ground into flour and could be put into loaves or cakes. Olive oil and incense were added to make a pleasing aroma when it burned. Yeast was forbidden for this offering. The cakes had to be salted. The offering was presented to the priests who burned a small portion of it on the altar. The rest was food for them and the Levites.

Fellowship Offering: Leviticus 3: 7: 11-34
A voluntary act of worship, thanks and fellowship: This is called a fellowship offering because the sacrifice is eaten communally instead of burned. Any clean animal, male or female could be offered. Bread, both with and without yeast, was also part of the offering. These were presented at the gate of the tent. The priests would sprinkle the blood on the four corners of the altar. The internal organs, the fat on them and the best part of the liver were burned as a food offering. The rest had to be eaten within two days or else it was burned also.

Sin Offering: Leviticus 4: 1-5: 13; 6: 24-30; 8: 14-17; 16: 3-22 Mandatory for specific sins: All of these offerings for sins are for unintentional transgressions. If you were guilty of premeditated infraction, these offerings didn’t help you. Your stature in the community determined the kind of sacrifice that you were required to offer. A young bull was required for the sin of a high priest or for a community sin. Leaders had to present a male goat. The common people could bring a female goat or a lamb. The poor were permitted to offer a dove or pigeon and the very poor could get away with a tenth of an ephah of fine flour. The bull’s fat was burned inside the camp but the rest was burned outside. Leviticus 5 records the sins for which a sin offering was required. These include unintentionally touching an animal that is ritually unclean, touching something unclean of human origin or making a careless promise.

Guilt Offering: (Repayment Offering) Leviticus 5:14 – 6:7; 7: 1-6 Mandatory for unintentional sin requiring restitution: This is a repayment offering for a sin committed against God, like holding back your tithe. A ram or lamb was brought to the tent to be sacrificed. The debt would have to be paid plus an additional twenty percent. These were the offerings outlined in the first seven chapters of Leviticus. God could forgive mistakes but intentional sins were another matter.

The New Testament
At the beginning of last week we saw the familiar words of institution as Jesus gives his disciples communion for the first time. Remember that meals were very important for the Jews and the connection that this new meal of remembrance first occurred during Passover is by no means a coincidence. Remember that Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience and this new covenant made in blood would ring a bell with all his readers. This would cut to the heart of any Jew, hearing about this because blood equals life. It is not in our culture to think of that. In fact when people outside of the Christian faith hear about being washed in the blood of the lamb, they get turned off from Christianity. I guess my point here is we need to watch how we word some things. To a Jewish audience, Matthew does the culturally relevant thing; when we share the message of Jesus we need to be careful not to offend or even gross out someone when talking about blood.

I want to say a few words about the Great commission this week and I hope not to loose you when I start talking about Greek grammar. First of all every time we translate the Bible from its original languages we loose something. The phrase “Lost in translation” is really true. At times when we translate into English we then, without thinking place certain rules and meaning based on sentence structure and word order. Unfortunately many people, myself included, have misinterpreted portions of scripture because of our cultural bias toward English. In reading the Great Commission in English it seems to be that Jesus is giving us a command (called an imperative) in the word “go”, but in the Greek this word is an adverbial participle, not an imperative. What is an adverbial participle? The action described by an adverbial participle is primarily directed toward the verb. This kind of participle is usually translated with an adverbial phrase. “While studying for his Greek final...” or “While going through the world...”. So we see in Matthew 28 an interesting grammatical sentence that if translated properly is very poor English. A very literal interpretation would be, “As you are going, disciple all the nations, by baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things...” The only imperative in the Great Commission is to disciple others—literally to make them learners. How do we do it? Well, Jesus tells us, we are to baptize and teach. Again these words are not imperatives but the natural flow of what will occur by “discipleing” others. Don’t even get me started on the NIVs use of the word “obey”. What a poor translation that is! We are to observe the things of Jesus through his word and actions and they serve as a guide. They are descriptive on how we are to live not prescriptive. I could go on about this one but we don’t have time here.

One quick thing about the book of Mark. As you read look for the extensive use of the word “immediately” (or similar phrases such as “at once”, they are usually the same word in the Greek). This is a book of action. It hits the ground running and never stops. It is a good book to read as we slug through Leviticus. It will give us some balance to our readings for the next couple of weeks.

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