Monday, March 22, 2004

Prophet Mediator Word

Martin Buber, The Prophetic Faith, page 164:

prophetic faith coverIn the chapter "The God of the Sufferers," writing about Jeremiah - as well as Hebrew prophets and prophecy in general - Buber says: "Not the priest but the prophet he regards as the mediator between heaven and earth, messenger of God and intercessor in one. The contact between godhead and manhood in his view is not bound up with the rite but with the word. ...the word comes again and again from heaven as something new, and makes its abode within man. ...

"and the man who has to make it heard is over and over again subdued by the word before He lets it be put in his mouth. This is not the expression of a familiar deity, with whom man comes into regular contact in fixed places and at fixed times. He, Who speaks, is incomprehensible, irregular, surprising, overwhelming, sovereign. Therefore it is the virtue of this word, and of this alone, to lead, that is to say, to show the way."

That is so Christological, incarnational and sacramental! Though Martin Buber is writing about Jerusalem's Jeremiah, because this passage is about Moses and Jesus, too - the Law and the Prophets - I'll say more about the desert, a subject I've thought about a lot over these past few months: the desert and the central and necessary place desert reality and imagery play throughout the Bible's witness and in the lives of God's people from the Exodus through this year 2004. Regarding this Word that above everything is a Word of life, frequently I remind people it's not about signs and wonders - even the gods of the Egyptians could do the signs and wonders - but it's about God-with-us, God-among-us, supremely illustrated and absolutely ratified in the Christ Event! It's about resurrection from the dead - something no one but the God of Heaven and Earth can do.

But returning to the desert: in the desert Israel learned Yahweh's nature and their identity and call as Yahweh's people - José Severino Croatto calls his book-long study Exodus, a Hermeneutics of Freedom! Here are some of my thoughts on a pair of Exodus texts; the first is from chapter 5:

Exodus 5:1

Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the desert.'"

"Let my people go! Release them from slavery, free them, let them be 'free to be' in my image as I created them to be." This long has been one of my favorite scriptures to evoke when life is getting rough. This festival in the desert, feast in the wilderness as the RSV expresses it, is worship! Glorifying God and enjoying God with a foretaste of the eschatological "forever" in which we live in Christ.

In the desert wilderness of the Exodus, Israel meets God who identifies with them and God identifies with where the people are - with their total Sitz im Leben - to such an extreme extent God becomes like them, God of the sojourner actually becomes one of the desert sojourners, in more than a hint of the same God, Who in Christ Jesus, lived as one of us, "shared our common lot" of birth, life, death and burial. The covenanted people of God in Christ is a "gospeled" community: the assembly that observes the commandments, the Sabbath and the tithe, the assembly alive in the vulnerability and risking fragility of living with God's sufficient "shalom" sustenance for this day only as each individual and the community put ultimate trust in the God of great surprises Who is God of resurrection from the dead.

My next passage for this study is from chapter 12

Exodus 12

1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: 2 This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. . . . 11 This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the LORD. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, in the land of slavery - a freedom proclamation, emancipation proclamation in the midst of slavery and bondage! Once again, here's the covenanted gospeled worshiping assembling and community of service.

14 This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance. . . . 17 You shall observe the festival of unleavened bread, for on this very day I brought your companies out of the land of Egypt: you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a perpetual ordinance.

"On this very day!" On this very day you are free - not you will be free! Remember Paul's "For freedom Christ has set you free? So don't submit to a yoke of slavery again!" [Galatians 5:1] We could add, "But take up your yoke of service." The Bible emphasizes the one-time-ness of baptism, our one-ness in baptism and our constantly needing awareness of being dead and risen - dying to slavery and rising to freedom. Luther talks about every day – common, ordinary, "everyday" - repentance and renewal with a "daily drowning and rising."

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