Weekly conversation from the MustardSeed Ultimo Uniting Church congregation in Sydney, Australia.
Growing up (David Gore • Luke 2:41-52)
Growing up has never been easy. Every culture develops its own forms of ritual and celebration to test and form the character of its young people making the transition to adulthood.
In Jesus’ day, the Bar Mitzvah (lit. Son of the Law) marked the Jewish boy’s transition to full participation in the life of the synagogue.
This was not so much an arrival point as it was a launching pad. It was permission to enter the wrestling over the meaning of the scriptures call to the people.
How do you view your own progress in ‘growing up’?
True Sacrifice (David Gore • Hebrews 10:5-10)
Sacrifice can cut in more than one direction.
It can mean the taking of another’s life that serves as an offering designed to preserve one’s own life.
Alternatively, it can mean the willing giving of one’s own life in order to bring life to others.
Jesus, by his life, death and resurrection, renders the first way exposed for what it is. The arbitrary murder of an innocent in the vain attempt to outsource blame.
Jesus also reveals the second way - the life-giving way - as the way of eternal life.
The Purifier (David Gore • Malachi 3:1-4)
Malachi prophesied at a time when things were tough in Israel and the people expressed a longing for God to arrive in the form of his anointed one.
Malachi assures the people that God would be coming and soon. In fact, Malachi is at pains to tell the people they are not really ready for God’s arrival. They like the idea, but the reality would be different from what they were hoping.
Rather than it being a walk in the garden, God’s arrival would be more like a refiners fire! The people would undergo a process in which they would be purified and made fit-for-purpose.
How does Jesus fulfil this word?!
Judgement and Righteousness (David Gore • Jeremiah 33:14-16)
There are many prophecies in the scriptures. There is quite a range of styles from a bit vague all the way through to quit specific - and everything in between. Prophetic language can come across as somewhat poetic. It seems to leave open a scope of possible meanings to the interpreter.
Perhaps we do not listen carefully enough? Perhaps we come to these words with predefined limitations regarding what we will allow them to mean?
As we listen afresh to this brief section of Jeremiah (33:14-16), let’s lean in and consider what (in all eternity) Jeremiah might have had in his heart... and what it might mean for us today.
New Living Way (David Gore • Heb 10:19-25)
When the writer to the Hebrews uses terms like ‘Holy Place’ and ’sprinkled’, he is drawing on the rich tradition of the temple priesthood as it functioned in Israel for many generations.
The tradition is being drawn on, but also modified. Formerly, there was a physical location known as the Holy Place. Now, the writer means something akin, yet different. The people were formerly literally sprinkled with the blood of the sacrifice. Now, the writer is referring to a similar cleansing dynamic, yet it is not an identical experience.
Jesus’ way builds on what was patterned for, and familiar to, the Jews. But Jesus’ way is a new and living way!
Real Salvation (David Gore • Hebrews 9:24-28)
The writer to the Hebrews wants to make clear that the way Jesus has engaged the sacrificial system, the system that had always managed the community’s sin, was such that he changed things forever. Rather than offering the blood of an animal, Jesus allows himself to become the blood sacrifice of the people.
But this materially challenges the whole system. Jesus’ blamelessness was such, that there was no justifiable reason that could be upheld for his lynching. The fact that he was killed served to show up the motives of those who perpetrated this cruel and violent crime.
Yet in doing so, Jesus also offers an entirely alternate way of dealing with sin. Rather than blaming (and killing) others, take responsibility and repent. Rather than obey the instinct for self-interest… follow the one who gives himself.