Background Scripture: Exodus 19 and 24; Deuteronomy 7:1–11
Key Scripture: Exodus 19:3–6; 24:3–8; 15–18; Deuteronomy 7:7–9
Key Idea: In the covenant relationship, God offers us abundant blessings. We honor this covenant throught the choices we make each day.
Throughout their Exodus journey, the Hebrews commited to covenant relationships with God, to life as a holy people. But, each time, they grew impatient and broke the relationships. Again and again, God renewed the covenant, extending grace and love to the people. Sound familiar? We are not unlike the Hebrews. We commit and fall short regularly. God's grace is always available to restore us. We work out our holiness in covenant with a steady, faithful God.
PW marketing associate Carissa Herold reflects below on choosing covenant, choosing holiness.—sjd
Janice Catron sums up lesson six, “Becoming a Holy People,” with a very thoughtful anecdote. “While traveling on a plane a few years ago, I sat next to a Jewish gentleman who observed kosher law. Through some mistake in the system, his meal was missing. As this was a long flight over lunchtime, I worried that he might be hungry, so offered to share my meal—‘If,’ I said, ‘there is anything here you are allowed to eat.’
“His answer was a theological education, all in itself. ‘I am free to eat anything, he replied, ‘I choose to eat only that which declares my loyalty to God’” (An Abiding Hope, p. 60).
Even in joy and love, let’s face it, choosing to become a holy people, is, well, sometimes inconvenient. Think of the staggering number of Sunday mornings, Wednesday night gatherings, Bible studies, devotions, Easter sunrise services, PW gatherings and Christmas pageants you have participated in, lead, attended, initiated. And since Presbyterian women are known the world over for always being first on the scene, ever ready to roll up our sleeves, I’m confident that you and your PW sisters have trod that extra kilometer through volunteering, staffing, supporting, and even founding, food banks, hospitals, seminaries and schools, and shelters; and bringing the good news to dark places such as detention centers, war zones and refugee camps.
But as the world increasingly clamors for our attention and promises a better (easier) way, staying true to our faith—declaring our loyalty to God day by day in the way that we understand (as encapsulated our dear PW Purpose)—can seem, even to the most cheerful and resilient, ever more outmoded in a world that offers a quick fix (or momentary distraction) with much less bother. Becoming a holy people, as one can observe in scripture and in our own lives, may seem at odds with our natural human inclinations and out of step with how the world thinks we should step.
But becoming holy is ours to choose. Yes, the world offers an ever-increasing, almost dizzying array of choices. Here in the United States, one only has to visit the cereal aisle at the local grocery to prove my theory. Some choices are inconsequential (bran or oat) and many are consequential (health and family issues, end-of-life decisions). Not making a choice is a choice, too. Choices, made or disregarded, are ever present.
So how do we choose to be a holy people? Or perhaps more accurately, how do we not get distracted (or cave into an easier way) from honoring our God? Scripture makes it clear, as did the probably hungry traveler who chose to keep kosher, that God gave us instructions and happily/maddeningly, free will to respond or ignore these instructions and also the intellect to reinterpret how to live as we move away from the wilderness into a high-tech world. So how do we live our lives as holy people with instructions from such a distant time and place?
Thanks to this blog series, I can follow a thought from the study to where this thought naturally leads me. And that is why I am so grateful to have stumbled on two books written by two very thoughtful people who are grappling with the choice to observe Sabbath in this world of Sunday football practice and Thanksgiving Day shopping opportunities.
In the book, The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time, Judith Shulevitz provides a very interesting historical look at the Sabbath against her own deeply personal walk as she grapples with the meaning of Sabbath in this 24/7, secular world. She writes in the introduction: “If you view the stuff of everyday life as the raw material of Judaism, and its rules as a framing device, then you grasp something essential about the Sabbath: It is meant to turn the ordinary into the singular. A weekly house scrubbing, when done on Friday, becomes a way of making one’s home ready for God. A dinner party for family and neighbors attains the status of a royal banquet, welcoming home the Sabbath queen. To the mundane satisfaction that comes from cultivating good habits—cleanliness, organization, family togetherness—is added the sublime sense of rightness that comes from following God’s commandment” (p. xxiv).
Walter Brueggemann will soon release a book (February 2014), Sabbath as Resistance: Saying NO to the Culture of Now. In these pages (I have an uncorrected bound galley so do keep that in mind should this quotation differ from the actual printed book), he writes, “’No-Sabbath’ existence imagines getting through on our own, surrounded by commodities to accumulate and before which to bow down. But a commodity cannot hold one’s hand. … We may come to know, but likely not without Sabbath, a rest rooted in God’s own restfulness and extended to our neighbors who must rest. We, with our hurts, fears, and exhaustion, are left restless until then” (p. 89).
Living holy is a choice, a choice that honors God and, in turn and consequence, honors God’s people and creation. I am truly grateful for all of the Presbyterian women of faith who continue to choose to show up and live as a holy people, despite many pulls and distractions and unanswered questions.
Until next time . . .