Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

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Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Building Around the Center

Daily Readings
Psalm 51+ Exodus 38+ Leviticus 18+ Matthew 7

Verse for the Day
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! Matthew 7:11

Daily Text Exodus 38:21-29
21 These are the records of the tabernacle, the tabernacle of the covenant, which were drawn up at the commandment of Moses, the work of the Levites being under the direction of Ithamar son of the priest Aaron. 22Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made all that the LORD commanded Moses; 23and with him was Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, engraver, designer, and embroiderer in blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and in fine linen. 24All the gold that was used for the work, in all the construction of the sanctuary, the gold from the offering, was twenty-nine talents and seven hundred thirty shekels, measured by the sanctuary shekel. 25The silver from those of the congregation who were counted was one hundred talents and one thousand seven hundred seventy-five shekels, measured by the sanctuary shekel; 26a beka a head (that is, half a shekel, measured by the sanctuary shekel), for everyone who was counted in the census, from twenty years old and upward, for six hundred three thousand, five hundred fifty men. 27The hundred talents of silver were for casting the bases of the sanctuary, and the bases of the curtain; one hundred bases for the hundred talents, a talent for a base. 28Of the thousand seven hundred seventy-five shekels he made hooks for the pillars, and overlaid their capitals and made bands for them. 29The bronze that was contributed was seventy talents, and two thousand four hundred shekels;

Building Around the Center
At the beginning of this passage we see that an accounting is taking place for this is a declaration of the records of the tabernacle and chapters 38 and 39 consists of this report. In chapter 38 we find that one of Aaron’s sons is overseeing the tabernacle work, one Ithamar [Exodus 28:1]. This continues the impression we have that the tabernacle is under Aaron’s jurisdiction. Precious metals used in the construction, gold, silver and bronze are accounted for here.
• Gold, given in free-will offerings, amounted to 87,730 shekels estimating 3,000 shekels to the talent, weighing [76 lbs/talent] a little over a ton.
• Silver, taken in a census [Exodus 30:12ff] of all men twenty years and up, 100 talents, roughly 3 ½ tons.
• Bronze, contributed, presumably in the free-will offering, 70 talents, 2 ¼ tons.
[all weights calculated from 185:681. Cf. 408:637: gold 1900 lbs., silver 6,437 lbs. and bronze 4,522 lbs.]
This is an audit, if you will, an accounting made to Moses, of the treasure given for the building of the tabernacle. It was not an inconsiderable gift. One question that persists is where did it come from? Was it from the borrowings of the slave people as they left Egypt? Certainly, in the year that has transpired from the exodus to the building of the tabernacle it would have been hard for this nomadic people to have accumulated wealth, since presumably slaves had very little to begin with. There are no answers to such questions. Even posing the questions allows room for questioning the historicity of these accounts.

Another reason for questioning the historicity of these accounts is the simple size and weight of this ‘mobile’ tabernacle. It is growing like topsy. Nothing seems to weigh much less than a 100 pounds. And ‘mobile’ is the key here. This tabernacle is to move with the people, and it is designed with rings for bearing poles for every piece of furniture; this leaves no question about the intent. It is not impossible, it would simply require many, many bearers. Maybe this is part of the reason it took another 39 years to cross the Sinai and the Negeb to the Promised Land, and that is not to discount God’s action in requiring a generation to accomplish this.

More to the point, these people are creating, for themselves and for the whole world, a society that centers in the worship and service of the One God. Like the European town that is built around the church, so Israel builds and gathers around its center, the Tabernacle where God dwells.

All the World Shall Come to Serve Thee
translated by Israel Zangwill

All the world shall come to serve Thee
And bless Thy glorious Name,
And Thy righteousness triumphant
The islands shall acclaim.
And the peoples shall go seeking
Who knew Thee not before,
And the ends of earth shall praise Thee,
And tell Thy greatness o’er.

They shall build for Thee their altars,
Their idols overthrown,
And their graven gods shall shame them,
As they turn to Thee alone.
They shall worship Thee at sunrise,
And feel Thy Kingdom’s might,
And impart their understanding
To those astray in night.

They shall testify Thy greatness,
And of Thy power speak,
And extol Thee, shrined, uplifted
Beyond man’s highest peak.
And with reverential homage,
Of love and wonder born,
With the ruler’s crown of beauty
Thy head they shall adorn.

With the coming of Thy Kingdom
The hills shall break into song,
And the islands laugh exultant
That they to God belong.
And all their congregations
So loud Thy praise shall sing,
That the uttermost peoples hearing,
Shall hail Thee crowned King.
403:453

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