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.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Wilderness Movement

Daily Readings
Psalm 63 + Numbers 10 + Deuteronomy 3 + Matthew 19

Verse for the Day
O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you, as in a barren and dry land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1

Daily Text Numbers 10:1, 2, 11-13

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 2Make two silver trumpets; you shall make them of hammered work; and you shall use them for summoning the congregation, and for breaking camp.
11 In the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth day of the month, the cloud lifted from over the tabernacle of the covenant. 12Then the Israelites set out by stages from the wilderness of Sinai, and the cloud settled down in the wilderness of Paran. 13They set out for the first time at the command of the LORD by Moses.

Wilderness Movement
Shades of the old west! In Numbers 7 we saw covered wagons pulled by oxen (NRSV) and now in Numbers 10:12 we find Israelites setting out by stages. John Wayne may be just around the next butte!

We have seen this sort of exact dating before. On the 20th day of the 2nd month of the 2nd year the assembly leaves the mount of God. The signal is a long blast on a silver trumpet, otherwise known as a ‘shofar’ or much earlier a ram’s horn. These trumpets have long been used to announce events in Judaism and Christianity and in armies, and great civil events. The ‘alarms’ in the NRSV are translated as long and short blasts in the Jewish Publication Society translation. Dr. Gunther Plaut wrote concerning the shofar:
“The cloud was a visual, the trumpets an auditive reminder of God’s presence. Somehow Jewish instinct never quite trusted the witness of the eyes. Moses performed signs, but these could be duplicated—what he said could not. At Sinai the emphasis was not so much on what the people saw but, more importantly, on what they heard. The true key word of Judaism is not re-eh (see) but shema (hear). The cloud is gone, the sound of the shofar remains. 185:1086”

However, the cloud lifting from the tabernacle was God himself leading the people. The trumpet blasts were simply announcements of what God was doing. One suspects that attention to both sight and sound was and is advisable.

Shofar Echoes
Annette Kohn

I’m but a child, and childish toys
Make up the sum of all my joys—
But hark! while I am playing here
A strange sound falls upon my ear,
A note of music weird and wild,
And lo, I am a changeling child—
Where I stand with my childish feet,
The centuries around me meet;
Though fresh the laughter in mine eyes,
And on my lips, yet full of sighs
The air about me, and I seem
To live and move as in a dream.
With that strange music rise and swell
Old memories of what befel
The children of my ancient race.
The Shofar brings me face to face
With all the martyrdoms of old
That are in song and story told;
And as its tones ring shrill and loud,
They make me feel both sad and proud
That I am heir to all this woe,
That all this glory I should know.
And though I see strange children play
With all the baubles of the day,
I know I have more precious things;
My gifts are from the King of kings,
Whose angels He before me sent,
And to them of His glory lent.
The Shofar, hark! it tells my soul
That as the ages onward roll,
I more and more shall feel and hear
The Spirit’s speech around and near.
My feet shall forward, upward press,
Until a perfect wilderness
Of flowers springs where’er I tread,
And blessings rain down on my head.
. . . . . .
So may the Shofar peal on peal,
The heart unto itself reveal;
‘Till thou again, O Israel,
in “Jacob’s goodly tents” shall dwell.


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