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

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Ordination

Daily Readings
Proverbs 8 + Numbers 27 + Deuteronomy 20 + Romans 2

Quote of the Day
If you besiege a town for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you must not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them. Although you may take food from them, you must not cut them down. Are trees in the field human beings that they should come under siege from you? Deuteronomy20:19

Daily Text: Numbers 27:12-23
12 The LORD said to Moses, "Go up this mountain of the Abarim range, and see the land that I have given to the Israelites. 13When you have seen it, you also shall be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was, 14because you rebelled against my word in the wilderness of Zin when the congregation quarreled with me. You did not show my holiness before their eyes at the waters." (These are the waters of Meribah of Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.)
15 Moses spoke to the LORD, saying, 16"Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint someone over the congregation 17who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the LORD may not be like sheep without a shepherd." 18So the LORD said to Moses, "Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand upon him; 19have him stand before Eleazar the priest and all the congregation, and commission him in their sight. 20You shall give him some of your authority, so that all the congregation of the Israelites may obey. 21But he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the decision of the Urim before the LORD; at his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he and all the Israelites with him, the whole congregation." 22So Moses did as the LORD commanded him. He took Joshua and had him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole congregation; 23he laid his hands on him and commissioned him--as the LORD had directed through Moses.

Ordination
Moses will not be going across the Jordan into the land. So consistent is this prohibition and so oft repeated that it strikes one as being important in way not expressed. It certainly makes crystal clear the reality that before God there are no special privileges for leaders. They are not above the law, one might say. Their actions carry consequences. Much sympathy accrues to Moses, however into the land he does not go. If editors were creating this story, Moses would be going into the land at the head of his people. That he does not speaks volumes for the historical veracity of this recital.

But there will need to be leadership and Moses cognizant of that asks God to appoint someone. Joshua is selected and commissioned with the laying on of hands, an age old tradition that continues to this day in the ordination of rabbis, Christian priests and other orders. A midrash says, “Moses laying his hands on Joshua may be compared to one candle lighting another. No light is lost to the former.” For the Christian deacon, priest or bishop there is the realization that the laying on of hands looks back to Jesus’ laying hands on Peter. Since then it has been hand to head throughout the intervening generations. With Joshua’s ordination we may extend that with the realization that both of these men named as saviors of their people experienced similar ordinations. For Jesus it was at the hands of John Baptist. The importance here is not the act, but that God ordained the act. Joshua was a man of spirit [Numbers 27:18]. The laying on of hands did not transfer the spirit to him. For Jesus that was obviously true as well. We can only pray that ordination today continues in that line, not believing that the bishop conveys something, but rather recognizes God’s spirit within the person, including those confirmed following their baptism. We are a people of spirit, of a holy spirit, having God’s spirit within us.

A Poet-Preacher’s Prayer
From Paradise Lost, Book I
John Milton

O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all temples the upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for Thou know’st;..
What in me is dark
Illumine, what is low raise and support;
That, to the highth of this great argument,
I may assert Eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to men.
407:1647

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