Happy Easter, everyone! I cannot believe that it is already Easter. I can also not believe that the year is already a quarter over. That is just crazy!
OT: Deut. 26:1-27:26
I know I have mentioned this before (because so has Moses, to put it mildly), but it still strikes me each day how central the Exodus narrative is to God's relationship with His people. That narrative defines the players in the relationship: God is the giver, the protector, the rescuer; the people are the blessed, the protected, the rescued. God makes it clear that it is through no merit or action of the people that He chose them, but for "his good pleasure," to use yesterday's NT terminology. Because the awareness of their respective roles is so vital, God has the Israelites recite a little--yep--history as they give their tithes to the priests: "My father was a wandering Aramean..." (26:4 ff). Like I have said (repeatedly), it is always good to know your history. You have to know where you came from to know who you are.
I think I've also mentioned this, but when I first read through the Bible, I was very intrigued by the Israelites' methods of remembrance. How did they learn their laws and their history (daggone--I'm like a broken record!) with their lack of available writing materials and, um, literacy (?). Today's reading provides several ways that they remembered their necessary information. For one, they recited. They recited a little synopsis of their own history when they gave their first tithes, and they recited a little ditty about being right with God when they gave their third year tithe (26:13-15). Another thing they did was make use of posters. Well, ancient posters, which were large stones covered with plaster (27:2). Since not everyone had a notepad at home, Moses and the elders commanded the people to write out the law on giant stones and set them up at Mount Ebal. So...if anyone got a little fuzzy on matters of the Law, they could always take a trip to the mountain for a little refresher course. And then thirdly, they did their own version of "Three Wondering Jews" once they crossed into the promised land. One side of the tribes recited blessings, and the other side recited curses ("Blessings, blessings!" "Curses, curses, curses!" Okay, sorry, I made that a little more "VBS" in my head than I think it actually was. Back on track now.) Although, I think that either I or the Levites misunderstood they assignment because they led off with curses. I can see Moses going, "Okay, guys. You are on the blessings side. Now, one more time from the top!"
The point is, I think I could give a course on teaching using nothing but the methods of remembrance employed by the Ancient Israelites. I see them as very applicable today. For example, my Latin teacher, Mrs. Gunn, always said, "There is no substitute for repetition. There is no substitute for repetition." If his speech to the Israelites is any indication, I think Moses and Mrs. Gunn are very much on the same page.
I'm sure it doesn't take a Sigmund Freud to deduce that the story of Martha and Mary is close to my heart, and not because I so relate to Mary. Greg so often has to play the role of Jesus in my life and remind me to calm down and to focus on what's most important. My favorite part of the whole interchange (and I do love it all) is Jesus' speech to Martha. First of all, He starts it off, "Martha, Martha," which I read as affectionate and understanding. I have a feeling that Jesus was melting any resistance that Martha might have to Him with those opening words. And then He says gently, "You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed." Do you have any idea how awesome that is to me? I am sooo not a multi-tasker, and I tend to get overwhelmed by an overly full plate. It stresses me sometimes to juggle being a wife, mother, and woman of God and all the tasks that those roles entail, from cooking and cleaning to coupon clipping and budgeting, to teaching and working at church. And so much more. When I see my life as a list of a hundred different tasks, I tend to shut down. But when I remember that only one thing is needed, that calms my soul and helps me to focus and prioritize. The one thing that is needed, in my opinion, is to seek and glorify God. That's it. And when I see my Bible reading and prayer and dish-washing and diaper-changing and CVS-shopping, and curriculum-writing as one thing, that makes it so much easier for me. My life becomes less of a harried checklist and more of a peaceful rest in God, even when I am doing the things that have to be done.
Jesus spends the rest of today's passage talking about prayer. What hit me right between the eyes was the last verse of our passage. When I think about "ask, seek, knock," and the idea of the father giving good gifts to the child, I tend to view those verses as some broad guarantee of all manner of prayer requests. And so it is confusing to me when I see Christians earnestly and faithfully asking for seemingly good things, but not getting the things for which they are asking. Verse 13, however, seems to indicate that Jesus is talking about asking for God's Spirit here. He is saying that that is the best gift, and that the Father is glad to give such a good gift to His children.
For some reason, I just wasn't feeling Asaph today. I tend to relate so much more the "Martha, Martha" side of Jesus than to this mighty warrior side of God. I mean, I like them both, and they are both very integral to God's character. The compassionate side just resonates more with me.
I can relate to the fool in the first two verses to a degree that is uncomfortable. I mean, of course my way seems right to me; that's why I'm taking it! And I am not great at hiding my annoyance. Though having the Spirit in me for almost twenty years has helped refine that side of me, there is still a lot to be desired.