Called and Gifted

Scripture Focus: Exodus 37.1
1 Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood—two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high.

Exodus 36.1-2
1 So Bezalel, Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary are to do the work just as the Lord has commanded.” 
2 Then Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord had given ability and who was willing to come and do the work.

Reflection: Called and Gifted
By John Tillman

The descriptions of building the items for the tabernacle should seem familiar. They are nearly quotes of the descriptions of the instructions from Exodus 25 and following. This repetition shows the faithfulness and attention to detail with which the tasks were carried out.

Bezalel took the holiest object in God’s instructions as a personal project. The building of most other objects is attributed to “they.” When building the ark, “Bezalel” or “he” is used.

Bezalel, according to traditional Jewish sources, was Moses’ grand-nephew and was only 13 years old when the project began. 

In ancient cultures, boys were considered adults at around 13. This spares us from imagining trusting the entire architectural construction of a new church building and the crafting and design of the most precious object in our church to a 13-year-old. But even with some cultural adjustments, could we imagine trusting a 17-year-old with the project?

Moses and Bezalel make a great pair for us to consider when thinking about the persons whom God may call to his service.

When Moses was called he was washed up. At the burning bush, stood an 80-year-old refugee sheepherder. He was a failed revolutionary and a wanted murderer. He was rejected by his adoptive royal family and his race. The only thing in his favor was the calling and gifting of God.

Bezalel was a youth. He was untested, unproven, untried.  The only thing in his favor was the calling and gifting of God.

But God called and gifted each of these men into work that would define their lives. Moses would go on to become one of the most revered leaders in history. Bezalel would design and build history’s holiest of objects. Eventually, the ark would disappear into history. Bezalel would likewise disappear without further biblical mention.

Whether old or young or in between, we may be called to something great, or holy, or life-defining that we can’t now understand. Whether infamous or unknown, we may be called to lead in God’s kingdom. Whether we have a criminal past or no past at all, we may be called to a holy task. The only thing we need in our favor is the calling and gifting of God.

Whatever we may be called to, may we be as humble as Moses in taking up our calling, and may we be as faithful as Bezalel in obeying God’s instructions word for word.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness,… make your way straight before me. — Psalm 5.8

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Exodus 37 (Listen – 3:14) 
John 16 (Listen – 4:14)

This Weekend’s Readings
Exodus 38 (Listen – 4:23) John 17 (Listen – 3:40)
Exodus 39 (Listen – 5:24) John 18 (Listen – 5:16)

Read more about The First Spirit-Filled Work
The first Spirit-filled individuals, Bezalel and Oholiab, were artisans, builders, makers.

Read more about Unveiled
When it comes to what God will reveal to us, and the love we will show the world, we haven’t seen anything yet.

Countering Hatred

Scripture Focus: John 15.18-25
18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ t If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’

Reflection: Countering Hatred
By John Tillman

Hatred has grown in the two years since I first wrote on this passage. Hatred is big business. 

Hatred sells papers and generates page views. Hatred fuels political fundraising. Hatred builds audiences. Selling hatred earns advancement in a world where every follower and every click means not just money, but power.

It should be no surprise when the world’s hate machine turns on Christians. It’s not like Jesus didn’t warn us this would happen. When Christianity was a cultural norm, Christ’s words about the world hating us because it hated him first could seem odd. In today’s world, they make sense.

True persecution around the world has risen. Christians who aren’t facing hatred or persecution from governments or other religions are, increasingly, facing it from each other. Some Christians are embracing or expressing hatred in other ways, including violence. 

Christians engaging in violence based on misguided interpretations of scripture is, sadly, nothing new. Christians brutally criticizing each other to the point that people part ways with their denominations or the faith is also, sadly, not new.

Even if we are hated by the world, we must not be tempted to embrace worldly solutions. The world says to acquire power and crush our haters. This is unacceptable and antithetical for Christians. 

Power can’t make someone not hate us. The solutions to hatred are relational, not political. If our truly persecuted (not just hated) brothers and sisters are courageously loving and forgiving Muslims, Atheists, and others who torture and kill them, how can we do less from our relatively safe position?

Jesus said, “they have seen [his works]…yet they have hated.” (John 15.24) The mission Jesus gave his disciples in the face of hatred was to show them the Father’s works. Have we done so? Or have we reflected hatred back to the world?

The gospel solution to hate is to love our enemies, overcoming evil with good. It is better to suffer worldly loss (an election, our lives, or anything else) than to win using the tactics of the world. (Temptation of Jesus: Matthew 4.1-11; Luke 4.1-14)

Perhaps one reason we hold on to hate and power, refusing to love our enemies is that at heart, we really don’t want to end up like Jesus—powerless and crucified. Yet, ending up like Jesus is the chief goal of Christianity.

May the Holy Spirit work in us to make us more willing to lay down on a cross than to crucify someone.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Small Verse
Today if you shall hear His voice, harden not your heart.

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis TickleToday’s Readings
Exodus 36 (Listen – 4:47) 
John 15 (Listen – 3:20)

Read more about Ending up Like Jesus
Christians must recognize that there are no political solutions to being hated.

Read more about Overcoming Hatred :: Worldwide Prayer
This prayer’s blunt confession is one that our culture deeply needs to pray. We are consumed by hatred. God have mercy on us.

The First Spirit-Filled Work

Scripture Focus: Exodus 35.30-34
30 Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—32 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 33 to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts. 34 And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others.

John 14.15-17, 26
15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.


Reflection: The First Spirit-Filled Work
By John Tillman

Jesus described the filling of the Holy Spirit as being for the good of not only the disciples, but the world. The works the Spirit did through them built a new space, a new Temple, a new people of God to shine the light of God’s love to the world.

We often think of the Holy Spirit helping pastors when they preach and musicians when they lead worship. We know the Holy Spirit helps us study the Bible. We pray in faith that the Holy Spirit will bring the miraculous help of God for healings, interventions, or protections. 

However, The first Spirit-filled individuals, Bezalel and Oholiab, were not orators, political leaders, musicians, writers, prophets, warriors, or healers. They were artisans, builders, makers. They worked with their hands.

They also did these things in community. Part of the Spirit’s gifting was to teach. They were not to do what God called them to alone but to teach others who would join the work.

The first Spirit-filled workers in the Bible used hammers and tongs, needles and thread, chisels, saws, and perfume…not pulpits. They spoke not with words but images. They taught understanding through symbolism and space. They brought spiritual healing through the redemptive instruments of atonement they would craft. 

Their skilled minds, hearts, and hands wrought from the gifts of God’s people a place to meet with God. Artistry using symbols, spaces, textures, patterns, and images replanted a representation of an Edenic garden in which humans would once again walk in fellowship with God.

What type of sacred space are we creating? Not just in our churches but in our lives? Not just in spiritual ways but physical ways? Are we telling the redemptive story and ushering people into the presence of God?

Whether you work with hammer and chisel or with keyboard and screen, God’s Spirit longs to use your work to build sacred space depicting redemption. This space goes beyond the walls of your church building to encompass all those who will hear the call of Christ. Worship in this space and invite others in to learn of God.

May we be filled with the Spirit to the tips of our fingers as they work acts of redemption.
May not only the words of our mouths and meditations of our heart, but also the works of our hands be pleasing in the sight of the Redeemer.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
I will give great thanks to the Lord with my mouth; in the midst of the multitude will I praise him;
Because he stands at the right hand of the needy to save his life from these who would condemn him. — Psalm 109.29-30

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Exodus 35 (Listen – 4:31) 
John 14 (Listen – 4:13)

Read more about Prayer in our Vocation
To some, it might be a surprise that one of the primary definitions of the word “vocation” is a divine calling.

Read more about Extra Ordinary Prayer
We carry prayer with us into every moment of our lives. As we do, may our actions be blessings not curses, carrying the good news of the gospel.

Unveiled

Scripture Focus: Exodus 34.29-30, 33-35
29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.

33 When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord. 

John 13.3-5
3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 

Reflection: Unveiled
By John Tillman

On Mount Sinai, God revealed more to Moses than he had revealed to any human since Adam and Eve. 

God walked before Moses, declaring the aspects of his identity. Compassionate. Gracious. Slow to anger. Filled with love. Faithful. Forgiving. Just.

This revelation changed Moses in ways he did not immediately realize. Moses had been to the mountain before for long conversations with God. He took down detailed plans for the tabernacle with instructions right down to the fasteners of clothing. Something, however, about this visit was different. 

The intimacy of the revelation of God’s character, of glimpsing God’s glory from the cleft of the rock, gave Moses a glow. The people, and even Aaron, were afraid of this radiant sign of God’s presence. So Moses veiled his face. This seems to have been merely for the comfort of others. Seeing the glory of God can be discomforting. But Moses and Israel hadn’t seen anything yet…

The revelation of God’s character when Jesus stripped to his undergarments to wash his disciples’ feet, was like no other revelation before. When John described this moment he prefaced it by telling us that Jesus “showed them the full extent of his love.” (John 13.1

No revelation of God and his love, not the original creative acts that formed the universe, not the choosing of Abram, or the salvation from Egypt, is complete without this image.

The one who deserves honor, choosing dishonor. 
The one who deserves glory, choosing obscurity.
The one who deserves tribute, choosing servitude.
This is who God is.

Discomforted by the foot washing, Peter tries to stop Jesus from humiliating himself. Jesus is not about to let Peter draw a covering over the love he intends to show. He is mere hours away from the tearing of his flesh and the tearing of the curtain of the Temple. Peter hadn’t seen anything yet…

Paul describes New Testament believers as those with “unveiled faces.” He encourages us that if Moses’ ministry was glorious, our ministry should be more so. (2 Corinthians 3.7-17) If Moses’ face glowed, ours should be incandescent.

Seek regular and deep intimacy with God through prayer and the scriptures. Let the shocking images of his identity—from Sinai, from foot washing, from the cross—soak into us. Then, let us walk through our world alight with his love. For when it comes to what God will reveal to us, and the love we will show the world, we haven’t seen anything yet. (Ephesians 3.14-21)

Music:Unveiled Faces” — Sarah Masen

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
May God be merciful to us and bless us, show us the light of his countenance and come to us.
Let your ways be known upon earth, your saving health among all nations. — Psalm 67.1-2

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis TickleToday’s Readings
Exodus 34 (Listen – 5:48) 
John 13 (Listen – 5:06)

Read more about Sewing up the Veil
We don’t have a literal Temple veil, but we each stitch up a veil of our own cultural assumptions, religious rituals, and precious objects.

Read more about Apocalypse, How?
We have apocalypses all wrong…Jesus told his disciples that he would “apocalypse” the father to them, meaning that he would reveal to them God the Father.

What Wondrous Love Is This? — Lenten Hymns

Scripture Focus: John 12.12-13
12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
“Hosanna!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the king of Israel!”

Reflection: What Wondrous Love Is This? — Lenten Hymns
By Jon Polk

While the anonymous author of the hymn text “What Wondrous Love is This” may be lost to history, its lyrical beauty and simplicity are timeless.

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!

The hymn originates from the Appalachian region of the United States in the early 1800s. While hymnals were not commonplace at the time, the lyrics were first published in two different camp meeting songbooks in 1811, one in Lynchburg, Virginia, and the other in Lexington, Kentucky.

Because hymn books were rare, authors would often write lyrics that were simple and repetitive to aid congregations in learning the songs. This was not indicative of a poor writer, rather the repetition served to increase retention of the words and message.

The tune of the hymn was similar to a 1701 English song, “The Ballad of Captain Kidd,” which recounted the exploits of a sailor who had been executed for piracy. Many other popular songs had also been set to the same melody. In this way, the tune was memorable and easy to learn, much like singing “Amazing Grace” to the tune of The Eagles’ “Peaceful Easy Feeling” or the old Gilligan’s Island TV show theme.

Furthermore, the song was discovered by composer William Walker during his travels in Appalachia and published in 1835 in his collection of shape note hymns, The Southern Harmony. Shape note singing was a popular form of musical notation using shapes to denote different pitches. Since most people in that day could not read music, shape notes made it possible for everyone to sing.

The season of Lent provides an opportunity for us as Christians to consider what messages we repeat over and over with our voices, actions, and attitudes. Do we present the simple message, “When I was sinking down, Christ laid aside His crown,” clearly and accessibly to those who have ears to hear?

Does the world hear a Church that repeats a message of its own selfish needs and demands, or do they hear us proclaim, “To God and to the Lamb, I will sing”?

Ultimately, what is the deep song in our hearts that we will repeat, not only in this life but through all eternity?

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free
I’ll sing His love for me,
And through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
And through eternity I’ll sing on.

Listen: What Wondrous Love is This? by Fernando Ortega
Lyrics: What Wondrous Love is This?, anonymous  — Lyrics from Hymnary.org

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Bless the Lord, you angels of his, you mighty ones who do his bidding, and hearken to the voice of his word.
Bless the Lord, all you, his hosts, you ministers of his who do his will.
Bless the Lord, all you works of his, in all places of his dominion… — Psalm 103.20-22

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Exodus 33 (Listen – 3:49) 
John 12 (Listen – 6:26)

Read more about Bearing Reproach
By these things, we are the Lord’s messengers, preparing the way, carrying the gospel to all around us.

Read more about Justice to Wormwood
It will not do for us to sing about justice without bringing it to pass.

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