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.

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.

Garments of Peace

Scripture Focus: Exodus 28.2-4
2 Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron to give him dignity and honor. 3 Tell all the skilled workers to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron, for his consecration, so he may serve me as priest. 4 These are the garments they are to make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a woven tunic, a turban and a sash.

Reflection: Garments of Peace
By John Tillman

In Ephesians, Paul gives a metaphor of spiritual armor for spiritual battles but in the Old Testament we get a literal God-ordained “anti-armor” which priests will wear. These are not garments for a spiritual war. Instead, they are garments for the spiritual work of making peace with God.

Pray this prayer over the garments described for the priests and ask God to make you a peacemaking priest of God.

Garments of Peace
Dress us, Lord, that we may serve.
Fit us for your work.

For our breastpiece, Lord, keep the burden of your mission close to our heart
Aaron’s heart felt the weight of the names of Jacob’s children
May our hearts be weighted with loving concern for our communities.
May our hearts beat with love for our brothers and sisters in the faith.
May our hearts break with compassion for the suffering and oppressed.
May our hearts love through actions aiding those around us.

For our ephod, Lord, mark us as yours, called and set apart for your work.
May it carry our breastplate of burden.
May it show the beauty of your grace.
May it glint with colors showing your love for all people.

For our robe, Lord, give us righteousness.
Remove our filthy rags. Wash and dress us in your robes.
Let the sound of your righteousness go before us, 
The tinkling echoes of your mercy, as bells on Aaron’s hem.

For our woven tunic, Lord, make us one with you.
Weave your Spirit into our lives.
Seamlessly cover us with your dignity and honor.
Let us walk before you, with the golden threads of your life gilding the material of our lives.

For our turban, Lord, guard our minds.
May we have affixed on our foreheads and in our thoughts
The immutable truths that we are loved by you, holy to you, and will be used by you.
Let no thought or desire cause us to forget we carry your name and your love

For our sash, Lord, bind our vestments as one.
Let us hold firmly to all your gifts:
The burden of our mission
The beauty of your calling
The joyful sound of your righteousness
The seamless covering of your Spirit
The firm security of your love for us.

Make us a holy priesthood, in garments of peace, not holding ourselves above others, but lifting them up and carrying them to you.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
I will offer you a free will sacrifice and praise your Name, O Lord, for it is good. — Psalm 54.6

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle
Today’s Readings
Exodus 28 (Listen – 5:54)
John 7 (Listen – 5:53)

Read more about Priests of Life and Peace
God’s purpose is not to end the priesthood. Instead, through Christ’s sacrifice, he instituted a new priesthood for all who follow Jesus.

Read more about Praying as Priests
We are charged, as the Aaronic priests were charged, to pronounce God’s blessing.

Bread and Oil

Scripture Focus: Exodus 27.20-21
20 “Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning. 21 In the tent of meeting, outside the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law, Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the Lord from evening till morning. This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come. 

Exodus 25.23, 30
23 “Make a table of acacia wood—two cubits long, a cubit wide and a cubit and a half high. 24 Overlay it with pure gold and make a gold molding around it…30 Put the bread of the Presence on this table to be before me at all times. 

John 6.57-58
57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

Reflection: Bread and Oil
By John Tillman

Every ordinance and ornamentation in the Tabernacle, and in the Temples that followed it, were weighty not just with gold but with symbolism.

We will focus on two—oil and bread. The oil and the bread are both, in their own way, symbols of God’s presence.

The lampstands and the oil were instrumental in shining out the light of God’s presence into the courtyard. Isaiah and John both tell us that, eventually in Heaven, the Lord will be our “everlasting light” and no lamps will be needed for there will be no more night. (Isaiah 60.19-20; Revelation 22.5

Like Israel, we aren’t there yet. We live in the shadowy now, where night is always coming and shadows grow long. We live in a world that needs light.

The bread is symbolic of God as the source of life. Jesus was likely thinking of this bread when he said that he was the bread of life, the true manna from heaven. Many disciples left Jesus because of this difficult teaching, but Peter recognized and explained that it was Jesus’ teachings, the words that he gave them, that were life.

For the priests and the people, these lamps, faithfully tended and lit each evening, represented that God’s light was with them in the darkness. 

The bread represented that God’s words were the sustenance of life that the community needed. As Jesus would say to Satan in the desert, we live by words from the mouth of God.

The bread and the oil also were a reminder that they had a responsibility to shine in their dark world and to partake of the wisdom of God. 

In the Tabernacle, only the priests could eat this bread. Only the priests tended these lamps. But Jesus tore down the curtains and the barriers. We are each a temple of the Holy Spirit. We are all priests serving under Jesus, our high priest. 

We are both eligible to stand in the light and responsible to shine it.
We are eligible to partake in the bread and to waft its fragrance to others and invite them in.

We must keep our lamps lit, faithfully bringing the oil.
We must partake in the bread that is true life, the word of God.

We need to make Jesus’ words our food. He is the true bread of life. 

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6.68)

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Be pleased, O God, to deliver me; O Lord, make haste to help me. — Psalm 70.1

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

Today’s Readings
Exodus 27 (Listen – 2:52)
John 6 (Listen – 8:27)

Read more about Names of Jesus—Justice, Bread, and Doctor
He is called bread, because by his gospel he fed the hunger of our ignorance. — Nicetas of Remesiana

Read more about Cultivating Daily Bread
Daily bread refers to a daily need for God and purposely highlights the need for spiritual disciplines that are required for us to grow in faith.

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