Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Taste of Stale Bread

(random thoughts for the Contemplative Service)

One Sabbath Jesus and his disciples were walking through some wheat fields. His disciples were picking grains of wheat as they went along. Some Pharisees asked Jesus, "Why are your disciples picking grain on the Sabbath? They are not supposed to do that!"
Jesus answered, "Haven't you read what David did when he and his followers were hungry and in need? It was during the time of Abiathar the high priest. David went into the house of God and ate the sacred loaves of bread that only priests are allowed to eat. He also gave some to his followers."

Jesus finished by saying, "People were not made for the good of the Sabbath. The Sabbath was made for the good of people. So the Son of Man is Lord over the Sabbath."
~ Mark 2:23-28 (CEV)

The Pharisees are concerned for Jesus' followers, here they were picking and eating grain on the sabbath. The Jewish scriptures give explicit instructions that you can eat pick grains of wheat and eat them while walking through somebody's field (Deut 23:25) but it also explicitly states that you must not work on the Sabbath even during ploughing and harvesting seasons (Exodus 34:21). Some pharisees felt that the Deuteronomy passage superseded the Exodus passage whereas others felt the reverse.

Jesus refuses to get drawn into which verse is more important, instead he tells the story of David and the Priest from 1 Sam 21: 1-6

Every week the Priests would bake 12 loaves of unleavened bread out of grain that had been offered in worship. They would sit on a special table in the Sanctuary. When the new loaves arrived then the 12 stale loaves would be given to the priests to consume. Leviticus 6:14-18 makes it very clear that only the direct descendants of Aaron (the priests) can consume the bread. The priest specifically disobeys scripture to give the bread to David and his followers.

I wonder how they reacted when they got to taste Holy Bread, the bread of the 'Presence' for the first time.

'But....this is just bread! tastes just like what my wife makes, in fact I think hers is better. I always thought the bread would taste more...more holy. Different somehow. This just tastes stale.'

Something that was holy, set apart, special, is revealed for its ordinariness, and in that revealing is an invitation to step into a new deeper understanding.

In my 20s I had an answer for almost everything ~ 'This is the way it is, and this is the way it shall always be.' When anything came along that would cause me to feel threatened or to question then I built a wall. The harder you pushed the harder I pushed back. Doubts and Questions were not invitations into deeper understanding, instead they were viewed as symptoms of a lack of faith, something to be resisted at all cost.

The walls got higher and what I built as protection become a prison, and the only thing to eat was the stale bread of the presence....and that is more than enough.

Sometimes it takes the realization that the 'Holy' is 'Ordinary' to give us the freedom to examine our walls to see if they are really required. Becoming disenchanted with the way things are is a necessary step in Spiritual Growth, it causes us to question what we have taken for granted, to '...purge naive assumptions, false religious pretensions and unthinking conformity.' ~ Dave Tomlinson, Re-enchanting Christianity.

The people who viewed my walls as required thought I was tumbling away into heresy. The pathway of Spiritual Growth runs parallel to the pathway of Apostasy and to the casual observer the two are easily confused. I heard cries of people echoing the Pharisee in Mark 'You are not supposed to do that!'

Where are you being invited to question, to doubt?
Where are you tempted to build walls?
Where might you need to demolish?

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