Ordination and Putting To Death…

This year, Bishop Lewis of the Virginia United Methodist Church has placed before her conference the second consecutive challenge of reading through the Bible in one year. Last year, they read it from cover to cover, and this year we are reading the Chronological plan offered by biblegateway.com. This morning’s text caught me off guard a bit. It was the text of Exodus 30-32.

At the beginning of this text is Moses up on the mountain talking with God about all that God wants Moses to do to set up the Tabernacle. From how to make the Ark of the Covenant, to the incense to be used only for tabernacle worship, to the anointing oil that everything in the Tabernacle was to be anointed with. But as the story goes, as Moses was up on the mountain the Israelites become…restless. They ask of Aaron to create for them a new god to worship, and Aaron obliges. He takes all the gold from their earrings, melts it down in the fire, and creates the idol of the golden calf to which the people begin offering sacrifices. Ironically, God in his temper wants to destroy the people, but Moses intercesses on their behalf, and then Moses goes down to address Aaron and the people of God. And this is really what caught me off guard. Read here Exodus 32:25-29.

 25 When Moses saw that the people were running wild (for Aaron had let them run wild, to the derision of their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. 27 He said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side, each of you! Go back and forth from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill your brother, your friend, and your neighbor.’” 28 The sons of Levi did as Moses commanded, and about three thousand of the people fell on that day. 29 Moses said, “Today you have ordained yourselves[c] for the service of the Lord, each one at the cost of a son or a brother, and so have brought a blessing on yourselves this day.”

In this text, Moses calls up those who are with Yahweh to kill and destroy their brothers, friends, or neighbors if they were against God. And for this act, they were ordained. As one who has been ordained in the church for the service of God, this is a tough scripture to swallow. Could God really have ordained a people, set aside a people, for such an act as this?

But the more I sit with these verses, the more I come to realize the similarity in this act of service to God. No. I don’ t mean by going around and killing my brother, friend and neighbors against God.  But rather to speak out and eradicate the things that are not of God. To speak out and act against forces of evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. These are the vows that not only have our clergy taken, but ALL Christians in their baptism. All of us have been ordained, set aside from the world, as a holy priesthood to speak and act out against all things contrary to the principles of the Kingdom of God.

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