Thursday, August 23, 2007

One Upon The Altar, and The Other Accursed

Leviticus 16:20-22
"When he finishes atoning for the holy place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall offer the live goat. Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness. "
In the epistle of Barnabas the writer provides through quoting passages and interpreting symbols not recorded in the scripture adds flesh to actual way in which the people of Israel practiced the ritual of the scapegoat. The author writes of "crowning the goat with scarlet wool" and how the one leading out the goat to freedom would entangle the wool crown in the thorns of a shrub. He shows how the two goats represent Christ crucified and Christ resurrected. He then interprets the meaning of the wool in the brambles portion of the ceremony for his readers:

Epistle of Barnabas 6:14-15
But what then signifies this, that the wool was to be put into the midst of the thorns?
This also is a figure of Jesus, sent out to the church. For as he who would take away the scarlet wool must undergo many difficulties, because that thorn was very sharp, and only with difficulty could he get it, Christ says, "They that will see me and come to my kingdom, must attain to me through many afflictions and troubles."
The author's quote by Christ here is not found in any gospel account, and yet it is also used by Paul after his stoning in Lystra in Acts 14:22. I am forced to consider the quote as I reflect on my current thoughts about myself and the church I am a part of.

The Kingdom of God (scarlet crown) is placed inside the the church (the thorn bush) and there is great suffering if we are to hold onto the Kingdom. By the end of the first century the author (who likely based on language and writing style also wrote Hebrews) sees the fact that the church and Kingdom are not the same and that this reality must be pointed out to people.

This thorn bush is in the wilderness. The wilderness (the world) which is also your enemy since it will dehydrate and starve you, is not the greatest danger the true seeker of the Kingdom finds in the illustration. It is the sharp thorns of the church that pose the promise of affliction and troubles. Kingdom building in the church will always be met with violence since most members are more concerned with church building, or worse the church building than with expanding the redemption of Christ on the earth.

It is my prayer and my commitment that I will continue to place my hand into the bramble bush to hold onto the scarlet crown, which is the kingdom of God, despite the pain that brings me from the church.

She Must and Shall Go Free [Live Album Version]L

1 comment:

Niki said...

Wow. You're really making me think tonight.

Assuming that the church is God's people - who are a thornbush in their own right - and not the church as in a specific group of people gathered in a building on Sunday morning, it is worth the bloody fight to see the kingdom advance here on earth. I am done with the days of caring about a building more than the people. I am through with living a life of mediocrity so I don't get in trouble with church leaders who can't see past their budgets and committees. I am ready for battle and I stand poised to run at the blast of the shofar. My job right now is to help others remove their blinders to the false belief that life is about getting people to heaven. That's not the mission God gave us. Yes, we need to be sharing the message of salvation that is Jesus Christ, but God gave us other responsibilities and gifts to accomplish them as well.

This could be a long discussion. Remind me again why we have to live 3 states away from each other? I'd sure love to hash this out with you in person!