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Feb 12 / Reflexion Community

Moses’ “Staff Meeting” 02/12/2023



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning!  Welcome to RefleXion.          The Lord is with you.

Last week Chuck talked about parables and their working into our soil though we don’t even realizeit.  Then, later, we might recognize or realize something by the pattern that had been planted.  I love that idea and the idea that changing our viewpoint…well, changes our point of view!

I want to share a word with you that I’ve been playing with for a couple of years; that word is “Realize, “but I think of it as “Real Eyes,” gazing at the unseen Real.  It has to do with seeing differently, the Reál, the Royal Way, the Jesus Way.  In other words, seeing something for what it is vs. what I prefer, what I’ve been taught, or what I’ve always thought.  Maybe it’s not a complete picture, but something I didn’t see before is “Real-Eyesed,” something more Real. 

I’m referring today to two woman mystics.  First, I’m reading a quote from Evelyn Underhill (20th century) in her devotional “Light of Christ.”  Listen for how she uses the word “realize.”

“You know how sometimes one goes to see a church which one is told has magnificent windows—and seen from outside they all look alike—dull, thick, grubby. We probably say, ‘Well! It is obvious there is good glass here, but we cannot realise it.’ Then we open the door and go inside—leave the outer world, enter the inner world—and the universal light floods through the windows and bathes us in their colour and beauty and significance, shows us things of which we had never dreamed, a loveliness that lies beyond the fringe of speech. And so, in the same way we cannot realise God and His eternal Truth and Beauty, from outside. One constantly hears people commenting on Christianity from outside and missing the point every time. They are on the wrong side of the wall. How important then it is for us to be familiar with the inner vision. It is from within the place of prayer, recollection, worship, and love, where the altar is, where the sacrifice is made, where we are all bound together in a life of communion and self-giving to God, that we fully and truly receive the revelation which is made though Christ. To re-enter that Cathedral, receive a fresh gift from its inexhaustible beauty, see through those windows more and more of the light of God, that is the secret of meditation.”

That is how, I believe, we can real-eyes God’s viewpoint and be on the Real Way of Jesus, the New Way of the Spirit.

Our prayer this morning is from the thoughts of Dame Julian of the 14th century:
Lord, we remember what was revealed to your daughter Julian, her vision of Christ that was ‘Light, Life and Love’ and that everything was gathered in that.  May Your Spirit show us the Truth, quicken us to fresh vitality, and fill us with adoring devotion. May we real-eyes Your Vision for us. We come into the silence now to real-eyes more Light, Life and Love. We come to contemplate our Christian treasure from the inside, in the Real, the Way of Jesus.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, and get from them staffs, one for each fathers’ house, from all their chiefs according to their fathers’ houses, twelve staffs. Write each man’s name on his staff, and write Aaron’s name on the staff of Levi. For there shall be one staff for the head of each father’s house. Then you shall deposit them in the tent of meeting before the testimony, where I meet with you. And the staff of the man whom I choose shall sprout. . . .
On the next day, Moses went into the tent of the testimony, and behold, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds.
Numbers 17:1-11

Intro: This is an odd story

Not only for the strange miracle that God sets up,
– but also because it seems unnecessary in the context of the larger narrative
• the people of Israel were disappointed and discouraged
◦ their situation was primed for discontent and insurrection
• four rebellions had been staged and subdued:
◦ Moses’ sister and brother (ch. 12)
◦ the whole nation turned from God at the border of Canaan (ch. 14)
◦ a clan of rebels that refused to follow Moses any further (16:1-3, 12-34)
◦ a crew of Levites, who claimed rights to the priesthood (16:4-11, 35)
– in each instance, God intervened and punished the rebels
• so God’s choice for priesthood and service in the sanctuary would seem obvious
• however, considering Israel’s state of mind, and history of complaint and stubbornness,
◦ extra evidence for God’s choice may have been required

At that time, and in desert, a staff had many uses:
– support for standing and walking, herding flocks and cattle, prying, and as a weapon
• staffs were personalized – you could identify its owner by looking at it (cf. Gen. 38:25-26)
• in two passages–I know of–a staff is coupled with a scepter (Gen. 49:10; Num. 21:17-18)
◦ the staff was a symbol of leadership
◦ that is why each staff here was one that belonged to the head of a community
– so if we give this story a title, it could be “Moses’ Staff Meeting”

There is something else in this story I find strange

The test will be to see which staff will “sprout”
– what would it take to qualify one staff as the winner?
• a fresh, green twig? a short twig with one small leaf?
◦ what Moses found the next morning was that Aaron’s staff
had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds (v. 8)
• doesn’t that sound excessive?
Robert Alter, “. . . this fast-forwarding of a slow process of growth spectacularly confirms the miraculous character of the event.”
◦ a line from Bruce Almighty comes to mind
“Okay, now you’re just showing off”
– as I was meditating on this passage, I wondered,
• “Is there more to this story than what I’m seeing?”
◦ the thought that came to me was:
◦ perhaps God is saying something here about the leader he chooses
• so I read it again, and found a possible meaning:
◦ some personal characteristics of a person God is pleased to use
◦ then I made a list

There is nothing novel or profound about my list
– as I go over these items, you’re going to think, “Of course”
• still, they were a good reminder for me
• and since God hasn’t given me a new series topic yet,
◦ I’m going to share my mediation with you
– I believe that what I have to say applies to every follower of Jesus

The miracle took place in the inner chamber of God’s sanctuary

I’ve been reading Tyler Staton’s, Pray Like Monks, Live like Fools
– he doesn’t say anything we haven’t heard or don’t know already,
• but he does well in reminding us and nudging us toward God
Staton, “. . . this book is an invitation to what cannot be taught, only discovered. . . . An invitation to be found by God in the place he’s most faithfully been found throughout history: not in a megachurch with Broadway lights and arena-rock fog machines or in the eloquent podcast of a contrarian thinker, but in the bare silence of you and the endless expanse beyond you.”
• the inner chamber is where God reveals his presence
– prayer is our conscious connection with God
• okay–my grandchildren use me, and I know it
◦ when they were small and lived with us,
◦ would come into my room and sit on my lap, just to be with me – nothing more
• for our prayer to become an encounter,
◦ we need to realize it’s more than just asking for things
◦ it’s resting in the invisible, yet real and holy Presence

So, the first characteristic of God’s chosen servant is prayer
– this is where the miracle begins – where our lives are changed

The next characteristic is LIFE

When the Hebrew Scriptures take a jab at idols, they point out the fact that idols are lifeless
. . . every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols,
for his images are false,
and there is no breath in them (Jer. 10:14)
– I think now, perhaps more than ever, we need to be cautious
• we can fabricate a religious experience – a sense of “church”
• I met a young man, raised Christian and in charge of an inner city mission
◦ but he had stopped believing in God
◦ but still, he was working to create a church-like community without a god
– how much do we need God or depend on God to do church?
• it’s possible to create a lot of programs for people,
◦ so they don’t feel the emptiness of not encountering God
◦ many Christian leaders believe they must control people, and they use programs to do it
• the word “fabricate” has two meanings:
◦ to manufacture something and to make up something untrue
◦ we do both when we make something that looks like a work of God, but isn’t

God is the Giver of life – he gives new life to his people
– Jesus said that those who believe and follows his teaching
have passed from death to life (Jn. 4:24)
• this message saturates the New Testament, so I won’t press the point (especially the writings of John)
• if we live a God-given life, we don’t have to fake anything
– coupled with life, is growth – and there is no end to this

The next characteristic is FRUIT

Jesus emphasized fruit as goal of our relationship with him
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-dresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit (Jn. 15:102)
– when Jesus warned his followers of “false prophets,” he said,
You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit . . . Thus you will recognize them by their fruits (Mt. 7:15)
• I am much more at peace with myself than I used to be
• there was a time when I hated having an unproductive day
◦ and right up there with unproductive was being ineffective
◦ days are important, but what counts is my whole life
– others will produce more fruit than I have – that’s cool
• I just want to be as fruitful as God wants me to be

Another characteristic is BEAUTY

I get that from the blossom that the staff produced
– there is a beauty that is superficial and can be disappointing
• St. Peter encouraged women to adorn
the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Pe. 3:4)
• there’s no good reason not to apply that instruction to men as well
– there are times when we want to look our best,
• but it would not hurt, if every day we asked ourselves,
◦ “Am I a beautiful person?”
◦ “Do I add beauty to the world through my presence, words, and actions?”
• compassion is beautiful; generosity can be beautiful;
◦ forgiveness is beautiful; kindness is beautiful;
◦ the gift of a flower, or a smile, or a hug can be beautiful

The last characteristic I imagine is FRAGRANCE

Like beauty, I relate that to the blossom
– it has to do with the impression we make and leave on others
For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance of life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? (2 Cor. 2:15-16)

Conclusion: I don’t want to leave you with impression that this is all up to you

As we read, it was God who caused the staff to sprout
God gives us life and makes us fruitful and beautiful and fragrant

My first “real” job was working at a fish and chips restaurant. The other employees and I did everything. We cut up the fish, battered and deep fried them, deep fried the chips, wrapped it all up and sold them to the customers. Because my work was close to my home, I could walk both ways. My high school was between work and home. One Friday evening, walking home I noticed there was a dance happening at the school, so I got in line to buy a ticket. But after a couple minutes, I heard a girl somewhere in the line behind me say, “I smell fish!” Quietly I exited the line and went home.
My aroma that evening was not the result of applying a new cologne (eau de poisson), but from being emerged in the atmosphere of my job.

If we spend time in the garden of prayer, we’ll come out smelling like roses

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