Week 1 - Old Testament

 

That we need to feed ourselves daily is indeed a truth of our human existence.  According to the book of Acts, those baptized after Pentecost spent much of their time together in the Temple and afterwards “broke bread together in the homes of one another, and they ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having goodwill for all the people” (Acts2:46-47).  So how did they come to this understanding of worship and sharing meals together?  This week we will look at the Old Testament and the relationship the people had with food and how it shaped their relationship with God. 

 

Ideal Communion in Eden
  • Genesis 1:1-2:3 – The First Creation narrative, depicts Eating as part of the primordial goodness of creation.  The human person, according to Gregory of Nyssa, was brought as a guest into the house of creation after the divine host “had decked the habitation with beauties of every kind, and prepared this great varied banquet,” assigning to us “not the acquitting of what was not there, but the enjoyment of the things which were there.”  Given for our enjoyment were “every plant yielding send that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with see in its fruit” (Genesis 1:29).  Like the beasts of the earth, the birds of the air, and the creatures that creep on the gorund –all of whom were given green plants for food (genesis 1:30)—the original human person was an herbivore.  Eating in Eden was a bloodless communion in which all creatures lived peaceable without taking life from another. 
  • Genesis 2:4a-25 – The second narrative of human origins that biblical scholars trace to the ninth century B.C.E. is one where humanity was created prior to the plants and animals as an earth creature (adam) made out of the earth (adamah) into which God blows the breath of life (Genesis 2:7).  Out of this same earth, God “Made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” (Genesis 2:9), and from this earth animals are formed, in an attempt to find a companion for the first creature (adam).  When no animals of the field or bird of the air suffices to provide as a suitable companion for adam, God causes a deep sleep to fall upon him, and then fashions from one of adam’s ribs a partner, differentiating adam into man (ish) and woman (ishshah).  While ish and ishshah share a unique bond, their communion with trees and animals and birds is evident in that all are fashioned by God from the same earth.  In Eden, humans are both farmers and priests of creation.  IN this second creation narrative, the human person is an herbivore, commanded by God to “freely eat of every tree in the garden” (Gen. 2:16).
  • In Eden, we lived free of anxiety with but one responsibility: “to sing as do angels, without ceasing or intermission, the praises of the Creator, and to delight in contemplation of Him.”  Eden was a place of perfect relationship with God and all of creation.
Human Transgression
  • Genesis 3:1-24 - In the middle of the garden stood one tree that the man and the woman were not to touch.  God told adam “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it, you shall die” (Gen. 2:16-17).
  • Irenaeus, a second-century bishop of Gaul, is both a testimony to the reality of human freedom and a humbling reminder that despite this freedom we remain creatures of the earth.
  • Augustine, the fourth-century bishop of Hippo, identified the underlying cause of human transgression as superbia, a Latin word that is imprecisely translated into English as “pride.”  Pride, in Augustine’s sense of the term, is not a matter of esteem for one’s own accomplishments, nor even an inordinate sense of self-importance.  Superbia has the precise theological meaning of displacing the creator with a creature and thereby unraveling the entire order of the cosmos.  Adam and Eve violated their communion with God, both by breaking a divine commandment and by eating with the intention of grasping for themselves qualities of divinity that can only be bequeathed as gift.

 

Covenant: Scripture attests to a “God in search of man,” a God brokenhearted by the corruption of creation and in need of human righteousness to help bring about creation’s repair.  In the covenant narrative of Noah and Naamah, Abraham and Sarah, the wilderness sojourn, the giving of the Torah on Sinai, and the temple meals, we find wisdom about eating and drinking.

 

1.     Noahide Covenant: Eating with Reverence for Life – Genesis 6:9-9:17: The God in search of human hearts found righteousness and goodness in the persons of Noah and Naamah who “walked with God” (Gen 6:9).  Noah was instructed to build an ark, preserving God’s creation, to keep the animals alive and preserve the foods of the earth, both for eating and for re-planting once the waters subsided.  Noah and Naamah do as they are instructed, gathering up God’s creation for preservation.  The waters come, the waters go, Noah builds an alter unto the Lord.  God then makes a new promise, the first covenant, established with Noah and all his descendants after him, and with every living creature that is with Noah, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth, as many as came out of the ark (Gen. 9:8-10).  Amidst that covenant, God turns the animals from friends of humanity to fearful of humanity, from friend to food.  Every moving things that lives shall be food for Noah and his descendants, just as green plants were for nourishment, now God gives us everything.  So long as the life-force, the blood, has been returned to God.  Although God concedes to humanity the right to eat animals flesh in our exile from the peaceable kingdom of Eden, God also establishes a dietary discipline intended to curb our violent nature and embody a fundamental principle of covenantal eating and drinking: reverence for God, the Creator of all life.  

 

2.     Sarah and Abraham: Extending Hospitality to Strangers – Genesis 18:1-15: God of the covenant seeks to deepened the relationship with the children of the covenant relationship, and the human person continues to hunger for the holy.  Ten generations after Noah, God spoke to Abraham of a covenant that would endure from generation to generation, marked with the sign of circumcision of male flesh, including Abraham’s unborn son, to which Abraham laughed, as he was one hundred years old and his wife Sarah was ninety (Genesis 17:17).  One day, as Abraham sat at the door to his tent, three strangers appear, and he runs to meet them, bowed and invited them to rest beneath the shade of the oaks.  Sarah made cakes of flour, to be served up with curds, milk and veal.  One of the visitors promised to return in due time, at which time, Sarah would have a son.  Sarah, who had been just beyond the doorway, laughed to herself.  Little did Sarah or Abraham know that they were sharing table with the Lord and two angels, and indeed, it came to pass that Sarah did conceive and bear a son.  God’s covenant promise would have been barren were it not for food shared with strangers in the act of hospitality. 

 

3.     Food in the Wilderness: Divine Gifts and Human Cravings – Exodus 16:1-36: The God of the covenant care for the people with whom the covenant has been made, and this care extends to food and drink as a primary expression of love.  Through the drought and famine that takes Abraham and Sarah into Egypt, and the sons of Jacob travel to the Nile delta, only to be enslaved by the Pharaohs of Egypt.  God sees the suffering of his people, the people of the covenant, and tells Moses to assist in delivering God’s people into the Promise Land, a land that is flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:7-8).  As the people of Israel sojourn through the wilderness after fleeing Egypt on the night of Passover, they complain of their hunger and thirst.  “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you,” God assures Moses, and in the morning the Israelites awake to find beneath the morning dew a flaky white wafer that tasted like honey.  Ellen Davis shares that “Eating is the most basic of all cultural and economic acts” and Israel’s response to the gift of manna is a litmus test of their separation from the culture of Egypt.  When the Israelites complained that manna was not enough, and that they desired meat, maybe some wonderful fish like back in Egypt (Numbers 11:4-6).  God sent a mighty wind that brought in more quail than they could imagine, but those who ate it, were stricken with a plague, and that place became known at Kibroth-hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had the craving (Numbers 11:34). 

 

4.     Torah Practices of Eating as Holy People – Exodus 19:1-20:26: When Moses and the Israelites arrive at Mount Sinai, three full moons after they had left Egypt, they made camp, Moses is instructed to keep all the men pure for three days and to set a firm boundary around the mountain.  On the third day, they awoke to thunder and lightening.  Abraham Heschel, in his book God in search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism, writes that “Awe precedes faith; it is at the root of faith.”  Had the people of Israel received the Torah without the awe of God, they would have been like a treasurer given a key to an inner chamber with no key to the outer door.  It is with awe, they awoke at the power and might of God.    Moses went up the mountain in a cloud of smoke and received from God the Torah.  This Hebrew word is often translated into English as “law,” but torah is better rendered as teaching, a practical wisdom that enables one to walk in the ways of God.  God’s intent was to make Israel a holy nation and a priestly kingdom (Exodus 19:6).  God seeks a communion of action with humanity in which our deeds ad our paths disclose divine intentions.  The torah is an invitation to holiness which God invites Israel to “do what he is.”  However, in out imperfect world, east of Eden, the torah cannot come to us in pure form, and we are unable to fully live it out.  Within the torah came the teachings by which Israel was to live their life, further deepening their relationship with God. 

a.     Israel was to act with justice and compassion for the widow, the orphan, the neighbor, and the strangers in their midst (Deut. 10:17-19). 

b.    Israel was to act with an open fist, rather than a closed, giving to anyone in need. (Deut. 15:7-8).

c.     Israel was to leave a portion of their vineyards an their harvest along the edges of the field for the poor and the alien to glean (Lev. 19:9-10; 23:22; Deut. 24:19-20).

d.    During the Sabbath year, (which was every third year) everything was to rest, including fields and animals (both working and producing) (exodus 23:10-11). 

e.     Every Jubilee year, (which was every 50 years) every debt was to be forgiven, and all land would return to the family that it originally belonged to (Lev. 25:8-10).

f.      There were also dietary restrictions and guidelines for Israel to follow.  It is an act that is central to God’s invitation to holiness, and therefore was to be held in reverence (Lev. 11:1-47; Deut. 14:4-21) 

 

5.     Temple Meals: Eating in Communion with God: Within the Torah, there were instruction for the construction of a tabernacle, a portable sanctuary carried through the wilderness and then into the land of Canaan.  The Ark of the covenant was housed within the inner most section of the tabernacle, with hand made curtains around it.  In front of the curtains stood an alter, on which the Lord told Moses, “You shall set bread of the Presence…before me always (Exodus 25:30).  The bread was a tangible reminder of the covenant, a relationship entailed both the sustaining divine presence and human responsibility.

 

When Solomon had the Temple built in Jerusalem in the tenth century B.C.E., it became the focal point of the bounty of the “land with flowing stream, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, and a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of live tress and honey, a land where bread could be eaten without scarcity” (Deut.  8:7-9).

 

Pilgrims would come to the temple to celebrate three times a year.  Giving their offerings and sacrifices to God. 

a.     Feast of the Tabernacles – celebrated on the first full moon after the autumnal equinox in October, and marked the beginning of the rainy season

b.     Passover – celebrated on the first full moon after the vernal equinox t the time of the spring harvest.

c.     Feast of the First-fruits – fifty days after Passover. 

The intent of temple sacrifice was not to feed God, but “to bring near,” and “to make sacred.”  The act is one of transference of something from common to the sacred realm, “making it a gift for God.” “Life was shared in communion with God.

 

 

June 28, 2017
SUNDAY WORSHIP

 

Worship Service 11:00AM

Adult Bible Study   9:45AM

Children's Class  11:00AM 

   

SERMON ON SUNDAY: July 2, 2017  "Welcome"

 

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