This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news
TORTURED BY “BOTCHED” LEGAL EXECUTION
Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
22 Moshe led Isra’el onward from the Sea of Suf. They went out into the Shur Desert; but after traveling three days in the desert, they had found no water. 23 They arrived at Marah but couldn’t drink the water there, because it was bitter. This is why they called it Marah [bitterness]. 24 The people grumbled against Moshe and asked, “What are we to drink?” 25 Moshe cried to Adonai; and Adonai showed him a certain piece of wood, which, when he threw it into the water, made the water taste good. There Adonai made laws and rules of life for them, and there he tested them. 26 He said, “If you will listen intently to the voice of Adonai your God, do what he considers right, pay attention to his commands and observe his laws, I will not afflict you with any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians; because I am Adonai your healer.”
27 They came to Eilim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and camped there by the water.
16 They traveled on from Eilim, and the whole community of the people of Isra’el arrived at the Seen Desert, between Eilim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after leaving the land of Egypt. 2 There in the desert the whole community of the people of Isra’el grumbled against Moshe and Aharon. 3 The people of Isra’el said to them, “We wish Adonai had used his own hand to kill us off in Egypt! There we used to sit around the pots with the meat boiling, and we had as much food as we wanted. But you have taken us out into this desert to let this whole assembly starve to death!”
4 Adonai said to Moshe, “Here, I will cause bread to rain down from heaven for you. The people are to go out and gather a day’s ration every day. By this I will test whether they will observe my Torah or not. 5 On the sixth day, when they prepare what they have brought in, it will turn out to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.” 6 Moshe and Aharon said to all the people of Isra’el, “This evening, you will realize that it has been Adonai who brought you out of Egypt; 7 and in the morning, you will see Adonai’s glory. For he has listened to your grumblings against Adonai — what are we that you should grumble against us?” 8 Moshe added, “What I have said will happen when Adonai gives you meat to eat this evening and your fill of bread tomorrow morning. Adonai has listened to your complaints and grumblings against him — what are we? Your grumblings are not against us but against Adonai.”
9 Moshe said to Aharon, “Say to the whole community of Isra’el, ‘Come close, into the presence of Adonai, for he has heard your grumblings.’” 10 As Aharon spoke to the whole community of the people of Isra’el, they looked toward the desert; and there before them the glory of Adonai appeared in the cloud.
These stories of Israel in the desert are legends written down hundreds of years later yet they do preserve the realistic childish complaints of city slaves trying to cope with the harsh freedom of the desert. The wood that sweetens the water and the “bread from heaven” are all natural resources known to desert Bedouin. The stories show Moses / Moshe mothering the people, cajoling them, sometimes even abusing them, into using the God-given resources of their new harsh environment, as well as learning how to stick together and care for one another.
It’s always true that when human beings free themselves from any slavery, the new environment seems pretty harsh. The temptation is to go backwards. These stories encourage us to believe that freedom is always better than dependence and that we can learn how to survive and prosper under new conditions. God never leaves us without resources.
Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
15 Jesus said,“I am the real vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 Every branch which is part of me but fails to bear fruit, he cuts off; and every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes, so that it may bear more fruit. 3 Right now, because of the word which I have spoken to you, you are pruned. 4 Stay united with me, as I will with you — for just as the branch can’t put forth fruit by itself apart from the vine, so you can’t bear fruit apart from me.
5 “I am the vine and you are the branches. Those who stay united with me, and I with them, are the ones who bear much fruit; because apart from me you can’t do a thing. 6 Unless a person remains united with me, he is thrown away like a branch and dries up. Such branches are gathered and thrown into the fire, where they are burned up.
7 “If you remain united with me, and my words with you, then ask whatever you want, and it will happen for you. 8 This is how my Father is glorified — in your bearing much fruit; this is how you will prove to be my disciples.
9 “Just as my Father has loved me, I too have loved you; so stay in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will stay in my love — just as I have kept my Father’s commands and stay in his love. 11 I have said this to you so that my joy may be in you, and your joy be complete.
12 “This is my command: that you keep on loving each other just as I have loved you.
The vine was a traditional symbol of Israel, a fruitful community planted by God, so when Jesus uses it to describe himself, he’s changing something traditional and probably causing offence. But he’s not applying it to himself as an isolated individual. Rather, he pictures himself as a kind of communal life that includes his disciples: he is the vine, the whole plant; but they are the branches. His life and their lives can be distinguished but they are also united one with the other. Unlike a real tree however these branches can “choose” whether to remain united with the vine. Disciples who follow Jesus’ teaching are united with Jesus and his life flows into them. Those who don’t follow are not united, and their life dries up. The life that Jesus means is identical with love that comes from God to Jesus and from Jesus to his followers. But it’s not magic. It requires the discipline of following Jesus’ teaching and example.
As for “asking whatever you will” and getting it, I can only say that I often pray for things that I don’t get. I don’t mean selfish things either. Often these are prayers for other people. I guess I’m not enough united with Jesus yet, or maybe I don’t understand what he meant, or maybe both. My very Christian great aunt, who was sometimes poor, used to pray to God for money and then write to me and tell me what she’d prayed for. Usually I sent it and she’d write back praising God for answering her prayer!
Jesus says here that sharing his kind of life brings joy; and I can testify that even my very imperfect discipleship has given me buckets of happiness.