In my daily readings from the Moravian Daily Texts I came across a passage in Numbers that I have never noticed before and that struck me deeply. It is in Numbers 15 and is about offerings and sacrifices for Unintentional and Intentional sins.Speaking to Moses God firstly deals with Unintentional sins for either the whole Israelite community or for individuals. If this happens then the sacrifice of a young bull will make atonement for the community or the sacrifice of a year-old female goat will make atonement for an individual.
So far so good.
But it is Numbers 15: 30-31 that caught my attention. “”‘But suppose someone sins on purpose. It does not matter whether he is an Israelite or an outsider. He speaks evil things against the LORD. He must be cut off from his people. He has made fun of what the LORD has said. He has broken the LORD’s commands. He must certainly be cut off. He is still guilty.'”
Under the Old Covenant if you sinned Intentionally there was no remedy, no atonement and no forgiveness. Not only that but there is lasting punishment for the remainder of your life here on earth, you are to be excluded from your family, your friends, your community and your nation: you are to be ‘cut off.’
Wow – that’s harsh! Under the Old Covenant the willfull disobedience that we have all seen in children, when seen in our response to God, results in permanent guilt and exclusion.
What struck me deeply was this question: How often do I sin unintentionally? – not very often. How often to I sin intentionally? – probably most of the times when I sin.
I am so glad that I live under grace and not under the Law, under the New Covenant and not under the Old Covenant. In the New Covenant there is no separation between Intentional and Unintentional sin, both are sin, both took Jesus to the cross, both are forgiven in the amazing love sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. But this passage opened my eyes a little bit more on how God sees sin, and it’s not comfortable.
I am now back from my pilgrimage In The Footsteps of Jesus in Israel and have to start this first post with an apology to those who subscribe to receive emails. Something went wrong and I know that one person received 53 emails from me! So to all those who received multiple emails please accept my apology, technology sometimes lets us all down.
Whether it was co-incidence or not, but about that some time the entire server on which this blog is hosted and our parish website is hosted stopped working. I am still trying to get to the bottom of it but for some reason our parish website seemed to expand and keep expanding until it filled all the available space and in the process stopped the 40 or so sites that are hosted on the server working as well!
The day after my last post from Israel as I was praying God clearly said to me that my experiences In the Footsteps of Jesus was primarily to be a personal time of reflection and renewal. So for both the technical reasons (I didn’t want to cause any more mayhem!) and for personal reasons I decided not to post any further updates from Israel.
If you receive this by email you will notice that the format has changed. I have now changed the way emails are sent to try to avoid the same problem in the future. I just hope this works OK! As I think back and reflect on my time in Israel over the coming weeks I will post more here to share some of what God has been saying to me. It will also inform my preaching, as it did last Sunday and will this coming Pentecost Sunday. I am also planning to put together an evening for those who are interested to talk about what I saw and experienced and share some (just a few) of the 1,300 plus photos that I took, that is if anyone is interested??????
I am sat writing this in the garden of the Lutheran Guest House in Jerusalem where we have been staying for our pilgrimage to Israel which is called In The Footsteps of Jesus. Today has been day four and I feel that I have been assaulted by a series of sights, experiences, sounds and events that il will be reflecting on for many months to come. I did however think it would be good for me to share a few of these as it will help be to reflect on what I’m experiencing.
Having read the Bible we all have a mental picture of the stories of Jesus. What I wasnt expecting was how close things are to each other in and around Jerusalem. I had thought the Temple Mound would be the highest point in Jerusalem, it isn’t. It is overlooked by the Mount of Olives which is just a stone throw away from it. It is an easy walk from where we are staying to the Western Wall of the Temple and from there to the Mount of Olives. Today we travelled to Bethlehem from Jerusalem and the journey was short. I know we were driving but it’s less than the distance from Sarisbury Green to Fareham which isn’t that far.
But the main surprise was the distance between where Jesus was crucified and where he was buried. I don’t know why but I have never imagined them being that close together. The Church of the Holy Sepelchure however contains both of these within the one church building and they are less than 100yds apart! It has also surprised me that there is a very high level of probability that these are the actual places.
So far visiting the Church of the Holy Sepelchure has been the most moving part of my time. I was surprised how emotional I felt when we visited the church on the first evening after the group arrived. I had a deep sence of amazement and awe that I was standing feet away from the rock on which Christ was crucified and from the tomb, hewn from the rock face, where he was buried.
Yesterday morning some of us got up early (5.30am!) to visit the church. I went first to the chapel that houses the rock of Golgotha and spent some time in reflection. I then went to the large chapel that houses the, largely reconstructed, tomb. It was Sunday morning and there were services happening in every chapel and crevice across the whole building. At the entrance to the tomb a priest emerged followed by the small group who had been with him as he celebrated communion. Another Franciscan priest entered and a few people followed. Five of us took the opportunity and followed ourselves. We were the last in and they shut the door behind us. There in the small space of the place of Christ’s burial and resurrection we were part of a Catholic Mass in Italian and Latin. Being aware of the depth and breadth of God’s love was an awesome experience. receiving communion inside the tomb is an experience I pray I will never forget.
The journey continues and I hope to post more in the next week or so.