Day 11 Sacred Season 2015

day 11Day 11 Sacred Season 2015

DAY 11:  19th June Judgement and Fire.   Numbers 11:1-3; 16: 1-7; 28-40

Is 66: 15-17; 10:17;  Jeremiah 4:2          Rev Anne Hibbard;   New South Wales

  And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense    (Numbers 16:35 NIV)  See, the Lord is coming with fire, and his chariots are like a whirlwind; he will bring down his anger with fury,  and his rebuke with flames of fire  Is 66:15

  Basis of Union  Paragraph 1: To this end they declare their readiness to go forward together in sole loyalty to Christ the living Head of the Church; Paragraph 15:  The Uniting Church acknowledges that Christ alone is supreme in his Church,

 It has been a joy collating this prayer book.   I’ve had the great honour of communicating with many different leaders in the Uniting Church that believe prayer is important.  I’ve been much encouraged as I’ve received and read their reflections. The depth within them has given me fresh hope for the Uniting Church.

 However I have noted one thing.  No one freely volunteered for the passages that spoke about fire as God’s judgment.  I thought at the beginning that I would do one or two that no one else wanted to do.   So it is with some hesitation that I share this reflection as most possibly I would not have chosen it either.

 Almost everyone in the Uniting Church wants the fire of life that Christ brings.  But we are more cautious and reluctant to embrace the fire of the judgment of God.  However you cannot have one without the other.   God’s fire is a holy fire.  Some of us can accept that more in our individual lives. We allow the Lord to refine us individually in the furnace (see Isaiah 43:10) but we forget that the Lord is about making a holy people for himself not just individuals.  The people of Israel’s journey through the wilderness was primarily about the Lord  transforming them from a grumbling, fragmented faithless people into a victorious people of courage, unity and faith.

 Let us go to our passage today.  It’s all about a power struggle.  Most Uniting Church people have gone through the distress of church conflict at one time or another.  Most often it is about a leadership struggle, including when some leaders try to overreach the authority that the church and God have given them. How we deal with conflict is vital.

 In the book of Numbers, Moses is a leader that lets God be the sole living Head of the community. Korah was from the tribe of Levi and had a ministry (v9-10) in the tabernacle. He was not a priest however and wanted more.  He thought everyone was as holy as everyone else and that Moses was going too far in setting up the Aaronic priesthood.  He had stirred up rebellion and encouraged others who were from the tribe of Reuben called Dathan and Abiram to join him.  He also had on his side 250 men who were well known lay leaders in the community. 

 What Korah and his friends didn’t accept,  was that Moses and the priests leadership was God’s idea not Moses’.   I’m not sure if they truly believed in the living God even after all they had seen so far.  They had a concept of a God they could manipulate into anything they wanted.  Even though they had seen the pillar of fire by night and the fire on Mount Sinai and above the tabernacle they rebelled. They wanted to be in control.

 

 So the Lord’s judgment came upon Korah, Dathan,  and Abiram.  Then the earth swallowed them up v 31-34.  And fire came and consumed the 250 community leaders who were offering incense.

 How do we react when we hear this? The people of Israel reacted with more grumbling.   Can we be honest and ask if that is not going on in our hearts too.  Because of the increase in opposition to Moses and Aaron the Lord’s wrath brought a plague against the people of Israel.   Moses v 47 tells Aaron to hurry and make atonement for them by offering incense. The Lord accepted Aaron’s offering and the plague stopped.   The Lord showed by budding Aaron’s staff  (Numbers 17), that Aaron was his chosen one to enter the most Holy and Holies and offer sacrifice for the people.

 Recently I had the great privilege of spending several hours listening to a first nation elder, national leader and the elder of Congress that signed the covenant – Uncle Bill Hollingsworth.  I asked him what it was we could do for Congress and first nation people . I will never forget his answer.  He said “ Pray for the will of God to be done”.   He also spoke much about how now that Christ has come we have not the Aaronic priesthood but the priesthood of Melchizidek.  We have one High Priest,  the Lord Jesus Christ.   At one time God chose Aaron and his family to make sacrifices for atonement that had to be made over and over again. But now in Christ, God has chosen one High Priest alone who has made a sacrifice of himself once for all time.  

 The challenge for us in the Uniting Church is that we have so many different groups trying to assert our influence or one could say “grab for power”. However in the Basis of Union paragraph one,  it explains that this Uniting Church we belong to, has only one sole loyalty.  This sole loyalty is “to Christ the living Head of the Church.”  The fire of God’s judgment is not only in the old Testament but also in the new.  Are we willing to say Come, Lord Assess and deal with us through the changes of history through the news of your completed work? Are we willing together to stand up against anything that stops the Lord Jesus Christ from leading in our church?  Are we willing to let the fire of Christ burn away the dross and for the eternal gold and silver within the Uniting Church to become purified.   The fire of God’s purifying flame is not a curse. It is a gift of life so that we can transform to become all that the Lord is calling us to be.

 Prayer:  Heavenly Father,  we thank you for the gift of Jesus Christ our Lord and for the wonder and mystery he has won upon the cross for us.  We thank you that He is the living Head of the church.  Forgive us when we have allowed other people or things to dominate.  Purify us that we would be ready once again in the Uniting Church to go forward together with our sole loyalty to Christ, the Living Head of the Church.  In Jesus’ mighty name we pray.  Amen

 Pray for:  Unitingworld partner –  Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga

 Uniting Justice Australia