Friday, May 10, 2013

Deuteronomy 11:1-13-18


I have never been to the Holy Land, but I have stood on holy ground. I have spent a day at Chartres Cathedral watching light play through the famous stained glass windows. I have laughed at the whimsical stone carvings at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. These places stir in me a sense of reverential awe. But so does the small town, white frame church in which I preach.

I have felt the same wonder at shrines of traditions not my own. I have felt myself standing in holy ground at a medicine wheel in Wyoming.

And then there are places that belong to no tradition but are holy nonetheless. The grandeur of the high Rockies is holy.

Just what makes a place holy I can't say. Is ground holy because it is set aside for God? Or is it holy because it is set aside by God? Is holiness real in some objective sense? Or does it exist only in perception?

I think that I would like to visit the Holy Land to see what makes it sacred to the Abrahamic faiths. I would like to find out if it would be holy for me, too.

If Numbers 28-29 were about the sanctification of time, Deuteronomy 11-12 are about the consecration of space. They are about sacred land, holy space. Canaan is holy because God watches over it. Israel is to keep it holy by keeping God's law. Idolatry is forbidden. Worship is to take place only in a place God chooses. It isn't named here, but we know that it will be Zion.

I believe that the Christian doctrine of the incarnation means, among other things, that God declares even the humblest of places holy. Christ was born in a stable and died on a cross. Stables and crosses are made holy. The Gospel began in Jerusalem and spread to "the ends of the earth." Every place and every people is now sanctified, set apart for God.

Once they are settled in Canaan, the Israelites will be free to slaughter animals for food anywhere. Previously this was done only at the Tabernacle. Sacrificial offerings can only be made at the approved place of worship. The consumption of blood is still forbidden everywhere.

Chapter 13 contains instructions on what to do with anyone, even miracle workers, even your own kin, who entices you to worship idols. In short: kill them.

The photograph above depicts the gates of a deserted Holy Land theme park near Waterbury, Connecticut. I believe that it, too, is holy. I found the picture here
Next: Deuteronomy 14-16

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