Exodus 40:16-21, 34-38
Moses did everything just as the Lord had commanded him. In the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, the tabernacle was set up. Moses set up the tabernacle; he laid its bases, and set up its frames, and put in its poles, and raised up its pillars; and he spread the tent over the tabernacle, and put the covering of the tent over it; as the Lord had commanded Moses. He took the covenant and put it into the ark, and put the poles on the ark, and set the mercy seat above the ark; and he brought the ark into the tabernacle, and set up the curtain for screening, and screened the ark of the covenant; as the Lord had commanded Moses.
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled upon it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Whenever the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, the Israelites would set out on each stage of their journey; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, before the eyes of all the house of Israel at each stage of their journey.
Psalm 84:1-5A, 7A, 10
How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.
Happy are those who live in your house,
ever singing your praise.
Happy are those whose strength is in you,
They go from strength to strength;
For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than live in the tents of wickedness.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
“Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” When Jesus had finished these parables, he left that place.
Many will remember a phrase that became popular in the late 90’s among Christian culture: WWJD – What Would Jesus Do? Other than serving as a trendy grunge logo for t-shirts, coffee cups, or beaded jewelry, the slogan was supposed to inspire thought. It was an effort to take Jesus out of the neglected pages of people’s bibles and put him at the front of their consciousness. It was meant to inspire Christians of all ages to think more seriously in their everyday lives how to follow Jesus.
Interestingly enough, the WWJD movement did not result in a resurgence of reading the bible for people to remember what Jesus actually did in order to model their lives after his words and actions. Rather, it served as an opportunity for some to project their idea of who they think Jesus is, or who they think he should be, and how he acts, or how they think he should act. This is something very different. This is not the bringing about of the kingdom of heaven as described by Jesus in today’s Gospel. In today’s Gospel, Jesus says that every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a household who bring out of his treasure what is new and what is old. But what does it mean to bring forth the old and the new?
When we read about Moses building the ark of the covenant, our translation says that he placed the covenant inside the ark. In another translation, it says that he placed the commandments inside the ark. This means that the ark of the covenant, above which Moses placed the mercy seat, can be thought of as the ark of the commandments. This is extraordinary because a covenant is a promise between God and humanity. To say that the commandments are the covenant destroys every old idea of religion being simply a list of ‘thou shalt not’s or else you will be in a lot of trouble. What it says instead is that the ark of the commandments is also where the seat of mercy is. To say that the commandments are God’s covenant says that God has promised to act in regard to those commandments as well. God’s promise to send his Son to fulfill the law and ransom our souls and be both judge and distributor of mercy is all bound up in that reading of Moses building the ark and setting up the tabernacle. This is the old and the new brought forth from the same store room.
Being trained in the kingdom of heaven is not only focusing on the new: What Would Jesus Do? But being trained in the kingdom of heaven is also focusing on the old: What DID Jesus Do? And what did Jesus say? And what has God always spoken to his people? If we do that, if we read the scriptures from both the Old and the New Testament, and if we sit with God and let his Word work on our hearts, we allow ourselves to be like scribes trained in the kingdom of heaven. God is just as interested in inhabiting our lives now as he was interested in inhabiting the tabernacle that Moses built. This dependence on God like the Israelites in the desert, who did not move forward without God’s directing them, leads us to a whole new set of questions in regard to the kingdom of heaven: What is Jesus doing in my life now? And what does Jesus want me to do for him? Let us take some time to sit and meditate on the scriptures today. Let us allow them to work on our hearts. Let us ask God to show us what he wants us to see in them today and everyday. Let us ask him for the understanding of his Word so we will know how we are to apply it to our lives. And let us ask him to train us in the kingdom of heaven, bringing great treasures out of the scriptures, both the old and the new. Amen.