When preparing a sermon I often find myself conflicted about how much attention to give each passage. Preaching from the lectionary, we read four passages each week: Old Testament, Psalm, New Testament, and Gospel.
Oftentimes, one passage will come front and center during preparation and end up as a sort of focal passage on Sunday morning. This past week I felt as if all four passages were singing together and illuminating the good news for us, which is wonderful, but it also means that not all of the good news in the texts could make it into the sermon! As a result, I want to share some of what ended up on the cutting room floor with you in this week’s reflection.
There was a lot happening in our Old Testament passage this past Sunday (Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29):
- The Israelites are complaining about not having meat to eat (11:4)
- They were also reminiscing about how good they had it as slaves in Egypt (11:5-6)
- “The Lord was outraged, and Moses was upset” (11:10-15)
Putting the Israelites’ dissatisfaction with manna in lieu of meat to the side, it is fascinating to follow what happens between God and Moses. They are both upset with the Israelites’ behavior, but Moses takes his complaint to God by naming that he cannot bear the burden of being responsible for these people on his own (11:14) and God responds by instructing Moses to gather 70 of Israel’s elders in the meeting tent so that he can take some of the spirit that is on Moses and place it on them (11:16-17). God is responding to Moses’ claim that he cannot bear this burden alone by spreading the weight of leadership out among more of the people.
Moses gathers up 70 elders in the meeting tent and God pours out his spirit on them so that they begin to prophesy, but two men that had been registered did not come to the tent (11:24-26). Eldad and Medad remained in the camp. God’s spirit was poured out on them nonetheless and they began to prophesy (11:26). Moses’ assistant, Joshua, is very concerned by this so he runs to tell Moses — this shouldn’t be happening so he asks Moses to put a stop to it (11:28)!
Joshua’s request for Moses to stop Eldad and Medad from prophesying in the camp parallels part of our gospel passage from Sunday (Mark 9:38-50) where the disciples report that they tried to stop someone from casting out demons in Jesus’ name because the person wasn’t following them. Neither Jesus or Moses have any interest in putting an end to the good work happening in their midst regardless of it was flying in the face of what the disciples and Joshua had expected.
Moses responds to Joshua’s request by saying, “are you jealous for my sake? If only all the Lord’s people were prophets with the Lord placing his spirit on them!” (11:29)
Church, this is the good news we receive in the story of Pentecost — the Lord has placed his spirit on all of you! When we are sent out from service each Sunday after making Eucharist together, we are sent out to go and prophesy in the camp, in our kitchens and offices and neighbors yards! Friends, God’s spirit is on you and God is speaking through you today.
Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to God from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen!
May the peace of Christ be with you,