Scripture: Exodus 25:1-9
Key verse: (1) The LORD said to Moses: Tell the Israelites to take for me an offering; from all whose hearts prompt them to give you shall receive the offering for me.
Reflection: Today’s reading focuses on the tabernacle, the “portable” dwelling place for God in the wilderness. The instructions are elaborately detailed. OT scholar Terence Fretheim points out that God gives the Israelites two gifts in the wilderness – the law and the tabernacle. Living faithfully (i.e. following God’s commands) is paired with prioritizing worship (symbolized by the tabernacle).
The tabernacle is built with ordinary materials but is set apart as a holy place. This is similar to the way that Christians use ordinary bread and juice or wine as symbols of the body and blood of our Savior. The ordinary becomes holy.
The tabernacle is the dwelling place for God’s presence and yet God cannot be contained or trapped inside the tabernacle. The tabernacle isn’t like a cage at the zoo, keeping God safely confined and accessible only when visited. God is always beyond any limits of what humans can build.
The tabernacle is built from materials offered by the people. There is no tax or required dues. There is no mandatory payment for God’s presence and protection. Instead, the people are called to spiritual discernment, determining what they are prompted to give. The tabernacle will be the result of their own offerings much like church buildings are in our own community. Some faithful people balk at giving to “buildings” and they complain that churches shouldn’t spend money on structures. Yet, throughout history, church structures have honored God with beauty (think of the Notre Dame cathedral, the Sistine Chapel, or the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, NM). Church structures have inspired awe, wonder and praise. Ordinary materials, shaped by gifted creative humans, have become holy sanctuaries for worship. Yes, you can worship God anywhere and the Israelites could as well, but God instructed them to build a tabernacle, a gift that called them to worship and that assured them of God’s presence.
Prayer: O God, thank you for places that inspire my worship. Thank you for lights and candles, for stained glass and carved wood, for paintings and sculptures, for pews and chairs and kneeling benches. Prompt me to offer my very best to you. Amen.
Author: Millie Snyder
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].