Image and Inscription

Community United Church of Christ (Saint Paul Park, Minnesota)

Scripture: Mark 12:13-17

Fill in the blank to this well known proverb: “There are only two things certain in this life: death and _____.” Yes—taxes! (Everyone’s favorite subject!) This is the time of year when many of us are filing—or at least thinking about filing—our taxes. Some of us wish we’d taken out more withholdings from paychecks or retirement disbursements. We lament that if we’d made just a little less cash we’d be in a lower tax bracket, but the government is happy to accept the overage. Of course this conversation isn’t confined to the months just before the filing deadline. All year round our elected leaders (and those who hope we will caucus for them on Tuesday night) talk about taxes being misapplied, too high or too low. Taxes are a constant source of conflict and controversy.

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Numbers 35-36

Good morning! Thank you again for sticking with these readings even when they’re difficult, and for sharing with me your progress when we meet in person. Your encouragement helps me greatly, and I’m so thankful for that which I’ve heard recently!

Today’s final two chapters of this book (Numbers 35-36) give an interesting window into the Hebrew criminal justice system, and then finish by returning to the question of marriage practices for women with inheritances of land. The concern of these chapters, as throughout the book of Numbers, is the organization of Hebrew life in faithfulness to the promises and sovereignty of God.

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Numbers 31-32

Good morning! And then, I’m sad to say that it’s all downhill from that brief greeting. In today’s passage, we see in graphic detail how the writers of Numbers 31 imagined the early fighting and conquest would have gone (and we are likely moved to prayer that it was not actually so). Numbers 32 seeks to answer the question of how some Israelites settled east of the Jordan, when the “Promised Land” was presumably only on the other side, after crossing over the river. The latter chapter needs no further commentary, but the former is truly incendiary.

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Numbers 22-24

Good morning! In today’s passage (Numbers 22-24) we get a delightful, whimsical extended narrative of Balak, Balaam, and Balaam’s ass, complete with angels and talking animals. It sounds nothing like the “fire and brimstone” stories we’ve read recently. I can readily imagine this being told around the campfire, a happy story about how the enemies of Israel conspire to bring about its destruction, but instead make for blessing instead.

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Need, Gratitude, Loyalty

Community United Church of Christ (Saint Paul Park, Minnesota)

Scripture: Mark 10:32-52

Our black cat Amos loves to be high up off the ground. There’s something about height that’s reassuring to him. When he was a kitten he used to climb up our bookshelves, the higher the better. We finally broke that habit, but he’s still frequently on top of the table, desk, or file cabinet, no matter how much we try to discourage him otherwise. Recently he’s discovered that I’ll permit him on my shoulders, because I made the mistake of doing that once, and now he can’t think of anything else. So now every morning he has a routine when I’m getting ready for the day: he hops up onto the nightstand, then to the back of the bed, and carefully balances there waiting for an opportunity when I’m walking by to leap onto my shoulders. It wouldn’t be so bad, except he has a full set of claws and he knows how to use them. Still, I indulge it often enough, because there’s nothing like having a soft, warm and purring mantle of fur on your neck in the wintertime. And besides, it’s hard to discourage him when this is his natural inclination. Amos instinctively seeks out the high places of comfort and security. Maybe cats are more like people than we realize.

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