Tom Vander Well is a "wayfaring stranger" on this road of life. Husband, father, CEO, writer, actor, playwright, preacher, and back porch musician, he shares his thoughts, observations, and reflections on the journey. Each weekday he offers reflections on a chapter of the Bible. He then adds longer episodes on various themes of life, relationships, and spirit. Tom's blog, "Wayfarer" (tomvanderwell.com) has been a regular source of thought and inspiration since 2006.
One of the most fascinating things about the story of the early Jesus movement is the transformation in the strong-willed, stiff-necked followers such as Peter, Paul, and John. With each one there was a process involved in the spiritual transformation that included moments of their strong-wills being broken and their spirits humbled. (Chapter-a-Day meditation on Exodus 33; The text version of today's podcast can be found here)
I confess this morning that every time I watched the movie and every time I've read this story before, I have been led to the prescribed audience reaction. I shake my head and whisper a "tsk, tsk" in self-righteous judgment for the weak-minded Hebrews. This morning, however, I'm seeing it in a whole new way. (Chapter-a-Day from Exodus 32; The text version available here)
I'm reminded this morning of observing how the legalism and fundamentalism I experienced early in my spiritual journey created really sad, angry, and bitter people whose lives, and even their worship, appeared to me to be void of anything close to resembling peace, love, or joy. (Chapter-a-Day from Exodus 31) Text version on the Wayfarer Blog at tomvanderwell.com.
Today I find, once again, that the physical bricks-and-mortar (or in this case oil-and-incense) of the Hebrew system matures through Jesus and shifts into a flesh-and-blood understanding of what God is doing. (Chapter-a-Day podcast on Exodus 30). The text version is always available on Tom Vander Well's Wayfarer blog.
The Kingdom of God is not like the kingdoms of this world, and it requires the eyes and ears of my heart to see and hear beyond the simplistic choices fed to me by this world. (A chapter-a-day podcast from Exodus 29) https://tomvanderwell.com/2020/06/26/another-choice/
In my experience, clergy across the various denominations, and even religions, are all lumped together in the minds of most people. Either they aren't sure what to call you, or they simply use whatever word they know from their own experience. And yet, there are major differences in both meaning and role. (A chapter-a-day podcast from Exodus 28) https://tomvanderwell.com/2020/06/25/god-friended-me/
Today's chapter-a-day post comes from Exodus 26. I believe that we are moving into a time when followers of Jesus are tearing the curtain once more and rediscovering the fullness of what Jesus meant when He told his followers, "I will destroy this temple and raise it in three days."
When Jesus came He blew up the childish notion of the God of Creation residing in one place. Jesus matured our understanding of God's very nature and the nature of God's presence. The place of worship transitioned from the Temple to the dining room table.
When Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, when He spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, and when He commanded His followers to take His message to Samaria, He was addressing systemic racial prejudice. Jesus was pointing His own people back to the heart of God that motivated the law repeated twice in yesterday's chapter and today's.
The way of Jesus has always been about letting go, giving up, and leaving behind. The diminishment of self for the gain of others is not an optional path for those followers of Jesus who want an advanced spiritual placement. It's foundational to being a follower at all.
How do I, as a 21st century follower of Jesus, relate to an ancient Hebrew text that is basically a code of law dealing with specific instances of slavery around 3,500 years ago? How can this possibly relate to my life today? I have a couple of thoughts.
Monday mornings are always a mental and spiritual "reset" button for me. As I prepare to enter another work-week I'm thankful for Jesus' reminder that all of the Commandments, rules, and laws in God's Book are summed up in two: Love God with everything you've got. Love others as you love yourself. Now that is a pitch I can hit.
What is a parent's relationship like with a toddler? The parent dictates the rules and asks the child to obey. Rules and obligations. Parents graciously extend protection and provision. They expect obedience. While the child can't cognitively understand just how graciously his or her parents are being, they simply understand that when they obey things are okay and when they disobey they get in trouble. At Sinai, I believe that God and humanity are in the toddler stage of relationship.
Within any human system, there is a structure of power and responsibility. In some cases, that structure is well-defined and ordered like a community organization with by-laws run by Robert's Rules of Order. Companies have organizational charts to define who answers to whom. My observation is that the more intimate and small the system, the more difficult things can get.
One of my observations along life's journey is that humans have a penchant for whining at every stage of life, it just looks different in adults than it does in childhood. It transforms from emotional tantrums in children to adults wallowing in grumbling, complaining, and lament.
In the quiet this morning I find myself confessing that I never think about my needs because there has never been a day of my life journey that I couldn't take for granted my basic needs would be met. This means that my entire life journey has been spent measuring the "quality" and "success" of life by the relative equation of my wants versus my acquisitions.
In today's chapter, I found it so clearly hiding in plain sight. Moses and the escaping Hebrews find themselves stuck at the shore of the Red Sea as the Egyptian army advances on them. In escaping their chains of slavery and oppression the Hebrews looked back at what was and found themselves mired in fear. Moses was focused on standing firm, but that leaves the situation between the proverbial rock and a hard place. God wants them to move forward.
In our fourth episode of the series we're going to start wading through the major sections of the Great Story. We begin with the ancient and mysterious texts of the first five books, known as "The Books of Moses." In them, we'll discover the problem and the prophetic plan through the promise to a person who will become a people.
In our third episode of the series we're going to talk about some of the "meta-themes" in the Great Story and, since all good stories are a reflection of the Great Story, we'll look at some examples of the meta-themes we find in our favorite movies and epic stories.
Second episode of the series in which decode some of the basic confusion people often have about the Great Story (aka The Bible) and provide some suggestions and recommendations for diving in to the "shallow end" where you won't drown in discouragement!
First episode exploring the basics of the Great Story (aka The Bible) for both those who have little or no prior knowledge, and for those who do and simply want a refresher on some of those basics. In episode one we'll explore three foundational themes as we begin this journey: metaphor, context, and mystery.