Saturday, August 25, 2007

Works of the Law

I came across this review of the phrase 'works of the law'. I don't want to go to a complex place to reframe this phrase and others in Galatians - but I may have to. If so, the work will be done on a different day. Today I actually am observing Shabbat. I enjoyed the robust singing of the Shul choir this morning and I was invited to come and sing next time I am in town. (This is my last weekend here for a while - back to Victoria on Friday - though my office in home doesn't exist there since we are in the midst of construction.)

I would learn Hebrew very quickly if I sing. Today I was able to sing and I saw that I could follow even the impossible cantor for three or four lines (assuming I knew where he was starting). And I was able to follow the haftorah completely - Isaiah 54, the fifth of 7 consolation passages that follow the 9th of Av. Note the reference to Noah. God had forgotten for a moment even his promise to Noah! This sense of exile will be important for the next chapter of Frymer-Kensky. (Wait for it - for it will surely come.)

The sermon today was engaging and full of energy - on the butterfly effect, that there are no small things, a meditation on the Torah portion, Deuteronomy 21-25 which has many mitzvot, among which is the instruction concerning the incorrigible child, and the man on the tree. Both of these are very close to my heart, for my youngest son is incorrigible due to brain damage, but his mother and father never agreed that he should suffer such a fate. And of course the hanging on the tree is applied to Jesus.

Of Shabbat I noted that it is a bride, and a great joy, a memory of the creation (zkr lmasah bereshit) - this is a deep truth. The Lord had asked me - will you go to the service this morning? I did not want to go. I said I would not understand anything and I had work to do. But he reminded me that I had been recreated through his death and so, eventually, I said - OK I will go, and I will observe the day. The joy came first but the following lessons were also lovely. And had I not been there, I could not have had an invitation to sing.

The work that he came to do, is the same word as 'works' of the law that Paul speaks of. It is by this work that I am recreated. There is something very positive here. And there is an aspect of our exile - our alienation - the sin we cannot escape from (see Psalm 19, the third section - I know, the coloring is over the top) that his particular work on the cross, hung on a tree, has dealt with, undoing the curse I am under just because I am born into a place of exile - which might be considered at least similar to the idea of original sin. I am really not wanting to be doctrinaire on this. I am not a theoretical theologian. But I do have some first hand knowledge of the liturgy in a life that begins to exercise itself in participating in this work of Jesus which I think fulfills the requirements of the Law in us.

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