Thoughts for Wednesday 3rd June 2020

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; Numbers 11:24-30; John 7:37-39

 Wednesday 3 June - Rev. Jerry Eve

 Our Old Testament reading for today is from a moment in Moses’ mission to liberate the Israelites when things are not going well for him. Some foreigners travelling with the Israelites (Numbers 11:4) seem to get the blame for putting the people up to complaining to Moses about the dull diet they all have of only manna to eat. He's so upset by it all that he thinks he would be better off dead (Numbers 11:15). However, there is a solution, and that involves sharing the burden of leadership with seventy other respected ‘men’. This must have been a bit like Boris Johnson not having to attend the Downing Street coronavirus briefing every day, but having others who can stand in for him a lot of the time as well.

 What were Eldad and Medad up to, though? Why were they still in the camp? Did they not get the memo like everyone else? Were they purposefully left to keep an eye on things? Or is this maybe one for a Daily Mirror reporter to investigate? We just don’t know. They are never mentioned again.

 This chapter puts the number of people there were at 600,000 (Numbers 11:21), which coincidentally is almost exactly that at the largest refugee camp in the world at the moment. Kutupalong camp, in Bangladesh (Cox’s Bazar), is said to have a population of 598,195.

 Although they are warned that they will now have to eat meat until they are sick of it (Numbers 11:20), the immediate aftermath is an arrival in the camp of quails.

 Our New Testamrnt reading takes place at the end of Sukkot, one of three Jewish pilgrim festivals. Also called Booths, Tabernacles or Shelters, the sukkah that Jewish people will eat in, and sometimes sleep in, during Sukkot is a temporary dwelling, part of the reason for which is to remind Jewish people of the time when their ancestors lived in tents in the desert. The aridity of the Sinai peninsula would therefore have been uppermost in people’s minds as Jesus then offered them streams of life-giving ‘water’.

 Our passage from Numbers reminds me of the sending out by Jesus of the 70 (or 72) disciples (or apostles) in Luke 10, and of the English Christian author, Adrian Plass’s, parody of it. This can be found in ‘The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass, Christian Speaker, Aged 45 ¾’. In lieu of a prayer today, here’s an extract from it:

 After these things the Lord appointed another seventy also and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Take neither purse nor scrip, nor sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.'

And behold one of the seventy raiseth his hand and enquireth, 'When thou sayest "sandals", Lord, do we taketh that to be an generic term which denoteth all forms of footwear, or focusseth thou in on sandals in particular? I asketh only because I possesseth an exceeding fine pair of walking boots, ideal for those who hiketh around as thou art indeed commanding us to do.'

Before the Lord could reply, another breaketh in and saith, 'Lord, I heareth what thou art saying, but behold, the skin that undergirdeth mine feet and also the feet of mine friend, Fidybus - he who maketh a pair with me as we getteth on well over long periods and always have done since we playeth together as children ... Er, the object of mine speech escapeth me ...'

Jesus saith wearily, 'Something about the skin that undergirdeth thine feet, and those of thine friend, Fidybus?'

'Ah, verily, yes, it cometh back now. The skin that undergirdeth mine feet is like unto that which undergirdeth the feet of mine friend, Fidybus, in that it very soon waxeth tender and painful on rough ground. And it just striketh us that the sight of two men who holdeth heavily on to each other and hobbleth slowly and painfully along, going "Oo!" and "Ah!" and "Ow!" whensoever they putteth down a foot, might cause those who dwell in the towns and places to which thou sendest us to scoff when we imparteth the news that the Son of God approacheth presently. "What state musteth his feet be in, if he cannot keep up with these two clowns?" they will mock. Might, therefore, Master, we ask thine blessing on the idea of wrapping strips of rag round and round each of mine feet and each of those belonging to mine friend, Fidybus? After all, strips of rag falleth well outside the dictionary definition of sandals, dost thou not agree?'

And behold, an veritable babel of footwear-related queries filleth the air, and Jesus raiseth his hand and saith, 'Hold on a minute! Let me maketh myself clear. No sandals means nothing on thine feet, all right? Nothing! Neither walking boots, nor strips of rag, nor tennis shoes, nor high-heeled slingbacks, nor Wellingtons, nor roller-boots, nor skateboards, nor anything that I mighteth construe as an sandal in the broadest sense of the word. Understandeth thou all? Good. Now, departeth . . .


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