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  • Writer's pictureRev. Kim Taylor

Pastor's Ponderings: Old Testament bible study on Ezra 10:1-5 (March 21, 2024)

March 21, 2024:  Thursday morning Bible Study of the OT Book of Ezra 10:1-5

Praise to our God for the gift of Love and Forgiveness which is ours through our Lord Jesus Christ.

A reminder this morning that we are planning a fundraiser yard sale to benefit Kandice and Lisa in Hawaii.  Kandice is out of the hospital and a recovery facility, and back home.  Her treatments for cancer have destroyed portions of her spinal column leaving her with terrible pain.  She is now able to get herself out of bed, and to the bathroom, but going back to work is uncertain at this time.  If there is one thing that we know about Kandice, it is that she is passionate about special needs children, and children in general.  She is a gifted teacher and has given herself time and again to help children at school, and out of school in their personal lives.  She is also a woman of faith, and in spite of her health, is a fervent prayer on the prayer chain along with her wife Lisa.  The Yard Sale event will be on April 19 and 20.  Please, at worship, sign up to help set up, run the sale, and clean up at church, or by calling the office, and of course, we need your yard sale donations.  This is how Christian people care for one another, whether we are together or live thousands of miles apart.  You can bring your donations at any time (though you should call ahead to make sure someone will be at church), or if you have large items, we should be able to do a pick-up with the help of our teens, all of whom know Kandice and Lisa, and Alexis.  We are also sending a flyer out to the ELCA congregations in Tucson for their contributions and help.

a bible open to the Old Testament book of Ezra
The Old Testament book of Ezra

In Ezra today we encounter a passage, along with the one which we will do in a couple of weeks, that may cause us to be shocked by what is being suggested.  What we must realize is that the surviving exiles who have returned to work and rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple have frequently taken advantage of the lack of oversight by the leaders of the Temple when it came to following God's original guidance to the 12 tribes that they should not intermarry with the peoples of the area.  Such marriages made it possible for the pagan beliefs of the now residents to mix with beliefs that were meant to keep the Judahites in a good relationship with God.  It was not the first time that this kind of thing had happened.  When the tribes of Israel first came to the Promised Land, they were shepherded to not intermarry with the tribes who were the current residents who did not know the God of the Judahites. 

As Ezra prayed it became evident that there was only one way, as a part of the confession and failure of the exiles who had returned to not intermarry to bring restoration of righteousness.  There had to be an action of repentance and penance which would accompany the confession of the breaking of God's guides for living in the relationship with Him.  The answer and action of Ezra and those who remained had to be a separation from the wives and children of these marriages with the exiles.  Since Ezra comes after about 100 years after the first exiles returned, there must have been many of these marriages, and now they were at least two generations into the lives of the communities that had been rebuilt.  In effect, Ezra was seeking to establish a separate and distinct community, with unique rules for living, and a community who would only answer to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  But, what about all of these people, many of whom were women and children of second or third generation families?  They were to be sent back to their original tribes.  We know this because of the Book of Ruth, when Ruth a Moabite woman loses her husband and is to go back to Moab.  Instead, she remains with her mother-in-law who takes her back to Israel where she meets Boaz, and, low-and-behold, he eventually marries her, and she becomes a part of the heritage of Jesus Christ, a Moabite, not a Jew!  Obviously, things change, but Ruth is accepted because she adopts the faith of her new husband Boaz.  In the church over the last 40 years, the years of my ordination in 1984, there has been a major shift in how we have received the LGBTQ community to serve as leaders in the church.  It has only been since post 2005 that the national assembly of the ELCA has welcomed our LGBTQ brothers and sisters in the faith to service of the Gospel through ordination.  Restrictions have changed over the years, beginning with ordinations of those who were abstaining from any sexual activity to those who were in life long committed relationships, to now, when we ordain LGBTQ members who are married, along with those who are not married living lives of abstinence from sexual activities, in the same way that we make that a rule of intimacy for heterosexuals who are unmarried.  Obviously, those kinds of inclusivity were not present as Ezra suggested the removal of the people of other tribes (not other Hebrew tribes) so that the anger of God might be softened over this issue of intermarriage. There were probably at least two schools of thought in Ezra's time about what should be done to solve this problem.  Like our church today, there has been movement to consider LGBTQ people for ordination for serving the Gospel, and today the standards are the same regardless of which community a person identifies with.  Marriage and abstinence are the two ways that the church has chosen to include either community of people considering the possibility of entering into the education program that results in earning a Master of Divinity degree, and the approval of a Synod, to serve in ordained ministry.  And there are a variety of beliefs on the part of the Body of Christ as the church moves forward with the current decisions and inclusivity.  I have become convinced that Christ has always given us the answer to this problem in our time.  Love God above all things and love our neighbors as we love ourselves. 

Next Thursday is Maundy Thursday in Holy Week.  I will not be offering this online study again until April 11th. I will be off, providing care for Melody who will be recovering from her knee replacement on April 2. Please keep her in your prayers for a successful surgery and recuperation.

In Christ's Love, Pastor Kim


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