Ordinary 21

Vicar’s Reflection: 23 August 2015, OS 21

There were no abattoirs, supermarkets, polystyrene trays or shrink-wrapped meat in the ancient world. Most people obtained their meat for household meals by taking part in sacrifices of animals at local temples. These temples were dedicated to one of the many pagan gods which caused a lot of anguish to those who wished to be true to the God of Israel. So there was much joy when Solomon dedicated the first Temple in Jerusalem with the beautiful prayer from 1 Kings 8: 22ff. The Temple had many functions – not just worship. People came to obtain justice when accused of crimes; negotiate resolution of disputes; do weather forecasting; get welfare payments in times of famine and bring sheep and cattle to be slaughtered for food; and all in the name of their God ‘Yahweh’ No need now to use pagan temples! 1 Kings 8:63 records that 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep and goats were sacrificed. That’s one ginormous barbecue! Very elaborate rituals and profiteering came to be associated with making Temple sacrifices, making it impossible for poor people to draw near to God. Jesus reacted strongly against this practice when he visited (John 2:15). This helps us to understand why Jesus called his disciples to the simplicity of breaking bread and sharing wine as a way of celebrating the real presence of God. A practice we continue every time we celebrate the Eucharist.

Alex Czerwonka

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