At our Cathedral in Reno Nevada, there is an interesting mural. Also, at the very center of our altar is a copper tube with a lid. We call this a tabernacle and in it we keep the center of our faith, Jesus Christ. The Gospel reading for Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter states, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my Mitzvah, you will remain in my love”
We remain in the love of God by participating in the Eucharist. This means coming together as a community, dying with Jesus, and rising with him as he continues to live his life through us after we exit into the grander civic community.
What strikes us as we look at the tabernacle in the mural and upon the mantle with its tabernacle is their shape. They both look like Noah’s ark, and the ark in which the Shechinah of God lived in as the Jewish community traveled to the Promised Land.
Confusion exists among Christians as to what laws Christians are obliged to listen. Acts 15:7-21 addresses this confusion, “We ought to stop troubling the non-Jew who turns to God. We should tell them by letter to avoid pollution from idols, unlawful marriage, the meat of strangled animals, and blood.”
There are three sets of law in the Torah. The first is in Genesis 9, the second, Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. The third is the remainder of the 613 laws in Torah. The first set of rules belongs to all human kind. When we compare Genesis 9 with Acts 15, we find strong similarities. The essence of the ruling in Acts 15 is how only Genesis 9 binds non-Jews.
The second set begins, “Moses summoned all Israel and told them, Hear, Upright of God, the customs and correct judicial precedents which I proclaim in your hearing, this day.” It also states, “Not with our fathers did the Personal Name make this Brit, but with us, all of us, alive, here, this day.
Deuteronomy 5 states, “I am the Personal Name your Almighty Judge, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of menial labor.” If we are not personally rescued from Egypt, these rules does not apply to us. The only people rescued from Egypt were Jews. God designed Deuteronomy 5 and the rest of the rules to make Jews Jewish. We are not Jewish.
God also designed Deuteronomy 5 and Exodus 20 to make the Jews a community with an identity. That identity is the same identity that America strove to be until recently. Our identity is written upon the Statue of Liberty in the words of the New Colossus. They are also written in the words of the Battle Hymn of he Republic, in particular the last verse, the verse where Christ is mentioned. It is the identity of people rescued from over there to over here, wherever over there might be. We remember our rescue with gratitude and pass on our rescue to others, in particular the rest of the community.
Acts 15 tells us, “We believe we are saved through the grace of the Personal Name, Jesus, in the same way as they were.” We have a different rescue, similar to the first, but not identical. God rescues us the same way he rescued the Jewish people. God rescued Noah in the ark this same way.
There was a time of oppression; there was water, the flood, the parting of the יַם-סוּף, the Sea of Reeds, and the water of our death to our old selves in baptism. There is the water and the blood of Jesus’ death and resurrection. There is the water of the Atlantic Ocean and the ark of the slave ships and the steamers which brought us over here. There was the direct action of God in each case.
Most important is that each rescue was the rescue as a community. The Brit or contract is not just with God and Noah, between God and Moses, or even between God and Jesus. The contract is with God and all life, between God and the Jewish people; and a contract with God and all humanity.
St. John tells us, the contract has not changed. It begins, “Remember your rescue from over there, wherever over there is.” That includes the oppression of Europe in the 19th century as related on our Statue of Liberty, and the sweatshops of the world, from Egypt until today. That is why the Jewish community has the Passover Seder. They remember in first person/present terms their oppression in Egypt.
We do the same in the liturgy of the Eucharist with its narrative. That is also why we have our Palm Sunday liturgy. That is why we have the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving Day. In the Eucharist we remember Jesus’ death and our role in it. We remember our death and resurrection through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
If we remember our rescue, how can we attribute our rescue to anyone else? How can we take the name of our rescuer lightly? How can we allow others to do so or cause others to do so through our bad example? How can we not remember the anniversary of our rescue once a year at Easter, and once a week at Mass?
If we really remember what oppression is like, how can we allow others to be oppressed? To die? To have their possessions stolen? Their spouses abused? Their name trampled? That is through individual criminals and through corporate greed, not paying a living wage, unsafe or unhealthy, physical or emotional, working conditions. How can we allow them to be defrauded?
This article argues the Ten Commandments no longer apply? Is not following this new commandment following those same commandments? By doing these things we live in Jesus’ love. This is the commandment Jesus gives us each Easter, each Sunday, and each day. The essence of the law is love, through remembering our rescue and seeing in our neighbor’s oppression, our oppression.