Aaron the High Priest

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Out of Egypt: Reading Exodus Theologically

On October 21 at 10 a.m., the Sunday class continues its study of the book of Exodus in the Old Testament. Following the instructions about the construction of the Tabernacle, the Lord tells Moses to appoint Aaron and his descendants as the priests in this temple of God’s presence. As we see, however, Aaron’s actions at that very moment were not very priestly. Or perhaps all too priestly.

In addition to being a record of the central event in Jewish history – the exodus from Egypt and journey toward the Promised Land – Exodus also provides a prime case study of the benefits of a utilization of the traditional “four senses” of scripture: the literal, the typological, the moral, and the mystical.

St. Mark’s Gospel onstage: The performance and seminar event

On Wednesday, November 14, at 7 p.m., in the nave of the church, Tom Bair presents an exciting storytelling performance of the entirety of the Gospel of St. Mark. This compelling and remarkable story tells us about Jesus’s conflicts with the religious and secular authorities of his time, his important teachings, his somewhat stormy, and often humorous, relationships with his disciples, his miraculous acts, and, above all, his unique sense of mission. The Episcopal Journal calls this performance “a riveting journey” and a “brilliant and inspirational experience.” It is performed in the simple, elegant English prose of the King James Bible.

Then, on Thursday, November 15, at 10 a.m., in Andrew Hall, Bair leads a seminar on the Gospel of Mark. The group explores together the genius of the gospel and its overall impact by looking at the narrative sequences and literary forms that shape its stunning effect, especially when heard at one sitting in its entirety.

Elsewhere in Christendom…

It was international news this week when the Russian Orthodox Church indicated that it may break its relationship with the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople. The contention is over the status of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine: is it part of the Russian Orthodox Church (as it has been since 1686), or should it be independent? The loss of the Orthodox in Ukraine would reduce the size of the Russian Orthodox church by 30-40% and blunt its claims to being the “Third Rome” – the successor to Constantinople and the leader of the Orthodox world. Bartholomew, however, has indicated that he may recognize Ukraine as autonomous, leading the Russians to threaten severing ties with Constantinople, historically considered the spiritual center of the Orthodox world.

The New York Times calls this potentially “the biggest Christian schism since 1054” (here). I don’t know about that: this would be a break between those two – granted, very important – jurisdictions, but not necessarily a global and permanent break in Orthodoxy overall. What would be of decisive importance is how the other national churches would react. Nonetheless, it shows us in an especially obvious way how religious practices are always embedded in social, political, and cultural contexts: it is doubtful this step would have been taken except for the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014.

More information about the controversy, including its geopolitical background, is available from the Atlantic (here), Vox (here), and the Financial Times (here).

Sunday’s preacher

Just a note that the preacher at the 11 a.m. service on October 21 is the Rev. Brandt Montgomery. Some of you may remember Fr. Montgomery most recently from the program he gave on February 4 of this year on the Anglo-Catholic movement among traditionally black congregations in the Episcopal Church. It is a pleasure to welcome him back to Saint Thomas.
Yours in Christ,
Joel