Fellow Passengers: This week’s Promise Passage* (Exodus 30:22-33) transports me to a barren landscape in the southern Sinai peninsula, where a fairly nondescript mountain reaches a peak of almost 7,500 feet, making it a 3 hour hike for pilgrims who want to trace the 4,000 footsteps of Moses in his climb to meet God. Reading through the chapters that recount God’s words to Moses on that bleak summit, it is striking how much color and fragrance and precious jewelry and fine fabric lace God’s instructions. The contrast between the gray sand and rock of their present wilderness circumstance and the highly extravagant ornamental world of their imagined tabernacle could not be overstated. The instructions called for a space that would excite all the senses. The passage in chapter 30 speaks to the aromatic nature of anointment, the savory scent of consecration.
The passage sounds like a homework assignment for Potions class, with Professor Yahweh sending wizard Moses to the spice rack. The Professor gives him the recipe for making the Tent of Meeting delectably holy. Put a generous portion (12 pounds) of myrrh into your cauldron, mix in half that much cinnamon. Blend in 12 pounds of cassia and a gallon of extra virgin olive oil, and you will have a perfumer’s skillful blend of anointment. Smear this on the Tent of Meeting and on all the articles of worship – the ark, the candles, the altar table, and they will be made holy. Whoever touches them will also be made holy. It reminds me of Professor Snape’s words during Harry Potter’s first Potions class: I don’t expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses….I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory and even put a stopper in death.
The spicy concoction could have inspired the Sinai wanderers to sing a Gaither song when they reached this fantastic Tent of Meeting: There’s a sweet sweet spirit in this place. Or it could have inspired them to commit themselves to holy living: Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee. The fragrant experience is just the opposite of Nirvana’s smell of teen spirit: Here we are now, entertain us, I feel stupid and contagious. Worship space was not an arcade for entertainment, but a place to be caught up in a rapturous encounter with the Holy. It was a place to dance one’s way into a deeper faith and more expansive notion of God’s love. As another spicy set of singers said, Just keep the faith and let love lead the way.
How about you? Where does this Promise Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment.