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Speaking to the Soul: The Number of the Gods

Speaking to the Soul: The Number of the Gods

Proper 5, Year One

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

 

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 72 (morning) // 119:73-96 (evening)

Deuteronomy 31:30-32:14

2 Corinthians 11:21b-33

Luke 19:11-27

Our first reading today populates the cosmos with a whole council of divine beings rather than acknowledging the existence of only one. The passage provides an explanation for why different groups of people follow different gods: “When the Most High apportioned the nations, when he divided humankind, he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the gods.” Based on other references, this text probably imagines about 70 units of humankind, each with its own territory and divine sponsor.

How can this understanding of the universe help us to coexist with people of other faiths? While today’s Scripture segregates each god’s people to their own land, the faiths of the modern world often have overlapping terrains. Although sharp divides still exist by neighborhood and even by nation, many of us are searching for other ways to share the world with other people and their gods.

What I love about this passage is that the existence of other gods doesn’t seem to compromise the intimacy that people have with the God called “the Lord.” The people of the Hebrew Bible have been incredibly beloved and blessed by their god: “He sustained him in a desert land . . . he shielded him, cared for him, guarded him as the apple of his eye.” God has hovered over his people as an eagle hovers over the young in its nest. God has “nursed him with honey from the crags . . . curds from the herd,” and demonstrated tender care in countless other ways.

We are the “portion” allotted to our Lord, and we cultivate a special closeness with our God day by day, all throughout our lives. Perhaps it’s more important to invest in the relationship that is our share of the divine than to insist on crowding others out.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps  program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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