Anyone who is hanging on in there with this I commend you. Even though I'm enjoying this close read of Exodus, I can see that the repetition of themes and ideas and the self-evident melding of multiple sources can make this a bit of a slog.
Sabbath Keeping - Yet Again
The first thing Moses is recorded as doing after this (second) extended period of absence is to remind people about the need to keep the Sabbath. The more times I read this, the more I become convicted that here is something I need to take on board. I could get very boring here saying what I've already said on previous days, so I'll try not to repeat myself.
Simply to note that I am reassured that the ancients seem to have struggled with this in their, seemingly much simpler, lives, and that I am challenged to recover/discover a better practice of Sabbath for myself.
To Give and/or To Do
Central to the project of creating the Tabernacle and its accoutrements is the shared commitment of the people. Those of a generous heart are to give materially, those who are skilled are to employ their abilities... "And they came, everyone whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing".
Nothing radical or new here, just a sensible and practical means of achieving the project. Significantly, there is no manadated giving, no demand that anyone should offer their labour. Rather, those who feel led, called, convicted, moved, inspired, whatever it is, offer what they are able to offer - whether that is gold or gems or fabric or skills in working with wood or metal or yarn.
The details are worth noting...
The skilful women spun blue, purple and crimson yarn...
The women whose hearts were moved spun goats' hair...
There seems to have been a shared sense of purpose that valued every contribution. It wasn't 'better' to spin fine yarn for the inner curtains than to spin goats hair for the outer ones, each was needed and both were valued. To recognise the skills of another does not confer status nor does it demean others: different but of equal worth. It's easy to say, but not always so easy to do - how often I find myself envying others whose skills with words are so much better than mine, whose natural rapport with people and ability to defuse tension I would love to emulate but, try as I might, cannot. It's a reminder to me to do the things I can do, and let others do the things I can't. I suspect it's also a reminder more generally to reflect on those skills and gifts we applaud and those we dismiss... The Temple needed spinners of goats hair and spiiners of fine yran, each was equally important and, for now anyway equally valued.
Paul's body image for the Church is similar... so as I make connections, I am left with plenty to ponder yet again!
Bezalel and Oholiab were selected as the finest craftsmen and put in charge of the work. In an almost throw away sentence, we discover that part of that work was to teach/train others in the necessary skills.
Sometimes I can be so busy 'doing' that I don't take or make the time to look around for others whose potential could, and should, be developed. Sometimes it is easier just to get on and do it myself than to take the time to work collaboratively - even though I love to do so, and even though the rewards are huge.
In other places and at other times, I encountered loyal servants of churches whose approach was very much "my way or the highway", an attitude I both understood, these people did a fantastic job, and resented because it denied others an opportunity to try. It can be really hard to stand back and let someone else have a go, to give them space to do things their way, to make their own mistakes as well as to build their confidence, disocver their strengths and 'fly'. I am struck by how easily I slide into a 'doing' role rather than an 'enabling' role; how much easier (if not easy) it is to 'delegate' or 'devolve' responsibilities and how much harder to 'develop' others. This isn't me in self-flagellation mode, it's more me expressing the fact that often, in the busyness of 'doing church' it is easy to overlook the importance of 'building church'.
Stop! Enough Already...
I can honestly say that in all my years in churches I have never heard a minister or treasurer say to the people "stop giving we have more than we need". I doubt very much any minister or treasurer ever has. But it's what happens here. The people keep on giving, and we can only speculate at what motivates them. It becomes clear that there is more material than needed, so they are asked to stop.
And yet, in every church I've been part of there have been those who kept on and on giving, volunteering for every rota, attending every training day or prayer day, giving and giving of themselves. If I'm honest, and if my memory is accurate, I've rarely if ever heard anyone say to such people 'stop, you've given enough' and, even though I might exercise a note of concern or caution, I don't think I've ever said an outright 'no' to anyone.
Giving more than is needed can lead to burn out, illness, resentment and bitterness; learning as individulas when to say "enough already" or "stop" is an important lesson - and one I need to return too more often than perhaps I should!
So, in the building project there are hints of building community... that of itself is worth pondering.