Some Thoughts on the Passing of Tom Oden, Hastily Written With a Heavy but Thankful Heart Upon the News of His Death

510rufbnvdl-_ux250_I have just learned that Methodist theologian Dr. Thomas C. Oden has passed away.  I only met Dr. Oden once, at a conference at the Beeson Divinity School on Evangelicals and the Nicene Creed.  We had exchanged emails five or six years prior when I wrote to him asking him how credobaptism fit or did not fit into his Paleo-orthodoxy proposal.  But while my personal interactions with Tom Oden were limited, the news of his passing has hit me hard and the lump I feel in my throat right now is but one of the many evidences in my own life of the amazing impact he and his story and work have had and will continue to have on me.

I had never heard the name Tom Oden until he came to deliver a lecture at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where I was a student.  This would probably have been in 1997.  I remember that on the first day of the lectures Thomas Long, then the professor of homiletics at Princeton, delivered one of the most dazzling lectures I had ever encountered in my life.  It was on the gospel writers as artists and it challenged me to think in ways I had never thought before about the gospels and the writings of the New Testament.  Long was witty, charming, funny, and a very polished speaker.

Understandably, then, when Tom Oden, the next day, began to lecture, I was profoundly unimpressed, especially as the words of Thomas Long and the effect they had on me from the day before were still ringing in my ears.  Oden was dry.  He was obviously brilliant, but, as he began to talk, I thought, “This is going to be a rough one.”  So I settled into my seat in the balcony of the old chapel and tried to listen.  Little did I know that that lecture would become a life changing and ministry changing moment for me.

As Oden talked, he unfolded his personal journey from being a 60’s leftist radical movement theologian to his eventual embrace of orthodoxy, what he called Paleo-orthodoxy which, in short, is the classical Christian consensus he saw fleshed out in the patristic and conciliar witness of the Church.  He recounted his rediscovery of the church fathers and of the Bible.  He told how he came to see that he was enslaved to the conceits of modernity and its manifold trends and fads.  He told how he found in orthodoxy theological riches and beauty than he had never found in the arid fields of his own liberalism.

By the time he finished, I was dumbfounded.

Oden’s proposal of Paleo-orthodoxy hit me like a lightning bolt.  For reasons too many and varied to outline here, I had been moving toward and looking for something in this direction for a few years but had not been able to articulate it.  The fundamentalism of my youth – a fundamentalism that was, I was coming to see, but the other side of the coin of modernity – was profoundly unsatisfying.  Even so, the arrogance and vacuity of liberalism held no appeal.  I had already begun to see from C.S. Lewis that what Oden would call neophilia, the love of the new, was an intoxicating arrogance that kept us from the riches of the past.  And I came to see that, within Christianity, neophilia was really evidence of a staggeringly depleted pneumatology, an almost heretical notion that the Spirit had been largely silent during the earliest ages of the post-apostolic church.

I yearned for what Oden was laying out, and, through his proposal, I saw that one could indeed hold to the best of Protestantism and Evangelicalism yet draw deeply and satisfyingly from the well of classical Christianity.  All of this precipitated something of a theological, ecclesiological, ministerial, and psychological crisis in my own life, but that was a journey I needed to take.  It is also a journey I am still unpacking in my own life.  Regardless, without lapsing into fawning hyperbole, Oden’s lecture opened a door for me. I finally saw it.  I was in complete agreement.  I saw the way forward.  I gladly became what he called “a young fogey.”

So the death of Oden is, for me, the death of one whose works came to hold inestimable value to me.  Behind my desk right now I see the many volumes of his Ancient Christian Commentaries on the Scripture, for which he served as general editor, the many volumes of IVP’s Ancient Christian Texts, for which he was series editor, and the five volumes of Ancient Christian Doctrine, for which he was series editor.

His memoir, A Change of Heart, is absolutely fantastic and should be read.  His systematic theology, now in a one-volume format, is a brilliant summary of patristic thought on the categories of systematic theology.  His various works on Paleo-orthodoxy, his works on Wesley, his work on pastoral ministry, his work on early Christianity in Africa, etc. etc. etc.  All of these need to be read.

Tom Oden has died.

Yet Tom Oden lives.

He is with the Savior he rediscovered and with the Groom of the Church he so faithfully served.

Rest in peace, Tom Oden.

And thank you.

Exodus 30:11-16

census-friezeExodus 30

11 The Lord said to Moses, 12 “When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the Lord when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them. 13 Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as an offering to the Lord. 14 Everyone who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the Lord’s offering. 15 The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the Lord’s offering to make atonement for your lives. 16 You shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the Lord, so as to make atonement for your lives.”

When I was a kid a good buddy of mine named Justin came over to spend the night. The next morning I got up and went to my part-time job keeping the grounds at the local children’s home. My mother and oldest brother were in Italy on a school trip. Condy, the middle brother, was in Charleston, South Carolina, at Boy’s State, an academic honors camp. My father was at work traveling and selling hardware. So Justin was left there in our house alone the next morning. I told him to leave whenever he wanted to and lock the door behind him.

It just so happened that that morning a census worker for the U.S. Census Bureau showed up at the front door. A census was being taken at the time.

“Is this the Richardson residence?”

“It is, but they’re not in.”

“Where are they?”

“Mr. Richardson is traveling.”

“Where is Mrs. Richardson?”

“Mrs. Richardson is in Italy.”

“They have an oldest son, David. Is he here?”

“David is in Italy with his mother.”

“They have a middle son, Condy. Is he here?”

“Condy is in Charleston at Boy’s State.”

“They have a youngest son, Wyman. Is he here?”

“Wyman is at the orphanage.”

At this, the census worker paused. “And who are you?” she asked.

“I’m just a neighbor.”

The worker stood perplexed and then left. My father especially laughs about this to this day wondering what the poor lady must have thought of my friend’s odd answers!

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Mark 8:1-21

MarkSeriesTitleSlide1Mark 8

1 In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, 2 “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. 3 And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” 4 And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” 5 And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” 6 And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. 7 And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. 8 And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 9 And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. 10 And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha. 11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” 13 And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side. 14 Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” 16 And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. 17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21 And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

One morning this past week I opened my email and saw an email from a friend of mine that contained only one line. It read: “Feed the white dog.”

I suspect many of you will know immediately what that refers to. It is alluding to an old story that many attribute to an elderly Cherokee elder. There are a number of different versions but that does not matter right now. In this version, an old Cherokee elder was telling some children in the village about his life. “There is within me,” he said, “two dog: a white dog and a black dog. The white dog is good and kind and virtuous. The black dog is wicked and mean and cruel. And all day every day the two dogs fight within me.”

“Which one wins?” asked one of the Cherokee children.

“Whichever one I feed,” answered the elder.

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Exodus 30:1-10

altarofincense1Exodus 30

1 “You shall make an altar on which to burn incense; you shall make it of acacia wood. 2 A cubit shall be its length, and a cubit its breadth. It shall be square, and two cubits shall be its height. Its horns shall be of one piece with it. 3 You shall overlay it with pure gold, its top and around its sides and its horns. And you shall make a molding of gold around it. 4 And you shall make two golden rings for it. Under its molding on two opposite sides of it you shall make them, and they shall be holders for poles with which to carry it. 5 You shall make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 6 And you shall put it in front of the veil that is above the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is above the testimony, where I will meet with you. 7 And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it. Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, 8 and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the Lord throughout your generations. 9 You shall not offer unauthorized incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering, and you shall not pour a drink offering on it. 10 Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the Lord.”

Smell is a powerful sense. It is not merely physical. It is also psychological. A smell, a scent has the ability to trigger in your mind memories of people or places or events. People often speak of the smell of their loved ones. Consider, for instance, how the smell of pipe tobacco might lead some to remember their grandfathers, or the smell of cologne might lead some to remember their fathers. For me, I think of the perfume that my grandmother wears. I have one remaining grandparent, my grandmother, and she wears a particular scent. If ever I come across it, a whole flood of memories comes rushing in. I was privileged to see her over Thanksgiving recently and once again smelled that perfume that will forever make me think of her.

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1 John 5:13-15

1john_title1 John 5

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

Christopher Bass has written an interesting book entitled That You May Know: Assurance of Salvation in 1 John. The thesis of his book is, “No other book of the New Testament speaks of the believer’s confidence or assurance of salvation as frequently and explicitly as the first letter of John, for the predominant theme of the entire letter is Christian certainty.” Bass’s concludes his book by saying, “perseverance in righteousness can never be viewed as the ground of the believer’s assurance. Therefore, as noted at the outset of this study, assurance of eternal life as taught in the first letter of John is fundamentally grounded in the work of Christ and supported in a vital yet subsidiary way by the lifestyle of the believer.”

He begins his first chapter with a quote from Thomas Brooks that was said “more than 350 years ago”:

The being in a state of grace makes a man’s condition happy, safe, and sure; but the seeing, the knowing of himself to be in such a state, is that which renders his life sweet and comfortable.[1]

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Mark 7:31-37

MarkSeriesTitleSlide1Mark 7

31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

If I am honest, I am a sucker for emotional viral videos. There are two kinds in particular that always get me: returning soldiers surprising their families and people who are deaf being able to hear for the first time after receiving cochlear implants. One of these cochlear implant videos is especially beautiful because it shows two amazing things happening to the young lady who received it.

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Exodus 29

anointing-aaronExodus 29

1 “Now this is what you shall do to them to consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. Take one bull of the herd and two rams without blemish, 2 and unleavened bread, unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers smeared with oil. You shall make them of fine wheat flour. 3 You shall put them in one basket and bring them in the basket, and bring the bull and the two rams. 4 You shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and wash them with water. 5 Then you shall take the garments, and put on Aaron the coat and the robe of the ephod, and the ephod, and the breastpiece, and gird him with the skillfully woven band of the ephod. 6 And you shall set the turban on his head and put the holy crown on the turban. 7 You shall take the anointing oil and pour it on his head and anoint him. 8 Then you shall bring his sons and put coats on them, 9 and you shall gird Aaron and his sons with sashes and bind caps on them. And the priesthood shall be theirs by a statute forever. Thus you shall ordain Aaron and his sons. 10 “Then you shall bring the bull before the tent of meeting. Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the bull. 11 Then you shall kill the bull before the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting, 12 and shall take part of the blood of the bull and put it on the horns of the altar with your finger, and the rest of the blood you shall pour out at the base of the altar. 13 And you shall take all the fat that covers the entrails, and the long lobe of the liver, and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, and burn them on the altar. 14 But the flesh of the bull and its skin and its dung you shall burn with fire outside the camp; it is a sin offering. 15 “Then you shall take one of the rams, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram, 16 and you shall kill the ram and shall take its blood and throw it against the sides of the altar. 17 Then you shall cut the ram into pieces, and wash its entrails and its legs, and put them with its pieces and its head, 18 and burn the whole ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the Lord. It is a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the Lord. 19 “You shall take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram, 20 and you shall kill the ram and take part of its blood and put it on the tip of the right ear of Aaron and on the tips of the right ears of his sons, and on the thumbs of their right hands and on the great toes of their right feet, and throw the rest of the blood against the sides of the altar. 21 Then you shall take part of the blood that is on the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and his garments, and on his sons and his sons’ garments with him. He and his garments shall be holy, and his sons and his sons’ garments with him. 22 “You shall also take the fat from the ram and the fat tail and the fat that covers the entrails, and the long lobe of the liver and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, and the right thigh (for it is a ram of ordination), 23 and one loaf of bread and one cake of bread made with oil, and one wafer out of the basket of unleavened bread that is before the Lord. 24 You shall put all these on the palms of Aaron and on the palms of his sons, and wave them for a wave offering before the Lord. 25 Then you shall take them from their hands and burn them on the altar on top of the burnt offering, as a pleasing aroma before the Lord. It is a food offering to the Lord. 26 “You shall take the breast of the ram of Aaron’s ordination and wave it for a wave offering before the Lord, and it shall be your portion. 27 And you shall consecrate the breast of the wave offering that is waved and the thigh of the priests’ portion that is contributed from the ram of ordination, from what was Aaron’s and his sons’. 28 It shall be for Aaron and his sons as a perpetual due from the people of Israel, for it is a contribution. It shall be a contribution from the people of Israel from their peace offerings, their contribution to the Lord. 29 “The holy garments of Aaron shall be for his sons after him; they shall be anointed in them and ordained in them. 30 The son who succeeds him as priest, who comes into the tent of meeting to minister in the Holy Place, shall wear them seven days. 31 “You shall take the ram of ordination and boil its flesh in a holy place. 32 And Aaron and his sons shall eat the flesh of the ram and the bread that is in the basket in the entrance of the tent of meeting. 33 They shall eat those things with which atonement was made at their ordination and consecration, but an outsider shall not eat of them, because they are holy. 34 And if any of the flesh for the ordination or of the bread remain until the morning, then you shall burn the remainder with fire. It shall not be eaten, because it is holy. 35 “Thus you shall do to Aaron and to his sons, according to all that I have commanded you. Through seven days shall you ordain them, 36 and every day you shall offer a bull as a sin offering for atonement. Also you shall purify the altar, when you make atonement for it, and shall anoint it to consecrate it. 37 Seven days you shall make atonement for the altar and consecrate it, and the altar shall be most holy. Whatever touches the altar shall become holy. 38 “Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs a year old day by day regularly. 39 One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight. 40 And with the first lamb a tenth measure of fine flour mingled with a fourth of a hin of beaten oil, and a fourth of a hin of wine for a drink offering. 41 The other lamb you shall offer at twilight, and shall offer with it a grain offering and its drink offering, as in the morning, for a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the Lord. 42 It shall be a regular burnt offering throughout your generations at the entrance of the tent of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. 43 There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory. 44 I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests. 45 I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. 46 And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.

Unfortunately, examples of bad ministers, or ministers who betray and live in conflict with their calling, are too easy to find. Consider, for instance, the observations of Charles Simic.

[Charles] Simic was no less scathing in generalizing about the evangelical preachers he heard: “The men doing the preaching had made millions saving souls and had no qualms offering themselves as a model to emulate. Their lack of humility was astonishing. I’m flying high, the faces said, because God has time for me.”[1]

Soren Kierkegaard grew so frustrated with the lack of holiness in the lives of the ministers of Denmark that he blasted them in the newspapers of the day with these words:

Imagine that the people are assembled in a church in Christendom, and Christ suddenly enters the assembly. What dost thou think He would do?

            He would turn upon the teachers (for the congregation He would judge as He did of yore, that they were led astray), He would turn upon them who “walk in long robes,” tradesmen, jugglers, who have made God’s house, if not a den of robbers, at least a shop, a peddler’s stall, and would say, “Ye hypocrites, ye serpents, ye generation of vipers”; and likely as of yore He would make a whip of small cords and drive them out of the temple.[2]

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1 John 5:6-12

1john_title1 John 5

6 This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: [the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, (KJV)] the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. 9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

On April 19, 2011, The New Yorker published an interview between Lauren Porcaro Dorment and James B. Stewart entitled, “James B. Stewart: How Perjury Affects Society.” It was a fascinating interview with one who has researched the pervasiveness of lying in court and what this means for our society. Here are some interesting excerpts that highlight Stewart’s basic argument.

Perjury is “threatening to become an epidemic,” James B. Stewart, a staff writer at the magazine, writes in his new book, “Tangled Webs,” which appears today. “The broad public commitment to telling the truth under oath has been breaking down.” Drawing on new interviews, full court transcripts, and hundreds of investigative notes that have remained private until now, Stewart meticulously and startlingly reconstructs the cases of Martha Stewart, Scooter Libby, Barry Bonds, and Bernard Madoff—and scrutinizes how lying by each of these figures affects the American justice system, and society as a whole…

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Mark 7

MarkSeriesTitleSlide1Mark 7

24 And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. 25 But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.

Our church is in North Little Rock. North Little Rock is a great town, but it used to be referred to as “Dog Town” and sometimes is still called that today. Some people are offended by that term. Others have gladly embraced it. It would appear, however, that the term was not originally a nice one. Here is the North Little Rock History Commission’s take on the term.

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Exodus 28

highpriestExodus 28

1 “Then bring near to you Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the people of Israel, to serve me as priests—Aaron and Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. 2 And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. 3 You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood. 4 These are the garments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash. They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve me as priests. 5 They shall receive gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen. 6 “And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and of fine twined linen, skillfully worked. 7 It shall have two shoulder pieces attached to its two edges, so that it may be joined together. 8 And the skillfully woven band on it shall be made like it and be of one piece with it, of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen. 9 You shall take two onyx stones, and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel, 10 six of their names on the one stone, and the names of the remaining six on the other stone, in the order of their birth. 11 As a jeweler engraves signets, so shall you engrave the two stones with the names of the sons of Israel. You shall enclose them in settings of gold filigree. 12 And you shall set the two stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, as stones of remembrance for the sons of Israel. And Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord on his two shoulders for remembrance. 13 You shall make settings of gold filigree, 14 and two chains of pure gold, twisted like cords; and you shall attach the corded chains to the settings. 15 “You shall make a breastpiece of judgment, in skilled work. In the style of the ephod you shall make it—of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen shall you make it. 16 It shall be square and doubled, a span its length and a span its breadth. 17 You shall set in it four rows of stones. A row of sardius, topaz, and carbuncle shall be the first row; 18 and the second row an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond; 19 and the third row a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst; 20 and the fourth row a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper. They shall be set in gold filigree. 21 There shall be twelve stones with their names according to the names of the sons of Israel. They shall be like signets, each engraved with its name, for the twelve tribes. 22 You shall make for the breastpiece twisted chains like cords, of pure gold. 23 And you shall make for the breastpiece two rings of gold, and put the two rings on the two edges of the breastpiece. 24 And you shall put the two cords of gold in the two rings at the edges of the breastpiece. 25 The two ends of the two cords you shall attach to the two settings of filigree, and so attach it in front to the shoulder pieces of the ephod. 26 You shall make two rings of gold, and put them at the two ends of the breastpiece, on its inside edge next to the ephod. 27 And you shall make two rings of gold, and attach them in front to the lower part of the two shoulder pieces of the ephod, at its seam above the skillfully woven band of the ephod. 28 And they shall bind the breastpiece by its rings to the rings of the ephod with a lace of blue, so that it may lie on the skillfully woven band of the ephod, so that the breastpiece shall not come loose from the ephod. 29 So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the Lord. 30 And in the breastpiece of judgment you shall put the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be on Aaron’s heart, when he goes in before the Lord. Thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people of Israel on his heart before the Lord regularly. 31 “You shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue. 32 It shall have an opening for the head in the middle of it, with a woven binding around the opening, like the opening in a garment, so that it may not tear. 33 On its hem you shall make pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, around its hem, with bells of gold between them, 34 a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, around the hem of the robe. 35 And it shall be on Aaron when he ministers, and its sound shall be heard when he goes into the Holy Place before the Lord, and when he comes out, so that he does not die. 36 “You shall make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, ‘Holy to the Lord.’ 37 And you shall fasten it on the turban by a cord of blue. It shall be on the front of the turban. 38 It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall bear any guilt from the holy things that the people of Israel consecrate as their holy gifts. It shall regularly be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord. 39 “You shall weave the coat in checker work of fine linen, and you shall make a turban of fine linen, and you shall make a sash embroidered with needlework. 40 “For Aaron’s sons you shall make coats and sashes and caps. You shall make them for glory and beauty. 41 And you shall put them on Aaron your brother, and on his sons with him, and shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. 42 You shall make for them linen undergarments to cover their naked flesh. They shall reach from the hips to the thighs; 43 and they shall be on Aaron and on his sons when they go into the tent of meeting or when they come near the altar to minister in the Holy Place, lest they bear guilt and die. This shall be a statute forever for him and for his offspring after him.

It is hard not to fall under the spell of the great preacher of yesteryear, Charles Spurgeon. That great British Baptist pastor was truly a pulpit giant and an amazing mind and wit to boot. For instance, consider what he says about the way ministers should dress in his John Ploughman’s Talk; or, Plain Advice for Plain People.

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