The children of Israel brought a willing offering unto the LORD, every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all manner of work, which the LORD had commanded. – Exodus 35:29

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Maybe it’s a consequence of growing up in a congregation where they passed an offering plate as a conspicuous part of the service every Sunday, but I’m left with the impression of an offering being something tangible – money or an animal to sacrifice. The concept of it’s being “all manner of work,” as in labor, is revolutionary. Wandering in the desert, of course, meant plenty of free time but few physical resources.

The possibilities of many kinds of work, reflecting many varied talents and abilities among the people, also allows for unconventional responses.

Reexamining the entire structure and practice of marriage, for instance, made note of the Hebraic pilgesh notion – a person with whom one has a publicly acknowledged loving sexual relationship apart from marriage, such as Abraham and Hagar in Genesis. As Arthur Waskow explains in Godwrestling: “A few modern rabbis have suggested we should do more with it. … Yet it’s not a marriage. It’s easier to start and to dissolve. … What if a couple came before the community to say, ‘We have decided to live together for a year and one day. We will be faithful to each other and to God. We will help each other grow – in the body and the spirit.’”

Not that I’m endorsing it, mind you, but I’m not so sure it’s so different from many of my own encounters along the road to here, no matter my intentions.

So what will work in our current society that fits our hearts and God’s counsel?

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Praised be his powerful Name, who hath made me willingly renounce both giving and receiving that Honour that cometh from Man, that so I might partake of that Honour which proceedeth from himself alone. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)


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