At the Bush that Kept Burning

Exodus 3:1-15 – The 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, August 31, 2014

“But Moses said to God, Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11)

After Moses was raised in luxury within the house of pharaoh, after he attacked and murdered an Egyptian, after he secretly buried the body in the sand, after he was frightened for his life, after he became a fugitive from justice, after he hid in a faraway country, after he strong-armed some shepherds and flexed his muscles for seven frightened (but impressed) women, after he was married and touted as a hero even as he continued to live a lie, Moses had a life-changing “and yet” moment.

burning-bush1A bush burned and yet was not consumed.

After the Creator, the One above all others, the One given many names and without a name had created the world, after calling Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, after declaring those who would be the chosen people, after triumphant glory and troubling disappointments from those God created, after the time of Joseph and abundance, after forgetting the creation, after the years and decades and generations of slavery and oppression that the chosen experienced, the Creator had a divine and decisive “and yet” moment.

A bush burned and yet was not consumed.

And yet.

That simple phrase informs my understanding of how God works. For me, “and yet” is a reminder that “there’s more to come, more to learn and more to be surprised by.”* Each week, as with these musings on the encounter in the wilderness between God and Moses, I find a way to work “and yet” into my Biblical wonderings. It’s a gimmick. It’s my so-called (laugh out loud here) brand. Sometimes, when revising an essay, I’ll discover I didn’t use it in the first draft! When that happens, I’ll make sure to find a spot to put it into a sentence. In other words, the two-word conjunction wasn’t crucial for conveying my message, but I felt I had to try to force it in.

That’s the burden of gimmicks. Continue reading →

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That Woman

Matthew 15:(10-20), 21-28 – The 10th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, August 17, 2014

“Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” (Matthew 15:27)

Christ and the Canaanite Woman - FLANDES  (c. 1500)
Christ and the Canaanite Woman – Flandes (c. 1500)

First, Jesus ignored the woman . . . But he did not answer her at all.

Then, Jesus claimed she wasn’t on his to-do list . . . I was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Finally, Jesus insulted her . . . It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.

The third time certainly wasn’t charming for the person known in Matthew as “the Canaanite woman.” According to Prince of Peace, the Lamb of God, the One who would become the Christ, she apparently was no better than a wayward mongrel, scrabbling for discarded food.

Usually, when I read these unnerving and stark verses, I admire the courage of the Gospel writer to show Jesus in an unflattering light. I am enthralled with Jesus’s change of mind. For here, in the middle of Matthew, there was odd evidence that flamed doubt about Jesus being “perfect.” Here, readers witnessed Jesus not as fully divine and fully human, but far from divine and frustratingly human. How fascinating to debate what this meant (and means) about Jesus, whether we’re in seminary diligently studying for the ministry, pulpiteering in a church with far from divine and frustrating humans, or cornered by a grumpy agnostic at a garage sale.

How ‘bout that irksome, insulting, irritating Jesus!

And yet today, in this next reading of a familiar passage, I’m not much interested in Jesus and his heartlessness or in his change of heart.

It’s that woman. Continue reading →

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Trust Dad

Genesis 22:1-14 – The 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, June 29, 2014

“After these things God tested Abraham…” (Genesis 22:1)

Caravaggio's "Abraham and Isaac."
Caravaggio’s “Abraham and Isaac.”

Isaac’s name, the son of Abraham and Sarah, meant “laughter.”

I’m glad the name didn’t translate into talkative or verbose.

Maybe Isaac was a smiling, giggling child and oft justified his name’s promise. Certainly Isaac’s name came from his mother Sarah, who’d laughed at (not with) the messengers from God when promised she’d soon become pregnant in her, er, “golden years.”

Laugh Isaac might have, but based on the Biblical witness, the kid wasn’t a talker. Between Isaac’s birth to his elderly parents and his twin sons’ births when he was 60 years of age, Isaac spoke once in Genesis’ verses. Of note, the second time this revered patriarch of the Hebrew people opened his mouth had to do with muttering a deceit. In Genesis 26:7, well after his twins Jacob and Esau were born, Isaac lied about his wife Rebekah to people he feared: “She is my sister.”

Maybe he was better off when he kept his mouth shut? Continue reading →

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