Tag Archives: Moses

Gospel Reflection for March 17, 2019, 2nd Sunday of Lent

15 Mar

Sunday Readings: Genesis 15.5-12,17-18; Philippians 317-4.1; Luke 9.28-36

“Suddenly two men were talking with Jesus–Moses and Elijah. Appearing in glory, they spoke of his exodus, which he was about to fulfill in Jerusalem.” – Luke 9.30-31

Jesus’ prayer on the mount of transfiguration is a turning point in his ministry. A few verses later he “sets his face for Jerusalem” (Luke 9.51). The transfiguration gospel calls us to set our sights toward Easter, to enter more deeply the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection, which transforms us still. Luke calls us to prayer–to take time as Jesus does in his 40 days in the wilderness to hear and integrate the Spirit’s urging into his life.

The transfiguration connects Jesus with the two prophets in Israel’s history who have interacted most intimately with God–Moses and Elijah. Like the lawgiver Moses, who led an exodus from slavery to freedom, Jesus leads an exodus from death to new life. Like the prophet Elijah, Jesus will confront the officials of temple and empire after his prayer in the silent stillness of a mountaintop.

Who like Moses and Elijah are holy people who help you envision your call into the future?

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Gospel Reflection for August 12, 2018, 19th Sunday Ordinary Time

9 Aug

Sunday Readings: 1 Kings 19. 4-8; Ephesians 4.30-5.2, John 6.41-51

“The Jews began to murmur about Jesus because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven”  – John 6.41

Within the crowd following Jesus is a group whom the gospel writer calls “the Jews.” They murmur. They question how Jesus can be from heaven when they know his origins on earth. The conversation between Jesus and “the Jews” reflects the sharpening difference between the community of Christian Jews for whom John writes in the A.D. 90s and the Jews who follow other rabbis, faith to the law God gave Moses. Jesus and his followers are all Jews. The differences between between Jesus’ followers and other Jews develops after the temple is destroyed. Without temple worship to hold them together, the two groups grow into two separate world religions, Judaism and Christianity.

Jesus’ claims raise a question. Is God’s revelation only in the law of Moses and the God who supplied Israel quail and manna in the wilderness, or is God’s revelation in their midst in Jesus, the living bread?

None of the subgroups in the crowd respond well in John’s account of the loaves and fishes and what it points to about Jesus. Jesus’ disciples doubt their resources to feed 5,000. The crowd wants to make Jesus king like a pork-barrel hero but wants another sign of who he is the next day. Jesus’ claim to be the real bread of life from God is unbelievable to “the Jews.”

Where do you best fit — among the doubting disciples, the fair-weather crowd, or the Jews faithful to Moses’ law and the past?

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God as Light and Darkness

4 Mar
Photo via Flickr user Wendell

Photo via Flickr user Wendell

Last week I hear Addie Zierman talk about her book When We Were on Fire in the context of the darkness of Lent. She grew up in an Evangelical setting that pushed the metaphor of God as Light. She thought God was only real when she felt the light shining on her. God was near when she felt on fire. God was supposed to be exciting and startling, and a life of faith was supposed to be filled with mountaintop moments of light.

Then she started suffering from depression. She tried to fill her life with artificial light, which took the form of wine, television and service. Her instinct was, instead of dwelling in the darkness, to switch on the light. It didn’t keep. The darkness loomed. Consumed. It felt like her chest was filled with cement. She was living in darkness, and she couldn’t find God anywhere.

Since being diagnosed with depression, Addie has had to acknowledge that seeing God as light is just too narrow of a metaphor for her. She had to form a new theology of darkness.

She turned to the Bible to try to find God in the darkness as well as the light. In Genesis 1, we see that God and darkness were all that existed at first. God created light, but the darkness did not go away. God looked at day and night and said that it was good. Indeed, the light needs darkness. We need them both. God dwells in the light, but God is in the dark, too. When God formed a covenant with Moses, it was not in the light of the burning bush. It was at Mount Sinai, where Moses left the people to enter into the thick darkness where God was. It was there a promise was made, and it was from there, when Moses emerged from the darkness, that his face was radiant.

In the darkness of Lent, we seek Jesus in the desolate corners of our hearts. We do not look for God in the burning bush, but in the thick darkness of our neighborhoods. It is a season not to flick on the lights, but to dwell in the darkness and know that God is there with us. We hope, come Easter, when we emerge from the darkness, our faces will be radiant from our encounter as well.

When God Says No

1 Oct
Photo via Flickr user admitchell08

Photo via Flickr user admitchell08

Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the Plain—that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees—as far as Zoar. The Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.” Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day. Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated. The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended.

–Deuteronomy 34:1-8

It is moments like these, when we realize we have been clinging to our own expectations, that God surprises us. We must dig deep, let go of our own dreams, and feel grateful for the story that is ours.

Stand with Moses for a moment, looking at the promised land. He has overcome his own insecurities to lead his people. He has escaped slavery. He has suffered in the wilderness for years. If anyone has earned the right to step foot in the promised land, it is him. He thought his role was to lead his people there, and that part of that role was arriving with them and celebrating. What a storybook ending it could have been for Moses, after all he has been through, to step onto the land that will be home to his descendants and to be buried there, brimming with fulfillment and closure and peace. It just seems right that he should have be able to die there. When his people were complaining again, when he was tired and hungry and scared, how many times must Moses have pictured that moment of reaching the destination when it would all be worth it? How sweet, to finally arrive home.

But it was not to be.

We have all had moments like Moses’. We look out and see the future we thought was ours. It’s so close we can taste it. We see the promised land we thought was our ultimate destination. A job we are excited about. A baby we thought was on the way. A friend we thought would walk with us into old age. And the Lord says, “No.”

It is moments like these that I think of Moses, looking out to vast land, realizing he would never know what it felt like to stand on that ground. It is these moments when God says No that we see what we are really made of. The shift, the letting go comes with great grieving. We mourn the story we thought would be ours. We must decide if we will walk into our actual story bitter or grateful. Are we willing to change roles? Adjust our narrative? That we can control. “I let you see it with your eyes,” the Lord said to Moses. Will we allow that to be enough?

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