Ps 57:1-4 - fear
1 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
until the destroying storms pass by.
4 I lie down among lions
that greedily devour human prey;
their teeth are spears and arrows,
their tongues sharp swords.
This is another of the Psalms attributed to David. Tradition tells us this prayer was inspired when David's life was threatened by the violent anger of King Saul. He goes to hide in a cave. What a poignant metaphor of the times when we are strangled by fear, isolated, alone, powerless. This is a song born of hopelessness and threat. Saul seems to hold, at this point, all the power and influence and David is trapped in a moment when he can find no way to respond with any confidence or agency. He cannot talk, plan, strategize , work or fight his way out of this situation. 'I lie down among lion,' he prays in song. The threat is great and he has no feasible strategy for rescue or relief that can ensure a safe and secure future.
We connect to this story even though our lives are often not threatened by the anger of malevolent rulers. The loss of a loved one to death or divorce, the breakup of a friendship, tension in a family can also raise within us the experience of threat and fear. It can be the pressure of work that can conjure self-doubt and thoughts of what we would do without the work and its paycheck, or perhaps even worse, the dreaded pink slip that makes our imaginations run wild with imagining the worst. And then, perhaps more subtle but no less debilitating is the fear that if people really knew us, they would no longer love and care for us. If we expressed our opinions, acted out of our truest and best selves, we would be rejected. I suspect we have all felt this way. I know at times when I feel called to preach a prophetic word that challenges the status quo that our society is comfortable with I feel that fear. So too often, we place ourselves in the cave of not being ourselves in order to survive that which we fear, being rejected.
Once again, the implications go beyond these legitimate personal concerns and into the social realm. What fear must grip even today the largely African-American residents of Flint Michigan now that they know that the water they and their children have been bathing in and drinking. There are not only the reports of sickness and disease, but also the woeful response of the bureaucrats and the knowledge that changes in the water supply that lead to this situation were made for financial reasons. Profit more important than people. Fear must grip them. Does fear grip us on their behalf?
David's complaint is a supreme act of faith. An abundant future appears impossible, yet David's lament calls for God to intervene making the impossible, possible. Faith is not hoping for the best, but crying out for God's intercession when all seems lost. Complaint then, is one of the ways that we as humans participate in God's creating and redeeming mission in the world. Complaint is the feed-back loop that calls God to liberation and rescue in a world gone wrong. When we remain silent in the face of our personal fears that reduce us, or in response to injustice that disallows the fullness of life, we are not being faithful or obedient at all. It is the most serious act of disobedience because our complacency merely encourages the powers that be to hold sway and maintain their influence. Complaint trusts that our God not only rescues, but also proclaims that God is the ultimate authority in the world, over all other earthly political powers, over all personal demons that haunt us. Complaint liberates us from our fear and liberates us to confront the powers that frighten and abuse others.
Prayer- Teach us God to be sanctified lamenters. Let our complaint not be that which leaves us trapped in a defeated mentality, but instead, that which liberates us to be hopeful. Let complaint free us from fear that causes us to deny our truest selves and leaves us complacent and complicit in the suffering of others. Let our complaints become a bold proclamation of the reality and powerful intervention of the loving and creative God who hears the cries of all you suffer.
Ps 140:1-2, 10 – anger
Rescue me, Lord, from evildoers;
protect me from the violent,
who devise evil plans in their hearts
and stir up war every day.
May burning coals fall on them;
may they be thrown into the fire,
into miry pits, never to rise.
The honesty of the psalmists emotions can be disturbing when it ventures into anger, especially when that anger is expressed violently. Monday's psalm, 137, ends with the image of Babylonian babies be thrown against rocks! Today, we see an expression of anger only slightly less disturbing, 'may they be thrown into the fire...' Our most natural reaction is to cringe and promise to never read that psalm again, or at least that verse of the psalm.
But anger is a natural emotion. Denying that we are angry is dangerous. We all have had experiences where either we or someone we know has habitually suppressed frustration and anger and we know what happens. It gets stored, festers, even grows and eventually gets expressed. And this expression is neither healthy or helpful. Crying out in anger to God in the midst of pain, suffering and injustice is a gift. Anger offered to God is less likely to be dangerous and unhealthy and actually, can be transformed from destructive to constructive, from vengeful to reconciling.
In terms of spiritual health, taking our hurt and anger to God in prayer accomplishes much. When we vent our frustration and suffering we actually can learn about our truest selves, our values and our unresolved hurts. We discover facets of our lives and relations that we have made peace with but which do not actually make for peace. As we speak and then listen might even learn that our anger isn't toward the target we assumed but is a reaction to another person or situation. When we complain and listen deeply, The Spirit can lead us from a place a fear (which is what inspires anger) to an attitude of trust in God. Even in this moment of pain, God is with me. Even in this injustice and unfairness, God is working. And when we realize that we can trust that God is working, as Paul said, 'all things work together for good,' our anger is not destructive, but constructive. Anger, when spoken and then baptized in prayer, isn't harmful or debilitative, but an energizing force that empowers us to address a change that we need in our own lives, or to advocate for growth in our relationships and even society.
It is important for us to pause and contemplate the fact that while today's psalm contains a great deal of anger, even violent anger, it concludes in a much different place. The psalmist, through expressing anger, is lead by the Spirit to an emotion and experience of assurance. 'I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor, and upholds the cause of the needy,' the psalmist proclaims. And this is perhaps what we need to be reminded of. Anger turns to violence when we are threatened and feel that there is no protection, no justice, no viable response to the threat other than the fight. The psalmist discovers through offering anger to God in prayer, that they are no alone or abandoned to be a perpetual victim. God is an active listening and ready responder to those who suffer unjustly. In this age of 'stand-your-ground' laws and the propensity for politicians to manipulate us with the threat of violence that only they can respond to (often with force), we would do well to remember that we do not trust in force, but God, to protect and guide us. Not only that, be we trust that God can use the threat to lead us to new life and fresh faith.
Prayer – Teach us to no longer be ashamed of our anger, God of mercy and of passion. Lead us in offering every emotion, even anger to you in our prayer and contemplation, that we might be shaped and energized to be your representatives of reconciliation in an angry and violent world. Give us the courage to question our anger, to learn from it, and to see it transformed into another tool which you can use to see your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.
Ps 69:19-22 – despair
19 You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed;
all my enemies are before you.
20 Scorn has broken my heart
and has left me helpless;
I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
for comforters, but I found none.
21 They put gall in my food
and gave me vinegar for my thirst.
22 May the table set before them become a snare;
may it become retribution and a trap.
In today's psalm we hear the psalmist complaining about the shame he is subjected to as the result of cruel and heartless people. 'I am scorned, disgraced and shamed,' he writes. Is there any worse feeling than the rejection and worthlessness that is the experience of shame. Brene Brown, who is an expert on shame, has written, 'Shame is the most powerful master emotion. It's the fear that we're not good enough.' Could it be that the threat of physical violence is not the only of Saul's attack's on David? Could it be that he subjects David to a campaign of public shaming? I honestly don't know if that is the experience that leads to the creation of this psalm. But I do know that feeling that we are not good enough is a terrible thing. And I know that the powerful then and now will often use character attacks, or public shaming, to discredit those who criticize or oppose them.
Our own experiences of shame are not necessarily public or as dramatic as what I have just imagined. Shame can take us in its grip when we speak before thinking, when we respond emotionally to stress and say or do something hurtful and outside our character. Brown further explains that "the difference between shame and guilt is the difference between 'I am bad' and 'I did something bad.' " Some feel shame because a disease or chronic illness necessitates care and causes a loss of independence. Some carry shame because they have failed to live up to some high standard put upon them by parents, teachers, or preachers. Theologically shame is an insidious form of idolatry because when we experience shame we are allowing some other authority to call us 'worthless,' when the God who created us has already, according to Genesis, called all creation good.
Henri Nouwen has said, "The real 'work' of prayer is to become silent and listen to the voice that says good things about me. Nouwen places the word work in quotations marks, perhaps to remind us that prayer, in this sense, isn't work, but a gift. But when we couple Nouwen's lesson on prayer as listening to a loving voice and one final Brene Brown Quote, we come to understand how complaint is a spiritual practice that rescues us from shame. Brown writes, 'Shame derives its power from being unspeakable...If we speak shame it begins to wither.' And this is exactly what we see in the Psalm for today. Perhaps we do not hear the specific details of the psalmists shame, but we do hear the psalmist admitting aloud, to God, the shame he feels. And as he speaks, the shame withers. Perhaps this is the best understanding of why confession, although not a formal or traditional part of Baptist theology or practice, is something worth exploring. When we ashamed, we feel isolated and alone, trapped and powerless. We are worthless. When we speak, when we share with someone, someone whom we trust to love us, the shame loses its hold. We are no longer trapped in feeling worthless, but loved, just as we are and loved into something new. 'I will praise God's name in song,' the psalmist soon after complaining about shame concludes. 'I will glorify him with thanksgiving.' Complaining about shame renders it powerless and frees the psalmist to once again experience joy. He is once again reassured of his value, that he is God's beloved.
One final note and perhaps warning. When the early church read this psalm, they saw the crucifixion of Jesus. Religious and politically powerful and influential people not only misrepresented him, arrested and tortured him, but shamed him as well. The cross was a dishonorable and shameful way to die. His friends has abandoned and denied knowing him. The fear that shame is, that we are worthless, was visited upon him. It was visited upon him because he befriended Samaritans, and healed the sick, because he fed the poor and criticized religious and political leaders. He was shamed because he was an advocate for all the vulnerable and the rejected and hated. He was shamed because he would not leave or forsake them. And he has called us to this shameful cross. Sometimes following Jesus means that we knowingly accept the shame of welcoming the disdained, ignored and shamed into our beloved community. And that is a challenging thing for us to consider.
Prayer - Remind us in prayer, today, loving God, that we are your beloved. Teach us that we have not earned it, nor are we more worthy than others to be beloved. Let us in this moment bask in the free gift of your merciful and unfailing acceptance. And let that love not only humble us so that we do not join in the shaming and scorning of others, but also protect us from the fear that would keep us from welcoming outcasts into our community or going to stand with the rejected in their time of need.
Monday Theme – Listening takes time and space
Script - 1 Kings 19:12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper
At the close of last weeks devotions I suggested that obedience to God (the discovery of our truest and best selves) required of us heart knowledge and not just head knowledge. In other words, if we are to be obedient to God, it is not just accepting a list of doctrines and concepts that is required, but a heart shaped by the justice, mercy, compassion and creativity of God as revealed through scripture and the incarnation of Christ. In order for us as disciples to develop an obedient heart, we first learn to listen. And this week, we will contemplate some of the listening practicess that will prepare us to hear and obey God.
At first glance Elijah isn't discerning the will of God in today's story. Elijah is fleeing, in fear and disappointment, the wrath of King Ahab and his queen Jezebel. This happens just after his courageous prophetic action against idolatry, speaking the truth of God to the politically powerful. So Jezebel seeks to take Elijah's life and he flees. But Elijah doesn't flee away from God as Jonah did. Instead Elijah runs toward God. Elijah flees to Mt. Horeb, called the mountain of God, the location from which God delivered the 10 Commandments to Moses. Elijah flees to a thin place where the presence of God is experienced. Elijah runs toward a location where God's will is perceived and known.
Notice how isolated Elijah becomes. He travels for days. He goes hungry in order to be fed by the angel of God. Listening for God takes time and space. It cannot be done quickly. This kind of prayerful discernment cannot be crammed into already over-scheduled lives. Time is required. No multi-tasking, no time limit. Listening is open-ended and ongoing. It cannot be rushed. Space too is required. Space being a metaphor for silence. Elijah has to let go of his own agenda (I have had enough...take my life,) and the usual methods of strengthening and renewal (waiting for the surprising food from the angel). In our own experience this means taking time to leave behind the usual sources of our opinions, the voices that shape our worldview, and our dearly help beliefs, in order to create space for the word of God to be planted and take root.
We participate in God shaping in us obedient hearts, when we take time and make space to listen carefully to the voice of God calling, encouraging, challenging and loving us.
Quote – Psalm 62:1 For God alone my soul waits in silence
Prayer – We thank you, shepherd of rest who leads us beside still waters, for the gift of your peace. Forgive us our addiction to speed, productivity and being busy. Enable us to create time to be still and silent so that we can listen for you. In those moments, shape us, we pray, into patient, merciful and obedient disciples.
Tuesday Theme – Listening requires letting go of our own agenda
Script – Jacob 32:24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak
Reflection – Yesterday we touched upon but did not focus attention on another of the prayer practices that allow God to shape our hearts for obedience. That practice was letting go of our own agenda. You will recall that we did touch upon the fact that as Elijah fleed to God, the first thing to be addressed was Elijah's own desire to die. He went into prayerful discernment with his own agenda. But his agenda was in the way of God's will for him and call for him. So that agenda had to be set aside. Part of discernment is the practice of becoming aware of our own spiritual agendas and assumptions. Then the practice is letting go of them so that we can hear God's call to us, which may be very unlike our own.
The whole story of Jacob can be read as a reflection on this very thing. You will recall that Jacob is the 'younger' brother of his twin Esau. Esau, who is bor first would be the privileged brother, the recipient of his father's blessing and a chief portion of the inheritance of his father's wealth. But God has revealed to their mother that Jacob, the second son, will be the privileged and blessed one. The problem is that she and Jacob both seem to interpret this promise of blessing as a privilege that must be grasped by their own efforts, which little regard to how their actions affect others. They seem to forget that the blessing of God is both privilege and responsibility, a gift, but a gift that is stewarded so that it can be shared with others. It is a trust, not a possession. Much of the Jacob story illustrates his journey from grasping, owning, and controlling his privilege to accepting, stewarding and sharing the blessing.
This is what I mean by letting go of our agenda through careful and steadfast discernment. We are constantly bombarded by information and opinion which shapes the way we see the world and process all that we see and experience. But for every perspectice there is an equal and opposite perspective. It can difficult, early impossible to come to a conclusion. Throughout our lives we take on these world views to make sense of our self and the world we live in. The story of Jacob reminds us that letting go of our preconcieved notions can be difficult and even painful. This applies to matters of faith as well. Think of all the times not only religious leaders, but also the disciples and especially Peter struggled to interpret and apply the things Jesus said and did. So we take time and space, so that the word of God can shape and transform our ways of thinking and acting. This will sometimes mean we are challenged and we will need to let go of the way we are in order to move on to become the person God is calling us to be.
Quote - Proverbs 2:3,5 indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
Prayer – Help us, Lord of resurrection and transformation, to trust you enough to release ourselves to dying and rising with Christ. Make us bold enough to offer those dearly held beliefs and assumptions that hold us back, even though they are comfortable and stable. Help us trust you enough to believe in the future self you are revealing to us and shaping us to be.
Wednesday Theme – Listening to God will reveal the unexpected
Script 1 Samuel 3:9 So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.'" So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
As today's verse reveals, God is speaking to Samuel. Samuel is just a boy. Eli is the priest. God should be speaking to him. But God is doing something new and unexpected, so Samuel is the recipient of the word of God. A couple of verses later God will say to Samuel, ' "See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle.' When listening for and to God we might want to expect the unexpected. I would even be so bold as to suggest that we can recognize the voice of God when we are surprised and shocked. If what we hear fits neatly into the way things are and what we already think, it probably isn't God.
In today's story, the shocking and unexpected thing that God is doing is replacing Eli and his sons as the High Priests. The sons enjoy their social status as priests and use that to gain themselves privilege. But they do not serve the people and they are not faithful. Eli has allowed this to happen. So they will all be replaced. Sometimes the word of God calls forth unexpected and unsettling changes. God's word to Moses was a call to leave the comfort of his life as a shepherd in the country to return to Egypt and confront the Pharoah. God's word to Israel through the prophets is unrelenting in its blunt force. The political and religious leaders are adept at worship but fail miserable to create a society which cares for the common good and provides for the most vulnerable. God's word to Mary, that she would carry the son of the Most High, would not have been simply good news. Being a young, unmarried woman meant this word of God would have created some fear and dread and doubt as well.
When listening for God we are learning to listen for a very delicate balance. If we only hear blessing and affirmation, we are only hearing our own wants and desires. In popular Christianity today we hear this in the prosperity gospel which ministers to the wealthy without challenging them to offer their possessions and take up a cross. We hear it in the popular refrain, 'God Bless America,' without pausing to consider if the policies of our nation are pleasing to a God who demands justice for the poor, the welcome of aliens and trust in God alone instead of military might. But we also hear it in public religious figures who are quick to denounce and condemn all those 'others' whether gay, lesbian, transgender, feminist, or liberal Christians as the cause for every trauma and social ill. Subtly we hear it whenever God is angry only and never merciful. This is the balance. If God offers only blessing and approval, that probably isn't God. But neither is is God if what we hear is only angry and vengeful. The voice of God is that subtle line confronting sin, but calling forth redemption and mercy, inviting us with grace to repent and be renewed. When listening to God, we are listening to the new and unexpected, the challenging and seemingly impossible. And when we hear that, we know we are listening to a trustworthy voice. And we listen some more.
Quote - Psalm 51.6:
You desire truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Prayer – Give us the courage, God always called, to not dismiss your words that are challenging. Call to us with honesty and mercy and guide us to respond with repentance when we must change. Call to us with passion when we must risk a new path. Call to us with urgency when we must speak an uncomfortable and unsettling truth. Continue to teach us how to listen for the new you call forth in and through us.
Friday Theme - Listening, God's story our own
Script – Luke 22:42 "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.
Reflection – In order to listen and discern the will of God, we must know the story of God. This was yesterday's meditation. Of course we also hinted that simply having knowledge of the story of God is not quite enough. The story of God isn't information to be stored, but life meant to be lived, being itself meant to be recreated in each unique life. So the final meditation of the week focuses on listening as making God's story our own story, or living our lives in such a way that they bear witness to who God is and what God does.
I know that I've shared with you before the short-comings of thinking of faith as a matter of accepting and affirming certain platitudes. I once knew a man who fervently believed in tithing 10% of his earnings to the church. Except that he didn't ever attend church, so he didn't actually practice tithing. But he found comfort, solace and pride in the fact that he believe the right thing. This is one example of knowing God's story without making that story our own. But that story is humorous and lets face it, safe. There are more relevant and challenging examples.
For instance, recently one of Gen Robert E. Lee's descendants, who is also a Christian ministers, publicly stated his opposition to maintaining confederate monuments and support of the Black Lives Matters movement. He is now no longer the pastor of a church. Too many members found his words troubling to the point of offensive. (we would do well to recall wednesday's meditation on the unsettling and unexpected nature of God's call to us.) This pastor was urging both church and society to live the life of the God who liberated the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and chose to be incarnate among the occupied and abused inhabitants of Roman-controlled Judea. I imagine he was inspired by the life of Jesus who made the Samaritan enemy into the hero of a parable we call the Parable of the Good Samaritan, and who spent most of his time among the socially vulnerable. Allowing the story of God to shape us is challenging in that is calls us often, into direct opposition to a status quo, to the social norms and practices that we have readily accepted.
In Romans 12:2 Paul wrote, 'do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.' Notice what Paul is saying. The will of God will not conform to patterns of this world. So listening to God has a purpose. Yes, listening to God is meant to bring peace and stability, certainty and wisdom. But we must never forget that we are given these gifts so that we might then have the courage to live the life of God in the world, a world that conforms to a pattern other than that created by God.
Quote - Psalm 32:8
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Prayer – Embolden us, God who confronts and comforts both, to allow us to be shaped by your story. Teach us how to not only believe in your incarnation in the life of Jesus, but to practice incarnation in our actions and intentions. Show us how we can take part in your mission of redeeming a lost world by bearing witness to your will and way through the lives we live.
Monday Theme – Obedience as Honesty; I don't have to be perfect
Scripture – Genesis 3:2-3 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
Quote – Psalm 119:10 I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
Reflection – Setting the scene of today's meditation, previously God has spoken to Chaos ad created all things; earth and sky, sea and land, birds, fish, and all number of animals, and humanity, calling it all 'good.' The story goes into detail explaining how abundant and beautiful God's creation is. All that creation needs to flourish is provided, including a purpose for humanity. We are created to cooperate in God's creativity, in God's nurture of abundant life.
As lavish as God's creation is, the humans want more. Adam and Eve wander away from obedience to God's creative action, creating and following their own way by eating the forbidden fruit. It is subtle and easy to wander from the path we are called to, the path perhaps we intend to follow. I notice it in myself in the simplest of actions. While on Sabbatical, a time when I was not pressed for time, I would still drive like I was in a hurry. I would grow frustrated with 'slow' drivers and caught up in the rush to get to my destination. I would also notice it in my prayer time. Meditation and contemplation, with no agenda but to experience the presence of God quickly became the focus of my Sabbatical. There was no time limit, no rush, no other tasks that I needed to attend to most often. Yet my mind would wander and my thoughts would be invaded by other things that I wanted to do.
But what does it mean for us to be tempted by forbidden fruit? Israel's prophet's exposed bitter fruits such as; fear of lack and desire for power, the hunger for wealth and possession, yearning for honor and status. Jesus will confront us with the temptation to ignore and shame the poor, to harbor anger and bitterness toward those who have hurt us, to divide ourselves into factions and deem the other less worthy, wrong, even dangerous. All of these examples of the forbidden fruits that diminish the good we were created to be. All of these promise security and happiness, but deliver, if we an pause long enough to hear the Spirit's call, anxiety and fear, cruelty, and even violence.
The story of Adam and Eve is a gift in that it is a crucible in which we can safely ponder the ways in which we have been disobedient, in which we have settled for less than we are created to be, in which we can be honest with ourselves. It is safe because it is a story surrounded by grace. We are created good, called to a nurturing purpose in concert with God. And the story ends with God's gracious gifts of clothing for a naked, shamed and vulnerable Adam and Eve. So we are confident in contemplating the bitter fruit of our lives because a gracious and loving God is always calling for God's image, good image, in us. Our's is to trust enough to let go of the bitter fruit we have samples and receive the good fruit of God's grace. This is true obedience.
Prayer – Admitting that we have chosen our own path or followed ways that are far from your will and way, gracious God. Be with us in this time of honest reflection. Help us to see the times and ways we have sampled bitter fruit. Protect us from shame and send your Spirit you fill us with hope and courage as we turn to follow you in creative obedience.
Tuesday Theme – Obedience, Letting Go of that Which Diminishes Us
Scripture Exodus 16:3-4 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you...
Quote – Psalm 119:27 Cause me to understand the way of your precepts,
that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds.
Reflection – When we hear the word 'Obedience' we may very well balk at the idea. The word seems to suggest a loss of agency, creativity and independence that we very much value. It is this misunderstanding of obedience as a part of our relationship to God that is addressed by today's story for contemplation. In today's story the Hebrews have to unlearn the fearful, desperate and selfish nature that slavery in Egypt has planted in them and relearn to trust in the graciousness of God to provide. This lesson is important if they are first to be a peaceful community and second if they are to be witnesses to the nations of God's justice. If they do not learn to trust, they will not learn to be generous and without both, they will not learn how to live for the common good, which is exactly what God intends for them to do. Striving for the common good is the public face of a healthy and obedient relationship with God.
The Hebrews desires are distorted at the beginning of our story. Their desire is actually to return to enslavement. Again, there is a truth deeper than the historic in this story. Humans are created good according to Genesis 1 and this true. But our desires are deformed as well. Pharaoh desired power and control, and his leadership formed a society built upon that same desire (perhaps nurtured by fear of loss?) which lead to the cruel and violent enslavement of an entire people. The example is extreme no doubt. But can we not look both to the not so distant history of WWII and even current events in which Muslims and immigrants are treated with disrespect and outright cruelty and white supremacists emboldened to march without hoods to see that humans are created good, but can all too easily, through fear, pain, and anger misshapen into hateful and violent actors? Disobedience is no small matter. It can have very serious consequences.
God demands obedience of the Hebrews in the desert, in the midst of their understandable fear, not to wrest from them their humanity, their will, their creativity, or their freedom, but instead to shape them so that they can become again the 'good' proclaimed at the dawn of creation. Obedience to God does not do us harm, it is good. It does not injure us but instead is a process of healing and making whole. And this story most importantly for us, shows us that obedience to God does not enslave us to the will of another, but rather frees us to realize the potential with which we are all born, to reflect the image of God that resides in us all.
Prayer – Send your Spirit, God of creation and resurrection, to energize us in our growing in your Image. Teach us not to fear challenge nor to resist change, but to trust that when we cooperate with your will, we will discover our truest and best selves and so be enabled to work with you in the renewing of the world and the creation of your kingdom.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.