Archive for the ‘Burning Bush’ Tag

The Scandal of Grace V   1 comment

Above:   Jesus Healing an Infirm Woman on the Sabbath, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain


For the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970


Prepare our hearts, O Lord, to accept thy Word.

Silence us in any voice but thine own, that hearing, we may also obey thy will;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 121


Exodus 2:23-3:12

Romans 6:1-11

Luke 13:10-21


Sometimes God works in ways that surprise and perhaps scandalize us.  Consider three examples, O reader.

God called Moses, a murderer and a fugitive prince with a speech impediment, to return to Egypt, confront the Pharaoh, and lead the Hebrews out of slavery.  (No pressure!)  God spoke through a burning bush–sort of a burning bush; it did not burn.

Jesus healed on the sabbath more than once.  Healing on the sabbath was allegedly inappropriate.  Keeping the sabbath was one of the marks of a faithful Jew and of covenant community.  Did Jesus transgress one of the defining marks of his people?

The crucifixion of Jesus, in grand and terrible Foucaultian style, was as far as the Roman executioners were concerned, a way of shaming and exterminating him in public.  God had other plans, as the resurrection indicated.  The crucifixion was a great scandal into the time of the early church.  The author of the Gospel of John went so far as to make the scandalous claim that the crucifixion of Christ was the glorification of Jesus.

Today the Biblical stories and teachings lead us, as if we pay attention, to behave scandalously–by showing compassion to members of certain politically controversial populations, for example.  Grace impels us to take up our crosses, follow Jesus, and love–all the way into scandal, even.









Posted June 23, 2019 by neatnik2009 in Exodus 2, Exodus 3, Luke 13, Romans 6

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Psalms 50-52   1 comment




The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226


In Exodus 3, when God speaks to Moses via the Burning Bush, which the fire does not consume, Moses asks God for His name.  God provides a non-name–a description, really.  God says, in Hebrew,


which has more than one meaning.  The germane note in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) reads:

Meaning of Heb. uncertain; variously translated:  “I Am That I Am”; “I Am Who I Am”; “I Will Be What I Will Be”; etc.

In the culture of Moses the meaning was plain; since many people believed that to know someone’s name was to have power over him or her, not knowing God’s name told them that they had no power over God.

The theme of ultimate divine authority and power exists in Psalm 50:

Were I hungry, I would not tell you, mine being the world and all it holds.

–Verse 12, Mitchell J. Dahood translation

I, like so many Protestants, grew up learning false notions about Judaism in general and late Second Temple Judaism in particular.  I learned that Judaism was a legalistic religion, one concerned with rules, not grace.  This was an old stereotype, one which I have heard from adults in my Sunday School class recently.

Stereotypes are, by definition, overly broad and therefore inaccurate.  Yes, some expressions of Judaism are legalistic; so are certain strains of Christianity.  In Judaism, in its proper form, obedience to God is a faithful response to God.  This principle also exists in Christianity.  As Jesus says in John 14:15,

If you love me, keep my commandments….

The Revised English Bible (1989)

God is the strength of the righteous, who confess their sins and trust in divine mercy.  They also attempt to treat their fellow human beings respectfully, according to the background ethics of the Law of Moses.  Culturally specific examples of timeless principles come and go; principles remain.

Reading the Book of Psalms according to the 30-day, 60-segment plan in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) helps me to recognize certain similarities and differences in adjacent texts.  By reading Psalms 50 and 51 together, for example, I notice the similarity of the need for confession of sins and their repentance–literally, turning around.   The difference is the emphasis in each text.  In Psalm 50 the call from God is for collective confession and repentance, but the confession of sin in Psalm 51 is individual.

May we who seek to follow God remember that sin, punishment, confession, and repentance come in two varieties:  collective and individual.  If we must overcome any cultural barriers to this understanding, may we do so, by grace, the only way we can succeed in that purpose.  Too often we (especially those with a Protestant upbringing) focus on individual sins to the minimization or exclusion of collective responsibility before God.  That imbalance is itself sinful.  It is also more difficult to recognize, confront, and correct.  That reality does not let us off the hook, however.







Human Traditions and Divine Authority   1 comment

Moses and the Burning Bush

Above:   Moses and the Burning Bush

Image in the Public Domain


The Collect:

O God, our eternal redeemer, by the presence of your Spirit you renew and direct our hearts.

Keep always in our mind the end of all things and the day of judgment.

Inspire us for a holy life here, and bring us to the joy of the resurrection,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 3:13-20

Psalm 17:1-9

Luke 20:1-8


Weigh my heart, summon me by night,

melt me down, you will find no impurity in me.

–Psalm 17:3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


Moses had been a fugitive from Egyptian justice from Exodus 2.  Egyptian juris prudence frowned upon killing taskmasters in charge of slaves (2:11-15).  Moses was safely distant from Egypt and hopefully happily married when God called him to return to Egypt, to participate in the liberation of the Hebrews.  In reply to the request for a name, God provided a non-name, indicating the absence of human control over the divine.

Throughout the long narrative of the Bible prophets were frequently inconvenient to people in authority.  There were false prophets who agreed with the monarchs who favored them, but prophets of God were often in the faces of kings.  St. John the Baptist, standing in this tradition, ran afoul of religious authorities and Herod Antipas.  Jesus, greater than the prophets, had many confrontations with religious authorities and proved to be a better debater than any of them.  God was doing a new thing via Jesus, and religious authorities, wedded to their traditions and collaborating with the Roman Empire, found it threatening.

Tradition itself is not bad; neither is it inherently good.  Tradition is simply that which one generation passes down to another.  The best question to ask in this context is the one which evaluates any given tradition on its merits.  May we avoid becoming so attached to our traditions that we oppose the work of God, who is beyond our control.








Adapted from this post:


Epiphanies of God   1 comment

Moses on Mount Sinai

Above:  Moses on Mount Sinai, by Jean-Leon Gerome

Image in the Public Domain


The Collect:

Holy God, through your Son you have called us to live faithfully and act courageously.

Keep us steadfast in your covenant of grace,

and teach us the wisdom that comes only through Jesus Christ,

our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 19:1-9a (Thursday)

Exodus 19:9b-15 (Friday)

Exodus 19:16-25 (Saturday)

Psalm 19 (All Days)

1 Peter 2:4-10 (Thursday)

Acts 7:30-40 (Friday)

Mark 9:2-8 (Saturday)


The law of the LORD inspires reverence and is pure;

it stands firm for ever,

the judgements of the LORD are true;

they form a good code of justice.

–Psalm 19:10, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers, Harry Mowvley (1989)


We are always in the presence of God.

Where can I go from your spirit?

Or where can I flee from your presence?

If I climb up to heaven, you are there;

if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

Even there your hand shall lead me,

your right hand hold me fast.

–Psalm 139:6-9, Common Worship:  Daily Prayer (2005)

Nevertheless, sometimes the presence of God becomes evident in an unusually spectacular way.  How one ought to respond to those occasions is one topic in the assigned readings for these three days.

1 Peter 2 and Exodus 19 bring up the point of the faithful people of God having the responsibility to be a light to the nations.  First, however, the faithful people must become that light.  This was originally the call of the Jews, who retain that call as well as their status as the Chosen People.  Far be it from me to give short shrift to the Jews, my elder siblings in faith!  I, a Gentile, belong to the branch which God grafted onto their tree.

But how should one respond to a spectacular manifestation of the presence of God?  Those details, I suppose, are culturally specific, as is much of the Law of Moses.  Moses removed his sandals in the presence of the burning bush.  At Mt. Sinai the people were to wash their clothing, abstain from sexual relations for three days, and avoid touching the mountain.  There was a case of fatal holiness, a repeated motif in the Hebrew Scriptures.  People were supposed to maintain a safe distance from God.  As for sexual activity, it would cause ritual impurity (see Leviticus 15:18) in the Law of Moses, which they were about to receive.  And, in the words of scholar Brevard S. Childs:

The holy God of the covenant demands as preparation a separation from those things which are normally permitted and good in themselves.  The giving of the covenant is different from an ordinary event of everyday life.  Israel is, therefore, to be prepared by a special act of preparation.

The Book of Exodus:  A Critical Theological Commentary (Philadelphia, PA:  Westminster Press, 1974), page 369

As for women and the Law of Moses, I cannot help but notice that the code reflects a negative view of gynaecology.  May such sexism become increasingly rare in today’s world.

One pious yet misguided response to a spectacular manifestation of the presence of God is to seek to institutionalize it.  That was just one error St. Simon Peter committed at the Transfiguration, the description of which I understand as being more poetic than literally accurate.  (Could any description do the event justice?)  Another error was that the three proposed booths would be the same size; one should have been larger than the others.

Although we dwell in the presence of God and might even be aware of that reality most of the time, we still need moments when we experience it in unusual and spectacular ways.  Mundane blessings are wonderful and numerous, but sometimes we need another variety of blessing and a reminder of the presence of God.  I have had some of them, although they were substantially toned down compared to the Transfiguration, the burning bush, and the giving of the Law of Moses.  They were, however, out of the ordinary for me.  Thus I remember them more vividly than I do the myriads of mundane blessings and encounters with God.  These unusual epiphanies have edified me spiritually at the right times.  They have also called me to continue on my spiritual walk with God through easy and difficult times.  That journey is one for the glory of God and the benefit of others–perhaps including you, O reader.








Adapted from this post:


Liberating Grace   5 comments


Above:  A Germane Source Card from My Collection of Research Note Cards

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor


The Collect:

O God our shepherd, you know your sheep by name

and lead us to safety through the valleys of death.

Guide us by your voice, that we may walk in certainty and security

to the joyous feast prepared in your house,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 2:15b-25 (19th Day)

Exodus 3:16-22; 4:18-20 (20th Day)

Psalm 23 (Both Days)

1 Peter 2:9-12 (19th Day)

1 Peter 2:13-17 (20th Day)


Some Related Posts:

Exodus 2:

Exodus 3:

Exodus 4:

1 Peter 2:


You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me;

you have anointed my head with oil,

and my cup is running over.

–Psalm 23:5, Book of Common Worship (1993)


Names have power, or so many people believed in the time of Moses.  To know someone’s name was usually to have some power over that person, hence God provides more of a description than a name–and a vague one at that–in response to the query of Moses.  The transliterated Hebrew text reads:


which is how TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) renders it.  The germane footnote in the that translation says:

Meaning of Heb. uncertain; variously translated:  ”I Am That I Am”; “I Am Who I Am”; “I Will Be What I Will Be”; etc.

The relevant note in The Jewish Study Bible (2004) begins:

God’s proper name, disclosed in the next verse, is YHVH (spelled “yod-heh-vav-heh” in Heb.; in ancient times the “vav” was pronounced “w”).  But here God first tells Moses its meaning:  Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh, probably best translated as “I Will Be What I Will Be,” meaning “My nature will become evident from My actions.”

–page 111

“Ehyeh,” or “I Will Be,” is not a name that says much.  It denies opportunities to attempt to have power over God and preserves mystery while indicating how to learn about God.

Volume I (1994) of The New Interpreter’s Bible informs me that the name YHVH/YHWH derives from the Hebrew verb meaning “to be,” so:

This God is named as the power to create, the one who causes to be.  This God is the one who will be present in faithful ways to make possible what is not otherwise possible.  This God is the very power of newness that will make available new life for Israel outside the deathliness of Egypt.

–page 714

The politics of Exodus 2 and 3 is that of liberation of the oppressed from their oppressors.  God, these texts tell us, will free the Hebrews from the tyranny of the Pharaoh.  Yet I read difficult politics–that of submission to authority, regardless of its moral nature–in 1 Peter 2:13-17.  The next pericope is more chilling, for it tells slaves to obey their masters.  There have been different forms of slavery over the course of time, of course, but I propose that this, for the point I am making today, is a distinction without a difference; no form of human slavery is morally acceptable.  1 Peter comes from a time when many Christians were attempting to prove that they did not constitute a threat to the Roman Empire, which had executed the founder of their religion via crucifixion.  And many Christians thought that Jesus might return soon, so social reform or revolution was not a priority for some.

The relationship of Christians to civil authority has long been a challenging one, especially in Lutheran theology.  And the arch-conservative (racist and reactionary, really) Presbyterian Journal, which helped to give birth to the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) denomination in December 1973, spent much of the 1940s through the 1960s lambasting civil rights efforts and activists and quoting the Bible to justify Jim Crow laws.  (I have examined original copies of the publication and possess the notes to prove the statement I just made.)  The Journal writers, who called Martin Luther King, Jr., a Communist even after he had died, did not approve of his opposition to the Vietnam War either.  They, in fact, criticized in very strong terms even conscientious objectors and all forms of civil disobedience, claiming them to be contrary to Christianity.  The beating of this drum continued into the 1970s.  In the 30 October 1974 issue, on pages 11 and 16, Editor G. Aiken Taylor commended and reprinted words by one Joan B. Finneran, whom he called

an elect lady of Simpsonville, MD.

Finneran wrote that the Bible commands us to obey earthly authority, for God establishes governments.  Therefore:

When a Herod or a Hitler comes into power, we must thereby assume this is the Lord’s plan; He will use even such as these to put His total plan into effect for the good of His people here on earth.

God is in control, Finneran wrote, even if we, in our ignorance, do not understand divine plans.  And we Americans ought to vote carefully and to pray for our elected officials–and obey them, of course.  Finneran’s message, cloaked in details of Reformed theology,was one of submission to authority–even genocidal tyrants.  That fact overrides any technically correct parts of her case in my mind.

I reject Finneran’s message, for, if one cannot disobey the Third Reich righteously, which regime can one oppose properly?  Even the very conservative Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America understood the limits of obedience to human authority well in 1896, when the Synod passed a resolution condemning the Ottoman Empire for its massacres of Armenians and declaring that the Sultan’s regime had lost its moral right to govern.

I must, in all fairness and accuracy, point out that the Presbyterian Church in America has (subsequent to 1974) approved of civil disobedience in some cases and (in 2004) approved a pastoral letter condemning racism.

The Old Testament reveals the character of God mostly by recounting what God has done.  God has, among other things, freed people.  The central theme of the Bible is liberation to follow God.  Our patterns of behavior reveal our character.  Do we even try to follow God?  Do we even attempt to aid those who suffer?  Do we even care about the oppressed?  Good intentions are positive, of course; they are preferable to bad ones.  Yet we need grace to succeed.  That, fortunately, is plentiful from God, who makes life itself and new life free from tyranny possible.








Adapted from this post:


Human Agents of God, Part I   1 comment


Above:  Logo of the Church of Scotland


Exodus 3:1-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said,

I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.

When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush,

Moses, Moses!

And he said,

Here I am.

Then he said,

Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.

He said further,

I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.

And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the LORD said,

I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.

But Moses said to God,

Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?

He said,

I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.

But Moses said to God,

If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?

God said to Moses,

I AM Who I AM.

He said further,

Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’

God also said to Moses,

Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:

This is my name forever,

and this is my title for all generations.

Psalm 63:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you;

my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you,

as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.

2  Therefore I have gazed upon you in your holy place,

that I might behold your power and your glory.

3  For your loving-kindness is better than life itself;

my lips shall give you praise.

4  So will I bless you as long as I live

and lift up my hands in your Name.

5  My soul is content, as with marrow and fatness,

and my mouth praises you with joyful lips.

6  When I remember you upon my bed,

and meditate on you in the night watches.

7  For you have been my helper,

and under the shadow of your wings I will rejoice.

8  My soul clings to you;

your right hand holds me fast.

1 Corinthians 10:1-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.

Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not become idolaters as some of them did; as it is written,

The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.

“We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents. And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

Luke 13:1-9 (Revised English Bible):

At that time some people came and told him [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.  He answered them:

Do you suppose that, because these Galileans suffered this fate, they must have been greater sinners than anyone else in Galilee?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all of you come to the same end.  Of the eighteen people who were killed when the tower fell on them at Siloam–do you imagine they must have been more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all come to an end like theirs.

He told them this parable:

A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it, but found none.  So he said to the vine-dresser, “For the last three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any.  Cut it down.  Why should it go on taking goodness from the soil?”  But he replied, “Leave it, sir, for this one year, while I did round it and manure it.  And it it bears next season, well and good; if not, you shall have it down.”

The Collect:

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 


Some Related Posts:

Third Sunday in Lent, Year A:

Third Sunday in Lent, Year B:

Exodus 3:

Luke 13:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Confession:

Prayer of Dedication:


The Ocean Hath No Danger:

I Do Not Ask, O Lord:

Litany from a Novena to St. Jude the Apostle:

A Prayer for Those Who Inflict Torture:

A Prayer for Those Who Are Tortured:

Prayers for Those Who Suffer:

A Prayer for Those Who Are Desperate:

A Franciscan Blessing:


Suffering is a great theological problem.  Consider the following passages and thoughts with me, O reader:

Exodus 3:7-10 states that God cared about the suffering of the Hebrews in Egypt and had a plan to end it.

Yet God, in Job (read especially Chapters 1, 2 and 38-41) seemed not to have cared about Job’s suffering.

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 10:13, wrote that God does not test anyone beyond human capacity to withstand it, by grace.  But what about Job?

Jesus, in Luke 13:1-5, rejected the suggestion that suffering necessarily flowed from sin.  Thus he confirmed a major tenet from the Book of Job.

The Bible is an anthology containing contradictory points of view on various questions, such as suffering.  Great theologians and lesser minds have struggled with it.  The struggle continues.  One example of a method of attempting to come grips with the problem of suffering is to write graphic hagiographies of martyrs.  Consider 4 Maccabees, O reader.  I refer to several chapters, such as the sixth one.  Yet one not need reach back to first century CE texts; one can read more recent examples on websites devoted to saints.

I cannot resolve the problem of suffering here and now.  Yet I can–and do–offer a concrete suggestion related to suffering.

Come, therefore, I will send you to Pharaoh, and you shall free My people, the Israelites, from Egypt.

–Exodus 3:10, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Are you, O reader, called currently to end or ease some suffering of others?  Am I?  There is a time to wait for God and there is a time to act so that God can work through us.  We might feel unqualified.  We are unqualified.  Yet none of that constitutes an obstacle for God.  As an old statement tells us, God does not call the qualified; God qualifies the called.  Regardless of how much we know or how capable we are, we need God’s help to round out our qualifications.  May we remember that and approach God with all due humility and our sacred tasks with all due confidence.








Adapted from this post:


Divine Power Revealed in Caring   1 comment

Above:  Moses and the Burning Bush, from St. Isaac’s Cathedral, St. Petersburg, Russia

Divine Power Revealed in Caring

JULY 14, 2011


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Exodus 3:13-20 (An American Translation):


said Moses to God,

in case I go the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they say, “What is his name?” what am I to say to them?

God said to Moses,

I am who I am.

Then he said,

Thus you shall say to the Israelites:  ‘”I am” has sent me to you.’

God said further to Moses,

Thus you shall say to the Israelites:

“Yahweh [the LORD], the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, has sent me to you.” This has always been my name, and this shall remain my name throughout all the ages.  Go and assemble the elders of Israel, and say to them, “The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have given careful heed to you and your treatment in Egypt, and I have resolved to bring you up out of your tribulation in Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivvites, and Jebusites, to a land flowing with milk and honey.”‘  They will heed your appeal, and then you and the elders of Israel shall come to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has paid us a visit; so now, let us make three days’ journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God.’  I know, however, that the king of Egypt will not let you go without the use of force; so I will stretch out my hand and smite Egypt with all the marvels that I shall perform in it; after that he will let you go.”

Psalm 105:1-15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of all his marvelous works.

Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob his chosen.

He is the LORD our God;

his judgments prevail in all the world.

He has always been mindful of his covenant,

the promise he made for a thousand generations:

9 The covenant he made with Abraham,

the oath that he swore to Isaac,

10 Which he established as a statute for Jacob,

an everlasting covenant for Israel,

11 Saying, “To you will I give the land of Canaan

to be your allotted inheritance.”

12 When they were few in number,

of little account, and sojourners in the land,

13 Wandering from nation to nation

and from one kingdom to another,

14 He let no one oppress them

and rebuked kings for their sake,

15 Saying, “Do not touch my anointed

and do my prophets no harm.”

Matthew 11:28-30 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

Come to me, all of you toil and learn from me, and I will let you rest.  Let my yoke be put upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble-minded, and your hearts can find rest, for the yoke I offer you is a kindly one, and the load I ask you to bear is light.


The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


This Gospel reading occurs also for the Eleventh Day of Advent on the Episcopal Church lectionary.  Here is a link to that post:  I offer this for the sake of conciseness as I follow another thread.


Moses said to God, “When I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?”  And God said to Moses, “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh.”  He continued, “Thus shall you say to the Israelites, “Ehyeh sent me to you.’”

–Exodus 3:13-14, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

The account of what happened when Moses saw the burning bush at Midian continues in Exodus 3:13-20.  Moses asks an understandable and predictable question:  What is your name?  God answers “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh” in Hebrew.  This is a fascinating reply that TANAKH:  The Holy Scripturestransliterates.  A note from The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford University Press, 2004, page 111 explains:

Meaning of Heb. uncertain; variously translated: “I Am That I Am’; “I Am Who I Am”; “I Will Be What I Will Be”; etc.

In verse 15 God uses the name “YHWH,” or “Yahweh.”  Professor Richard Elliott Friedman writes in his Commentary on the Torah that this name is a verb whose imperfect tense is not limited to “a past, present, or future time.”  The closest translation, Friedman writes, is “He Causes To Be.”

There is a great mystery about all this, and that is as matters should be.  God refuses to fit into human categories, even temporal ones.  Translation:  God exists beyond human control and understanding.  May we stand in awe of the mysterious grandeur of God.

This God, self-identified as YHWH and Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh manifests concern for the oppressed Hebrews of Egypt and commands Moses to lead them out of slavery.  God will liberate the Hebrews, but there must be a human leader of the Exodus.  Most importantly, though, God cares and acts mightily in accordance with this attitude.

The benighted man thinks,

“God does not care.”

–Psalm 14:1 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

The standard English translation of Psalm 14:1 is that a foolish person thinks, “There is no God.”  (A nearly identical verse occurs in Psalm 10:4.)  But, as The Jewish Study Bible notes point out, some form of theism was a universal assumption at the time of the writing the psalms.  As I have written elsewhere, for God to exist is for God to care.  That is a God whose face and strength I can seek without reservation.

Jesus, in Matthew 11, summons people to come to him and take on a spiritual discipline.  We need rules to establish order and direct our energies.  We ought also to choose only the proper rules, of course.  There are negative rules, those which exclude people inappropriately while stroking the egos of insiders.  The best disciplines, however, are those which transform us into what we ought to be and are based on love–of God, others, and ourselves.

The existence of Jesus is itself an indicator of God’s care for people.  So why not take up Jesus on his invitation?  He has the bona fides.





Adapted from this post:


Posted April 18, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Exodus 3, Psalm 105

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God Works and Speaks in Mysterious Ways; Do We Perceive and Accept Them?   1 comment

Above:  The Burning Bush on the Seal of the Church of Scotland


Exodus 3:1-12 (An American Translation):

While Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, he led the flock to the western side of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, Horeb.  Then the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire, rising out of a bush.  He looked, and there was the bush burning with fire without being consumed!  So Moses said,

I will turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burned up.

When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to look at it, God called to him out of the bush.

Moses, Moses!

he said.

Here I am!

said he.

Do not come near here,

he said,

take your sandals off your feet; for the place on which yo are standing is holy ground. I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Then Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look at God.

I have indeed seen the plight of my people who are in Egypt,

the LORD said,

and I have heard their cry under their oppressors; for I know their sorrows, and I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians and bring them up out of that land to a land, fine and large, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivvites, and Jebusites.  Now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have also seen how the Egyptians are oppressing them; so come now, let me send you to Pharaoh, that you may bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.

But Moses said to God,

Who am I, to go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?

He said,

I will be with you and this shall be the sign for you that I have sent you.  When you bring the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God at this mountain.

Psalm 103:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Bless the LORD, O my soul,

all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits.

3 He forgives all your sins

and heals all your infirmities;

He redeems your life from the grave

and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness;

He satisfies you with good things,

and your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.

The LORD executes righteousness

and judgment for all who are oppressed.

7 He made his ways known to Moses

and his works to the children of Israel.

Matthew 11:25-27 (An American Translation):

At that time Jesus said,

I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding all this from the learned and the intelligent and revealing it to children.  Yes, I thank you, Father, for choosing to have it so.  Everything has been handed over to me by my Father, and no one understands the Son but the Father, nor does anyone understand the Father but the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.


The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


There are many proposed explanations of the burning bush.  It is, I grant, an interesting academic question, but that is beside my purpose here.  No, I care more about formation than information.  Whatever Moses saw and heard, and however he saw and heard it, it led him to leave his exile as a shepherd in Midian and to return to Egypt, where he was wanted on a murder charge, to confront the Pharaoh and lead the Hebrews out of that empire.  Moses had a speech impediment, about which he was self-conscious.  So his question about whether he was the appropriate choice for this assignment was natural.  But God was with him.

(The rest of this story will follow in the next installment in this series of devotions, according to the Canadian Anglican lectionary. )

Now I switch channels to the Gospel of Matthew.  This prayer of Jesus occurs in the context of our Lord and Savior facing rejection.  The religious establishment has rejected him, but many of the common people, almost all of whom were poor, accepted him.  Consider these facts when reading those three verses.  Be sure to avoid an anti-intellectual interpretation, for the human brain, with its great potential, is a gift of God.  As an Episcopalian, I employ scripture, tradition, and reason in my faith life.  And as an intellectual, I relish the life of the mind.

God works and speaks in mysterious ways.  Do we recognize them?  And if we do, do we embrace them?  Be honest; how would you respond to a burning bush?  Or, if not for religious tradition over nearly 2000 years, would you accept Jesus?  When you read–really read–the words of the canonical Gospels, do you recoil at the moral teachings?

I leave these questions with you, O reader, to consider prayerfully.





Adapted from this post:


Posted April 18, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Exodus 3, Matthew 11, Psalm 103

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