Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Okay...I really thought I was done with Exodus. I was ready to leave the wilderness wandering behind. I was ready to leave the griping and grumbling. I was ready to move onto another way. But, there is one more truth from the ending of Exodus that is so central:
When you mess up...own up.
The people were dancing around a Golden Calf.
They were throwing a party that most of the time when God's frozen chosen sit glued to their pews don't seem to really understand.
I am sure local law enforcement had been asked to investigate.
And God is done. And Moses gets God to chance God's mind about this "stiff-necked people". That actually gives me lots of hope that maybe I can try to talk to God about my own stuff.
But in order to do this at the deepest sense, when you mess up...own up.
Now, we live in a world of the classic, "Non-apology apology." It goes like this: "Oh I am sorry if you were offended." Which is less about truly being sorry and more that you are sorry this other person is bothering you. Or, "I am sorry you see it that way." Again...more about being bothered that someone can't seem to be as brilliant as you. Or, "If I offended anyone..." which is totally code for, "You just don't understand."
When we mess up...own up. We need process our pain so we don't pass it along. We need to name and notice our grief, anger, frustration, and all those emotions that rage within us. If we don't own our stuff, no one else will.
When we worship a God who is less divine accountant, less about making sure the bottom line is balanced or tilted toward the positive, it means we worship God who is most concerned with us being honest and open. We don't need to hide or blame or bargain. We need to be heart-felt and lean into the truth that God knows us better than we know ourselves. We don't need to feel guilty about what stirs within us. We need to move through the chaos to find that creative, generative spirit of God still hanging and hovering in our lives today.
I believe that it is in owning our stuff that we find more than a trace of God's grace for our lives here and now...as well as then and there.
Sunday, October 23, 2016
Three more insights to prayerful ponder as we wrap up our journey through Exodus.
When the people cross over the Red Sea...when God makes a way where there was no way. Remember the people were looking down at the muck and mud of the Red Sea squishing between their toes. Moses said, "Look up! Look at the walls of liberation held back for your liberation." Is there some place you need to lift up and look up to see the walls of liberation still being held back as a pathway to liberation? That for me is one of those constant questions. I get stymied and stuck in seeing only the muck and mud...not the blessings. I get stuck thinking, "I am never gonna get this gunk off my feet"...rather than amazed at the way God is moving. Keeping our eyes and imaginations open to God is one way we might sense what God is up to here and now.
Second, because of the muck and mud in this world...there is grumbling and mumbling. There are moments I would rather get caught in a negative news cycle than try to step into the good news of God's promise and grace. We learned in Exodus that words create/craft/carve out worlds. Our words matter, have mass, and substance. Words like things do leave impressions. Words create worlds. When the people are grumbling and griping, they are creating and crafting a world...but is it God's world? That is where the next insight comes into play.
Relationships...relationships...relationships. We looked at the Ten Commandments...or better yet, the Ten Dabars/words/wisdom/sayings. These Ten Words do craft and create a world where it is all about relationships. Connections with God, with yourself, and with others. The first three are about God. The fourth is about you (take a Sabbath, be unnecessary, and breathe!), and the final six (over half) have to do with how you relate to the Holy Other found in those you encounter. For me, this is less rule book and more relationship wisdom. Less God as referee who is waiting to blow a whistle when I drool over a new iphone and more God saying, "There is another way that is true life." Relationships, relationships, relationships. Tend to the ties that teeter us to each other. Tend the ties that teeter us to the One who is at the center and core of all we need. Tend to the ties that teeter us to truly knowing ourselves. That kind of word creates a world where I can finally find true life.
May the traces of God's grace stir in you in these days.
Friday, October 21, 2016
Just one simple insight today. When Moses found himself on holy ground, his toes sinking into the warm sand, his face feeling the warmth of the burning bush, and his heart strangely warm, there was the sensation of being in the generative presence of our creative God. Moses was asked to go back to the place from which he fled. The place where the Pharaoh had put a price on his head. The place he was pretty sure he never wanted to see again. "Umm...you want me to go where God? Yeah. Here is the thing....I'd rather not!"
But God can be persistent and insistent. God continues to respond to Moses' objections. So, when Moses says, "Well, clearly the people are gonna want to know Your name God. What should I say?" Moses thought he had God in an Egypt...rock/hard place. Would God risk the vulnerability of revealing the divine name? Could any of us really ever truly know God so intimately as God knows us?
So God say, "Yah-weh". I am who I am. Or I will be who I will be. Or my first name is the same as my last name. Or my favorite translation is that since Yah-weh really isn't any kind of word, maybe it was the sound of God breathing. Breathing the divine breath on Moses. Just as God's generative, creative power surfed over the chaos in the beginning...so God stirred over the chaos swirling in Moses with a simple breath.
Moses surrounded by the swirling spirit of God.
Today...go outside. Close your eyes. Feel the breeze. Feel the breath of God baptize your skin.
And breathe in God.
And may the traces of God's grace stir in your life.
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Over the next few posts, I want to step back and offer a few lessons learned by traveling through the book of Exodus at this point in my life.
First insight is that Exodus echoes Genesis. So many of the themes encountered in Exodus can be found in Genesis. In the first book of the Bible, God fashion and forms all that seen and unseen. In the second book of the Bible, God brings forth and births a people. In the first book of the Bible, God's generative creativity hovers and hangs over the chaotic crashing waters. In second book of the Bible, God's generative creativity stirs and splits open the Red Sea making a way where there is no way. In the first book, God crafts and calls and cultivates relationships with individuals (Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, and others). In the second book, God calls and cultivates connection with a whole community. God speaks and sings, God listens and leans into those who struggle, and God is willing to be part of the messiness to bring forth something new. All those themes as well as many others are found in both first two books.
Second insight is that Egypt is more than a physical place, it also refers to spiritually being in a narrow, confined, rock/hard place kind of location. The people of God find themselves forced to make more and more bricks. Pharaoh has an insatiable appetite for stuffing his life with stuff. That still rings true for us today. We struggle with the question, "What is enough??" In times when we are physically, emotionally, and spiritually in an Egyptian state. We find ourselves stuck and struggling trying to find a wide open space where we can actually breathe!
Eventually, the people of God are liberated and leave Egypt, It is then, we encounter that truth that sometimes we leave a place, but it takes awhile for a place to leave us. The sand of Egypt left an impression on the soul of the people. They struggled trying to find liberation for all that confined and defined them. In Exodus, the people look back at the past through rose colored glasses. "Egypt was so great with the tiny morsels of bread and constant working." "Egypt was swell when we never got a day off but at least we got a little bit to eat." It is amazing what a difference distance can make in our lives. Suddenly that which we could not wait to leave, the place we left skid marks in the sand when we sped away, from a few miles away looks suddenly better. We look back and think, "Aw the warts and bad breath and brokenness I couldn't wait to leave...that wasn't that bad." Sometimes we leave a place and it takes time for the place to leave us.
I pray these three initial insights from Exodus stir and swirl and open you to more than a trace of God's grace.
Sunday, October 16, 2016
Words won't come...
And for a preacher that causes a bit of anxiety to creep in.
Words raise their hands asking to be excused...
Lest this holy moment;
Ineffable sacred, saturated, soaked moment try to be quantified or qualified or packaged for consumption.
So in the vastness of this moment I stand still.
I realize the truth of Job...that I was not there when the world was created.
Yet, I know I am tangled and twisted by the fingerprints of God.
So in the vastness of this moment I realize that I am un-necessary
But someone needs to notice this beauty.
Someone needs to name the truth that God is present here.
Someone needs to proclaim and praise from the top of my lungs...
Or my soul singing out so loud, but only I can hear.
Vastness adjusts my perspective.
Vastness helps me remember I don't rule the universe.
Vastness calls me to take my place and know that being God's beloved is more than enough.
May the traces of God's vast love surround you and God's grace sustain you now and this week.
Friday, October 14, 2016
Really...this topic again?
Un-necessary makes us uncomfortable.
Un-necessary for too long is unbearable.
In fact...maybe it is un-necessary to keep talking about this.
Barbara Brown Taylor defines that Sabbath as the day we are "good for nothing."
We stand still.
We allow God to catch up to our constant on-the-go ways.
For a people on the move to stand still once a week for the forty years of wandering in the wilderness might have seemed un-bearable.
Can't we get keep making progress, Moses?
What if we just walk for half the day...maybe we might get there a little quicker?
Just before God gives the people of God the life-giving invitation to stop at least once a week,
Moses' father-in-law offers the same wisdom.
Stop...Moses...just simply be.
You can't be all things to all people...even if you keep trying.
You can't make all the people happy all the time...because people will only be as happy as they make their minds up to be.
You can't be helpful to anyone if there are not moments when you focus on the truth that you are God's beloved.
We stop to remember God's grace is not a balance sheet.
Grace is not about right beliefs.
Grace is not about our volunteer hours.
Grace is the self-giving of God not because of what we do or accomplishments,
So may the grace of God who invites us to be un-necessary at least once a week, stir in your life with the trace of this deep truth.
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Un-necessary...the syllables sound hard to my ears.
Like nails on a chalkboard.
I'd rather be useful
The need to be needed that sits within us all.
Un-necessary like a pet rock
that gathered dust on the shelf.
Un-necessary like the time I carry the umbrella
but the rain clouds never yield a drop.
Un-necessary like the sign above.
Moses...wandering in the wilderness found himself
caught up in a blur of activity.
Tending to the People of God until he was weary,
Falling into bed at night.
Only to wake up in the morning already feeling behind.
But Moses' father-in-law would suggest
letting go of the clinging control that it is not done, "My way."
Which is to imply the "right way."
When we let go of the situation we hold so tight,
the blood flows to our once white knuckles.
When we let go of overseeing,
our eyes and souls are able to focus.
When we let go of the frenzied pace and the constantly on the go,
we find our breath.
While being un-necessary may not seem like a way to the sacred,
it might actually be a way to discover our wholeness found only in the sacred.
May the traces of God's grace surround and stir within you this whole week.