Blogging Towards Sunday, September 16th
“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.” – J. R. R. Tolkien
We’re starting a new series wrestling with the story of the Exodus. The underlying theme of the book is about freedom. That God frees us from slavery for covenant life together. As you read that sentence, and as we work through the text in the coming weeks our guiding interpretive question is what does that mean? Then? Now?
We also should ask ourselves How does this mean? “Unlike the recipes in a cookbook or the instructions in an elementary arithmetic book, there are meanings and truths that simply are not sayable in a series of simples sentences. Indeed the richer the meanings, and the more important the truths, the more difficult it is to say them simply in the spirit of one plus one equals two. Therefore, poets, and storytellers, too, resort to a variety of strategies for using words in ways that will catch and embody meanings and truths that we may all have felt and believed to be real or at least hoped against hop might be so, but find it difficult to express.” – J. Gerald Janzen in Exodus.
The beginning of today’s passage is concerned with the themes of children and land: themes that have to do with the fundamental human concern to find and remain where we can flourish and to extend ourselves in to the future. Throughout the passage there are multiple responses to change, ancestry, legacy, fear, ignorance, oppression, unexpected actions, trust in the context of relationships.
Who is actually wise in the text? Who is actually powerful? Who should be feared? Who is successful and who fails in accomplishing their goals? Why?
The text tells us both much about human nature and human society, as well as about the nature of God. The Exodus is the major story of the First Testament, the principal revelation of how God loves and how God wants us to live and how God moves in the world to bring freedom, covenant partnership and life-sustaining community. But God isn’t just acting in the big things – like the plagues and the parting of the Sea of Reeds. Where do you see God acting in the text today? Where do you see God possibly acting in our world, your life, and our church life in this season?
As we read through Exodus pay attention to the choice of just the right words in the texts: vocabulary, turnings of phrases, expressions. Like music, good storytelling, accumulates meanings and makes connections through repetition, echo and allusion. Repetition of words, phrases and whole scenes is an invitation for us to sit up straight and listen.
The story of the Exodus seems to be told twice in the text, for chapters 25-31 repeat chapters 35-40. The story wrestling with oppression, sin, redemption, covenant and planning a place to welcome God’s presence as well as preparing one. We’re not fleeing Egypt nor building a tabernacle, yet we do struggle to live faithful lives of faith in a culture based upon consumption, not covenant, and together as the church, which often times becomes focused upon institutional preservation over missional living.
Often the Bible is decried as a sexist, even misogynist text written in an ancient patriarchal culture. Curiously today’s text lifts up women as the ones through whom God acts and creates in the world. Does that surprise you? Why? Why not?
Questions for wondering and exploring:
1. Where do you find God in the worst of times?
2. Who are "small" people who do big things that transform situations?
3. How do you think God works in difficult situations?
4. How would you describe the role of water in this story, and in the life of faith?
5. How are we invited to be like Miriam and the Pharaoh's daughter today… in our 21st century life and in our life together as a community of faith in the East Bay?