Moses

Hair of the Dog

Back before we had a treatment for rabies, you had to catch the dog that bit you and put a bit of its hair into a potion. The thinking was that having a little hair of what caused you pain could magically cure you, kind of like a day-after flu vaccine. Magical thinking prevails in the advice that a shot of alcohol in the morning will cure a hangover (Carrie Fisher’s alcohol soaked memoir is titled, “Magical Drinking”). Hence we say, “hair of the dog” when we repeat an action in miniature that got us in trouble the night before. In actuality a heavy drinker would be better off drinking water (they are usually dehydrated), and seeing a counselor (any hangover is a sign of a toxic relationship with booze), rather than taking something that delays their reentry to reality.

Moses might well have said, “hair of the dog,” or its yiddish equivalent, when the people of the Exodus were faced with snakes in the dessert. Moses had them cast a snake in bronze wrapped around a pole. People who were bit by poisonous snakes were told to look upon this snake, lifted up, and they would be cured (Numbers 21:4-9). In an unrelated bit of mythology, the Greek/Roman god of healing, Asclepius, had a pole with a snake around it, which today is the symbol for medicine. The truth behind the magical thinking is that the prayers of Moses brought forgiveness and healing to the people. In looking to the snake and pole, the people were meant to focus on their dependance upon God, and repent from the sins that had broken their faith.

Sunday, March 11, 2018
Lent 4

Ready to Hear?

Sometimes we are sent out into the wilderness to learn things. It wasn’t until the people under Moses in the Exodus reached the middle of the Sinai dessert that God taught them the ten commandments. Jesus went out into the wilderness to prepare for the active portion of his ministry. He also sought out mountain retreats and desolate spaces on a regular basis, so that he might be ready to learn, to pray, and to  renew his commitment to God’s will. The crowds that Jesus would teach, had to first go into the wilderness and there, be taught by John the Baptist. We, yes each of us, are sent out into the wilderness to learn things.

There’s a bit of new age (popular) philosophy that runs, “When the student is ready, the teacher will come.” The biblical version of this is, “When you get yourself to the wilderness and have nothing, then God will send someone to teach you.” Sometimes we are sent to the wilderness by trauma, loss, or grief. Sometimes we intentionally have to choose time away, just as Jesus often did. We are too busy to be taught. We don’t have time for spiritual things. When a disruption comes, an accident, an illness, a loss of the ability to go-go-go; then we stamp our feet and pray “Lord, get me out of this wilderness.” If God answers our prayer, it is our loss. We will never learn.

If you are in the wilderness, take hope. If you are in the busy place, be ready.

see also wilderness voice
 

Sunday, December 10, 2017
Advent 2

Moses and the Second Midlife

Have you ever noticed that Moses’ life was divided into equal thirds — each lasting 40 years. In the first third he was the adopted child of the Pharaoh, ruler of Egypt. We can imagine Moses growing up in the competitive world of the palace. If you asked him what he wanted, more than anything else, I bet Moses would say that he wished to be successful. Many young adults today are driven by the need to be successful. They want to succeed at work, marry the best spouse, and achieve great things before they are 40.

Moses turns 40. We don’t know if he feels like he has achieved his goal. But, one day he sees an Egyptian overseer beating a Hebrew slave. Moses goes ballistic and kills the Egyptian. Now he’s a fugitive. He goes out into the desert, marries a woman named Zippy, and learns to herd sheep. He herds sheep for the next 40 years. Now ask Moses during this time what he wants from life more than anything else, he’d say he wants security. Now let me ask you — you don’t have to raise your hand — how many of you have noticed that when you shifted from being a young adult to being a more mature adult, that you found yourself looking to play things safe? Wild life is out. Security is in.

Then one day Moses sees a burning bush. At the burning bush, God calls him to leave his security focused life aside. God puts Moses on a new path. The word that describes this new path is significance.

Sunday, September 3, 2017
Pentecost 17
Labor Day Weekend

From Mount Pisgah’s Lofty Height

The story of Moses and the great wilderness transition comes to an end on Mount Pisgah (Deuteronomy 34:1-12). Like all great stories, it is bitter-sweet. The future lays before Moses. He can look into the Promised Land, but not enter. His role has been to guide the people out of slavery and through a transitional period. I’ve always felt that those who look for some sin to be the cause of Moses not crossing the Jordan, miss the point. Most of the world’s greatest leaders were given boundaries. Winston Churchill led Britain through World War II, and then was promptly voted out of office. Alan Turing conceived the logic behind the modern computer, and then was discredited, ostracized, and driven to suicide, least he enter the digital age. An ungrateful military complex revoked Oppenheimer’s security clearance after he had midwifed us into the atomic age.

 

The most memorable example, however, is Dr. Martin Luther King. He referred to the end of Moses’ leadership on Mount Pisgah, when he said:

 

Sunday, October 26, 2014
Last Sunday in Pentecost

Authority?

I warned our dog, Bella, that she’d be in the blog this week. She didn’t care. She prefers to be stubborn. The current problem involves antibiotic pills that I am hiding in her doggie treats. I say, “Trust me.” She doesn’t. She eats the treat and spits out the pill. We argue. She growls, “Who made you an authority over me?” It’s the same place Moses was in as he led people across the wilderness. People were grumbling because Moses picked camping sites without regard to water.

 

 “We’re thirsty,” people said.   

 

“This is where God said we should camp,” Moses replied.

 

“Who made you boss?”

 

“God.”

 

Sunday, September 28, 2014
Pentecost 21

Transfiguration Sunday

I’m tired of Epiphany and looking forward to Lent beginning. This mid-winter season, takes us from the post-Christmas let down, you know, the Flight into Egypt and the Slaughter of the Innocents, to camping on the mountain with its weird epiphanies. I’m ready to be headed someplace real, like Jerusalem, the Cross, and an Easter Sunrise. It’s in Lent that we do religion. We tell people to fast and give things up. We schedule extra services and do Lenten studies. What Epiphany really lacks is controversy and some theological dogmas like incarnation and atonement. We want more words.

 

Then Moses brings the people to Mount Sinai and God appears. Jesus climbs a mountain with three of his disciples, and in the night, he is transformed. These Epiphanies are the final exams of a season when we haven’t been paying attention. So much of what is church is packed away after Christmas. People slack off their attendance and complain about the winter. Yet there is something empty and anti-church about these epiphanies. They take place on mountains far from any sacred buildings or large assemblies of people. Jesus doesn’t bring his Torah. The disciples can’t find a plug to charge their Kindle tablets. Into this emptiness, a mystery occurs which neither Moses, nor the disciples have words to talk about. God is other. Our experience of God is not just personal, it is ineffable.

 

Sunday, March 2, 2014
Epiphany 7
Transfiguration
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