Dear Christ Church Family,
Some passages of Scripture, especially some recorded encounters with God, can be difficult to understand; especially understand how they can make a difference in our own encounters with God, or understand how they can change our lives. One of those difficult passages is in our lesson from Exodus today. But take a look. It is telling us something amazing.
Wednesday, May 6, 2020 RCL Daily Office Readings, Year 2
Exodus 33: A progression in understanding. Last night, at the Young Adult Compline gathering, we were presented with this reading from the New Zealand Prayerbook. It comes from Jesus’ words in Luke known as The Sermon on the Plain, that mirror his words from the Sermon on the Mount that we are currently reading in Matthew.
“Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who abuse you. Do good and lend, expecting nothing in return; for God is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful as your Father is merciful. Judge not and you will not be judged. Condemn not and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:27-38)
In looking at Jesus’ relationship with God, a relationship of a loving parent with a beloved son, we can understandably ask how we got there from Moses’ relationship with God, a relationship with what looks like a vindictive, impatient Divinity, and a mostly obedient vassal.
The key to understanding this seeming conundrum is that word relationship. For Moses, indeed for all of Israel, understanding God has been a work in progress, a progression of understanding over more than a thousand years. That understanding changed over time as Moses, then other leaders, then Psalmists, and then Prophets, entered into relationship with God. One major dynamic in the Jewish relationship with God has grown out of this progression: the willingness, even swiftness, to negotiate with God.
Moses especially embodies this dynamic. He always comes at a difficult moment telling God that God’s “Final Word” on a subject just won’t do. And, amazingly, God agrees. What he learns (and subsequently Israel, and us), in these moments of give-and-take with God, is that God is not the vindictive Deity that he thought. God can not only be reasoned with; God actually welcomes Moses’ and his people’s input.
Yes, there can be terrible consequences in life for ignoring God, and especially for a life lived in opposition to God (though, as the Prophets will come to understand later, such consequences are more due to God letting us have our own way than God enforcing judgement), but paying attention to God for fear of reprisal isn’t how God wants us to live. Instead, there is the beginning of an understanding in these moments between Moses and God, that God wants his people to live in a mutual relationship of love that includes a strong element of partnership with God. In other words, God’s “Final word!” is often influenced, even adapted and shaped by, our conversations with God.
Do you want to help influence God’s actions in this world? Spend time in conversation with God, just talking about it and asking how you can help. And, spend some real time reading Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. “Dig into” those teachings, pondering them, and apply them to your life. The Sermon on the Mount is a primer, in part, for how we can become partners with God to change the World.