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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Today’s Reading | Exodus 4:1–17

Then Moses answered, “But suppose they do not believe me or listen to me, but say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’” The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw the staff on the ground, and it became a snake; and Moses drew back from it. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Reach out your hand, and seize it by the tail”—so he reached out his hand and grasped it, and it became a staff in his hand—“so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” Again, the Lord said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” He put his hand into his cloak; and when he took it out, his hand was leprous, as white as snow. Then God said, “Put your hand back into your cloak”—so he put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored like the rest of his body—“If they will not believe you or heed the first sign, they may believe the second sign. If they will not believe even these two signs or heed you, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground; and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.”

But Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” Then the Lord said to him, “Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.” But he said, “O my Lord, please send someone else.” Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, “What of your brother Aaron, the Levite? I know that he can speak fluently; even now he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you his heart will be glad. You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and will teach you what you shall do. He indeed shall speak for you to the people; he shall serve as a mouth for you, and you shall serve as God for him. Take in your hand this staff, with which you shall perform the signs.” (NRSV)

Like the 70s TV show Mission Impossible, Moses is getting his “mission impossible” message from Jehovah, but he wants nothing to do with it. At first I found myself judgmental of Moses and his weak response when none other than God was saying, “I want you to do this. I’ll be with you every step along the way. I will equip you with all kinds of powers to help you be believed and to make this happen.” When I read beyond this chapter, though, it is clear that Pharaoh was a formidable opponent who ends up punishing the Israelites and brings the full disastrous impact of the plagues on his country. I began to understand Moses’ ambivalence and can identify with his impulse to respectfully ask God to send someone else.

As children of God and followers of Jesus, there are many values and principles to uphold that often seem impossible to work towards. For many of these “missions” we would rather someone else be sent, whether it be getting along with less so others can have the basics of what they need to live; showing respect to people with different viewpoints politically, socially, and religiously from our own; not holding onto racial, ethnic, religious, gender, or sexual orientation stereotypes; standing up for what’s right, just, ethical, moral, and kind. In every part of our lives and in all of our world God asks us to do great things to set ourselves and others free, to restore dignity, to promote justice, and to help those in need. This story is a testament that in spite of human resistance, ambivalence, and limitations, God will provide, persist, and problem solve with us as we seek to accomplish Gods mission for ourselves and this world.

Dear God, like Moses I often get stuck on my limitations, don’t feel up for the task, and wish you could just get someone else to accomplish the mission. Give me the courage to take on the difficult mission of spreading your love, justice, and freedom. Please give me a sense of your supporting presence along the way. Amen.

Written by Tom Schemper, Director, Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being

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