Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Thought for Thursday 15 January 2015: "The Narrative"

“The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils were on the magicians and on all the Egyptians.  But The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh; and he did not heed them, just as The Lord had spoken to Moses.”  Exodus 9:11-12 NKJV

The question which is problematic for Christians and Jews alike is the same: Why did The Lord harden Pharaoh’s heart?  To suggest the standard answer many of us have settled on - so The Lord could really prove Himself to Pharaoh and the Israelites - may be close to the truth; but it does not help to explain why so many innocents would be forced to suffer because of the stubbornness of one man.

There are also questions as to whether The Lord intentionally hardened Pharaoh’s heart – or – if the Pharaoh was so removed from the real world because of the world he had created for himself.  This perspective is disturbing to me personally, as it should be for many others with any sense of conscience, because it is not only Pharaoh who is stuck in this particular state of mind and being.  This perspective reaches across many spectrums and touches many of us because each of us has created for ourselves a little world in which we are safe – or so we think.

We are taught by the Scriptures not only to “share one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2) but also to “love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).  In other words, the Word of The Lord does not allow us to create our own personal little worlds to the exclusion of those who need our help.  Yet we are overwhelmed with such great need at home and abroad and are left wondering whether whatever piddly thing we might do could possibly make a difference.  Often we justify our refusal to reach out in meaningful and life-changing ways by suggesting we are only “enabling” laziness.

Maybe so, but there is something much deeper we overlook in such a narrow vision.  To remove ourselves from the lives of those around us “enables” us to remain as “hardened” as Pharaoh was.  Let’s face it; if our own little world we’ve satisfactorily created for ourselves is threatened in any way, we can be as stubborn as any other! 

Rather than to be sideline spectators in the events unfolding in the Exodus narrative, then, let us be honest with ourselves and admit we are actually players in the same story unfolding even today when we settle into our own worlds while the greater world around us continues to deteriorate – especially for those who cannot do or speak for themselves.  In matters of justice and mercy, we became players when we were baptized into the Covenant.  It is a choice we made then; not an option we can exercise later!  It just may be, however, that we have found it much more comfortable and less dangerous on the sidelines.  It is much safer, of course, but this is not who the people of The Covenant, the people of The Church are.

Let us not forget that just as the narrative was written so long ago for our well-being and our learning, the narrative continues to be written today for future generations.  We have to decide where we fit into the narrative which continues to unfold, and what we want future generations to know about our God.

Come, Holy Spirit, come!


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