As I reflect on God’s call to Moses, I am drawn by the way in which God names God’s self – Yahwheh, often rendered “Lord” in all caps, a form of the Hebrew word “to be”. Literally God is called something along the lines of the One Who is or the One Who Lives. I am who I am. This isn’t fully explained, but elsewhere in the Bible who this God is gets fully fleshed out. In Psalm 103, the Psalmist identifies this God who is in the many ways God works or shows up in our world:
“1 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name.
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and do not forget all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the Pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good as long as you live[a]
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
6 The Lord works vindication
and justice for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
8 The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far he removes our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion for his children,
so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
14 For he knows how we were made;
he remembers that we are dust.
15 As for mortals, their days are like grass;
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
obedient to his spoken word.
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
his ministers that do his will.
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.”
I want to spend some time in future posts reflecting on the ways this Psalmist describes this God who Is, this Living One who spoke to Moses and works today, as working and acting. But I want to point out one way that, to my mind, what the Psalmist writes connects with the name Moses ig vien for God.
The name for God is essentially the One Who Is, the One Who Lives, the One of Life itself. And here we see God being praised for being the One whose presence brings life. When people are on the edge of destruction, where is God? God is present in all that brings them from the edge of destruction into new beginning, new life, and new creation. When people are wracked by disease, God is the One whose presence brings healing and life. When people face oppression and they find liberation and justice, it is the working of God in, with, under, and through them and all around them.
This suggests that if we want to find God, we should look for where life in all its fullness breaks out. If we want to know what path ahead of us is God’s path, we need to ask: what brings the most life, freedom, and full thriving to us and to others?
If we want to know how to do the work of God, we should ask how can we cultivate such fullness of life in others, in our community, in our relationships, in God’s good earth threatened by pollution, warfare, and disease.
We should ask what paths open us the most to life right here and now.
When I went through a series of recent losses – deaths of a few friends, sudden death of a wife of a dozen years, seeing as all of us did the political upset where voices of prejudice ruled out, among other ways – a question struck me: how do I find my way forward?
Particularly in the face of the losses, at times it felt like a darkness was falling over my life, with no clear way forward.
I always remembered a conversation my late wife had with me, in the height of her struggle with Arnold Chiari Malformation. She was in pain, wracked so much in pain one morning she could barely get up out of bed. We had planned to spend the day with my little nephew. I turned to her and said, “Listen. Everyone will understand if you can’t come. Let’s cancel…”
She turned to me and gave me one of those looks which, if you are in a relationship, you know means an argument just happened unbeknownst to you, and you have lost.
She says, “Listen, I am in horrible blinding pain every day. Every day is a struggle to get going. But I find my one thread of joy, cling onto it for all I have, and live that joy every day. The moment I can’t – the moment I can’t find life, can’t connect with those I love, do what gives me life, I pray the good Lord take me home”.
The day she passed was after a night where she did everything she loved, and went to sleep having posted on her facebook she had the best day ever.
Her approach buoyed me and gave me direction when I went through loss of her, of dear friends, and huge shifts this past year. When darkness hit, I asked “Where is life?” and went there, expecting the Living One who spoke to Moses and gave her life to her dying day to rise up and meet me. Each time, if only as a tiny thread of life, I found that One. And for me that thread of life kept me going.
For me, this idea that God is the One present and at work in the things of life and the one turning what is otherwise death-dealing to all of us into points of new life and new beginning, is so central to how I practice my spirituality.
It reminds me always of the word of Jurgen Moltmann, when he prays:
“When I love God I love the beauty of bodies, the rhythm of movements, the shining of eyes, the embraces, the feelings, the scents, the sounds of all this protean creation. When I love you, my God, I want to embrace it all, for I love you with all my senses in the creations of your love. In all the things that encounter me, you are waiting for me.
For a long time I looked for you within myself and crept into the shell of my soul, shielding myself with an armour of inapproachability. But you were outside – outside myself – and enticed me out of the narrowness of my heart into the broad place of love for life. So I came out of myself and found my soul in my senses, and my own self in others.”
― Jürgen Moltmann, The Source of Life: The Holy Spirit and the Theology of Life
May we find this life today and all our days.
Your progressive redneck preacher,