- Genesis 3: 1-15
Moses was tending the flocks of his father-in-law, Jethro, near Mt. Horeb when a messenger/angel of the Lord “appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of the bush,” which burned, but was not “consumed.” Moses “turned aside” to look at this stunning sight more closely when “God called to him from the midst of the bush,” telling him: “Here I am.” God instructed Moses to come no closer and to remove his sandals, “for the place you are standing on is holy ground.” God identifies God’s-Self as the same God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Moses hid his face in fear as the Lord continued, “I indeed have seen the abuse of my people” under their Egyptian “taskmasters” and “know its pain.” Moved by their plight, the Lord announced: “I have come down to rescue it from the land of Egypt and to bring it to a goodly and spacious land” that flourishes with abundance of every kind, although it is already occupied by other peoples. The Lord repeated awareness of their plight and told Moses that he will be the one sent to Pharaoh. Moses was incredulous! The “sign” that all this was the Lord’s doing will be fulfilled “when you bring the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.” Moses presses for more explicit identity of the Lord than “the God of our Fathers” God announces to Moses: “I-am-who-I-am.” That is the name you should tell the people, adding that this is the same name as “the Lord of your Fathers” — [and mothers]; “that is my name forever, and this my title for generations.”
- Psalm 105: 1-6, 23-26, 45c
Revel in that “holy Name,” the psalmist invites and then “recall the wonders God did.” Rehearse the stories of Jacob and Moses. Sing! Hymn!
- Jeremiah 15: 15-21
Jeremiah begs the lord, “remember me and visit me.” He “ate” the “words” of the Lord, in which he “delighted,” but for which he endured “insult.” The prophet says the Lord is like a “deceitful” stream that promises water but drys up. The Lord speaks: “If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall serve as my mouth.” The people will fight you, “but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you to save you and deliver you….”
- Psalm 26: 1-8
The psalmist professes his innocence before he washes his hands in preparation for praise.
- Romans 12: 9-21
Paul combines tactical advice for living in a world that is suspicious of these new followers of this Jesus. Care for members of the community of believers, he writes. He also advises them to care for your enemies for a canny reason; “for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” In summary, Paul advises, “overcome evil with good.”
- Matthew 16: 21-28
In Matthew’s narrative, Jesus has identified Peter’s confession of faith as a “rock” upon which the church will be built and then explicitly tells his disciples for the first time that “he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering… and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Peter chastises Jesus, “this must never happen to you.” Jesus shuts Peter down bluntly, “get behind me Satan!” Your priorities are a “stumbling block to me,” because you are focused not on “divine things but on human things.” Jesus makes it clear to any would-be followers, “take up your cross and follow me….” The stakes are high, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” And then in an atmosphere of impending apocalypse, Jesus declares that “the Son of Man is to come… in the glory of the Father” and bring judgment with him. When? “…[S]ome standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
In biblical narratives, encountering God is befuddling, frightening and irresistible! Each encounter leaves the targeted individual with some impossible task that is scary, and, at the same time, full of promise. It is always conveyed in an imperative. The only possible response is to accept or decline the demand. Accepting has its pitfalls; declining entails the possibility of missing out on living an enlarged life with more powerful purpose; to only see “human things” and miss “divine things.”
The recent work of Jean-Luc Marion is generating interest among theologians. In a worthy collection of essays edited by Kevin Hart in response to Marion, Emmanuel Falque cites Marion’s definition of “saturated phenomenon” as: “where the manifest given goes beyond not only what a human look can bear without being blinded or dying but what the world in its essential finitiude can receive and contain.” And what is the consequence of this overwhelming experience? “…[T]he miracle will no longer bear on a physical event, but on my conscious self.” And then Falque observes: “the true miracle, according to Marion, is in this way, a miracle in my consciousness, a lived experience in the conversion of my way of looking at things, rather that in the things themselves.” (Counter-Experiences: Reading Jean-Luc Marion, p. 192)
Moses is dazzled and confused by his experience of God, but will acquiesce and play a pivotal role in God’s next act of salvation. Jeremiah “ate God’s words” and personally suffered, but is told by God that he will have the extraordinary human privilege of being God’s mouthpiece. Jesus describes a humbling and dangerous passage for him and those who choose to follow him that is the only way that leads to some form of genuine redemption. Peter does not grasp what Jesus is saying at all at first, but eventually zigs-and-zags his way to a leading role among the followers of Jesus.
God reveals. God demands. We are stunned and confused. However, the “miracle” of the encounter is not in any physical manifestation that initiates the encounter, but it is in “the conversion of my way of looking at things….” We are changed and see possibilities for ourselves and others that we could not have even guessed at before. We are exposed to “the possibility of the impossible,” in the phrase Marion uses over and over, and a whole new adventure is launched.