Day #12: Improvisation

During their journey, as they camped overnight, the LORD met Moses and tried to kill him. 25 But Zipporah took a sharp-edged flint stone and cut off her son’s foreskin. Then she touched Moses’ genitals with it, and she said, “You are my bridgegroom because of bloodshed.” 26 So the LORD let him alone.
-Exodus 4:24-26

So, uh, Trigger Warning: this reflection contains references to circumcision and murderous God. Exodus 4 is a strange story any way you cut it (no pun… never mind). Before we get into details, it’s worth noting that in the U.S.  roughly ¾ of infant boys are circumcised. The Centers for Disease Control actually recommends male circumcision for public health reasons. This story is early in exodus, after the Awe of the burning bush but way, way before Moses’ Boundary Setting (this is either referred to as the A.A. or the B. B. S. part of Moses’ life).  It’s strange, in part, because God was the one who sent Moses on this journey back to Egypt. Now God goes on a murderous rampage? We cannot overstate the weirdness of this story. But we can relate to the ways faith often requires improvisation, and Zipporah improvises before God. In circumcising her son, she ensures Moses will have maximum credibility with the Hebrew people he’s been sent to lead out of Egypt. It also sets the stage for Moses’ lifetime of improvisation, building a radically counter-Egypt culture in the middle of the desert with a group of nomadic escaped slaves. Moses’ whole life is like a massive improv show with God throwing the scene prompts. Resilience comes in the willingness to improvise when threatened.

Takeaway: The number one rule of is improv theater is to say “Yes, and…” Take what’s given to you and instead of denying or resisting it, add to it and turn the narrative a different direction. When you find yourself in a sticky situation today, say, “Yes, and…” Is there a way in which Zipporah—in this scene, in marrying a bicultural Hebrew man, in joining her husband’s social justice project, in returning to visit her father—says “Yes, and…” to God? Is there a way she says “Yes, and…” to despair? Channel the power of “Yes, and…” today.

 

 

Gathering the Stones is providing 40 days of reflections on resilience during Lent. Check back for new reflections every day (except Sundays).

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Do We Need Transfiguration Sunday?

It happens every year. Transfiguration Sunday. Or, the Sunday before Lent in which Jesus time travels but we pretend he doesn’t, because it’s Christologically confusing, ecclesiologically misleading, and theologically extraneous. It’s the only moment in the four gospels when Jesus and Moses hang out together, and yet we insist on celebrating this mystical Ghost-of-Torah-Past every year. Yes, it is there, in the Bible, but I’ve wondered, for a long time, what is the point of Transfiguration Sunday? Continue reading

Is God anti-cucumber?

This week, I preached on Numbers 11:1-10, notable because it contains the only reference to cucumbers in the Bible. And God is pretty harsh on the cucumbers. Is God come down as anti-produce? Why is God getting so judgy about the Israelites wanting more vitamin C in their diet?

This is the whole passage:

Now when the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, the Lord heard it and his anger was kindled. Then the fire of the Lord burned against them, and consumed some outlying parts of the camp. But the people cried out to Moses; and Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire abated. So that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burned against them. The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”
Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its color was like the color of gum resin. The people went around and gathered it, ground it in mills or beat it in mortars, then boiled it in pots and made cakes of it; and the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil. When the dew fell on the camp in the night, the manna would fall with it. Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, all at the entrances of their tents. Then the Lord became very angry, and Moses was displeased.

This translation is linguistically conservative, avoiding the colorful language and connotations of the Hebrew. So I’ve made my own translation to try to capture the subtitles: Continue reading