Daily Reflection
July 23rd, 2001
Mary Haynes Kuhlman
English Department
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Exodus 14:5-18
Exodus 15:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Matthew 12:38-42

In the first two Scripture selections for today, we follow the story of the Exodus from Egypt.  As I read what the Lord said to Moses, I can't help but think of Cecil B. DeMille's 1950's movie "The Ten Commandments" with Charlton Heston as a magnificent Moses, terrified of the forces of Pharaoh (played by Yul Brynner), but trusting GOD and following his instructions.  Then Hollywood's best special effects depict a wonderful SIGN of God's glory:  the water parts into towering cliffs on either side of a road of seabed, the Israelites haul themselves, their wagons and their livestock to safety at the other end, and then God releases the water and drowns the army of the bad guy.  So my image is of cinematic telling of an ancient story -- but I like what I'm hearing in this story.  I like to think that God continues, every day, to help us through our life journeys -- including on the days when our prayer is not praise or thanksgiving, but petition: "Lord, help me get through this!  I'm drowning -- help me get to the other side!"

Then today's Gospel passage says sternly, "Don't look for signs" (like miracles).  Yet in our "evil and unfaithful age," we don't want the often difficult way of life in Christ; we want quick answers, easy magic and certain miracles.  This hits home for me, because once, many years ago, I needed to make a decision and thought to try the magic trick I'd read about -- using the Bible as a kind of fortune-telling.  I did pray for guidance, then closed my eyes, opened the Bible and touched the page at random.  When I opened my eyes, I could hardly believe how direct, how perfect an answer I had been given:  it may have been this passage from Matthew, it may have been a similar one elsewhere, but all I remember is it said, "Don't look for signs."  Now that was a real SIGN!  
Ordinary signs we have all around us, like traffic lights and tax bills and news reports.  Sometimes the ordinary seems placed just to signify God's abundant love in the world.  Once, walking through woods and meadows while on retreat at Creighton's center near Griswold, Iowa, feeling pretty blessed already, I happened to pray, "Lord, surprise me,"  -- and I turned my head and saw a very old, gnarled, apple tree -- shining in sunlight, covered in pink blossoms.  I was happy to take this natural coincidence as one more sign of God's love, but this Gospel reminds me that I must not wait for seas to part or apple trees to break into blossom.  In this Gospel, I think, Jesus scolds us for wanting the SIGN and forgetting what is SIGNIFIED.  

With faith, all the world can signify that we have HIM -- who died for our sins and rose from the dead -- and that's all (ALL) that is promised, ALL that we need.  Indeed, we have one "greater than Solomon here," greater than Jonah, greater than Moses, even greater than Charlton Heston!  Lord, I hope to see You signified in the ordinary graces of today and not ask for special signs.  Let my prayer of petition for this day's journey be not only "Help me through this," but also "Where do you want me to go?" 


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