Today’s readings begin by recounting Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush. Even though our own encounters and journeys with God are probably less dramatic, surely we have all felt a little like Moses. We have all asked for confirmation and reassurance, particularly as we seek to act outside our comfort zones. And we all have questions for God. Moses did not get much of an answer to his question about the name of God – but God did tell him about what he was going to do. It would seem that the promise of smiting was music to Moses’ ears, as sometimes overwhelming force seems like the only way out. But hopefully we are not on the receiving end of this kind of justice!
Also nestled in this passage are a few more words that we need to hear again: “I am concerned about you and the way you are being treated ….” These are tender words, words of compassion and love. We would welcome them from a friend, even though our friend lacked the power to extract us from our problems. Let each of us go and practice that kind of compassion with a friend who needs to hear those words.
But surely we would welcome them from God even more. Though we may intellectually know or understand in some fashion the compassion and love of God, it seems we can easily forget this. Just as we need the love and affirmation of our spouse, family, and friends, we need a reminder from God, too. We humans are a needy bunch. (If you agree, welcome to the party. It’s good to have you with us.)
Signs and wonders are, well, wondrous and all, but they are no substitute for kind words and gestures that break into our world and interrupt our own delusions, which somehow knock us over and flood living water over the desert land that life can sometimes become. These come to us through the scriptures, the sacraments, and our all-too-infrequent periods of reflection and prayer. But they also come through acts of kindness and grace we encounter in our daily, bustling world.
Today’s gospel provides the rest of the answer that God was not yet able to share with Moses. Moses did not have the witness of the Incarnation, the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us, who was yet to come. Jesus invites us – those who are worn out trying to find our way, trying to do what is right -- to come to him to receive deliverance. These are tender and comforting words, indeed. We may not fully understand Jesus, but that is alright. We can learn. There is real hope here.
Only through putting on a new yoke, we cast off the old one binding us to our sin and to death. (After all, that “do your own thing” approach was not exactly working out so well, was it?) By putting on Jesus Christ through our baptism and learning to walk with him, we experience freedom in the midst of life, even though we may not be extracted from all its troubles. But this is the gift we are offered, the life to which we are called. Thanks be to God.
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