Reflections for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
I wonder what it means to be grounded?
It seems like so much of what is happening here with Moses, the LORD, and this burning-yet-not-consumed bush is based on where each is grounded.
As Ellen Davis often says, living with the LORD in your midst is like living with a 100,000V generator right in front of you — it is beautiful, powerful, dangerous, and if you are not incredibly cautious, you will end up dead. You must be properly grounded.
Moses has to take off his shoes in order to be grounded.
The bush before him burns and yet is not consumed, grounded so that power may flow through it without burning it up.
The One who speaks is the Ground of all Being, the one whose very name is an outworking of “to be.”
And yet to be grounded is not a stationary, immobile position. It can be dynamic, a locating one’s self in the unfolding power of God’s story. Moses moves toward the bush and into a strange new world. God moves toward Israel again, enacting a plan grounded in salvific love. Being grounded might look more like moving toward the electric holiness, like pressing closer to it than standing and looking from a safe distance.
I wonder what to make of Paul’s list for the Gentiles in Rome?
This list that Paul gives, with its concise little exhortations and taken as a whole, is the image of the Christian life. Not as an accomplished act, but as an undergoing.
What I mean to say is, we undergo a reordering of our desires, so that we might love what is good and hate what is evil. Paul is not describing a resting state, but the ongoing work of reordering our desires.
“Outdo one another in showing honor.” This work reorders our rivalistic desires, away from the violent and toward the honorable and the good. Practicing blessing, especially toward those who persecute you, removes the temptation to curse and harm.
All of these actions reorient us away from competition, rivalry, resentment, violence, and anger toward the peaceable kingdom of God.
I keep wondering about the nature of this word, “must.”
It seems too easy to read this as a simple fulfillment of some pre-ordained pattern, as if Jesus must do these things because someone somewhere a long time before him said that he would.
I wonder if that assumption is not radical enough, not nearly as apocalyptic as this moments seems to be. Whenever Jesus talks like this in the Gospels, his words reveal a totalizing upheaval in the worldly orders. Maybe the “must” comes because he is upending our expected order, the ordering of death that makes our world go round. How could he not end up dead because of it?