Talking (back) to God...
Turning to the book of Deuteronomy, we enter the home stretch on Israel's sojourn in the desert. From the moment of the exodus from Egypt to the arrival of Israel on the banks of the Jordan, we have walked with a people being formed and reformed into a people who will attempt to live into true Covenant with God. It would be nice (in the most vanilla-sense of the word) to assume that this is the moment when Moses gets to offer his valedictory speech, when the mantle of leadership passes cleanly and pleasantly to Joshua and when the people of Israel get to cross the Jordan, enter the Promised Land and thus live happily ever after with God as their witness.
Not so. I have read these passages before, but this morning I am seeing with new eyes just how stiff-necked we humans can be about life in general, and about life with God in particular. Moses, in his opening remarks, chides Israel for their lack of faith/trust in God (and offers as testimony the last 40 years of wandering in the desert due to the last time they were here and Israel balked when God said, "Go.") He reminds them of God's faithfulness, and of God's promise to be with them in the years to come even as God has been with them in ages past. Great words, though they sting just a bit, but great words all the same...until...
Until he blames Israel's faithlessness for God's barring him from entering the Promised Land. Yes, Israel tested God at Massah and Meribah, but it was Moses who struck the rock twice-when God said to strike it only once for water in that barren place. Moses proved in that moment that he was as human as we all are, and struggled with doubt and fear as we all do. His outcome for that choice was that he, too, would not enter the Promised Land. And yet, here is Moses saying to Israel that it is their fault. Other-directed blame: one of the most powerful agents of dissolution we exhibit as humans in our wrestling with God's work to form us into holy people. Add that to our willingness to be distracted to the point of misinterpretation the acts of God that seek to point us in the right direction and it is a wonder that God puts up with us.
Still, God is faithful and just. God loves us and yearns to be in relationship with us. When the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray to God as he does, he offers them the words that we now call the "Lord's Prayer," when really they are words that he has given us. These words define a primary, intimate and immediate relationship between us and God. No filters, no holdbacks. It blesses God as holy, eternal. It asks of God for us only what we need for today, and for God's guidance and protection to get through this day with faith and in service to God.
Simple enough, and yet it immediately become complicated by people imposing their own perspectives, interpretations, projections and assumptions on that relationship. Jesus becomes a foil for people as they tinker with a simple call to primary relationship. The conversation on prayer (and healing) goes from something that unites to an exhibition of how fractured we really are. The people see him performing an exorcism and say that he casts out demons by the power of the demonic. He answers a certain woman who shouts from the crowd that his mother is blessed for giving birth and nursing him. He chides her by saying that what really matters right now is that people hear the good news and put it into practice. People ask for signs of his authority, and he says no signs will be given but for the sign of Jonah: a prophet saying the word "repent."
Light your lamp, and let it shine. Hear the Gospel and live it. Pray the simple prayer and abide in God's presence through it. Simple enough direction, and yet to this day we struggle, tussle and complicate what for God is a very simple equation: "If you will choose life in me, then you will live." Even Moses himself struggled with that call. May we take some time today to focus in prayer on keeping it simple in our relationship with God. It is not an insult to our intelligence or our sophistication. It is simple our God loving us, and through us, at the most basic of levels. A simple, honest conversation with God is our calling.