The Story for the
Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost
Oct 25, 2020
prepared by the Rev’d Rhonda Waters
Deuteronomy 34: 1- 12
Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the Plain that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees as far as Zoar. The Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.”
Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Bethpeor, but no one knows his burial place to this day. Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigour had not abated. The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended.
Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the Lord had commanded Moses. Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. He was unequalled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.
Something to Do
I have let you see it with your eyes, but…
There is something quite timely about this notion of see but don’t touch. We can see our friends from a distance but we can’t give them a hug. We can dream about the places we want to visit but we can’t actually go there.
Let yourself feel that longing. Pull out old photos, set up a video call, or look up travel sites and just feel all the feelings.
Joshua…was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him
First, decide if you are feeling more like Moses – the experienced mentor preparing to pass the torch – or more like Joshua – ready to step up and embrace new responsibility. If you feel like Moses, reach out to someone who is preparing to step into leadership in some way and offer your support. If you feel like Joshua, reach out to someone with more experience and benefit from their wisdom.
Something to Wonder
…but you shall not cross over there
We have reached the end of Moses’ story. He has led his people out of slavery and through the wilderness. He has fought with them about who they are to be and how they are to worship. He has loved them and worked for them and now, on the very threshold of the promised land, he is told that his part is done.
Unusually, we don’t hear what Moses says back to God. What do you imagine he might have said? How do you imagine he felt? Can you relate to Moses in this story?
Never since has there arisen a prophet like Moses…
Moses was not indispensable – he himself had anointed a successor whom the people trusted and followed. But, even so, Moses was irreplaceable: “Never since has there arisen a prophet like Moses”. His work and his influence shaped the people of Israel and continues to shape both Jews and Christians today.
As we prepare for the Feast of All Saints’ on Nov 1, who in your life is a “never since”? Who has shaped your faith or your approach to life or your understanding of yourself in such as way that you can still feel their influence even after there active work is done?
Might you like to share that story with the rest of us? Email Rhonda to be included in a time of storytelling during the Nov 1st Zoom church service or write your story down and send it along for inclusion in the Reflection email.
Something to Learn
What did Moses see..and what happened next?
Much as we might prefer not to, it is important to remember that the land Moses has led the Israelites to was not empty. Joshua was appointed for battle; the Israelites were about to become an invading army. The Biblical record is complicated – and history is more complicated still – but no complications can erase the ways in which this is a story of conquest. It is a story that has been used – and continues to be used – by people who want to justify their claims on land that is already occupied by someone else. Non-Indigenous Canadians, among others, need to think about this story very carefully.
Unsettling the Word: Biblical Experiments in Decolonization is a collection of essays and reflections that tackles the damaging ways Biblical texts have been used and looks for new understandings. Published by the Mennonite Church in Canada, it is available from www.commonword.ca and from Amazon (including as a Kindle book). Read a review here: Liberating the Bible from the Hands of the Colonizers
Of course, Canada is not the only place where these texts need to be re-examined. This article from Friends of Sabeel, makes some powerful connections.
“Reading the Bible with the Eyes of the Canaanites”; from Nur Masalha: “[T]he first person to develop this new perspective was the North American native scholar Robert Allen Warrior who speaks of how strongly he was compelled by Martin Luther King’s Exodus imagery of going to the mountaintop, seeing the Promised Land, and crossing the River Jordan. He writes of being stunned at the realization that native Americans were in fact the Canaanites of the American colonial experience.” Read on.
Something to Pray
Holy God, we do not always understand your word or your ways.
Give us wisdom and imagination and courage as we learn and grow.
The story this week has made me wonder about…
(what questions are still on your heart?)
Receive my questions and help me hear your answers.
The story this week has filled me with…
(how are you feeling?)
Accept my praise, heal my hurt, ease my worry.
The story this week has reminded me of…
(are there situations or people you are thinking of?)
Be with all who are in need of you.
In Jesus’ name, we pray.