Strangers on Holy Ground October 16, 2011

(This is a continuing Bible study. Go back two posts to find the beginning, or just dive on in. You’ll need a way of reflective journaling, whether with print or other media.)

There are many other stories in Genesis that relate to being strangers, including the eviction of Adam and Eve from Eden, the exile of Cain, Jacob’s indenture, Tamar at the crossroads, Esau and Jacob’s estrangement and reconciliation, and Joseph and his brothers. The story of Joseph’s betrayal by his brothers and sale into slavery in Egypt, his redemption, and his redemption of his brothers after famine brings us to this week’s text. After Joseph dies, the Hebrew people continue in Egypt, and eventually, a new Pharaoh forgets the old Pharaoh’s promises and trouble ensues.

Exodus chapter one through chapter three, verse fifteen, introduces us to that trouble and to Moses. Before reading the text, what do you know about Moses? Where have you encountered Moses before? Both American history and European and American art are full of people creating and using Moses. What historical figures and literary characters do you identify with Moses? What traits appeal to you? What worries or repels you? Why?

Now, read Exodus 1-3:15. What surprises? Draws you in? Repels? Name all the ways that Moses is a stranger. What do you identify with in these chapters?

The trouble that begins in Exodus 1 is echoed is Psalm 146, one of the holy songs or worship poems that specifically covers the stranger.

Moses’ flight to the desert isn’t unusual.  Later, David has to hide in the desert, too, when Saul is hunting David in 1 Samuel 23-24. Over and again in the TNKH (or, Hebrew Scriptures) we meet the themes of dispossession and exile. In the Christian Scriptures, Jesus and the disciples and apostles are always dealing with military occupation and exploitation, a way of estrangement in place. Yet how often in our daily lives are we talking about these stories of exile and dispossession, of fleeing for refuge and of military-economic occupation? What might these stories have to say about today’s world?

How are we strangers on holy ground?

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