Why are we reading Exodus?

As a church, we feel a need to join an exodus from power and privilege; to help engender conversation across ideological lines ; and to form individuals and help build community through Biblical study.

Click here to read Bishop Breidenthal’s letter about the Exodus project

Voices

There Are No Simple Instructions

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Image: The Rylands Haggadah, detail, 14th century

by Mike Kreutzer

Churches have to deal, at least at times, with shortages: shortages of money, of time, of volunteers.  But one shortage that they never seem to have is a shortage of people who want to give their opinion on what “somebody” in the church should be doing – not themselves of course, but somebody else, or maybe just the generic “they.”

There is, of course, good biblical precedent for that approach.  A prime example is the account of God’s self-revelation to Moses in chapters 3 and 4 of Exodus.

When the story begins, Moses is taking care of his father-in-law’s sheep.  At Horeb, he encounters the burning bush, from which God speaks to him.  After Moses’ initial shock and fear, he would have been thrilled with God’s message (3:7-8).  God has observed, heard, known, and come down to deliver the people.  “Great!  You go for it, God.  These people have suffered for far too long.  It’s time for them to be set free.”  I think we can picture Moses receiving God’s announcement with great enthusiasm.

But that enthusiasm quickly disappears when God continued, “So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”  “Whoa!  Wait a minute!  Time out, God!  I thought you said that you were going to deliver the people.”  “I am, but I’m going to do it through you.”  “No.  Unh, unh.  No way.  You’ve got the wrong person!  Sure, maybe somebody should do it, but not I.”

For the rest of chapters 3 and 4, we have a fascinating exchange.  God tells Moses to go to Pharaoh to present God’s demands; but Moses counters that he is not able to do the job.  God comes back, promising to be with him, but Moses protests that the people will want to know the name of the God who sent him; so God reveals the sacred name.

Then God presents a Plan B: “Alright then, if you’re not willing to do it alone, take the elders with you.”  Moses comes back again, insisting that the people still won’t believe him; so God gives him signs to perform.

Moses then protests that he is a terrible speaker, and so it would be a huge mistake to have him address Pharaoh, even if the elders are with him.  God again counters: “OK.  Then how about if we scrap Plans A and B and go to Plan C?  Forget about you speaking to the Pharaoh.  And forget about taking the elders along.  What if you were to take your brother Aaron with you and let him do the talking?”

And so it goes, back and forth.  The plan to set the slaves free is not God’s invention alone.  It is a shared divine-human creation.  God and Moses work out the plan and its details together.

Terence Fretheim (Exodus, pp. 52-3) observes: “This dialogue is theologically significant.  The recognition of holiness (3:6) does not lead to passivity in the presence of God…  It is Moses’ persistence that occasions a greater fullness in the divine revelation.  Human questions find an openness in God and lead to fuller knowledge.  God thus reveals himself, not simply at the divine initiative, but in interaction with a questioning human party.  Simple deference or passivity in the presence of God would close down the revelatory possibilities.”

Among the many insights into God, ourselves, our fellow human beings, and the web of relationships that bind all of them together that Exodus presents to us is the insistence that we are somebody.  When we are convinced that “Somebody ought to do this or that,” that “somebody” might just be us.

A second vital message is that God doesn’t simply present us with pre-packaged programs, ready for us simply to follow the instructions.  Our role is to engage with God in an ongoing dialogue, listening attentively, but also remembering that God is listening to us.  The work of God is still a divine-human endeavor.

A third reminder emerges as the story proceeds and as more and more people are brought into leadership roles in accomplishing the great work of deliverance.  We are all in this together, and we need one another in our sometimes difficult journey from here to there.

As Michael Walzer (Exodus and Revolution, p. 149) observed: “What the Exodus taught: first, that wherever you live, it is probably Egypt.  Second, that there is a better place, a world more attractive, a promised land.  And third, that the way to the land is through the wilderness.  There is no way to get from here to there except by joining together and marching.”

Scenes from a Convocation

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During the Convocation, we asked eight questions as part of our World Cafe table discussions. (more…)

The Mother of Moses, Artwork by Cody F. Miller

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The Columbus-based artist Cody F. Miller has been creating religious art for years, and graciously agreed to lead one of our Adult Forums.  Today we’re featuring his beautiful painting, “The Mother of Moses.”  About the painting, Cody writes: (more…)

Lost in the Wilderness: Episode 3, Pharaoh’s Daughter

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This week Karl Stevens and Daniel Bogart dive into Ch. 2 of Exodus during their Chevruta Bible Study.  You can subscribe to the podcast through iTunes or other fine podcast distributors, or listen to it using the player below.  Show notes are also below. (more…)

Epitaph, a poem about Pharaoh’s Daughter by Eleanor Wilner

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Painting: Pharaoh’s Daughter & Moses by Marc Chagall

As we go deep into the story of Exodus, and learn more about Jewish midrash from Karl Stevens and Daniel Bogard’s “Lost in the Wilderness” podcast, it makes sense to explore some of the “cultural midrash” that have been drawn out of the biblical narrative by both Christian and secular artists and writers.  A beautiful example of this is Eleanor Wilner’s poem Epitaph.  Wilner teaches in the Warren Wilson MFA program, and has received the Juniper Prize, two Pushcart Prizes, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the MacArthur Foundation.  In describing her own poetic vision, she writes: (more…)

Lost in the Wilderness: A Priest and a Rabbi Explore Exodus, Episode 2

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This week Karl and Daniel plunge into Exodus Ch. 1 for their Chevruta Bible Study.  You can find the podcast in the iTunes Store, or listen to it right here.  The show notes are below the web player.

Show Notes:

Daniel directed us to Sefaria: A Living Library of Jewish Texts Online.

Karl is using Robert Alter’s The Five Books of Moses for this study.

 

If You Will, You Can Become All Flame

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by The Rev. George Glazier

During the 3rd to 6th centuries in the deserts of Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and Arabia, a  movement of spiritual seekers was happening. Christian monasticism was beginning to flower.  Some of these men and women lived as hermits while others lived in communities.  Either way they learned from the silence, from the desert, from the intentional time with God and sometimes from each other.  This story comes from that time and speaks to something implied in our story from Exodus today. (more…)

Strange Like Moses

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by Karl Stevens

In the 5th century, one of Christianity’s strangest saints became famous in Syria. His name was Simeon, and his fame derived from his decision to spend his life standing on top of a pillar. People began to come to him to learn spiritual wisdom and marvel at his asceticism. But they also came to him to settle land disputes, because he had proven himself so indifferent to worldly affairs that they knew he’d be an entirely impartial judge. This may seem like a strange beginning to a blog post about Moses, but Moses and Simeon Stylites held this in common – they were strange, and because of their strangeness people trusted and listened to them.

 (more…)

Lost in the Wilderness: A Priest and a Rabbi Explore Exodus, Episode One

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In this episode, Karl Stevens (the priest) and Daniel Bogard (the rabbi) introduce Chevruta scripture study by looking at “The Oven of Acknai,” a story from the Babylonian Talmud.  A link to the podcast is below, and the podcast is available through the iTunes Store and other fine podcast suppliers.  The text of the story is below the podcast feed.

 (more…)

On Bible Studies for the Faint of Heart

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by The Rev. Dr. Cal Lane
Associate Rector, St. George’s, Dayton

Simply put, it is a good thing when Christians read scripture together.  The “Exodus Year,” therefore, presents a lot of exciting opportunities for our communities in Southern Ohio.  The strength of the program (as it was when it was first done at St. George’s with Mark’s Gospel and then with Exodus), is in its ubiquity and flexibility.  In other words, the biblical text is being talked about in every gathering at church including business meetings but at the same time you or your group can move at your own pace. (more…)

Walter Brueggemann Kicks-Off the Exodus Big Read at Saint Timothy’s

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This past Sunday, Saint Timothy’s had the privilege and joy of hearing from one of the nation’s foremost Biblical Scholars, Walter Brueggemann, who both preached and led an adult forum.  They’ve very kindly offered to share Brueggemann’s wisdom with the rest of the diocese.  David Dreisbach took video of both sermon and forum, and you can watch them below. (more…)

The Collective Wisdom of the Diocese: Sermons from the First Sunday of the Big Read

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I asked preachers from all over the diocese to send me the sermons they used to kick-off the Exodus Big Read, and they responded magnificently. Here’s a small portion of the collective wisdom of the diocese, with links to the full text of the sermons. (more…)

Introducing the Exodus Big Read’s Rabbi in Residence!

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We’re so pleased to welcome Rabbi Daniel Bogard as the Big Read’s Rabbi in Residence!  His participation comes about due to the good work of The Rev. Manoj Zacharia and Christ Church Cathedral.  The idea of inviting Daniel to be our Rabbi in Residence emerged from a Co-Create the Cathedral initiative, and his presence is supported by both the Diocese of Southern Ohio and the Cathedral.  Daniel will be joining us at Diocesan Convention and at the Capstone Event with Terence Fretheim in April.  He will be blogging (and maybe even podcasting) regularly on this site. And, he’ll be available for Sunday morning Adult Forums at parishes throughout the diocese.  To contact Daniel, please send an email to me at kpbstevens@nullgmail.com, and I’ll put you in touch with him. (more…)

Charlottesville, Exodus, and the Politics of Nostalgia

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Rachel Wheeler, in her article “Charlottesville, Exodus, and the Politics of Nostalgia,” brilliantly delineates how our understanding of the Exodus story effects our responses to racism and injustice.  She writes:

The mythic narrative of Exodus has long anchored American identities. The American Dream is a variant of the Exodus narrative. Americans from the Puritans to enslaved African-Americans, to Bruce Springsteen and Jerry Falwell have peered through Exodus-colored glasses to interpret their lives and their country. Why, then, have they seen such different things? Largely because so many white Christian Americans view their country as Canaan, while Americans of color find themselves not there yet, or even still in Egypt.

Thanks to Anne Reed for bringing this article, part of Religion & Politics “The State of the Union Project,” to my attention.  Follow this link to read the whole article.

FAQs

1.What is the plan?

Study of Exodus will be incorporated into every existing committee, commission, and conference of the diocese. We ask Standing Committee, Diocesan Staff, Diocesan Council, ECSF, ECW, the Trustees, etc. to begin their meetings with a brief (15-20 min) study of Exodus.

2.What should I think about as I am doing the readings?

1. What did you hear?
2. How does it apply to your life?
3. How will it effect your work together?

Reading Schedule

Download a printable reading schedule

 

indicates included reading material

The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.

Exodus 14:14