Thursday, February 11, 2016
Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
But Pharaoh said, “Lazy! That’s what you are! Lazy! That’s why you whine, ‘Let us go so we can worship God.’ Well then, go—go back to work. Nobody’s going to give you straw, and at the end of the day you better bring in your full quota of bricks.”
[Exodus 5:17-18 The Message]
The Exodus account of Israel’s years as slaves in Egypt has endured as the supporting document for many narratives ranging from the colossal blemish on this country’s history to the abhorrent working conditions in many underdeveloped nations. For many theologians, it is the starting point for our sinful situation – the bondage from which we cannot escape.
I recently read a book by Walter Brueggemann titled, Sabbath As Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now. In it Brueggemann likens Israel’s era of slavery to our capitalistic society’s insistence on productivity and what he calls, “the contemporary context of the rat race of anxiety.” The big difference is that our slavery is self-imposed. This little book is worthwhile reading from anyone who feels a need to develop a discipline of rest. Anyone who feels overworked, yet guilty for wanting to do less.
We are slaves to sin. That sin manifests itself in many forms. We try to do too much, please too many people, fill every moment of our leisure time. Perhaps Lent is a good time to develop that discipline of disengaging, of rest.
Yet, when we speak of “giving up” something for Lent, even that becomes an obligation. We become obsessed with trivial pursuits such as losing weight, cutting out chocolates or other unhealthy substances, abstaining from social media. Like New Year’s resolutions, the practice doesn’t last much beyond the first week, if that long.
I myself, have tried and already failed to write a reflection each day based on the Daily Lectionary readings. I’m hoping to catch up since it is only day two of Lent.
It is a constant struggle, as it was for the Israelites who felt that God didn’t care, that God had abandoned them. And Moses who felt God had put him into an impossible situation. Ultimately, God triumphed, as God always does. The Israelites were liberated, the Egyptians died, and God proved once again to be true to what was promised.
Psalm 91, the psalm for this day, ends with these words:
When they call to me, I will answer them;
I will be with them in trouble,
I will rescue them and honor them.
Perhaps that is the point at which our discipline should begin, by calling on God. Left to our own devices, we are almost certainly doomed to fail.