Lent Week 5—Friday
Psalm 95 Exodus 9:13-35 2 Corinthians 4:1-12 Mark 10:32-45
One of my favorite books is The Dream of God, a Call to Return, by Verna Dozier, a leading African-American female lay theologian. That book helped me see that God tells his children, again and again, how to live in this paradise he created and be happy. Again and again, we fail to take His advice, to our everlasting sorrow.
When I read this passage from Exodus, I can’t help thinking about those around me during the current pandemic who, in the face of repeated advice and warnings, respond, in essence, with, “You can’t tell me what to do.” It is the same defiance of higher authority that Pharaoh showed. 20Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord hurried their slaves and livestock off to a secure place. 21Those who did not regard the word of the Lord left their slaves and livestock in the open field. Hail struck down everything that was in the open field throughout all of Egypt, both human and animal; the hail also struck down all the plants of the field, and shattered every tree. This was not the first plague God had sent upon Egypt. The Egyptians had already endured bloody water, frogs, gnats, flies, a plague on livestock, and boils. Each time Pharaoh promised to free the Israelites. “This time I have sinned, the Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong,” he told Moses and Aaron. But as soon as Moses asked God to stop the plague, Pharaoh reneged. The plagues continued, ultimately claiming the lives of the first-born male children of Egypt. It is not hard to identify with this behavior, because we see it today. We humans just never seem to learn. We stubbornly resist God’s advice about how to live a happy life. In the gospel of Mark, the disciples struggle to grasp what Jesus is trying to tell them. When he asks what they want him to do for them, they say, 37“Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in glory.” Jesus tells them, “you do not know what you are asking.” “Oh yes, we are able,” they say. Jesus knows they are not. God knows that we humans are not. No matter how good our intentions are, like Pharaoh, we backslide on our promises. God knows we are too weak to save ourselves.
That is why Jesus came–to do for us what we could not do for ourselves, God’s last, greatest effort to save us from ourselves. Jesus tells the disciples what they need to do: “you must become servants. You must humble yourselves and act not in your own interest but in the interest of others.” That is the model Jesus set before us in going to the Cross, in dying for the sins of all. He would do what most of us are too weak or too unwilling to do. And so we continue to suffer plagues, not because God doesn’t hear our pleas to make it stop, but because as soon as he does, we forget our promise and go our own way, ignoring the dream of God.