Focused Elsewhere

The Exodus and the Passover of the Hebrews are critical parts of our communion story.  Pharaoh has the exiled Hebrews in slavery in Egypt.  Moses tries to get them freed and Pharaoh won’t have any part of it.  Why would he?  Free labor, right? The final piece of the debate is that Moses lets Pharaoh know that unless Pharaoh relents and frees the Hebrew slaves God is going to kill all the first born children.  Moses also lets the Hebrews know that they are to paint their doors with lamb’s blood and in so doing, their house will be passed over.  Saved by the blood of the lamb.  Passover.  All the connections to our saving story.

The Hebrews do what they’re told and they paint their doorways and as promised, the first borns are saved.  Pharaoh does not listen and loses his first born son.  In his heartbreak he finally relents and frees the Hebrew slaves.  Of course, they pick up stakes in a hurry and flee Egypt to return to the land promised them, Israel.

Then Pharaoh has second thoughts about getting rid of his free labor force and begins to chase them across the desert.  This gets the Hebrews pinned up against the sea and so Moses has to part the sea so that all the people can get across the sea and not die at the hands of Pharaoh and the rest of the Egyptians.

Iconic Hollywood right there.  Which reminds me of another story I heard about.  It’s in a book entitled “Jewish Spirituality for Christians” by Rabbi Lawrence Kushner and it talks about Reuven and Shimon, two men who are right in the middle of the Exodus.  These guys, former slaves in Egypt, are now walking where seawater had just been.  You saw how that worked there in the movie.

Anyways, they’ve been freed from slavery in Eqypt.  They’ve been saved from the Egyptians by the God parting the sea.  All this saving and Reuven and Shimon are walking along, looking at the mud caked on their shoes.

Of all the people taking this miraculous shortcut to freedom, and there were reckoned to be about a million and a half people, these two never once looked up. They completely missed the wonder all around. If you’ve ever been to the aquarium at the Omaha Zoo

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Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo Aquarium

 take a minute and ponder walking through the tunnel with your head down.  And these guys are walking through walls of water being held back by God rather than Plexiglas.

In and amongst all that the only thing they noticed was that the ground beneath their feet was a little muddy, like a beach at low tide. Reuven said to Shimon, ‘This is terrible. There’s mud all over the place. Wouldn’t you know that Moses would lead us through a swamp? When we were slaves in Egypt, we had to make bricks out of mud like this!’ Shimon replied, ‘There’s no difference between being a slave in Egypt and being free here.’ And so it went, as the legend is told, Reuven and Shimon whined and complained all the way across the former bottom of the sea. For them, there was no miracle, only mud. Their eyes were closed. Even though they were there and walked right in the midst of it, they might as well have been asleep.

This story has all the hallmarks of telling a timeless truth.  This story has all the indicators of speaking of the human condition.  This story points to us all too often.  In our walk with God we have our heads down and we miss out on the miracles.

There is an acronym, FOMO.  Have you heard of it?  Fear of Mission Out.  As part of our fear missing out we miss out because we tend not to be satisfied with what we have.  Rabbi Kushner’s story earlier seems to point to that.  Craigslist exists in part because we’re looking for something else.  Or at least getting rid of what we already have so we can go get something else.  When I was in the Air Force we had a saying.  The worst base in the Airforce was the one you were currently stationed and the best base to be stationed at was the one you just left.  We are in an infinite loop of seeking something better.

The trouble is that our focus gets locked into the seeking and we miss what is right there all the time.  We go looking and looking and looking for something better and pretty soon all our energy is being spent in the seeking, not in the apprehending what is with us all the time.

When our seeking for whatever we fear we’re missing out on takes all our energy then we’ve gotten in the way of any time to spend with God.  When we commit all our time to looking for something to fill our lives we are in danger of becoming Judas.  When our search for fulfillment takes our entire focus then we are in danger of betraying Christ.

Perhaps not in an active sense like Judas did but certainly in a passive sense.  When we are focused elsewhere, we miss out on Christ.

The good news for us is that missing out on Christ isn’t a permanent condition.  We know it isn’t a permanent condition because we’re reminded every time we think of our baptism and every time we come to the table.  When we come to the table, whether for bread and wine or for a blessing we’re experiencing the real presence of Christ in our lives.  Something we can take with us every day.

Come to the table and be filled.  Let that desire for more be a desire for Christ.  Let the empty space be filled with Christ’s presence.  Let our focus not be elsewhere but on Christ.

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