Tag Archive: Moses

The sixth sense?

What would it look like to love God with one of the most precious gifts God has given – our body.   How might we engage our five sense in loving God?  Is this how we might embody Jesus’ command to love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind?  A few days ago we said something about our eyes; then our ears, then our hands and feet, then our mouth, then our nose, and now… a sixth sense?

“A sixth sense?” you say.  Well, yes.  But maybe not in the way you’ve typically thought of your senses.  We’ve covered the five senses you’re likely to find in medical journals and science textbooks.  But could another “sense” exist?  Is there an additional organ we might employ in our spiritual and social journeys?  What about the heart?  Perhaps that peculiar and vital contraption in our chest matters!

At first, we think of the heart as an anatomical necessity.  It is the hub of our livelihood, pumping blood to and from the rest of the body.  But we often attach other experiences and emotions to our hearts.  We personify our hearts when we speak of our heart’s desires.   We give our hearts legs when we become excited, proclaiming that our hearts are racing!  Our hearts swell with pride or love.  Our hearts burn.  Our hearts bleed.  Our hearts break.

Scripture is full of images, stories, and sayings about the heart.  When Moses demanded that Pharaoh let the people go we learn that Pharaoh’s heart was hard.  The Psalmist prays often for a clean and pure heart.  The wonderful wisdom literature of Proverbs suggests that a joyful heart is good medicine (17:22).  Jesus even says that the greatest commandment involves the heart: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

As Methodists, we celebrate John Wesley’s special heart moment in 1738.  Wesley, feeling lacking in his faith, went to a Moravian meeting at Aldersgate Street. After hearing a reading of Martin Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans, Wesley wrote in his journal: “About a quarter before nine, while the leader was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

In her brilliantly moving and touching novel Beloved, Toni Morrison tells of a slave’s heart.  Baby Suggs, an elderly woman who survived years as a slave thinks back to her years laboring under the sun.  Slave life had “busted her legs, back, head, eyes, hands, kidneys, womb and tongue.”  She says she had nothing left but her heart—which she put to work at once.

We too put our hearts to work.  When the rest of our body, or senses, feel broken and weary we offer our hearts.  To those who are hurting or lonely, we offer the solidarity of our heart.  When others’ hearts break, ours break too.  When the hearts of friends and neighbors rejoice, our hearts rejoice also. We offer our hearts in prayer, longing to connect our heart with God and the world.  How amazing to think that your heart, my heart, and the hearts of those across the globe share similar rhythms and longings. One of my favorite hymns, “O God of All the Nations,” begins with this opening verse:

This is my song, O God of all the nations,

a song of peace for lands afar and mine;

this is my home, the country where my heart is;

here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine:

but other hearts in other lands are beating

with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

Those with hearts let them share God’s heart.


“Look to the Rock from which you were cut…”

In the previous chapter Brueggemann explored how outsiders to the faith become insiders.  In chapter three, he examines how insiders to the faith who have grown “careless, weary, jaded, and cynical” are in need of evangelizing (71).  Brueggemann narrates the story of the revitalization of insiders through Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Ezra-Nehemiah.

In Deuteronomy 8.1-20, Moses’ sermon tells of God’s gifts and also serves as a warning to God’s people.  Initially, Moses celebrates all that God has given – streams, springs, wheat, barely – to bless (Deut. 8.7-10).  However, Moses later warns the Israelites of the perils of forgetting the acts of God: “Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God…Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God” (Deut. 20.11-14).

Brueggemann then turns to Jeremiah, where Israel’s “forgetfulness” becomes fully manifested.  Jeremiah speaks the word of God: “When you entered, you defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination” (Jer. 2.7).  Israel’s forgetting has caused the “well to run dry” (Jer. 2.9-13).  Later, Isaiah urges the people to recover their memory of God’s act, a memory that holds their identity.  Isaiah pleads, “look to the rock from which you were hewn” (Isa. 51.1-3).

In Nehemiah 8, Ezra makes the ultimate move and attempts to call Israel back into a proper relationship with God.  Ezra invites the “community already pledged to faith, back to a serious embrace and practice of that pledged faith.” (74)

Why did the people of Israel forget their identity and story?  Why is their forgetfulness important for today’s churches?  Brueggemann captures the essence of the answer to both questions: prosperity causes amnesia.  “The reason is that when one can no longer remember a lesser, more precarious time, all present benefits appear to be not only absolute, but also self-generated, making gratitude unnecessary, impossible, even silly” (77).

Just as Israel forget their dependence upon the provision of God, so too do church “insiders” rely upon self-sufficient strategies, programs, and schemes.  As Brueggemann puts its, Israel’s crisis parallels the U.S. Church.  “Abundance and affluence have caused church members to be distanced in self-sufficiency from the power and cruciality of the memory so that the church suffers from profound amnesia, even among those of us who vigorously go through the motions (72).  It is for this reason, Brueggemann argues, that church insiders are becoming “forgetters” in need of remembering God’s acts of love, mercy, and grace.

On one point, I fully agree with Brueggemann, the reality of amnesia is massive among us.  Amnesia causes the church to lack in any serious missional energy (90).  Oftentimes, we summons our inner Bob Dylan and cry out, “The times are a-changin!  How will we meet the new needs of new people out there?”  We fail to remember, celebrate, and draw strength upon what God has already done in our midst.

I also wonder, is it only our wealth, abundance, and security that causes us to forget?  Is our [U.S. Church] memory of God’s act short-circuited solely by our general prosperity?  Perhaps our wealth is not the problem.  Perhaps amnesia is not the only hindrance.  What if, at times, we remember all too well?  What if we suffer not from amnesia, but nostalgia?  What if church “insiders” get caught up in the way it used to be?  What if we are unable to move beyond past practices of liturgy, programs, outreach that worked long ago, but no longer connect with the world around us?  Is there a danger if the Church becomes too nostalgic?  Whether amnesia or nostalgia inflicts the Church, Brueggemann is correct: the evangelization of insiders may be our primary agenda in evangelism.

This is the third review in a five-part series looking at Walter Brueggemann’s Biblical Perspectives on Evangelism.

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