10 September 2011

chaotic waters

Tomorrow is the tenth anniversary of the 9-11 attacks.  There is a powerful resonance with Exodus, which is where we find the Old Testament reading in the Revised Common Lectionary (14:19-31).  It deals with the crossing of the Red Sea.  There’s this wonderful image in verses 21 and 22: 

“Moses stretched out his hand over the sea.  The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided.  The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.” 

The word for “waters” (mayim) is the same one used in Genesis 1, the story of creation.  We’re told that “the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters” (v. 2).  That the same word is used isn’t surprising; it’s not an unusual word.  The reason it’s meaningful and powerful is because it represents chaos.  At the beginning of the Bible, “the waters” are the disorder, the disarray, that exists prior to God beginning to establish order. 

In today’s scripture text, the waters are divided.  Chaos is turned aside.  The people are delivered through the chaos in safety.  They are able to travel through the madness.  We still need that kind of exodus today.  We need an exodus that is a true exodus. 

From what do we need an exodus?  To what are we enslaved?  How much of it is self-imposed? 

(The upper image is He Qi’s “Red Sea Crossing”; the lower image is Sarah Harvey’s “Shattered Green Triptych.”)

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