I must admit I knew nothing of the musical “Les Miserables” until I married Melissa—a francophone. Oh, sure, I had seen the posters for it back in the 80s with the young child superimposed on the French flag on them, but that’s it. Melissa and I were in my hometown of Detroit one year for Christmas when “Les Mis” happened to be in town, and so we made plans with some of my family members to see it on New Year’s Eve.
As I write this I am waiting for the power to come back on at the rectory and the main church building. In a flurry of rain and wind over the course of fifteen minutes, the power shut off. That was 20 hours ago, and National Grid’s website assures us that we’ll have the power restored in 33 hours give or take.
This morning we heard about God giving Moses the 10 commandments at Mt. Sinai. They detail how wee are to live our lives with both God and our neighbor—leading Jesus himself to say the entirety of the law could be distilled to those two things: love God and love your neighbor. Yet of those 10 we read today, there is only one of the ten commandments that people will readily break without batting an eye. It’s the one in the middle: Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.
“Is the Lord among us or not?”
That is the central question asked by the Israelites there in Rephidim as they are camped out in the desert. They had traveled from the wilderness of Sin in stages to this place, as the Lord had commanded them. But now after putting down their belongings, they discover there’s no water to be found anywhere. It’s been a long day, and they are dying of thirst, so they begin to quarrel with Moses.
It’s been about five weeks since the children of Israel fled their captors in Egypt. Five weeks for the food to run out and to miss their modest dwellings. Five weeks of squinting into the harsh sun with no real shade in sight. Five weeks of yearning for their gardens and the fresh tomatoes and peppers and cilantro they used to cook with. It’s been five weeks, and they’re hungry and getting angry.
We heard the most iconic story from Exodus this morning: the crossing of the Red Sea. In the lead up to that event, you may need a bit of a reminder. After ten plagues culminating with the angel of death passing through the land, Pharaoh relents and lets the Israelites leave Egypt. The Almighty guides the fleeing Israelites into the wilderness toward the Red Sea even though that way is less direct. Pharaoh, realizing his cheap labor is gone and seeing them head towards the sea, gives chase.
We live lives in submission to the clock.
While not all of us wear timepieces on our wrists anymore due to the devices in our pockets synced with the atomic clocks presumably at Apple HQ, it doesn’t mean we aren’t slaves to time. We make appointments in 15 minute increments. Some among us work in terms of billable hours. We have multiple calendars to sync together from family commitments to work engagements to sporting events. We hustle from place to place—or Zoom call to Zoom call—trying to get things done.
It’s hard to tell from our text in Genesis this morning, but we’ve arrived in the middle of a story. Abraham’s chief steward has made the 400 mile journey back to Haran, Abraham’s hometown, and is in the midst of explaining the purpose of his journey to Rebekah’s family.
Here’s the elephant in the room: There’s no way to avoid our text from Genesis this morning. If I focused on the two sentences from Matthew offered up to us by the lectionary committee, you would rightly guess that I’m avoiding Genesis—I might have added “like the plague” a few months ago, but that’s a bit too close to home. And so this story on the Binding of Isaac hangs in the air, and frankly I don’t like it.
It was all Sarah’s fault.
There is no other way to put this—if what the narrator of the book of Genesis says is accurate. It was Sarah’s idea that Hagar become her surrogate so that Abraham could have a male heir.