Saturday, February 27, 2016

the Name is E-Yeh

Moshe! Moshe! 
Take off your shoes, 
make yourself comfortable,
and let’s talk!

Exodus 3:1-15
Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, "I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up." When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." Then he said, "Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." He said further, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord said, "I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt." But Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" He said, "I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”

But Moses said to God, "If I come to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" God said to Moses, "I am who I am." He said further, "Thus you shall say to the Israelites, 'I am has sent me to you.'" God also said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the Israelites, 'The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.”

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“The peace of God which passeth all understanding,” goes the closing benediction and blessing of our traditional liturgy, “keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, … .” We stretch comprehensibility to imagine “knowing” the creator God who inhabits eternity from whence Logos conceived “Let there be light” and “Let us create earthlings in our image,” and who self-introduces in word and in the world about us. Bible study may help us know God better, or may confound us further with fear and awe of a threatening presence, as seems to have been so with Moses the day he trespassed onto holy ground and stumbled into that encounter with terrible, blazing Holiness.

But it may not have been that way at all.

When I was eleven, twelve, thirteen — after the War when automobile production resumed — along in the fall (I’m thinking late September, early October) searchlights would play in the evening sky. I remember going in the car with my parents and siblings to see what it was all about. After the first time one knew of course, but I remember that first night driving from our house, following the searchlight in the sky, around Massalina Bayou to 4th Street, turning left to cross the bridge, up past the courthouse and to Harrison Avenue. Still following the sweeping searchlight, right on Harrison and north two and a half blocks, just past First Baptist Church, to a huge World War Two searchlight on a flatbed in front of Nelson Chevrolet, where the newest models were in the showroom,

 crowds gathering. The awesome light was a bit scary, reminiscent of lights sweeping dark, smoke-filled skies for enemy bombers, shining now in peace to attract attention, inviting and welcoming people to come see.

In a rabbinic discussion someone suggested that, considering the grace and hospitality of God, it may not have been frighteningly awesome at all between Moses and E-Yeh that morning as, shepherding his sheep, Moses turned aside to see. The bush was burning to get Moses’ attention, inviting and welcoming him to come see. As he comes closer a welcoming voice booms out. “Moshe! Moshe! Welcome, don’t be scared, this is my yard, holy ground: take off your shoes, make yourself comfortable, and let’s talk! By the way, I’m the God of Abraham, … E-Yeh’s the Name. E-Yeh A-Sherrr (God rolls his R’s, but He’s sure as hell no Scottish Presbyterian) E-Yeh! ” E-Yeh A-Sherrrrr E-Yeh. And just so, after some four centuries, the Creating God resumes Heilsgeschichte as he chats with a reluctant Egyptian prince.

The searchlight appeared in Panama City’s night sky the fall of every year during new car introduction time. My father must have been as interested as I, because it never was a struggle to get him to drive me to follow the searchlight. I remember it in front of Cook Ford at 4th and Harrison.  At Rowell Motors,

the Nash dealership at Hamilton and 6th Street where there’s a red-light now,
  the old building still has part of the Nash logo showing behind peeling paint on the front. Part of me will no longer
be when that shabby mess is finally pulled down, or spruced up and the front painted over.

At the Kaiser-Frazer dealership in the ultra-modern art-deco showroom on Highway 98 across town in Little Dothan. 

That building was recently demolished. 

That old Sunday School Bible story of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named-And-Centuries-Later-Would-Be-Revered-as-Adonai-Because-E-Yeh-Was-Too-Sacred-To-Be-Uttered-Aloud — the God of Abraham introducing himself to Moses — is one of my all time favorites. It best keeps my heart and mind in the knowledge and love of God as I visualize, “Moshe! Moshe! Welcome! Hey, man, this is my place, holy ground: take off your shoes and make yourself comfortable. I AM the God of Abraham, Name of E-Yeh. Let's talk!”


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