It’s nearly here! the official publication date for Prayers and Verses!
I thought I would share something from Chapter Three of both books – Prayers and Verses and The Bible Retold.
The story of Moses, and how people escaped from slavery, is absolutely central to our understanding of the story of the Bible as a whole. It is truly remarkable. Written records usually tell the story of the victor, of the rich and powerful. This ancient narrative tells the story of the slaves, the powerless, the people pushed to the edges. It says that God is listening to them, and is sending someone to bring them out of slavery, into freedom.
Prayers for those who labour under heavy loads, who bear much sorrow, are included at the opening of the chapter in the prayer book. The Hebrew scriptures are full of reminders to be compassionate, to remember the hardship, and to let it soften your heart towards others that suffer – strangers in a strange land. That is why the story is recalled again and again, because it has the capacity to centre us once more on love, on justice, on humility. It builds our faith that God does listen, and then respond. The faithfulness of God is spoken of again and again. And the turning point of the story is when Moses is stopped in his tracks by the burning bush, and the experience of God he has there. At a time when he must have felt he had blown all his chances, and had let down his people, this prince of Egypt encountered God when he was simply living out his own life on the edges, as a humble shepherd. This encounter changed everything, as encounters with God tend to do.
To go alongside this snippet of story, I have chosen an extract from Prayers and Verses which will, I hope, encourage us to open our eyes to the possibility of God being present with us as we go about our daily lives.
Then, one day, as the sheep grazed on the slopes of Mount Sinai, Moses saw something: it was bright flames leaping up from within a bush. He began walking towards the burning bush, curious, because he saw that although it was crackling with flames, the bush was not being burned up. And then a voice called from within the flames.
“Don’t come any closer. Take off your shoes, for you are on holy ground!” Moses obeyed the voice.
“I am the God of your forefathers: the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob…”
Moses hid his face, afraid to look on God.
“… and I have heard the cries of my people. I have seen their suffering, and felt their pain. I want to pull them out from under their slave masters’ whips and bring them to a good, gentle land: a land of plenty. You are the man I have chosen to send to Pharaoh. You will rescue my people form Egypt.”
Grant us a heart wide open to all this beauty; and save our souls from being so blind that we pass unseeing when even the common thornbush is aﬂame with your glory, O God our creator, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
WALTER RAUSCHENBUSCH (1861–1918)
Dear Lord, Help us to see you today in all the ordinary things when we walk, and talk, and play; help us to know that the whole earth is full of your glory, and that the ground is holy. Amen
The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will ﬂame out, like shining from shook foil.
GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS (1844–89)