Stop Praising the House and Grab a Hammer
Thoughts on the First Readings – Joe Frankenfield
3rd Sunday in Lent
Exodus 3:1-8,13-15

“Take off those muddy shoes before you come in! Don’t you dare track up this kitchen; I just washed the floor!” As a kid I thought my mom simply didn’t want more work. As an adult I realized how much she wanted a nice place for us all to live. Taking my shoes off outside wasn’t just for my mom’s sake; it was for all our sakes.

That insight came back to me as I reread the story of the burning bush. It sounds as though God is displaying a bit of divine egotism. But God’s admonition to Moses not to approach with dirty feet isn’t about God’s ego; it’s about seeking respect for what God’s doing for humanity and, specifically, for the Hebrews enslaved in Egypt. God wants to impress on Moses that he’s being recruited into an act of liberation implications of which are beyond his comprehension.

It’s important to remember that those who composed the Bible’s stories wrote within the customs and characters of their experience. They could do nothing else. Since magnificent undertakings were the work of kings and pharaohs, the Bible portrays God as an ancient Mediterranean potentate. In Jewish history their liberation from Egyptian servitude and their conquests on the eastern end of the Mediterranean formed the core of their identity. Honor paid to God was honor paid to God’s accomplishments.

The Gospel of Matthew [7:21] quotes Jesus, “Not everyone saying, ‘Lord, Lord’ is part of the Reign of God; only the one who does my Father’s will.” Jesus worked to get folks to realize that we don’t praise God for God’s sake. We praise God for our sake. Praising God reminds us of what God is doing in our lives and encourages us to involve ourselves with his actions. If we remember this, our faith will deepen and mature.

It will be easier to keep our home free of all those muddy footprints too.