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Hildy Tail: Excuses, Excuses, Excuses (Exodus 3:1 – 4:17)

This week we are featuring one of our Hildy Tails. This series of essays were composed last year for our Sustainers Circle. They were dictated to John by the Abbey’s mascot, Hildy the Monk-ey. Hildy is a bit of a free spirit who likes to entertain and doesn’t normally feel constrained by conventional story structure . . . or grammar, in general. She lives by the motto that “all stories are true; some actually happened.” We wanted to share them with you, our wider Abbey community, to give you a small monkey-sized, humorous perspective on some biblical passages and stories of the saints. 

Greetings fellow pilgrims and monks, ‘tis me – Hildy the Abbey of the Arts mascot!

Today I’m going to tackle another weird biblical story and the subject of this particular tale is . . . he’s a big one and I hope not to offend. So let me begin by stating that I love this guy and think that he’s great, like truly great. But like most biblical figures, he’s flawed. Like *really* flawed. But that just makes his redemption all the more remarkable. To go from killer to founding prophet of the Covenant . . . props to Moses. 

But before we get to praising him, let’s deal with that whole “killer” thing. You see, despite what some of Hollywood’s depictions of his origin story, it’s clear that Moses knows he’s a Hebrew. Yes, his mother and sister plot to trick the Pharaoh’s daughter into finding and adopting him, but from the text, Moses clearly knows that he’s a Hebrew. Not only is his birthmother his wet nurse (cleverly planned by his sister and mother – but that’s another story), one day as an adult he sneaks out of the palace to “go visit his people” when he sees an Egyptian foreman beating a Hebrew slave. Moses goes to the defence of the Hebrew and ends up killing the Egyptian. 

At this point, legally speaking, it may only be manslaughter . . . except that Moses hides the body . . . and that always reads “guilty” to a judge and jury. Wee, naïve Moses thinks he’s gotten away with this crime (however you want to categorise it), but the next time he visits the Hebrews, it is clear that others know about the dead Egyptian. (I mean there was at least one other witness and Moses buried the body in the sand . . . like that’s going to stay hidden for long.) So, before his adopted grandfather, the pharaoh, can find out, Moses runs away into the wilderness (he is NOT helping his case here) and never intends to return, under penalty of law and execution.

Moses starts a whole new life in the wilderness: no longer a prince, but a humble shepherd. He marries and has children. Life may be simpler, and perhaps a bit more difficult, what without all the palace servants. But it’s good and Moses has no intention of changing anything and certainly doesn’t ever want to return to where he’s most assuredly wanted for murder.

But then God comes a calling. 

Moses is confronted by a burning bush that is not consumed. So of course, he goes to investigate. And after being told to take off his sandals, for he is on holy ground, he’s instructed by God to go back to Egypt and help rescue the Hebrews from slavery.

And Moses says, “no, thank you” . . . repeatedly.

He’s not to silly as to be so blunt with God, but he does start off with false humility, claiming that he’s a nobody and so he shouldn’t be the one to go. But God tells him that it doesn’t matter who he is, because God will be with him. Moses is just to be the mouthpiece for God. (And let’s not forget that Moses grew up in the Pharaoh’s palace and so is actually better suited than most to go speak to the Pharaoh.)

Next, Moses tries to get clever and claim that he can’t do it, because he doesn’t know God’s name, so nobody is going to believe him, so . . . “thanks, but no thanks; please send someone else.” But God just tells Moses his name. (And THAT is a whole other story; but not a silly one, so we’ll leave it for now . . . other than to say how revelatory the name is!)

At this point, Moses (desperate not to return to Egypt) just gets a bit whingy (that’s Hibernian-English for whiney) and worries aloud that nobody is going to believe him, even if God is speaking through him and he knows Yahweh’s name and . . . “please just send someone else.” So . . . Yahweh gives Moses special powers to demonstrate God’s power and his authority in God’s name. There’s a staff that turns into a snake and he can cause his hand to wither and then heal immediately and . . . and yet, Moses still tries to get out of it.

“But I don’t speak good,” Moses cries. “Fine,” says Yahweh, “you can take your brother Aaron to help you speak to the Pharaoh. Now quit all the belly-achin’ and excuses and GO!”

(I may have paraphrased a few verses above. But . . . sometimes it helps to put things in a more . . . vernacular form . . . to get the meaning across.)

Now, I’m sure you’re all aware of how things turned out: Moses was a great spokesperson for Yahweh and the Hebrews are rescued from slavery and they receive the Covenant and they return to the Promised Land . . . eventually. 

But what I love about this story is just how reluctant, repeatedly, so stubbornly resistant Moses was to heed God’s *very clear* calling. I mean . . . most of us WISH we’d have such a clear sign as the Burning Bush. But when even the mighty figure of Moses is presented with just such an IN YOUR FACE sign . . . he balks and balks and balks. Maybe we should be a bit easier on ourselves when we find ourselves resisting God’s call. And we should definitely take heart knowing how much we can achieve, even if we’re a simple soul who’s far from perfect. 

How can you stop resisting and say “yes” to God’s call in your life?

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