The Wheel Turns Again

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The Wheel Turns Again

Exodus 1:8–2:10

The Israelites Are Oppressed

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.

The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, “When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.” But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?” The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”

Birth and Youth of Moses1

Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.

The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him. “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,” she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Yes.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

Matthew 16:13–20

Peter’s Declaration about Jesus2

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Wheel in the sky keeps on turnin’

I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow

Wheel in the sky keeps on turnin’

“Wheel in the Sky”by Journey)

Some 2500 years ago, a debate ensued between two philosophers named Heraclitus and Parmenides about the nature of reality and change.

Heraclitus, who is credited with the phrase, “You cannot step in the same river twice.”, believed that everything changes all the time. Change is the only constant in our life.

Parmenides, on the other hand, argued that if something changes then it ceases to be the same thing. With constant change there could be no such thing as identity.

What does that matter to us? Well, we deal with change and identity on personal levels and perhaps even more significantly across generations.

For example: If the Hebrew people no longer live in the land of their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are they still Hebrew?

Or: When the Hebrew people moved to Egypt and over the generations, eventually became slaves of them, were the younger generations who knew little to nothing about God Hebrew or had they become Egyptians?

Or, in modern terms: If someone today is a Hebrew person by ancestry but not a practicing or believing Jew, are they still part of God’s chosen people?

Or, by contrast: If someone is not genetically related to Abraham, does that disqualify them from ever being part of God’s chosen people?

In other words, if you either are or are not part of God’s people, can things change? Heraclitus would say yes. Parmenides would really struggle with this. Scripture is full of people who change their identities and change their lives. The word used to describe this is repentance. God calls us all to repentance because the brokenness of our world twists any original goodness that God creates in us by pulling us away from Him. We can certainly feel like we have always been a Christian, and we may not require a dramatic experience or change to put us on God’s path, but picking up our cross and following Jesus does not come naturally to us. Tweet: We can certainly feel like we have always been a Christian, and we may not require a dramatic experience or change to put us on God's path, but picking up our cross and following Jesus does not come naturally to us.It does not come naturally because we start off being deceived about our true identity, and then living into that lie begins to change us. Changing our allegiance changes our actions, and changing our actions changes our identity until at last, by God’s grace, we finally become the person God created us to be in the beginning.

(Poetic illustration from Matthew 25)

What changes have shaped your identity?

What further changes do you need to make in your life?

Click to Tweet!


  1. (Heb 11:23)
  2. (Mk 8:27–30; Lk 9:18–20)
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Good Neighbors

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Good Neighbors

Ephesians 4:25-32

“So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

I’m not normally one to dig into the Greek text and focus on individual words much, but I was surprised in finding the word translated “neighbor” here in this passage. I expected the word “brother”. The word Paul uses here – πλησίον (plēsion) does not refer to someone you share kinship with, it refers to someone with whom you share space. It means the person nearby. So, here Paul means neighbour in the same sense that Jesus meant neighbor in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

I have heard a lot of talk about diversity and cultural boundaries the last few years, but I have heard a lot less about being good neighbors. Perhaps we have been more dependant upon peyote like Fred Rogers to keep us neighborly, and in his absence we have reverted back to our natural state of suspicion towards those nearby. I don’t know. I’m not a very good neighbor myself. It might not look like it, but I live in a neighborhood that has drugs, prostitution, meth labs, and plenty of scenes that could have made it into the old television series “Cops”. When I get suspicious of neighbors it is not only due to issues of diversity, it is because I hear the shouting in the middle of the night as they fight in the street and I can remember the house next to us burning down when the meth lab exploded. Those memories are all challenges to my small attempts at being a “good neighbor”.I can understand Robert Frost‘s admonition about building fences and by extension, I can understand the nation’s desire to build walks around ourselves.

Maybe Paul had neighbors like me. I appreciate that he did not begin this passage with a generic slogan to love our neighbors. No, instead he challenges us to speak the truth to them. Building a fence is a way of speaking about separation and disconnect. This is where I end and you begin. Yet the next sentence from Paul says that is not truth but a lie. Paul claims we are all members of one another. Again, remember this is not family or even church family. He is shedding about the person nearby… your neighbors. Either the walls are lies our Paul is lying (or just wrong on this account).

He continues on and writes that it is ok to be angry, but not ok to keep that anger in without speaking about if. Could it be that this treasured piece if marriage advice was actually intended to be used between neighbors?
Paul writes that we should not steal from one another, taking advantage of one another, but instead we should use our words in particular and our deeds also to build up our neighbors. We need to put away our bitterness and forgive our neighbors as Christ forgave us.

What do you communicate to your neighbors?

How do you build them up?

How do you show them forgiveness as Christ had shown you?

 

 

An Acrostic on Two Roads –

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(The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost)

 

This world opens

roads of all diverse sincerities

dubious insights vying, each road granting entry differently,

inspired not

altogether,

yet each letting loose over wild

whimsies of opened dreams.

 

All new dreams

seep over rustic rushes, yielding

into

clammy, orphaned, understated life, despairing

nothing other than

tents removed and vaulted, each leaving

brothers of the heart.

 

Another never discovered

better ether

or never explored

the rest and vexing, entered long enchanting rivets

left over night grown

in

saline tongues of old dishes.

 

Anytime night dries

lying open, out knocking

differences over wishes now,

owning no expense

and setting

faces as rigid

as stone

in

cold ordered undercurrents left dissident.

 

The other,

winding, here ending riches, ended

in taste

before each necessary trio

in nonconforming

tangles, heaping eagerly

up near dear eternity rests, glowing round with tempered heats.

 

Then having each new

trade of open kindness,

this here establishes

our true humors, entered restlessly,

and singing

jollies uncertain – still this

aching sore

finds an inner repose.

 

As never dreamt,

here a value is newly given,

paid enough respect, having a penchant surreal,

to have elated

bright, eagerly tried, tear-eaten ruts

cut long across inner masks.

 

But enough cause and use seems evaded

in tow

with a song

guiding rains and singing salted yeast,

(a northern delicacy)

whipped and nostril-tied, each dear

weapon edged and ready.

 

This has our undercurrent going heavy

and silent,

fanning out radials

that have a track

that heavens escape,

preoccupied and sent sailing in newer grasses

to hail each reticent end.

 

However, a doe

wears out relatively new

trails here, entering mildly,

rueful ever about latent lions yelling

and boring on under the

tempered haven encamped

silently amidst mowed entrenchments.

 

A nibbled dent

between our touching hands

that hold a treat

meant only, reflecting not, in nails gained,

escorted quite unevenly and left laying yonder

looking at you.

 

I note:

love ever after vows each step

not only

secretly – there each promise

has a destiny

that reaches our delayed death, ending naively

before love actually comes knightly.

 

One hope

I

know either providence trusts,

though half-edged

forward, I rest securely tonight,

fearless, or retiring

and never opening this heart enjoined repose

deep and yearning.

 

Yearning effectually, this

keeling nonsense of ways ingrain new guesses

having out with

ways after your

lessoning erupts and deals softly

on negligent

trails of

wakening and yielding.

 

Instead

deafly ordered underlings buy tents enfleshed, dispirited

into flames

ired

sickly heavy or unconsciously laid down

ever vied, ever ready,

calling out mistaken encouragement

before a child kneeling.

 

I

surrender here a lowing lull

by entering

this election, logic left in neutral guess

to his unswerving season,

while I take hold,

again

stayed in great hesitation.

 

Symbols of my eternity were heard ‘ere rising, enthroned

against grace’s eager succor

and new deliveries

although glaring ensigns still

herald each new choice encountered.

 

They will observe

rich offerings ahead, down steady,

draped in veracity entered red, growing each day

in nobility,

and

wearing out ourselves deploring

all naive doubts

interrupting.

 

I

traded out our knife,

the hard escape

of no earnest

left ended, set sadly,

tolled ribs and veiled eyes lying eastward, dimly

breaking yesterday.

 

A new direction,

taking hand and toe,

has already set

my attitude: desperately encouraged,

and living love

through holy enchantment –

dearly, I found friendship eternal reaching each new chosen engagement.

 

 

Two Roads – Frost

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Robert Frost (1874–1963).  Mountain Interval.  1920.

  

1. The Road Not Taken

  

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,

 

And sorry I could not travel both

 

And be one traveler, long I stood

 

And looked down one as far as I could

 

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

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Then took the other, as just as fair,

 

And having perhaps the better claim,

 

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

 

Though as for that the passing there

 

Had worn them really about the same,

        10

  

 

And both that morning equally lay

 

In leaves no step had trodden black.

 

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

 

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

 

I doubted if I should ever come back.

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I shall be telling this with a sigh

 

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

 

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

 

I took the one less traveled by,

 

And that has made all the difference.

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