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Pharaoh and the Pandemic

We'll miss being together tonight for our usual Thursday gathering. We'll miss catching up over dinner and our time in the chapel... but we've put a worship meditation together, drawing from the Sanctified Art series we've been following, and we hope it will bring meaning to today. For the next few weeks we will be practicing visio divina together and we'd love to know what you think.

Visio Divina, “divine seeing”: similar to lectio divina, “divine reading,” which we’ve also done before… this is a way of slowing down, listening to a passage or allowing yourself to read more slowly, as well as meditating on an image… we have done four or five of these together as a group this year, so the prompts and instructions should hopefully be somewhat familiar to you, but we’ll detail the instructions so you can do them on your own... Or, if you’d like, grab a nearby friend or family member and do the brief exercises together! (It seems like this could take a long time because of the amount of detail we’re giving you in writing, instead of in person, but you can do it in 15 minutes, if that’s all you have, or see if you can take a full hour and really rest here.) We’d love to hear your thoughts via email or on facebook. We’re still worshipping together!

Feel free to do this outside, on your phone, or wherever you feel comfortable and can let your mind rest and wander a little bit. Read the questions below and then the passage of scripture. If you have time, you may even want to read the scripture twice, linger on the image or linger on a question. See if a simple prayer comes to you while you're reading, meditating, lingering or letting your mind wander.

  • What do you hear? What word or phrase or thought stands out to you in this passage?

Exodus 5:1-2, and 7:8-23

Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’”

2 Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.”

8 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 9 “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Perform a miracle,’ then say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,’ and it will become a snake.” 10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. 11 Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: 12 Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. 13 Yet Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said.

14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is unyielding; he refuses to let the people go. 15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he goes out to the river. Confront him on the bank of the Nile, and take in your hand the staff that was changed into a snake. 16 Then say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness. But until now you have not listened. 17 This is what the Lord says: By this you will know that I am the Lord: With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood. 18 The fish in the Nile will die, and the river will stink; the Egyptians will not be able to drink its water.’”

19 The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt—over the streams and canals, over the ponds and all the reservoirs—and they will turn to blood.’ Blood will be everywhere in Egypt, even in vessels[a] of wood and stone.” 20 Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood. 21 The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt.

22 But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said. 23 Instead, he turned and went into his palace, and did not take even this to heart.

  • What do you see? (You may want to zoom in.) What parts of the image are your eyes drawn to, and what parts did you quickly brush by? How does the image reflect on the scripture?

Anti-Creation Narrative (Pharaoh Hardens His Heart to Moses’ Requests), Graphic Image

By: Lauren Wright Pittman

Pharaoh is a fairly known character in the bible and popular history; feel free to sing the song, “Pharaoh, Pharaoh, ooohhh, baby, let my people go”… he’s infamous for keeping the Israelites as slaves and this scripture is part of the narrative explaining why he let them go. Essentially, Moses and Aaron performed “miracles” also known as “plagues” that made Egypt so gross Pharaoh just couldn’t stand it anymore. And if you look closely around Pharaoh’s head, you can see images of the other plagues. Frogs and locusts and blood… gross. And it’s not easy to read about the difficulties that Moses and Aaron and the rest of the Israelites are having with this government, but this also seems to go along with a lot of the things we’re hearing on the news the past two weeks. I’ll admit I’m not totally sure what the lesson is here, besides that plagues are awful and so are hardened hearts. So, for now I’m just trying to remember to keep my heart soft, even as we hear hard news.

  • What emotions emerge when you observe this painting? Do you identify with the artist’s reflections below? If you were to paint this text, what colors or details might you include?

“As I sketched this image of Pharaoh, I realized how cartoonish and irrelevant this character had become in my mind. What would Pharaoh look like today? […] a modern Pharaoh might look like the reflection in my mirror, and maybe in yours. This story of Pharaoh’s heart hardening leads to a kind of anti-creation narrative—one where the world is coming undone. We harden our hearts to the ways our actions cause harm […] one person’s clinging to power can literally unravel creation […] but our own unraveling of God’s dream for creation is not strong enough to thwart God’s plan. Ultimately, the Israelites find liberation. We will succeed, with God’s help, in healing the earth.”

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