The message this morning was focused on the Frog stained glass piece and had Exodus 8:1-15 as the text – the plague of frogs. With the Solar Eclipse tomorrow it thought it might be interesting to think about the signs we get from God. I’m posting my sermon here because it fits with the big event tomorrow. Happy eclipsing and DON’T LOOK AT THE SUN!!!
Divination comes from the Latin word meaning “to foresee, or to be inspired by God.” This practice is ancient, but still exists. In fact, my daughter and her friends are all into reading tarot cards and a very creepy movie brought Ouija boards back into popularity. This idea of divination came up for me with the Harry Potter books. Professor Sybill Trelawney talking to the class about Divination said “So you have chosen to study Divination, the most difficult of all magical arts. I must warn you at the outset that if you do not have the Sight, there is very little I will be able to teach you. Books can take you only so far in this field…” Have I geeked out too much for you to follow?
Some find talk of things like divination and reading signs as a kind of dark art, just as the Harry Potter books were initially looked at with disdain by some Christian communities for being about witchcraft when they are really about love, sacrifice, goodness, community, and the very principles of our faith – but let’s not start that argument. The reality is that our ancestors in the faith engaged in divination. In fact, much of the Hebrew Scripture is focused on explaining God’s presence, judgement, and will in the signs and wonders of nature. Plagues and famine were seen as God’s punishment. When bad things happened to good people, it meant that they surely were not as good as they appeared. Particularly unusual events were interpreted as acts of God.
We live in a more enlightened age when science and technology can explain these phenomena. Yet, we haven’t progressed too far. There are still clauses in our insurance policies that refer to “acts of God.” This more primitive, from our perspective, divination is really an attempt to understand who God is, how God acts, and what God wants. Aren’t we still engaged in the same thing? All the science and understanding in the universe does not remove wonder and doubt from our journey.
In our text for this morning we are in the middle of the plagues. If you remember, God’s people are slaves in Egypt. God has heard the cries of God’s people and is going to rescue them from their plight. Moses is chosen by God to lead the people out. This man who has grown up in the family of the Pharaoh must now plead for the freedom of his birth people. It’s no easy task in a culture and economy based on the subjugation of one group of people over another. When the Pharaoh will not let the people go, God brings plagues upon the Egyptians to convince Pharaoh that this is God’s plan and not just Moses’ revolution. There were ten plagues (Pharaoh was slow to get the message) – blood turned to water, frogs, gnats, flies, diseased livestock, unhealable boils, hail and fire, locusts, darkness, and death of the first born child. Our stained glass for today depicts not just the frog, but also some other bugs and critters that could represent the creepy crawly parts of the story. But frog is the represented verse chose and so the second plague is our text for this morning.
It’s interesting that even within the passage, that as Aaron stretches out his arms to cause frogs to cover the land, magicians are mentioned as doing the same. There is this give and take between Pharaoh and Aaron and Moses. The frogs are a sign of God’s presence and intent, but so is the removal of those frogs from Pharaoh’s household. The passage is visceral in its description – frogs spilling out of kneading bowls and bed chambers, and dead frogs heaped into stinking piles. Yuck! And yet, once God backs off on the plague, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened and he does not listen to God.
We’ve grown up knowing this story. It’s part of our Judeo-Christian history. We may even take these marvelous, awe-inspiring displays of God’s power and might for granted. But imagine what it must have been like for those Israelites to see in such amazing ways that God was making a way for them! Maybe in our science and technology driven world today we have lost some connection to the wonder of God. In fact, it’s funny that when I googled the plagues so that I could remember the right order (even though I had a Bible sitting right next to me) Wikipedia provided a scientific explanation for every one of the plagues. How many of us have said, “I got a sign from science” and not “I got a sign from God”?
I’m not knocking science. I am a firm believer in it and the great insight and knowledge that continues to unfold before us. In fact, that deeper knowledge only strengthens my faith as I wonder at how God made all the details of the universe. But what if we practiced the ancient art of divination again? What if we looked at the signs around us with wonder and awe, but also for direction and calling? Frogs let Pharaoh know that God was not good with this slavery thing. Frogs, as well as the other plagues, let God’s people know that God was with them and on the side of justice. What are the signs telling us?
Tomorrow there will be a major astronomical event – at total solar eclipse. We have NASA to tell us all the details of what is happening and how it’s safe and not safe to view the event. We’ve heard countless stories for weeks about this event coming and know when and where it is best to view. Our ancestors had no access to that kind of information. For them the sky suddenly turned dark and the sun was blotted out. Surely they saw in such events a sign. What is God trying to tell us?
As we prepare for tomorrows event let’s take a moment to ponder what God is trying to tell us. I’m not suggesting that this is an act of God other than it is God who created the planets and put the universe in motion. I’m suggesting we take this as an opportunity to practice divination in the sense that we stop and think about what God is doing and where God is acting in our lives. How is God inviting us to work for justice and equality? How are we called to do the work of justice in our world? How is God inviting us to live? Who are the Pharaohs of our world who need to be reminded that God advocates for justice?
You know FROG is an acronym for Fully Rely on God. Christian stores sell frog necklaces and bracelets and bookmarks to remind us of that. That was kind of the message to Pharaoh – God’s in charge, not you! May we be reminded too! As the sky grows dark and the sun is blotted out from the sky may we know that God is God – that God is good – and that God is in charge. And as the light returns may we let that light fill us with the knowledge and love of God so that we can be that light to our world. Amen.