Helen: Not to be Blasphemous, But...Was Moses High?
|Must we be so dramatic, people? Truly.|
Last night, Soul Papa and I were invited to play some music during online vespers, a Thursday night tradition for some of the most devoted of our church's members. It was also a send-off for our minister, who is about to go on a short sabbatical. It's been a difficult time for the church, not only because of COVID-19 but because of personnel issues that seem to have stolen attention from the church's larger spiritual, social, and community functions. It feels a little like the people of Israel, fighting in the desert at the base of Mt. Sinai, waiting for Moses to come back. Heeding the call to leadership, off Moses stormed to the mountain, but hold up: Read those books from Exodus, and you may wonder if he should have just gone to the pub to meet his mates. I just read the chapters starting around Exodus 24 about Moses going to the mountain, where a cloud descended for six days amid thunder and a trumpet blast, and I think he actually got a one-week makeover from the boys of Queer Eye. And so I wish the very same for our dear Pastor Helen.
Just a little background, for those who, like me, who may have forgotten or who daydreamed through that part of the show: The Chosen People had made it out of Egypt and were on their way through the wilderness to the promised land. It was the third month. They were getting fed up; they missed their beds, crisp white linens, hot food, cold beer. They were getting pissy, arguing over the housework, whose turn it was to do the dishes, and treating sweeping the kitchen floor like it was a metaphysical crisis. God saw the impending mess and Called Moses up to this mountain for a little chat. He warned the people to leave the Bossman alone and not bother him until the trumpet soundeth, lest they be stoned or shot to death. (Ok, Helen, we get it. We promise not to text or e-mail you until we hear that Mike has started practicing again. It's a bit melodramatic, but fine.)
So up goes Moses. He hangs out in a puff of smoke for a few days, comes back with a whole pile of rules, most of which seem pretty reasonable: don't kill, lie, cheat, yada, yada, yada. I'm a little perplexed about the need for offerings of burnt sheep and oxen, but I know this is long before we needed to strip the rainforest to raise cattle. And this is where God starts getting specific. You can buy a servant, but only keep him for six years, and when he goes, the wife and kids go too and you don't complain about it. There are rules for how you sell your daughter. There is alimony for your first wife. No slaves. No saying bad things about your parents. Spiteful revenge is approved, but only in certain circumstances. If someone's ox gores you, THE OX MUST DIE. (There are five full verses on this one. It's a thing.) Also, major protections for the vineyard; we do love our wine in times of trouble. All witches must die. (That one came out of nowhere.) After three chapters of rules—rules for beasts, liquors, corn, and bread—I'd say heads were spinning, for heads would be rolling. The punishments were steep! If it's not death, it's hornets. Serious business, indeed.
These rules would be enough to drive any rebel to Christianity with its one easy-to-understand-hard-to-follow love rule, but that wouldn't happen for a few thousand years, so we can leave that story to Mel Gibson. Or not. It being the Old Days where punishment was sung in creative verse, Moses went back for more. Back to the mountain again, into 40 days and 40 nights of cloud cover, without Gore-tex rain gear.
This is where we launch season 5 of Queer Eye, where the lads dictate the conditions of Shangri-la. Moses listens to them, of course, and after forty days of compassionate fashion and lifestyle counseling, he's learned not just how to keep his oxen on his own damn lawn, but also how to decorate his home and how to cook fabulous food for fabulous guests. Gold, silver brass, linens of blue, purple, scarlet. Goat's hair. (Ew.) A gold-spackled ark or two. Incense and essential oils. Shittim wood. (What the heck is shittim wood?) Golden cherubims. Cute! More shittim furniture. Dishes! Spoons! Knops! Vails! Taches! (Which are.... ?) Almond-shaped bowls. (Gorgeous!) Seven lamps and snuffdishes. (Snuff dishes!) Designed with the pattern He shared on the mount. Then, cascading, floor-length curtains with blue loops. An exhaustive plan for a tabernacle, more shittim, more gold, lots of cubit-counting. (Someone's going to be busy in the basement workshop.) Three chapters, chock full of specifics, down to the cubit. Did anyone ever actually make this thing? It sounds pretty fab. But expensive.
Not done! In chapter 28, we dress the family. Breastplates, precious stones, rich linens. At this point, I'm thinking it wasn't God or the boys from Queer Eye talking at all. I think Moses found peyote. Because in chapter 29, he gets the munchies. Now we're talking bread and cake. And a massive cookout. And hins. (What is a hin, please?) Once all of this is done, and frankly, I don't recommend that you read to the end of book 29 unless you're good with detail, God says that's how we'll know Him. The riches. The bounty. The excess. Ah, but He's still not done, and by the end of chapter 31, it's clear to God that Moses that won't remember everything, so The Big He scribbles everything on some stones and sends the youngfella back down the hill.
Where Moses' people had been having a hell of time without him, running around naked, singing songs at the campfire, and roasting marshmallows. This really annoys Moses. He breaks the stones, and thank God for that, because next time he went up, God gave him the Cliff Notes, just ten rules this time, and everyone went off happy enough for several thousand years til the sandal-wearing hippie came along with his single, absolutely impossible rule.
So ends the misreading of the Word.
Helen. I wish for a much simpler journey for you. Go to the mountain and get your wisdom, but please bring a raincoat. Also, see if you can find out what a hin is. Thank you. We'll be waiting.