Wednesday Wondering - August 30, 2023
Exodus 3: 13 - 15
But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ” 15 God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:
This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.
Psalm 55: 22
Cast your burden on the LORD, and he shall sustain you: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.
I have been struggling a lot with all that is happening in the world, but it is much more personal than what is happening in the wider world right now. There are so many that I know who are struggling with so much in their lives. In the midst of all of this I often think about God and what does it mean for us to know, to understand, that God is with us. The reading from Psalm 55 gives us assurance that when we struggle we are to cast our burdens onto God, but what does it mean for us to actually know that God is with us? In the reading from Exodus God has called Moses up to the mountain and is sending Moses to those in captivity, to free them. God has heard the cries of those who are struggling. In this story we hear of God’s love for God’s people and God names Godself in a way that I believe it is important for us to remember. I read this reflection on God’s name, written by an unknown author, and it speaks to me of God’s presence even when I struggle.
“There was a moment when Moses had the nerve to ask God what God’s name is. God was gracious enough to answer, and the name God gave is recorded in the original Hebrew as YHWH.
Over time we’ve arbitrarily added an ‘a’ and an ‘e’ in there to get YaHWeH, presumably because we have a preference for vowels.
But scholars and Rabbi’s have noted that the YHWH represent breathing sounds, or aspirated consonants. When pronounced without the intervening vowels, it actually sounds like breathing. YH (inhale): WH (exhale).
So a baby’s first cry, their first breath, speaks the name of God.
A deep sigh calls God’s name - or a groan, or gasp that is too heavy for mere words. Even an atheist would speak God’s name., unaware that their very breath is giving constant acknowledgement to God. Likewise, a person leaves this earth with their last breath, when God’s name is no longer filling their mortal lungs.
So when I can’t utter anything else, is my cry calling out God’s name? Being alive means that I speak God’s name constantly. So, it is heard the loudest when I’m the quietest. In sadness, we breathe heavy sighs. In joy, our lungs feel almost like they will burst. In fear, we hold our breath and have to be told to breathe slowly to help us calm down. When we are about to do something hard, we take a deep breath to find our courage. When I think about it, breathing is giving God praise. Even in the hardest of moments! This is so beautiful and fills me with emotion every time I grasp the thought. God chose to give Godself a name that we can’t but help speak every moment we’re alive. All of us, always, everywhere. Waking, sleeping, breathing, with the name of God on our lips.”
So when we struggle, when we don’t know what to do, know that God is with us because each breath we take speaks God’s name. We know in Paul’s letter to the Romans he states that we often times don’t know how to pray as we ought to, but the Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. Even in our sighs, when words will not come, we speak the name of God and God is with us. In our constant expressing of God’s name we are never alone, God has always been with us, God will always be with us. We are not alone in our suffering and struggle, for God hears God’s name with each breath we take. As our New Creed says, “We are not alone. Thanks be to God.”
God of life and breath and love, help us to hear your name in every breath we take. Help us to know that in the midst of our struggles, our pain, our suffering, our strife, you are with us as your name is always on our lips. Give us the courage to turn to you, knowing that your presence is here with us, always and forever. We ask this in the name of God Incarnate, your son, Jesus. Amen.