Lectionary Reflection: Keep on keepin’ on, and when you can’t keep on no more, get some help

I loved today’s first reading from Exodus 17. When Moses has his hands lifted up to God, Israel prevails; when he lets his hands rest, Amalek prevails.

So what does he do? Well, actually, the question is, what do Aaron and Hur do? They move a rock into position so Moses can sit down, and they place themselves in position so they can support his hands. The text doesn’t say, but I rather imagine them kneeling, one on each side of him, so he can rest his arms on their shoulders.

What a terrific witness for community, over against our over-individualized culture and (often) spirituality! And especially for church leadership, over against clericalism. This story isn’t about Moses the hero, Moses the saint, Moses whose consummate holiness allowed God to work through him. No, this is a story about Moses and Aaron and Hur, Moses the leader of the people and his ordinary human weaknesses, and the people who supported him, contributed to his efforts, and thereby participated in the LORD’s work.

It reminded me of Amy Plantinga Pauw’s article, which I blogged earlier this year, in which she argues that even church practices that appear to be individual because they are to be performed by individuals also have a communal aspect. In particular, she suggests that the practice of a community can help support an individual through times when their own ability to engage in that practice is weak or absent.

I don’t recall whether she cited this story in support of her argument, but that’s what I see here: Aaron and Hur supporting Moses when he is tired and weary and just can’t do anymore on his own.

The second reading was from the second letter to Timothy, beginning with the well-known passage about scripture being inspired. I’ve not heard 4:2 nearly as often: Be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient.

And the gospel, of course, is the well-known story of the inconveniently persistent widow, whom the judge finally satisfies just to get her off his back.

The collects at Mass and the priest’s homily applied all these themes of persistence to our prayer life, which will deepen if we persist in it. But persistence doesn’t mean only in isolation: when we weary, for we will weary, we can and should turn to others for support, and allow their prayers and practices to sustain us, as Aaron and Hur sustained Moses.

Isn’t that one of the things that church is all about?

How do you persist in your prayer life? Where do you turn for support? How do you support others?

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