By The Reverend Dr. Katie Snipes Lancaster

Browning’s poem above points to the ordinary nature of the presence of God. Everything—the couch where you sit, the bed where you sleep, the table where you eat, the bush you pass on your way to walk the dog, all of it—is “crammed with heaven.” It is only when we see that we (like Moses) take off our shoes and acknowledge that we are on holy ground. It is only when we see that we begin to recognize how “crammed with heaven” this earth might be. 

Not that “the rest” in the poem (who presumably Browning is suggesting don’t see) are doing something in vain—sitting around picking blackberries. The fruit of the earth, straight from the shrub, is for me as close to heaven as I can get. But there’s something in the eyes-wide-open-to-God-noticing that helps us to connect, ever more frequently and in life-healing ways, to the One who sets the world aflame with divine presence. 

Browning alludes, of course, to the Exodus 3 story of Moses and the burning bush. The prayer below is adapted from a conversation barefoot Moses has with God-as-eternal-divine-flame about how Moses (a Hebrew raised by Egyptian royalty) might use his cross-cultural heritage (or you might say, powerful dual citizenship) as a leadership asset to bring justice to those who are enslaved. 

It all makes me wonder: how God is sending you these days? In what ways are the people you encounter (whether virtually or in person) sent by God to offer you freedom? How might a renewed attentiveness to the presence of God (like Browning is suggesting) help you see who (or how) God is sending to you in the midst of all that is hard these days?

Let us pray:

God, you are who you are, and you send us to one another.
You are the God of our ancestors,
the God of Abraham,
the God of Isaac,
the God of Jacob,
and you send us to one another.
You see what is happening all around us,
and you send us to one another.
Let us bring one another out of misery, O God.
Let us be for one another a land flowing with milk and honey.
You are who you are, O God, a God of freedom.
Send us toward that holy work.
—Prayer based on Exodus 3:14–17

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