But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children— how you once stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, … you approached and stood at the foot of the mountain while the mountain was blazing up to the very heavens, shrouded in dark clouds. Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. He declared to you his covenant, which he charged you to observe, that is, the ten commandments; and he wrote them on two stone tablets. (Deuteronomy 4:9-10a, 11-13)
In a very personal way, the pandemic has magnified an ache in my heart that has been growing in my life in recent years. It is, I think, a cry from deep within me that is a desire to see and experience God in my life and world.
Recently I read a book Hunting Magic Eels: Recovering an Enchanted Faith in a Skeptical Age by Richard Beck that has been salve for my soul. Early in the book Beck engages the writings of Andrew Root, teacher at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN (The Pastor in a Secular Age: Ministry to People Who No Longer Need a God) in how he (Beck) understands what he calls “enchantment.” Beck writes,
As I began preparing for this devotion, I noted in yesterday’s First Reading and today’s follow up reading from the Daily Lectionary (Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9 and Deuteronomy 4:9-14) exactly what I understand Richard Beck to be naming. Many who would address these lessons would understandably focus on the laws of God (the 10 commandments, particularly in the Daily Lesson for today) and how they should be taught and passed down through the generations.
But right there in our readings are these words too, Moses says: “(don’t forget) the things your eyes have seen…how you once stood before the Lord your God at Horeb…while the mountain was blazing up to the very heavens…then the Lord God spoke to you out of the fire…” (emphasis mine)
Here it is! An experience of God that the people saw with their eyes…a blazing mountain…fire from which a voice (Moses calls God) spoke so that everyone there heard it! According to the text, this experience is also what needs to be passed on from generation to generation. This experience could also be a part of what Beck calls enchantment. This is what my heart longs for!
A few pages into the book, Beck describes this experience using the words of Thomas Merton, Catholic monk, and writer:
Seeing these words from Deuteronomy in this light and reading the words of Beck and Root and Merton whom he quotes, I understood better a recent experience I had that had some mystery about it when it happened. I spent a few days in the hospital earlier this summer with a serious infection. All the time I was there I had health care persons coming and going and they had a radiance about them that I just could not grasp. Now I understand a little better. God was shining in these persons as they cared for me and all their other patients. It was just a matter of seeing what was there for us to see.
If you remain skeptical, I urge you to take the journey with Beck through his book Hunting Magic Eels (Broadleaf Books, Minneapolis, MN, 2021). There, I believe, you will find soothing for your soul too.
My heart still aches for experiences of the mystery and mystical presence of God. Now, perhaps, I will pay better attention to see what is happening in the daily events of my life and the world around me. Perhaps this also speaks to your heart and soul. If it does, I hope you too will pay attention to what there is for you to see.
Gracious and mysterious God, you are the One who has created and daily gives us life. Give us the eyes of faith to perceive you in all the many ways you show yourself to us every day. May we also see the love and service Jesus shows us as it shines in the lives of persons around us. May we reflect that love and service in our own lives. Amen.