Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I've been translating my way through the early chapters of Exodus: the birth of Moses, Moses fleeing to Midian, Yahweh hearing the groans of Israel, and then the burning bush and Moses being sent to Pharaoh in order to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt.
But Moses knows he's not worthy, and he's sure that the Egyptians won't be convinced.
So Yahweh gives him a sign.
1 Then Moses answered, "But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, 'The LORD did not appear to you.'" 2 The LORD said to him, "What is that in your hand?" He said, "A staff." 3 And he said, "Throw it on the ground." So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. 4 But the LORD said to Moses, "Put out your hand and catch it by the tail"- so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand- 5 "that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you" (Exodus 4:1-5, emphasis added).
Yahweh takes a physical, tangible, visible element, the staff/snake, and He attaches a promise to it. The staff/snake will now serve as a sign of God's appearance to the Egyptians, and at the same time will serve as a sign of God's promise to Moses. The Egyptians will know that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has indeed appeared to Moses. And Moses, when he sees the staff/snake will be reminded of God's promise to bring the children of Israel to a land flowing with milk and honey.
And Yahweh will continue to work this way.
Physical elements, in and of themselves have no power, but when Yahweh attaches His Word of promise to them, they become a visible sign for us to cling to, assuring us of His faithfulness. This is the very essence of Sacramental Theology. Yahweh gives us something we can see, something we can grasp, something we can hold on to, so that we would also believe when we are not able to see, grasp, or hold. And this produces faith.
A staff + the Word = A snake that reveals Yahweh's presence to the unbeliever, and His promises to His people.
For you and for me:
Water + the Word = Forgiveness of sins, life and salvation as a Child of God.
Bread and Wine + The Word = The very Body and Blood of Christ, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins, and the strengthening of your faith.
I imagine that Moses slept very near to his staff, as it reminded him of Yahweh's presence. May we remain close to the gifts to which Yahweh has attached a promise for us. Sleep in the peace of your Baptism, knowing whose you are. And taste and see in the Supper, that Jesus Christ has died for you. Amen.