Pharaoh’s narrative is the powerful extract wealth from the vulnerable by means of cheap labor that are legal (the powerful make the laws!) and that the powerful consider normal and moral. Those that are left behind are left behind because of their own inadequacy or inability. The cycle of Pharaoh’s narrative is: anxiety, scarcity, accumulation, ending in violence.
The narrative is introduced in Genesis when Pharaoh with the help of Joseph, in response to the coming famine, starts to store away food which later, during the famine is sold back to the people, including the Israelites. It is sold first for money, then in exchange for property and land (means of production), and finally in exchange for their enslavement. The Pharaoh is never named in scripture. As Brueggemann states, “if you see one Pharoah, you’ve seen them all.” Pharaoh is a cipher, an icon.
This narrative is the basis for our reflection this week. We are called to Justice and to transform the narrative of Pharaoh, to that of God. I’ve just returned from the DART Conference where we heard from Bishop Michael Curry, he too spoke of the Pharaoh narrative, and how we are called to be transformed and renewed to living in the ‘Shamah” narrative, namely God’s. In this prayer God is first proclaimed and recognized as One, and we are called to love God and God alone. And we are to teach this love to our children. All this is to Say, the Shamah Narrative opposed to Pharaoh is one of great love, and is centered in God.
From the Prophet Isaiah this week we have the vision of the throne of God. It is only following the death of the King Uzziah does prophesy return to Israel. Isaiah had refused to speak due to the arrogance of King Uzziah against God. Now we see Isaiah in his vision is forgiven, healed, restored and takes up again the call to prophesy, to speak to God’s people on God’s behalf. This great image of forgiveness through the burning coal touching the lips of Isaiah, restores the call and Isaiah again goes forth. “Here I am send me.”
We like Isaiah to be a people of Justice, to courageously live the Gospel, must first be willing and able to approach God in our humility, recognizing our need for His forgiveness. This he offers freely for he desires to use us for His greatness and His glory to speak God’s word. To speak a new narrative, a new way of living, loving and being in relationship to God and one another. No longer the narrative of Pharaoh, one of oppression and disregard of the other, but rather a way of love.
We see this in today’s Gospel. Jesus is setting out to change and transform the Narrative of Pharaoh alive and operative among his own people in their world as well as ours. You see Jesus takes ordinary men, men who are outside of the privileged few, men who were simply trying to make it day to day. Jesus sets out and calls men who were in dispair due to their lack of making ends meet, he tells them to set out for deep water and lower their nets for a catch. Although an intial brief doubting, they obey. In their willingness to accept the call to go deeper Jesus turns their faith into a call to be about going now after “men” namely, that they would be drawing men and women unto him and out of the Pharaoh narrative, into a relationship with the God of Love.
Justice ministry does this, to often we go through the motions of coming each week to hear a nice sermon, sing our favorite songs, and say hello to our favorite people. As long as that is not rocked, not upset we are fine. Jesus calls us out of our comfort zone, calls us from the familiar safety of being on the shoreline, he calls us out to deep waters. He calls us to be catching our brothers and sisters so that they might be caught up on the Shamah Narrative, the narrative of God and His great love. Who will do it? who will venture out in the deep waters of our community, amongst those who are deeply found in despair, emerged in hopelessness, sunken in grief and weighed down by oppression? Let your and my response be that of Isaiah, “Here I am Lord, Send Me!”