The burning bush was a topic of a previous post I wrote here, but there is a slightly different twist on the story that brings me back to it now. This time I am not so much interested in how you or I might respond to the spectacular scene of a bush that was burning but not consumed…oh, and yeah, calling your name! (Although I am a bit interested in that as the video at the end of this post shows.) No, this time, I’m curious about how we read and how we tell the story.
As we explored the concept of mythological imagination this past week, two things stood out for me. One is that myths are not lies, rather they are the stories about things that happen repeatedly around which we organize meaning in our lives. The other is that the work of meaning-making requires imagination. So in relation to the story of the Burning Bush, we can imagine a supernatural scene, one that would surely get our attention. That is one use of the mythological imagination that says something about our willingness and ability to hear the voice of God in our lives. If that is how you read the story then one thing you are saying about yourself is that if God wants you to listen then God will need to speak up…and do something spectacular. Another use of the mythological imagination occurred in the story claiming that this particular bush had been burning for generations, but only Moses, as the chosen one, was able to perceive it. Or perhaps, he was the first to be brave enough to approach it. AND perhaps, that very bush is still burning…and calling your name.
As the picture here suggests, some literalists have claimed that the very bush has been identified and is no longer aflame. Of course, just to be sure some pranksters have placed a fire extinguisher there. This is a great visual metaphor for the current debate between Fundamentalists and the New Atheists. Truth be told, both sides are reading the Bible quite literally, the first choosing what they read there over what science teaches and the latter the reverse. Sadly, both are lacking in mythological imagination. But we are not forced into that dualistic box, we are free to read and tell the story in any way that transmits truth.
One truth of the myth is that God has spoken and God is still speaking. We need to keep telling stories in creative ways that remind us of this truth. The best ones will help us to hear our names being called. Our spirits can be ignited, even if the vegetation is not.
Rev. Ian Lynch is pastor of First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Brimfield, MA & Chaplain of the local Fire Department. He blogs about the intersection of spirituality and society at CultureDove.blogspot.com and the intersection of spirituality and ornithology at https://birdparables.blogspot.com