Moses and the Thorns

Since I started work on the Exodus Big Read with my friends in the Diocese of Southern Ohio, I’ve been struggling to make a good piece of art that depicts Moses and the Burning Bush.  The story is at once too small and too huge.  Too small because there’s not a lot of action – there are only two persons present, Moses and God, and all they’re doing is talking.  But too large because it’s a theophany – the nature of God is being revealed.  Something beyond image and language is happening to Moses, and he’s being transformed by it.  How do you depict that?

I’m not sure that this attempt is any more successful than the previous images I’ve made. But I learned from my friend, Rabbi Daniel Bogard, that in Judaism its traditional to think of the burning bush as a thorn bush.  You can’t put your hand into it without being grabbed by the thorns.  Once you engage with it, you’re snagged.  Hearing that, I realized that this must, in part, be what’s happening to Moses.  He’s trapped by his contact with the divine.  This resonated with me because I, too, feel entangled with the divine.  My own theophanies haven’t necessarily led to clarity about the nature of the sacred or of the profane, nor do I have any better idea how to respond to either.  But they have snared me in the questions – big, ultimate questions that I can’t stop asking.  For me, in this moment, Moses’s contact is less with fire than with thorns, and I hope that this image reflects that.

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