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Take Your Shoes Off (Ornate Devotion) – Art & Theology Theology

God calls Moses (San Vitale)
Detail of the 6th century mosaic from the San Vitale Sanctuary, Ravenna. Photo: Ms. Lawrence Lew, OP.

Now Moses kept the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, and led his flock to the west side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire in the middle of a bush. He saw, and behold, the bush was burning, but it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this magnificent sight why the bush is not burned.” When the Lord saw him turn aside to see, God called him from the bush: “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Don’t come any closer; Take your sandals off your feet because the place you stand on is sacred ground. ”And he said,” I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. ” And Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord said, “I have certainly seen the suffering of my people in Egypt and heard their cry because of their superiors. I know their sufferings and I came down to deliver them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them out of this land to a good and wide land, a land that flows with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, who Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt. “But Moses said to God, Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt? He said, “But I will be with you, and this will be the sign for you that I sent you. When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will serve God on this mountain.”

Then Moses said to God, When I come to the people of Israel and say to them, The God of your fathers sent me to you, and they ask me, What’s his name? What can I tell them? “God said to Moses: I am who I am. And he said:” Say this to the people of Israel: it is I who sent me to you. “God also said to Moses:” Say this to the people of Israel : ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and so I must be remembered for generations to come. “

Exodus 3: 1–15

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SONG: “Take off your shoes, Moses” by JD Jarvis, 1967 | Carried out by Courtney Patton, 2014

Written by Kentuckian John Dill Jarvis, “Take Your Shoes Off, Moses” was popularized in the early 1970s by Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys (with Keith Whitley as the singer). This performance comes from Texas country musician Courtney Patton and was recorded as part of Modern Trade’s Revival of the Southern Gospel Project.

The first verse and the first refrain come from the reading on Sunday in Exodus 3, in which the first direct contact between God and Moses is told.

The second verse is based on a later episode in Exodus in which the desert-wandering Israelites are refreshed by water from a rock:

And the Lord said to Moses, Go on before the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. See, I will stand there on the rock near Horeb before you, and you will strike the rock, and water will come out of it, and the people will drink. And Moses did it before the elders of Israel. (Exodus 17: 5–6)

The third and final verse refers to an instruction given shortly before the Red Sea parted:

And Moses said to the people, Do not be afraid, stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will do for you this day. (Exodus 14:13)

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San Vitale (c) Paul Dykes
Photo: Paul Dykes

One of the most impressive programs of early Christian mosaic is in the Basilica of San Vitale [previously] in Ravenna, Italy. The Moses scene is on the right side of the choir, in the left gusset: Moses takes care of his father-in-law’s sheep and then takes off his shoes to respond to God’s call from the burning bush – which in the mind of this artist bags are flame that burns all over Horeb! The prophet Isaiah faces Moses on the right. Between the two, in the lunette, are Abel and Melchizedek, both of whom are understood as types of Christ and make sacrifices to God. Next to the two-winged window above them stand two of the four evangelists with their symbols: Matthew (with [winged] Man) and Mark (with lion).


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To display all of the revised readings of the Common Lectionary scripture for Proper 17, Cycle A, Click here.

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