And Moses said, “I will turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.”
- Exodus 3:3
For twenty or so years I’ve been going on “Franciscan road trips” with my friend Norberta who has authority to lead outings like this because she’s Franciscan nun.
To begin a Franciscan road trip you have to go far enough away from home that you don’t know where you are. This takes Norberta and me almost no time at all because neither of us has a sense of direction. Then, at each intersection, you arbitrarily decide to turn left, right or go straight in the hopes of getting more lost.
I called to ask Norberta if she made this game up or if it’s really some kind of Franciscan formation activity. She said she did make it up, years before I knew her for a Girl Scout troop she led. Since this is the case, I asked if Norberta had made up Franciscan Bible study too, which she also introduced me to many years ago. This she adamantly denied.
A Franciscan Bible study involves opening the Bible at any page, closing your eyes and putting your finger down in it. Wherever you land, that’s where you start reading. I’ve always thought this was a terrible idea because, really, there are parts of the Bible you just don’t want to find yourself lost in without a map.
Even if Norberta made up one, both the Franciscan Road trips and Franciscan Bible Study do reflect the character of their name sake. If you haven’t read some of the stories in Little Flowers of St. Francis, why not try a few in honor of St. Francis Day, which we’ll celebrate this Sunday?
You’ll see a theme begin to immerge. For instance:
Francis was supposed to take over the family fabric business. Instead, he sold his father’s expensive silk and satin and used the money to repair a broken down old church. Once, while he was walking he saw a flock of birds in a field, so he veered off the road into the weeds and preached to them. When he wasn’t preaching to birds, Francis went from town to town interrupting people from going about their business to beg for alms. It would seem that when Francis wasn’t getting sidetracked himself he was busy sidetracking everyone else.
At Bible study on Tuesday mornings we’ve been reading Exodus. One of the things that caught our imaginations this week is chapter three, which begins with Moses acting like a responsible husband and father by tending his father-in-law’s sheep. While he’s leading them to greenery, out of the corner of his eye he sees a burning shrub. The text is careful to say that Moses turns aside to find out why even though this bush was burning it wasn’t consumed. Why didn’t he assume it was just a brush fire and keep going? Wasn’t his wife expecting back before dark?
You could say it’s at this moment that Moses leaves the path in front of him and never comes back.
St. Francis and Moses share a propensity for holy distraction. Do you think it’s possible that drawing nearer to God means being a little less responsible, inviting interruption and being amenable to veering off the path?
Where do you think you’d wind up if you allowed yourself to get side tracked by God today?
Perhaps it would be fun to let God take you on a Franciscan road trip and find out.
See you Sunday,
Rev. Laurie Jean Wurm