How would you introduce Moses at a party?

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, March 16, 2005

If ever I needed evidence for why I enjoy writing this column so much, it came in your delightful responses to last week's topic.

You'll recall I wrote about the fun St. Mary's pastor Fred Monk and I had travelling together around Cochrane after makeup artist Debbie Vandelaar remade clean-shaven Father Fred into my full-bearded identical twin.

(Father Fred, for his part, began this past weekend's homily with the story, emphasizing how Debbie succeeded in making "a youthful face" like his into that of a "much older man." Humph!)

Besides all the good-natured ribbing I took from Cochrane folks wondering whether they were speaking with me or my look-alike, I received e-mails praising Debbie's skills, such as "Wow!" "Incredible!" "Made my day!" and "Wish I could have been there!"

One enthusiastic coffee companion, concerned I might feel overshadowed by the new beard on the block, even wrote: "There is only one Warren and only one beautiful face that is Warren's." Ah, ain't life grand? (I think I owe this reader a café mocha with whipped cream and a sprinkle of chocolate on top!)

All this got me thinking about the importance of identity.

Ever notice how we tend to limit our perception of one's identity by the way we pigeonhole each other – and ourselves? Usually, this has less to do with looks and more with other transitory things, such as achievements, employment and profession.

We're at a social gathering, and our hosts insist on introducing us as if they're reading a calling card: "This is Joe. He's a mountain climber." Or: "This is Betty. She's a bank manager." Or: "This is Martha. She's a doctor."

Our hosts stammer, however, when suddenly they remember: "This is Bill. He's . . . uh . . ." (an underarm deodorant tester, unemployed, etc.).

One hero I'd love to meet in person is Moses, of biblical fame. I've often pondered how this unique human being might be introduced.

Suppose we've been transported to heaven, and on our first day there we're invited to a get-acquainted party. Our host leads us over to a white-bearded gentleman and begins the introduction:

"This is Moses. Back on earth he was a . . . ."

Well, just what should be said next?

He was raised by the Egyptian royal family in Pharaoh's very own house. So how about: "This is Moses. Back on earth he was a prince"?

Or try this one. When Moses was a young man, he murdered an Egyptian who was beating up on one of the Hebrews. So how about: "This is Moses. Back on earth he was an avenger"?

After that stressful incident, Moses fled to the land of Midian, where he settled down, took a wife, and watched over his father-in-law's sheep. So how about: "Back on earth he was a shepherd"?

Or how about, "He was a prophet, miracle-worker and liberator"? After all, didn't he, in the name of the Lord, bring on the plagues that eventually compelled Pharaoh to let the Hebrews leave Egypt? And when the Hebrews reached the Red Sea, didn't Moses stretch out his hand so that the waters parted and the people went through on dry ground?

Then there were the forty years of wandering in the wilderness during which time Moses had to fend off attacking armies and oversee a Hebrew population that included more than 600,000 men of military age. So how about: "He was commander-in-chief of the armies of Israel"?

And what about "He was a lawgiver"? Or "judge"? Or "provider"?

The truth is, none of these labels even begins to identify this great man. He was bigger than any of these particulars – bigger even than Charlton Heston's screen portrayal of him in The Ten Commandments.

Yet, it's not the greatness of his achievements that reveal Moses' true identity, but his humility.

And at that get-acquainted party in heaven there could be no worthier words to declare his identity than those found in the eulogy in his honour at the end of the Book of Deuteronomy – a sacred identity which many traditions invite each of us to embrace for ourselves, especially during this holy season:

"Moses, the servant of the Lord."

© 2005 Warren Harbeck

Return to Coffee With Warren home page