Monday, October 21, 2019
Sermon Summary (10/13/19) “Moses: Ten Commandments: (Ex 20:1-17)
I’ve often wondered which of the commandments made sense to kids growing up. Probably not, “not kill,” because we played cops and robbers all day Saturday, went to the cowboys and Indian’s shoot ‘em up movies on Saturday night before being told “Thou shall not kill” on Sunday morning. I learned “Thou shall not cuss” from my mother washing my mouth out with soap at age five, and thou shall not do anything humiliating when I took some chestnuts from the girls across the street and Mom made me not only return them but apologize!
What makes the Ten Commandments special? They are the foundation for Western Civilization. God gave them to Moses and then to us 1200 years before Christ, 600 years before democracy in Greece. They became the foundation for Judaism before every other major religion except maybe Hinduism.
We need rules to live together, by which to base our culture. We learn rules at an early age from Mom. Maybe we begin with toilet training. By age two, we need rules to limit our expansive egos. The world does not belong to us. By age five we are learning in kindergarten: “Share everything, play fair, don’t’ take things that aren’t yours, warm cookies and milk are good for you, when you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.” (Robert Fulghum)
We need to teach our youngsters. In fact, Moses (Deut 6:7) is emphatic about it, “Teach them diligently to your children.”
Jesus came along and said (paraphrasing), “you know all those laws, if you have them on your heart, you only need two: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind, and your strength,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” Then he said, “on these two hang all the law and the prophets., the big Ten and the other 603.”
“With all your heart.” When Jesus went up on the mountain (to be the new law giver as he gave us the Sermon on the Mount), he told us it was not just “do not kill,” it was a matter of the heart, “whoever is angry with his brother or sister.” And it was not just “do not commit adultery,” it was a matter of the heart, “whoever lusts after another.”
The scribes and Pharisees were the ultimate rule keepers, but Jesus told them they needed to have a changed heart: 25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean. (Mt 23:25)
If we are going to live together, we need to change our hearts, “our hearts need to be full of the love of God and one another, having the mind of Christ and walking as he walked.” (John Wesley) Amen.
Saturday, October 19, 2019
Sermon Summary (10/5/19) “Moses: The Exodus: (Ex 5 thru 12 selected)
The Exodus is the defining story of the children of Israel. For them it means salvation, freedom, emancipation. It means the leadership of Moses and the Providence of God. Nothing in the story happens without God. Not the plagues, not the Passover, not their passage through the Red Sea. Nothing happens without God. It is their story of grace.
As Christians, our salvation comes through grace, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And nothing in that story happens without the Providence of God. Grace, God’s involvement in human affairs through the power of the Holy Spirit even though it is unmerited and undeserved.
The Exodus: God implies through the story that he is going to build up his signs and wonders before Pharaoh so that Pharaoh not only lets the children of Israel go, he essentially throws them out of Egypt!
So here are the plagues: The river turned to blood; frogs everywhere; gnats; flies; death of livestock, boils; hail and fire; grasshoppers; darkness; and death of the first born.
They can be thought of in three ways or maybe a combination, all the Providence of God. First, the Sunday School stories; God acted. A second way of looking at them is that God directed natural causes such as red algae to turn the water red, killing the fish and driving out the frogs, etc. A third way, also biblical is that the plagues were a battle between the Egyptian pantheon of gods and YHWH. Hapi was the god of the nile. Heket was depicted as a frog. Hathor often depicted by a cow. And maybe the plague of darkness the most telling of all. Ra was the sun god, Rameses II the divine son of Ra. Defeated by YHWH.
That brings us to Passover. This story affects my sense of God. How could he be responsible for the deaths of all the first born? A different time, facing the most powerful man in the world. Maybe it was the only way to get his attention. But even today, the descendants of the Jews believe that God wept at his action. Part of the Passover meal is a saltwater dip recognizing God’s tears. In Dreamworks’ “Prince of Egypt,” they are unable to show a crying God, but Moses is depicted sobbing and going to his knees in heartache at the tragedy.
For Christians, we remember the Passover as the night Jesus gathered his disciples and transformed the meal into the institution of the Last Supper. “Eat this bread, drink this wine in remembrance of me.” In the meal, we meet Jesus and remember all he has done for us and the promises he has given us.
Let us also create family traditions around Christmas, Good Friday and Easter, in which we can tell the stories, teaching them to our families, and remembering. Amen.
Friday, October 11, 2019
Sermon Summary (9/29/19) “Moses: The Great I AM and the Reluctant Leader: (Ex 3 and 4 selected)
I can’t say I’ve had a Burning Bush experience, but I have had a turn in the road. We had invited a pastor to our house in the evening to talk to us about church membership. On the way home from work, I felt this incredible peace come over me. I can tell you when it happened. I can tell you the turn in the road. I was placing myself in God’s hands. I was going to do whatever he told me to do. That night the pastor talked to me about Lay Speaking Ministries. What if I had missed it? What if I had missed the turn in the road? What would Rosemary and I have missed?
Like Moses, I had been in the wilderness. And like Moses, I had learned a whole new set of skills that would be important for me when I responded to the call. At the right time God called me back. If Moses had ignored the burning bush, God might had had to wait hundreds of years to bring his children out of slavery. What might have I missed?
Moses said, “If they ask, who can I say has sent me?” God said, “Tell them that I AM has sent you. That is my name for all generations.” I AM. God’s name is a verb, the verb “to be.” I” am , I always was, I always will be.” “I am the essence of life itself. “I am the essence of your life.” As Jesus said, “Because I life, you shall live also.” We have life, because of him. We will have life because of him.
God says, “I have heard the cries of my people, and I am sending you.” Whoa! That’s what we fear, isn’t it? If we answer God’s call instead of ignoring the burning bush or the turn in the road, he is going to send us to Pharaoh. Probably not. Most likely, if we ask, “what’s next Lord?” God will prompt us to make a phone call, or visit someone who is sick, or to join the relief funds for hurricane victims. Only a few are sent to Pharaoh.
But that was Moses’ fear. I turned aside to the burning bush and God is going to send me. But God, what if Pharaoh says no? I will be with you. But God, I’m slow of tongue. I will give you the words. (Later he would give him his big brother, Aaron, who speaks well.) What if he still says no? I will give you signs and wonders, throw your staff on the ground (It turns into a snake). God, can’t you just send someone else.
Think of all Moses would have missed had God found another. Here we are talking about him 3500 years later. Think of all we miss when we fail to listen, fail to heed, or just say no. We miss life itself. We simply need to say, “What’s next Lord?” Who, what, when, where? You are asking the One who is responsible for your very existence. That’s a good place to be.
So may it be with all of us.
Friday, October 4, 2019
Sermon Summary (9/22/19) “Life of Moses: The Hidden Heroes” (Exodus 1:8 to 2:7)
You may be wondering why a sermon series on Moses. Last Sunday at the door, Forrest asked, “Do you hear about Moses?” Playing straight man I said, “No.” Forrest said, “He was a basket case.” So I wondered if the rest of you knew as much about Moses and Forrest. Thus the series.
When Spielberg formed his knew production studio, Dreamworks, the very first movie was “Prince of Egypt.” I thought, what an awesome way to teach a new generation about one of the most important characters in all of history. For us, even how we look at the stories of Jesus is filtered through the life of Moses. The Sermon on the Mount was the retelling of the Law. Even the birth narrative relates: “Out of Egypt, I have called my son.” Moses was with Jesus at the Transfiguration. The Last Supper was a Passover Seder, given by God through Moses. The story of the Exodus, of God’s presence with his people is our story too.
The backdrop of the story is that of Joseph, sold into slavery in Egypt by his brother, but through his integrity and God’s gifts and Providence, is elevated to Viceroy of Egypt and saves Egypt from famine through his wisdom. His father, Jacob, and his brothers and their families come to Egypt and there become plentiful over four or five centuries.
One myth, the Israelites did not build the Pyramids, which were completed a 1000 years before the Israelites entered Egypt, but they did build Temples in the Valley of the Kings and cities in the Nile delta region, and there were oppressed. 8 Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. (Ex 1:8-9) Thus the fear of the other began the oppression.
Fear of the other is part of the human condition. We see it at the beginning of the biblical narrative and through history to our times. We must ask ourselves what is about us that fears the other? What is it about our culture that fears the other? What can we do about it?
Enter the heroes. Note that the story does not tell us the name of the Pharaoh, the most powerful man in the world. It does not tell us the name of the Princess, the daughter of the most powerful man in the world. We won’t even find out the names of Moses’ mother and sister until much later. But it does tell us the names of the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah. They must be important. They choose morality over safety. They saved the lives of the Hebrew males infants. In the face of death, they justified it (little white lie) to Pharaoh.
We need to realize that rules don’t cover most of what is needed for life. We need to develop character and wisdom, God based, to navigate the moral and ethical dilemmas we will face. Shiphrah and Puah are our first models of that, he hidden heroes of the story. So may it be with us.