Keep Confident and Hope in Christ!
† I.H.S. †
May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ not just give you hope, but confidence in God walking with you through your life.
How cool to have a Leader like Moses!
I can’t even imagine the feelings that would run through the hearts and minds of Peter, James
I mean Elijah
The leader of all of the leaders in Jewish History, and the man through whom the greatest miracles in history were performed! Remember the water from the
I can imagine Peter asking, “so what was that stuff anyway?”
And Mount Sinai and the Ten Commandments? (lucky
And what about the Red Sea? Man, can you imagine someone doing that today!
I can imagine the apostles being so incredibly excited by the leadership of Moses and Elijah! Wow – now we are really getting somewhere! Now things can really change around here!
I could even here James telling John, “Hey, Moses is with you!” and hearing him echo back, “and also with you!”
I don’t think it is much of a stretch to think the apostles were more than impressed, more than in awe of this. That’s why Peter goes to Jesus, and asks, “Hey can I build some tents for you guys to dwell in? We’ll even make one for you Jesus!
There is an obvious problem with this, something the apostles overlooked in the excitement! Something the reading from Hebrews recognizes.
How good are we at following leaders?
We need a better leader than Moses. I mean he was pretty good at handling what God wanted Mosses to be responsible for, with only an error here or there. But Moses didn’t do a good enough job. He was as faithful as any.
But he didn’t get all of God’s people to the Holy Land. In fact, an entire generation was left all over the desert. 600,000 men (and their ladies) didn’t make it.
Did some awesome stuff, but there is only so much you can do when you aren’t the owner of a place, but just one of the servants.
The problem wasn’t completely with Moses, it was just as much with the people that didn’t follow his leadership. Don’t get me wrong, Moses sinned, but he had a lot of people who didn’t listen, and what could he do about them?
We aren’t much different today when it comes to listening to leadership. We tend to dismiss them, we tend to think of them as our servants, not as those who are out there to help us and lead us.
I saw the meme yesterday, and it is exactly how people treated Moses,
We need someone better, someone, who can deal with our rebellious nature, someone who isn’t just a servant, someone who can really make a difference. And it would help if they had our best interest at heart.
We need the owner to show up, someone really in charge!
We Need Something More than a Boss!
We look back at the transfiguration, and we get that Jesus was there. But I’ve even heard that Elijah and Moses were there not just to talk to Jesus about his upcoming death, but to encourage and strengthen Him for the ordeal.
I don’t think so, to confirm it maybe, but Jesus’ strength was found in His love for us, and in His love for the Father.
The Father with whom He planned all this, with the Father who created all this through Jesus.
The Jesus who is Lord of all.
And we need to understand what it means for Jesus to be Lord. It means He is the builder of the
You see Jesus being the LORD, the builder of the house means more than just ordering us around, more than just saying “do this, don’t do that” and “here is the punishment, here is the reward.”
Jesus being Lord is all about His plans for the house, how He intends to build it and care for it. It means He has committed Himself to care for His house, for His people. It means He has committed Himself to dwell in the house He is building, building with us.
And because He is the builder and the designer of the church, there is something He can do, that Moses didn’t have the ability to do.
He can make our sin, our rebelliousness of no account. He can take our brokenness and make it part of the masterpiece of His dwelling.
And He does, because He paid the price, and that’s been part of the design from the beginning. It was the cost of building His home, a home we are part of, along with all those who depend on
That is why we can keep our courage, that is why we remain confident.
Because we know His plan, even as we begin to realize we dwell in His presence, as we realize that He loves us so much, the cross and the death of Christ were planned, so we could be at home with God.
So, may you know you dwell in His peace, a peace you can’t be stolen from Him, for He has claimed you and made you, His! AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
37 The Israelites set out on foot from Rameses for Sukkoth. There were about 600,000 men, not counting women and children. 38 A large number of other people and many sheep, goats, and cattle also went with them. Ex. 12:37-38 TEV
If a foreigner has settled among you and wants to celebrate Passover to honor the LORD, you must first circumcise all the males of his household. He is then to be treated like a native-born Israelite and may join in the festival. Ex 12:48 TEV
342 The salt of the earth. Our Lord said that his disciples—you and I also—are the salt of the earth: to render immune to infection, to prevent corruption, to season the world. But he also added: Quod si sal evanuerit…—if the salt itself becomes tasteless, it will be cast out and trampled underfoot by men. On seeing the many things happening which we lament, are you now beginning to find an explanation for what you could not explain before?
As I was reading the account of the Exodus again, I saw them, almost hiding in the background. And I realized they have long been forgotten in the histories, they have long been forgotten in the stories of the Jewish people.
“A large number of other people,” these people that were not Israel, yet left Egypt with them. Not related to Abraham, Issac or Jacob, this large crowd went with them anyway. We don’t for sure know all the reasons for this, could it be they were impressed by the miracles of Moses, could it be that they were in fear of Pharoah, could it be they actually believed in the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob?
And yet ten verses later, they are mentioned again, and the transformation that takes place when these foreigners become people of the covenant. They become as one with the people of God as if they genetics did tie back to the Jewish Patriarchs.
I would think, that without thinking about it, that Moses and his kinsmen were salt in the midst of Egypt. That they had such an impact on their neighbors, because of the simple faith in God, the “I AM”. Their lives brought hope and healing to the people that couldn’t stay behind! That helped them deal with the brokennes of Egypt!
So I would ask you, who would go with you if you were to move? Who would want to stay close? Who lives would you have wanted to touch in such a way that they would want to follow you?
It is something to think about, for you are salt and light, and your work in this world is to point to the amazing love of God and demonstrate that love to those around you…
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1589-1594). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
An Offer They Couldn’t Refuse
Exodus 19, 2-8
† In Jesus Name †
As you learn of the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, it is my prayer that you so awe aware of how He considers you His treasure, that you respond to His love, even before you know all His covenant promises.
A Deal you cannot refuse
As we look at the Old Testament reading this morning, as we see Israel committing to hear and treasure God’s word, I thought of the line from an old movie,
“I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse”
They didn’t refuse it, and unlike the movie, they didn’t accept it from fear or intimidation, they accepted what we now call the Mosaic Covenant completely, and without any hesitation or reservation.
They heard what God said through the prophet Moses, and they accepted it. Enthusiastically, with great joy, and with a hope that didn’t come from studying the fine print, for there wasn’t any fine print yet.
But with hope born from knowing Who it was that they were entering a relationship with, and knowing His character, His care, His patience and persistence, they were willing to become His people again, and they trusted Him at His word, “you will be my own special treasure.”
Having seen that, and knowing the character of God, they accepted,
What else could they have done?
They didn’t make the decision with complete knowledge of the Covenant!
If you take a moment to look at the chapters around this passage,
Right after this chapter, they will hear the basics of what God expected of them, of how they would be able to live in view of the fact that they were His people.
We commonly refer to these words as the 10 Commandments, or more precisely, the 10 Commandments, the Decalog.
Think about that for a moment. They chose what was offered without knowing what it would cost, without knowing what God would require of them. They didn’t have a copy of the covenant, with a magnifying glass to consider the small print. Or for that matter the large print.
Some would say that is blind leap of faith.
Many would say it isn’t enough, it isn’t logical.
I mean – how many of you would buy a house or a car without knowing how much it cost? How many of us would let someone we didn’t know watch out house and our finances for a couple of weeks/
That is what they did here,
They promised to God what He asked of them. No questions, no details, no idea of what God would ask of them.
We may think them naïve, or maybe stupid, We may think their leap of faith is beyond what we could do, we need proof of God’. We might even think that they were caught up in the emotion of the moment, and that they promised something that they could not possibly keep.
It doesn’t matter, for you, whether you know scripture like a professor, or whether you are drawn to trust Jesus right now, are being given the same question right now.
Will you hear and treasure God’s covenant? Will you be His special treasure, His priests, His holy people?
Every year, the Jewish people were to hear all the words of God anew, and re-dedicate themselves to doing this very thing. So will you? Will you listen to God? Will you treasure the relationship, the covenant’s describe? Will you be His people, will you have Him as your God?
No matter the cost?
All they needed to know was God
I said earlier that some people call this a leap of faith, some would say a blind leap.
It is neither.
let me explain, pointing you to what went before this reading.
We know God heard the cry of the descendants of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, and brought them out of Egypt as promised. We know about the plagues and the cool way they crossed the Red Sea on dry ground. We know the Egyptians didn’t make it across the same Sea.
But what amazes me, and what I think convinced the Israelites was what happened next.
They complained, they whined against God. First over no food, then over know water. They turned their noses up with God and said that slavery in Eqypt was preferable to following God through the wilderness. They rebelled, they sinned, they tried to break up with God and go their own way.
And God took care of them anyway.
He provided for them, even miraculously.
He didn’t give up on them, He brought them to Sinai, and said look how I’ve carried you already, look how I’ve brought you to myself. I didn’t give up on you yet, I won’t break my promises.
They didn’t make a leap of faith, they simply were reminded of the love of God, and His patience with them, and the love He poured out on them, even when they were a bunch of whiney discontented folk.
Given the opportunity to cement the relationship they were promised a half century before they were born, a relationship God bound himself to provide,
They said yes, we will…for this was an offer they couldn’t refuse
Neither should we refuse it, for Jesus’ blood, shed at the cross, made this possible. For His sins cover their sins, and our sins, it makes it possible fod God to say, you are my people. Your sin I have sent away, your unrighteousness has been paid for, come be my people, come be my special treasure.
Not saying we should be whiney or discontent, but this is the same relationship we celebrate in this place, from our songs which celebrate it, to the readings and sermons that reveal it over and over, to the declarations like you are forgive, this is His body and blood given for you, to the promise we hear over and over…..
The Lord is is with you.
You are his treasured people.
Will your hear Him still? Will you treasure this relationship He’s drawn you into?
Did You See What He Did There?
† I.H.S †
May the Grace and Peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ teach you that He will always provide for you, even when you can’t see that He is, and has planned to do so!
Did you see what Israel did?
Have you ever met people like the ones Moses tried to lead in the Old Testament reading this morning? A little of what went before.
In chapter 13, after more miracles than we can remember, Pharaoh lets the people of God go.
In chapter 14, a sea splits apart long enough to let 2.4 million people cross through it, and then swallows a half-million-man army chasing them with the intent to kill them all
In Chapter 16, the Lord provides them with the makings of quail tacos, as every morning he provides with the Manna and quail that would sustain them for 40 years.
After all that, after all God did, they doubt He knows what He’s doing?
Just because they don’t have enough water, and are so thirsty they can’t thing straight, Just because they are struggling with the thirst, they forgot the most important thing we need to know in life, they go crazy and become demanding and complain and whine to Moses, their pastor. Led by a pillar of fire and a cloud, they forget all that…tormented by thirst, unaware that the answer is so close….
Did you see what they did there? Do you know people so overwhelmed by their place in life that they forget what makes life, life?
Did you see what they did there? Yeah – that isn’t important.
Did you see what Moses did?
What about Moses? Did you see what he did there?
He’s just as much of a whiner! Even as God leads them, Moses vents to God! Why me Lord? Why do they want me to suffer? Why are they going to kill me? He too is overwhelmed by fear and anxiety!
He didn’t see that they were tormented by their thirst, he wants them to just stop their whining and be quiet. He takes their reaction to their stress personally, their cries to God as if they are personal attacks.
God go get them….. they don’t like us. Who cares what they are going through! Did you ever know anyone like that?
Did you see what he did there?
That isn’t important either, There is only one Person whose actions we need to see in this story
Did you see what God did there?
God’s actions are really what everyone is concerned about, or is
Do we see what God is doing?
First He’s the One guiding them, He’s the one who brings these wandering people to the place where they are at, the place where He’s going to make eternal promises to them, and bring them into Abraham’s covenant in ways they will not understand until the resurrection of Jesus.
Then, God doesn’t bat an eye at the complaints. He deals with Moses first – directing him to get back to caring for the people God gathered around him. Walk out in front, gather them around. Get your staff, the thing you’ve always had at hand when I worked through you, gather around the elders and all the people to see what happens.
Oh yeah – I will be there, standing before the cliff face..
And then for those miserable, tormented, thirsty, complaining people, God does something wonderful. He provides what they need, as He planned.
He hadn’t forgotten them, He hadn’t forgotten to provide for them, He didn’t want them to die, but live, in peace, in relationship with Him. So he tells Moses to take the staff and hit the rock face and water comes out, enough for them, and all their animals.
To give you and idea of how much water, quick calculations gave me the number of at a minimum. 500 backyard pools worth comes spilling out of rock face…or if we walled in the church property and made it one big pool, the water would be 7 feet deep. (and that’s not counting evaporation!)
Did you see what He did there?
People that whined and complained, led by a shepherd who didn’t care for the problems they were in, who forgot He was there. People just like you and I, people that were overwhelmed, who couldn’t function, who despite the miracles, who despite the things testifying to God’s presence, doubted. People who scripture says tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord here with us or not?
For those people, God again provided what they needed.
Even though they struggled to realize it, He was there, He heard their cries, and had already provided for them.
Did you see what He did there?
The reason I want you to see what God did there, is often we forget.
It’s time to see what God is doing, no longer concentrating on our failures, or on the weakness of our leaders.
We need to see what He’s doing here, which isn’t much different. Indeed, His faithfulness, His loving care, His giving life, is always there. He is faithful.
I could focus on Christ being the rock that the Holy Spirit shepherds us to, or that He is the living water that cleanses us and gives us life. That He does so, because He is faithful to His promise, to His plan, even if we struggle. I would focus that he does work through weak and tired leaders, even when we think no one is listening.
But I would like us to focus the most on this, the answer to Israel’s question. He is with us! The Lord is with you!
Yeah – He is here! He promised to never leave us, to never stop providing for us.
That He is here is we need to know, with more than our mind; to experience deep in our souls the comfort and peace that God gives us, and letting that comfort and peace work its way from our hearts into our minds, overcoming the doubts, the fears, the pain, the hunger and thirst for life, that seems unquenched.
That is what the cross and the grave, the resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost are about. He went through it all to show us His presence, giving us evidence that backs up His promise of love, His promise to care.
Lent does, for this is the time when we realize our thirst is not for water, not for manna, but for Him. And He hears our cries… and reminds us, “I am standing right before you..”
He is our LORD – the one who stands before us, calling us home, welcoming us home, welcoming us to His feast…. Where we remember His presence and rejoice and rest.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
12 Moses said to the LORD, “See, you are telling me: Lead this people. But you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said: You are my intimate friend; You have found favor with me. 13 Now, if I have found favor with you, please let me know your ways so that, in knowing you, I may continue to find favor with you. See, this nation is indeed your own people. 14 The LORD answered: I myself will go along, to give you rest. 15 Moses replied, “If you are not going yourself, do not make us go up from here. 16 For how can it be known that I and your people have found favor with you, except by your going with us? Then we, your people and I, will be singled out from every other people on the surface of the earth.” 17 The LORD said to Moses: This request, too, which you have made, I will carry out, because you have found favor with me and you are my intimate friend.
18 Then Moses said, “Please let me see your glory!” 19 The LORD answered: I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim my name, “LORD,” before you; I who show favor to whom I will, I who grant mercy to whom I will.f 20 But you cannot see my face,g for no one can see me and live. 21 Here, continued the LORD, is a place near me where you shall station yourself on the rock. 22 When my glory passes I will set you in the cleft of the rock and will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand, so that you may see my back; but my face may not be seen. Ex 33:11–23 NABRE
The New Testament does not say that men conciliate God, as we really ought to expect, since after all it is they who have failed, not God. It says on the contrary that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5:19). This is truly something new, something unheard of—the starting-point of Christian existence and the center of New Testament theology of the Cross: God does not wait until the guilty come to be reconciled; he goes to meet them and reconciles them. Here we can see the true direction of the Incarnation, of the Cross. Accordingly, in the New Testament the Cross appears primarily as a movement from above to below. It does not stand there as the work of expiation which mankind offers to the wrathful God but as the expression of that foolish love of God’s which gives itself away to the point of humiliation in order thus to save man; it is his approach to us, not the other way around.
Moses is not the only one to have the struggle he describes in this passage from Exodus. We all do, we all face situations where we don’t want to go another step further, because we simply do not have the strength.
It may be that we can’t deal with the people we are called to serve, as Moses often struggled. Or maybe we see how impossible the task is, and we know it cannot be done with God’s presence. Maybe we perceive the situation as being unfair, (whether it is or not is actually not relevant -get used to this idea: life isn’t fair!)
It might be more personal, the struggle that you have that you don’t want to face. It may be that you have to be freed from a sin that has its hooks in you, like Israel faced so many times in the desert. It could be some dark area that God wants you to be freed from, but it is so hard to break free.
Moses keeps telling God – I can’t go there without you! If you are my God, please help, if I have an intimate relationship with you, don’t leave me alone. He’s pleading for what every other religion tells us is impossible.
For God to come to us, as we are crushed, oppressed, weary and broken. As we know the law that condemns us or the people we care about all to well.
As Pope Benedict XVI points out, this is where things are different with Jesus, with the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. He comes to us, He always has! He came to Adam and Eve in the garden, He came to Abraham (even when he was trying to pass off his wife as his sister!) He came to Hagar at the well. He came to David in his sin, and encouraged Moses and even Hosea to deal mercifully with the unfaithful, and gave them the strength of heart and soul to deal with those trapped in sin.
He even gives us glimpses of Him, as He ministers to us. Yes, the obvious glimpses of His faithfulness in the past, to those who are broken like us, in need of healing, like us. In need of knowing we are in His presence.
But glimpses as well in the sacraments, especially Holy Communion, the feast were we see the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, who takes away our sin.
Who comes to us, and we hear Him as He promises, “your sins are forgiven.”
He comes to us… He brings us through the transformation that is repentance and makes His presence known, and that His presence is, as this translation puts it, that of an intimate friend.
This is what Advent is all about, as we meditate on His coming to us, in all our need!
May we realize our need, the same need as Moses, and may our eyes be opened to His presence.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 372). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thoughts of the Day:
18 When the people heard the thunder and the trumpet blast and saw the lightning and the smoking mountain, they trembled with fear and stood a long way off. 19 They said to Moses, “If you speak to us, we will listen; but we are afraid that if God speaks to us, we will die.” Exodus 20:18-19 (TEV)
“I am learning that (some) Lutherans know how to talk things but not necessarily walk the talk. Putting things they know into practice makes them “pietists” because good things just pop out of you from thin air. Saying part of my piety – how I practice my faith – I learned from my parents because they took me to church as a child makes me a pietist.” ( a friend’s post on Facebook)
i have a friend whose recent encounters with those who identify themselves as Lutherans. The result of such interactions led to the post in blue above, and it seems it is becoming more vocal, more frequent, at least in social media.
I’ve even heard it in a meeting or two, where somethings are looked down upon because they are two mystical. Sometimes this is meditating on a passage, or spending time thinking deeply about the Lord’s Supper or Baptism. Heck, I’ve even heard it spoken in regards to the sacraments themselves, as pastors who encourage regular confession and absolution, or weekly (or even more frequent) celebration of the Lord’s Supper, are held in derision. Too pietistic, to holier-than-thou, too mystical for real Christians.
There is something about these accusations that doesn’t ring true, either Biblically or Doctrinally. It seems almost defensive, as if they were willing to take the promises of being justified by faith, but not desiring the sanctification that occurs as part of God delivering us.
The attitudes appears to be that some prefer that academic theology reign supreme, winning theological arguments is considered a great investment of time. Using liturgical orders, nice and clean is advisable, or even “loving” one’s hymnal is fine, but talking about seeing people realize they are in the presence of God is not faithful or confessional. These who would criticise any trying to live in accord with their baptism seem to be afraid to encounter God. Willing to hold off, realizing that they are in Christ, for the evidence of such, they dislike intensely. And if appearances are correct, these people are somewhat like the bunch that gather around Moses.
Tell us, they say, and we will listen.
They won’t, we don’t, we can’t.
We know this, we preach it.
Just let us do DS3 and all will be right. Give us the ability to quote Forde, or Gerhard or Preus and all will be well. But encountering Jesus?
It is as if they were the apostles of John, who knew of God’s love… but don’t understand the Holy Spirit.
What changes us is what some Lutherans call incarnational theology, That Jesus came and dwells among us. Not just the scripture, He does. That we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, that where we stand is as holy and set apart as Mt Sinai. That our baptism is truly uniting with Jesus, in His death and in His resurrection (back to Romans 6), that we are the masterpiece of God (Eph 2:10) that Jesus didn’t just save us from death and sin and satan, but He delivers us to the Father, and we walk with God.
Knowing this make those pietistic actions transform into piety, ways we walk with God. They make these things sacramental, and holy. They remind us that as we do these things God has ordained for us to do, we encounter Him in every step, in every breath. We encounter the mystery of God, and yeah – we can’t always explain it.
We just live, in Christ Jesus.
This is why we talk of following Christ, Abiding in Him, that to live is Christ.
Not something to fear, not a terrifying encounter… just being with Him.
This is what brought Luther great peace. This is why he called God His Fortress, His Sanctuary.
Devotional and Discussion Thought of the day:
23 “At that time I earnestly prayed, 24 ‘Sovereign LORD, I know that you have shown me only the beginning of the great and wonderful things you are going to do. There is no god in heaven or on earth who can do the mighty things that you have done! 25 Let me cross the Jordan River, LORD, and see the fertile land on the other side, the beautiful hill country and the Lebanon Mountains.’ Deuteronomy 3:23-25 (TEV)
783 It is good that your soul should be eaten up by that impatience. But don’t be in a hurry. God wants you to prepare yourself seriously, taking all the months or years necessary, and is counting on your decision to do so. With good reason did that king say: “Time and I against any two.” (1)
I tend to think of the future a lot, In my management courses, I was identified as a catalyst, the idea man, to some extent a visionary. (btw Never confuse such people with great managers/administrators! ) I love to consider the potential in people and try to help that come to fruition. This is especially true when it comes to deacons, vicars and young pastors, anyone involved in ministry.
This doesn’t always work out the way it should, sometimes because of a failure to buy into a vision they’ve developed, sometimes simply because it takes time, sometimes because the vision has to be defined more closely, or the original vision was only the first step.
As I read Moses words to God, I felt the desire in them, God can we see your glory now? Can we see Your people realize the fullness of Your plan for their lives? Can we see them mature? Can we just skip through the times in the wilderness, the times where we rebel, the times where we can’t see you, where we doubt? I want to see your glory revealed in their lives, and I want to see it soon! After all – this is what you called them for, isn’t it? When will we see the wonderful things we know You are capable of, as you do them through Your people?
As St. Josemaria talks – the impatience can be good, but not if it forces us to hurry. Preparation is necessary, sometimes it takes years for God to form them, (sometimes that is because He is using us to do it!) Sometimes it is because the relationship and the trust they need in God needs to develop to the point they can do what God has called and prepared them to do – the amazing works talked of in Ephesians 2:10 and 4;12-14. They’ll get there, maybe we will see them there, or maybe like Moses, or Paul, we can only guide them most of the way, then others ( Joshua, Timothy, Titus) will take them the rest of the way.
We don’t know, but God is their shepherd, we just help for a time, a time He has determined.
And we have to realize, the ultimate glory, the perfect promise land is not just them mature in their trust, in their love, in their devotion to God. The ultimate glory is when they are, with us revealed in Christ’s 2nd coming.
1 You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2 Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory! Colossians 3:1-4 (TEV)
May we long to see them there, complete, whole, healed, and may our desire to see them in God’s glory spur on our ministry to them, in the time we have! For this is what we work for, according to Paul,
28 So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. 29 To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in me. Colossians 1:28-29 (TEV)
Lord Have Mercy!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3251-3254). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
I Have Certainly Seen, I Am Aware,
I Have Come Down…
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
It is my prayer for you, that you realize the grace of God, that His merciful love and peace wash over you, cleansing you, as we realize that He has come to us!
The Burning Bush? Big Deal…
It draws our attention like a moth is drawn to a flame, like the day after thanksgiving gathers shoppers to stores. Like chocolate draws the attention of some people… or like Best Buy adds draw William’s attention… well and mine.
Yet in our Old Testament reading this morning, it is about as important on its own as the color and smell of the sheep Moses shepherded.
Burning Bushes are interesting, they get our attention, they call us to look at this passage, they gain our attention.
But this passage is about the burning bush. It is about what God reveals to Moses, something that after this week of challenges I don’t just want to preach about. I need to know it as you do. I need to know it is as true for us, as it was for Israel.
Verse 7, slightly adapted:
7 Then the Lord told us, “I have certainly seen the oppression of you my people. I have heard your cries of distress because of the trauma life is tossing at you. Yes, I am aware of your suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue you.
I have certainly seen….. I am aware…. And
I have come down
Our struggle – we aren’t sure if He sees, if He is aware…
I think we get that God has come down in the past, in the time where He walked with Abraham, or Moses, or when He inspired King David to write incredible songs of transparency and praise. We know He was there for the prophets. Yet when God talks so passionately about His people, about seeing them and being aware their troubles, and coming down to rescue them, I think we lose something in translation.
Because we use the pronoun “them”, rather the “us”
There are days I wonder, does God see us the way He saw Israel, does He know the pain we endure, whether it is our grief, or our anxieties. When our complaints and our brokenness seem unheard, seem that they do not gain His attention. Just like Israel, crying out for His help, as they struggled under oppression in Egypt. Faith is realizing the them is us.
So that we can cry out like the man who encountered Jesus, “Lord, we trust in you, help us trust in you!”
We look around to see if there is a burning bush nearby… or maybe we check with our friends, or maybe even our pastor, to see if they’ve seen one. After all – Moses was not outside the Starbucks in Cairo, Egypt when the people were crying out. He was out in the desert, out in the wilderness, trying to avoid his own problems. Hmmm.. maybe I should check with my friends in Anza and Yucca Valley, see if they’ve seen our bush?
I have to be honest in this, there are the days, where like the Israelites wandering in Sinai, I wonder if it would be better to go back to New Eng..err Egypt. That the problems and sufferings might have been less there.
We are not the super-heroes of the faith. Matter of fact, if we read their stories, Abraham, and Moses, David and Jeremiah were not superheroes either. They struggled as we do, to see God’s presence, to see God’s faithfulness.
Otherwise, why do burning bushes and arks of the covenant exist?
Because we need to know this: that He sees us, we need to know He is aware… and to remember He has come to rescue us. We need something to distract us from our normal grind of life, to call us to realize that we stand on Holy Ground… not because of a burning bush or a beautiful sanctuary, but because we live in God’s presence.
But He has… and He therefore comes down!
We are not in the situation Israel thought they were in, when Moses turned back to see phenomena, and instead realized He was in the glorious presence of God. We are in the journey from that place, on our way to the Promised Land, the place God has set aside for us to dwell with Him eternally.
He has come down! He is guiding us, even as He guided them through the Sinai. We are not in paradise, in heaven just yet. He calls us together like a shepherd gathering a flock, like Moses was sent back to Egypt to go get God’s people. Because our oppressors have been defeated.
It is not in today’s reading but not long after that the miracle at the Red Sea happened. Like this it was prophetic, a picture of our baptism. When the Israelites walked through that sea – it was to get to the other side. Passing through the sea was to get them to the place where God arranged for them to live in His presence. However, those that oppressed them died in the water, they did not pass through it.
Just like that is our baptism, where the goal is not just the removal of our sin, not just to unite with Christ’s death, but with His resurrection as well. Though we pass under/through the water of baptism that which would and could separate us from Jesus does not. It died – then and there. Our oppressor and the sins which enslaved us died and lost all authority over us there.
Because God saw, and was aware of our situation, and came down to rescue us. The rescue is only the beginning, even as sending Moses to Egypt was only the beginning for Israel!
And He is still here… because He has seen, and is aware… and is with you
Flash forward 1500 years, to two more mountains, the first and encounter between another tree, and another man, another appointment arranged by God. The second mountain, where that man would turn to his apprentices, to send them back to their lives, to free others still captive in sin, still oppressed by it.
Christ would die on that cross, and I pray that everyone we come in contact would turn to look at that tree, on which God was killed, yet would live.
It is that other mountain, that I would look at, to close this sermon and lead us toward prayer. The words that we know, but again, that we miss part of at times. The words that send us back out into our worlds, back to the places where people need to know God’s love.
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT)
All authority is invested by the Father in the Son, and even as the Father sends the Son, so He sends us. Just like Moses was sent. The key is in the other part of the passage that is underlined.
I am with you… the same message that Moses would hear… as he was sent to deliver people from bondage. The same message those people would hear, as God guided them to the Holy Land. The same promise made to us when we were called into this relationship, the same promise made to every believer, as they are sent to free others from the bondage of sin.
He is with you.
He certainly sees, He is so aware, and He’s come down to rescue us.
That’s what the tree on the mountain that wasn’t consumed by fire was really about.
That’s what the parting of the water of Red Sea was about.
That’s what the cross on another mountain is about…
That’s what the water of baptism is about..
And it is what this altar, and this meal is about…when we, as Moses was told remember His name.
7 Then the Lord told us, “I have certainly seen the oppression of you my people. I have heard your cries of distress because of the trauma life is tossing at you. Yes, I am aware of your suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue you.
And He brings us into His peace, His indescribable peace that passes all understanding, where Jesus will keep us, mind and heart, safe and secure; for the Lord dwells with you! AMEN!
3 Moses went and told the people all the LORD’S commands and all the ordinances, and all the people answered together, “We will do everything that the LORD has said.” 4 Moses wrote down all the LORD’S commands. Early the next morning he built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stones, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 Then he sent young men, and they burned sacrifices to the LORD and sacrificed some cattle as fellowship offerings. 6 Moses took half of the blood of the animals and put it in bowls; and the other half he threw against the altar. 7 Then he took the book of the covenant, in which the LORD’S commands were written, and read it aloud to the people. They said, “We will obey the LORD and do everything that he has commanded.” 8 Then Moses took the blood in the bowls and threw it on the people. He said, “This is the blood that seals the covenant which the LORD made with you when he gave all these commands.” 9 Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the leaders of Israel went up the mountain 10 and they saw the God of Israel. Beneath his feet was what looked like a pavement of sapphire, as blue as the sky. 11 God did not harm these leading men of Israel; they saw God, and then they ate and drank together. Exodus 24:3-11 (TEV)
459 Whenever you see that the glory of God and the good of the Church demand that you should speak out, don’t remain silent. Think about it. Who would lack courage before God and in the face of eternity? There is nothing to be lost and instead so much to be gained. Why do you hold back then? (1)
When you have to deal with death….there is a sense of looking both forward and yet back.
Memories come to mind, in my case walks along shore road in Ossipee, NH, and my dad sitting on the hood of his 75 Monte Carlo, watching me finish a cross country race. Our time working on the boat, and our time outside of Oaklahoma CIty where we waited for a tire to be changed on the U-Haul. Time where he cried as I gave Him communion at the communion rail in Anza and he was so overwhelmed that he was unable to speak the quietest ‘amen”. The jokes and times of seriousness. I dont’ want to deal with the flood of memories, yet they come.
Yet I have to look forward as well – as I’ve written often this week – to the time where we will be together again, in front of the throne of God, sharing in all of God’s glory.
It’s something to remember – and indeed, it is something to consider – as we live our lives.
You see, most of us live our lives for the day… some may plan somethings out weeks or months in advance, but it is challenging to live for those days. Our society is quickly becoming the “eat, drink and be merry… for tomorrow we… die.” society, yet not in view of great battles that occur tomorrow, but just more meaningless, causeless life.
If it wasn’t for death. It shocks us out of our plondering, mundance lives. It makes us actually stop and consider, why are we here? What is going on? Is there anything to this life. And for a moment – we make the changes that mean something. For death makes us evaluate life – our life. And ask ourselves, “why do we hold back?” Why don’t we say the things that need to be said? Why don’t we love more, share God’s love more? Why don’t we help those around us.. forgive those who hurt us? Why can’t we lovingingly challenge those behaviors and words which will bring pain and separation from others, including separation from God? Why do we carry burdens we are not meant to carry?
Even as I try to evaluate my life, my mind went to this passage from Exodus. Israel is walking away from Eqypt – away from a bitter and painful past with God’s help, with His delivering them, with His fighting to free them, and then guiding and protecting them. They enter formally a relationship with God, this generation that Moses leads. The blood is shed, it covers the people’s sins,… it is offered to God…
And then there is a feast, a look far foward to a feast that is to come. A feast in the very presence of God, a feast where they are safe and secure and unafraid in God’s presence… a feast that is a foretaste of the feast tomorrow, as my church gathers and celebrates God’s love for us. A feast that also looks forward to us all being face to face with God, to share in another feast – no, not just another feast – the THE FEAST. God and Man – all of Mankind… dwelling together, In Peace, In His glory, dancing together, celebrating His presence.
Oh what a blessed day that will be…..
It is not hard to hate death… it is not hard to feel it’s sting, to know the anguish, the hurt that comes from “losing” someone. It’s harder still when we don’t live life expecting death.. and what comes after…
Pray for each other, love each other, even if that means confronting sin… for that is death’s primary sting….
and know…always know… in Christ… we find rest and healing.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1757-1760). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
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