August 30, 2020
By Blake Puckett
We have enjoyed a great journey starting back in June with Abraham then Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and now Moses as each one answered God’s call with a “whole life” response that included faith, trust and being vulnerable to God’s Grace. I loved these testimonies as a child, especially as presented with the great technology of the Flannel Graph. Along with the faith, trust and vulnerable response of the people, we see and hear the Faithfulness of God to God’s part of the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses.
Today’s scripture lesson mirrors our time in many ways. The Hebrews were seriously oppressed by the Egyptians after Joseph died and a new king was in place. Last week Apostle Harmon share the courage of the midwives who defied the King’s order to kill every male baby born. They acted out their faith and trust in God. The Hebrews continued to multiply and spread.
Then the King died, and the oppressor will be replaced. History shows then and even now that a totalitarian regime can keep the voices of the oppressed silent for a long time. When, however, there is a hint of transition or a show of weakness, that stilled voice can sound with enormous force and energy. We may be experiencing some of that now.
The Israelites cried out to God. God heard their groaning, and God remembered God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God looked upon the Israelites and was concerned about them.
And now comes Moses. Short version is Moses had both a temper and the courage to confront injustice. He saved a slave from more beating by intervening and unfortunately killing the Egyptian. Then when he fled to Midian his first recorded action was to chase off some bully shepherds that had kept the seven daughters of the Midian Priest from drawing water for their flock. Moses then drew the water for them. Out of that Moses finds a new home, marries one of the daughters and has a son. Moses calls himself an Alien in a foreign land. No longer a prince or fugitive, Moses is living an ordinary life with a family and sees himself as an ordinary man now. But God has other plans and the ordinary man leading the flock to new grazing grounds is confronted by an Angel speaking from a burning bush that was not being consumed.
For me I think the key points to ponder for our own response to God’s call are pretty clear. God called out to Moses and like Samuel who came later answered: “Here I Am”. God said: “remove your sandals while standing on Holy Ground. Moses did just that as an act of respect, obedience and putting down anything that would get in the way of his being totally with God in that moment.
God declares: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Moses hides his face out of fear of this awesomeness.
Now listen to the verbs God uses with Moses to paint a picture for him that shows how God has and will honor the Covenant made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Listen carefully and try to remember when you have heard these declarations from God in the recent months and years of our time. Where the word “Egyptians” comes up put any oppressors name in you wish.
“I have observed the misery of my people. I have heard their cry. I know their sufferings. I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land.”
Remember as we hear this particular declaration: for us, we know that God has come down in the person of Jesus to show us who God is and who we are created to be. I have also seen the Egyptians’ oppression. Now for the zinger. “So come, I will send you to bring my people out.” That was the call for Moses and Moses found himself more vulnerable than ever before in his life. And today our call as New Beings in Jesus Christ is to offer a whole life response to living forth the Kingdom of God here and now during this time of turmoil, pandemic, fear and division.
Please notice I intentionally don’t use the mechanistic word “build” for the kingdom, relationships, or community. My belief is that we individually do the hard internal work of opening up to the kingdom within us, the relationships around us, and the communities we find around us. Then we can really connect at a deeper level and then nourish them with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We are literally being called to offer a whole life response and stewardship over our true identity as individuals and collectively. Our image of God is love. Paul Tillich reminds us that “God and Love are not two realities, they are both. When we abide in Love we abide in God. As we are created in the image of God and Christ, our true identity is Love.
Snow is a metaphor for the concept that ALL are called and needed. Like the many snowflakes, none like another, all are needed to complete the image of snow. We are created in the image of God with our unique, individual likeness. We are called to be Christ’s presence. Combined we live out the Kingdom of God in a visible fashion.
Velma Ruch shared this thought. “The Fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are the fertile soil where our individual gifts grow and are realized by the community as a whole.”
Listen to how Jesus, the Apostle Paul and Community of Christ president Stephen Veazey proclaim our call to us.
Luke 17:20-21 “Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed nor will they say, ‘Look here it is’ or ‘There it is!’ For in fact the kingdom of God is within you.” NIV, King James, Living Bible
Romans 14:6-18 “Let not then your good be evil spoken of: For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink: but righteousness, and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he that is in these things serves Christ and is acceptable to God and approved by God.”
D&C 164:9d “Embody and live the concerns and passion of Christ. And be Christ’s presence in our families, congregations, neighborhoods and communities.” Steven Veazey also asks the Crucial Question: “As Community of Christ are we listening and moving together toward Jesus in our relationships and our concerns?”
All of these proclamations require us to become vulnerable to God’s grace. Just like the Hebrew fathers, Jesus of Nazareth, Mary, mother of Jesus, Joseph his father and the woman who made her way through the crowd, breaking all kinds of restrictions just to touch the hem of Jesus cloak. Her faith and vulnerableness met the vulnerable Jesus and the true, unstoppable love of God flowed through the open gate. Both Jesus and the woman were abiding in God.
Jesus’ entire ministry is marked by His willingness to be vulnerable which was required for truly “Being with the people.” When we become vulnerable enough to touch and be touched by the vulnerable then the true love of God flows freely through the opening.
To respond to God’s call of living out the kingdom demands that we nurture and grow the quality of being vulnerable–vulnerable to God’s grace, to ourselves, and to all others. Even in a culture that sees vulnerability as a weakness to be exploited. We can unlearn those lessons taught from our childhood on. Especially sports and business. Joe Biden shared an often heard quote from his mother. “Bravery resides in every heart and some day it will be summoned.”
Today, that bravery is being summoned from us as followers of Christ.
At this time there are many types of masks being worn. Some are covers for the nose and mouth. Some are full face masks, emotional masks, disguising masks. The masks are a metaphor for the work we need to do. This will require a lot of time with God. Like the airline attendants tell us: “put your own mask on first.” Taking care of our spiritual lives everyday alone and with each other will be required for the call so that we can– “Embody and live the concerns and passion of Christ. And be Christ’s presence in our families, congregations, neighborhoods and communities.”