Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Change moments

Exodus 12: 1-14
New Ark United Church of Christ, Newark, DE
September 7, 2014


            The lectionary has been relentless of late.  Nothing easy or comfortable, no hand-holding, no simple choice between the readings.  So why this one?  In choosing this passage, I was reminded of the movie “Good Will Hunting”, when Will and his therapist, Sean, are comparing notes about abusive fathers, something God has often been accused of.  Will says that his foster father would put a belt, a stick, and a wrench on the table and say “Choose”.  Will always went for the wrench.  Why?  Because the heck with him, that’s why.  Why this scripture?  Because the heck with it, that’s why.  Sometimes scripture can be a wrench.  But it’s not abusive.  It’s not easy, sometimes it’s downright difficult, even painful, but so is faith and life and loving someone sometimes.

            Too often what we call “the Old Testament God” gets a bad rap, especially when it comes to passages like this one, when God is striking against a whole nation and killing the innocent among them.  And so we feel justified in writing off the God of the Old Testament, perhaps writing off God and scripture altogether, when it seems to us that God is behaving no better than a tyrant, no better than the worst a human being has to offer. 

            And yet we know through other stories in the Bible, even stories in the Hebrew scriptures, that God is love, that God loves people we would have trouble with, like those nasty Ninevites that Jonah wouldn’t go near.  What we have in this story from Exodus is God dealing with evil, not in the abstract, but up close and personal in Pharaoh and his empire, and so God’s response to these oppressed children of Israel is also very personal.  These were not scientific, rational times but ones of the supernatural and the mythical.  I think that what we are also witnessing is God being vulnerable, God in pain over God’s people, God displaying not only strength but also weakness.  God had intended us for paradise yet God was also willing to let us choose and God would work with us no matter what we chose.  Let us remember that this is a story of liberation, that God is striking against empire for the sake of the enslaved.

Also, to a large extent, it is not our story to remember; it is not one that we return to every year.  It belongs to our Jewish sisters and brothers who have a race memory of persecution, captivity, and violence spanning millennia that we as Christians do not.  But it is also the story that Jesus went to on his last night with the disciples, our story of God being vulnerable.  It was Passover, that high holy feast given to remember when God saved God’s people, when God’s people went from slavery to freedom, from suffering to healing, from a land of captivity on a journey to a land flowing with milk and honey.  Jesus wanted his disciples to remember to him, the salvation story of his life and death, his strength and his weakness, his pain and his hope:  whenever you break bread and drink the cup, remember me; not just at Passover but whenever.  To remember not as a means of cherishing the past or holding on to hurts but as the way to move forward.

Rally Sunday is an event in the life of the church that is full of memories, of remembering and re-membering, bringing the Body of Christ together again.  It’s a time of returning, looking back, and moving forward, a new year in the life of the church, to begin again with a renewed sense of mission and ministry.  It’s a time to remember our DNA, the spirit in which this community was formed, where we came from, this church on the move.  It’s a time to remember to keep moving, keep liberating, keep journeying and healing, keep changing, keep hoping, keep wrestling with what it means to be loving and forgiving.

What are some of the change moments in the life of this church, when this community of faith moved from one way of being to a new way of being?  What are the change moments in your own life, painful or hopeful or both, the memories you return to that help you move forward in your own life?

(Congregation shares.)

            Every week we gather to remember who God is, how God continues to move in and through our lives and our life together, and to remember who we are as faithful individuals and as a faith community.  We remember our life and our death, our strength and our weakness, our pain and our hope, and that in everything, God is with us.  In our remembering we see that we are part of not only a long history but we are also moving toward God’s future.  Too often we forget that we can change.  We can be forgiving; not only forgiving but merciful; not only merciful but just; not only just but loving; not only loving but all of us fully God’s daughters and sons.  Remember me whenever you do this.  Amen.

Core values of the New Ark UCC, May 2014

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