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Becoming the People of God - The Exodus

Becoming the People of God - From Slavery to Freedom - The Exodus • October 7, 2018 • Rev. Donnell T. Wyche •

Preamble and Welcome

We’re so glad you are here with us this morning. We’re grateful for you and the gifts of God that you bring with you into this space. Together we’ve been welcomed into God’s family through Jesus. As we become the people of God, we choose to reflect God’s love in our gratitude, in our joy, and in our generosity as we navigate the complexity of our daily lives. We pray that whether this is your first time with us this morning, or you've been a part of our community for a while, that you will feel the invitation of the Holy Spirit to join in with our vision. If you are looking for a church home, we would love to be your church home, and I, in particular would love to become your pastor.

Part Five - The Exodus

We are in part five of our fall sermon series, Becoming the People of God - From Slavery to Freedom. You can download and listen to the entire series on our website or via our sermon podcast.

Walking in the Promise of Freedom

After the decisive battle between the powers, Moses starts the process of leading the people up out of Egypt. When God called Moses to this task, God said to Moses, you will know that it was I that sent you when you and the people worship me on this mountain.

12And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” (Exodus 3:12)

The movement on this promise is now coming into sharper focus. Moses is ready, the people are ready, and God is ready. The group that leaves Egypt is a multi-ethnic group seeking liberation, taking their first steps toward freedom. As they leave Egypt they are in this in-between place. What we might call, “The already and the not yet.” They are moving forward, but they are not yet who they will be. They are in transition.

Pay Attention to Transitions

Most transitions involve at least three phases: endings, wilderness, and new beginnings. As the people take their first tentative steps of freedom, they are no longer slaves, but they aren’t really free. The freedom has been announced. They are now starting to walk in the promise, but the transition isn’t final, it has just begun.

We struggle with endings. When things end, often we wonder why. What was my role, the role of others, or just what we have come to know as fate, in what has ended? In this story, we know that the end was a declaration of freedom, an announcement by God about the destiny of humanity. When you have been held in slavery, beaten, dehumanized, and debased, taken advantage of, you may not be able to even know what freedom is, let alone, know how to be free. Often it takes years to work the reality of freedom into every aspect of your life, your mind, your practice, your outlook.

God instructs Moses and Aaron to start a new story,

“This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. 3Tell the whole community of Israel ... (Exodus 12:1-3)

The clock is being restarted; it’s not an attempt to forget the past but to communicate what God is doing in the life and story of the people. Yes, you were slaves in Egypt, but your story is changing.

This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance. (Exodus 12:14)

In the passover meal (the sacrifice of an innocent to set us free), God says, remember your time in Egypt, but don’t stay there. Remember the pain and suffering, but don’t stay there. Remember, but also look forward. Remember that through it all, I am with you. The same thing God said to Moses. The same thing God said in the beginning. I am with you.

When we are in transition we can feel alone, abandoned to our lot in life. So, I want to encourage you from the story of the exodus because when the transition is happening, we have to remind ourselves that we are not alone. While we might not be able to see God or God’s presence with us, I would ask you to activate your faith and a story of trust. God is present. You are not alone.

So, God leads the people.

40Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. 41At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the Lord’s divisions left Egypt. 42Because the Lord kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honor the Lord for the generations to come. (Exodus 12:40–42)

We have finally arrived at the Exodus.

But the people aren’t free yet. God has paved the way, but the people have to take first steps of activating God’s promised liberation and deliverance. They have to take up the task of leaving, of implementing the freedom that’s available, by walking out of the empire. Walking in the freedom that God offers us takes an activation of faith and trust.  It’s a decision they alone have to make,  whether they will activate their faith in God’s promise and whether they will trust that God will deliver on this promise.

Catch this as well, this is real freedom because while the people are free to go, they are free to stay as well. Recognizing that this exercise of freedom is new, it’s foreign, God leads the people, paying attention to what might distract or discourage the people.

17When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle. (Exodus 13:17–18)

Resistance to Freedom

Not everyone is happy when freedom comes. Some will insist on trying to re-enslave you. This happens through a lot of methods including questioning your freedom in the first place. We see this happen in this story too when Pharaoh regrets his decision to release the Hebrews and those who escape with them.

5When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!” 6So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. 7He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them. (Exodus 14:5–7)

Pharaoh representing Empire uses everything available to restrict and prevent the exercise of freedom. When we take up the original call to retreat and to worship, the empire reminds us of what we are leaving behind. The empire using anxiety and fear reminds us that we are not allowed to withdraw, we aren’t allowed to escape, we are aren’t able exercise our freedom. The goal here is to try to re-enslave us, to prevent us from ever breaking free.

There’s a way we join with empire in our enslavement because we have contended with our fears and anxiety.

10As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (Exodus 14:10–12)

The people are afraid of what Pharaoh might do now that they are walking in the faith and trust of freedom promised. We don’t like uncertainty and that’s what we get in transition. We get that things are coming to an end, but we don’t know what is coming. We prefer certainty, even if that certainty involves our enslavement. Pay attention to the ways that the empire promises safety and security. And learn to ask, “At what cost?” These people who have escaped Egypt are all of us. It would have been better if we had the certainty of our enslavement over the uncertainty of this new found freedom. But Moses speaks for the Lord when he says,

13“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:13–14)

This word from Moses is a word we all need to hear. Don’t be afraid. But fear is so available, so helpful, it a helpful companion in uncertainty. But Moses has discovered something about God himself. Moses started out doubting, uncertain, reluctant, that actually moves to flat out refusal. Then over the course of the story, we learn that Moses knows that God is able to come through in ways that he doubted were possible. He takes his experience with God to encourage the people. What experience of the faithfulness of God do you have to share with all of us. This is one of the reasons we have this answered prayer wall. It’s a visual representation of the faithfulness of God. While God may not be answering all of our prayers, God is at work in our community answering prayers.

Moses says, if you will be still, the Lord will fight for you.

This is a difficult word. Developing patience and reliance on God is something that we develop, we don’t just have it because it is something that is shaped and formed in us as we activate faith and trust God. This people had the manifest presence of God leading them by day and the presence of God leading them by night and even with that physical presence, they were afraid, but we should take heart. Read their story, learn from their fear, and activate your faith and grow your trust in the God who will fight for you. The God who defeated the powers to set us free. This God say calls us his own.

Again, God shows up in power and rescues the people.

29But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 30That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. 31And when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant. (Exodus 14:29–31)

What are you facing this morning that appears like the red sea, unmovable? A friend of mine says a miracle is something that only God can do. What can miracle do you need this morning?

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