Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 17)
03 September 2023
Sermon By: Rev. Dr. Robin A. Reed+
Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c
Sunday Cycle of Prayer
The Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean
St. Anne’s Church, Crystal River
St. Mary’s Church, Daytona Beach
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Even when we stumble, God is with us: Christ is our fuel and fire.
Who is your coach?
Do you remember the last time you watched the men or women’s hurdles race at a live track meet or on television? Perhaps as the runners knelt down in the blocks at the starting line you focused in on one runner’s face maybe the favorite or the underdog while she or he was waiting for the starter’s gun to sound and you wondered, what is he or she thinking? (I have to run fast, clear the hurdles and keep going until the end of the race. And maybe even, and I know God is with me.)And then the gun sounds and the runners are off. Sometimes the runners clear the hurdles just fine. Other times one of their feet catches the top bar pulling it over and in rare times the runner pulls the hurdle over, falling but almost all the time a fallen runner gets back up and keeps on going. No matter what, unless gravely injure each runner keeps on going because more hurdles await, until they cross the blessed finish line, hoping to fall into their coach’s arms.
Life is like a hurdles’ race, a good friend reminded me this week. Hurdles whether they are blessings from God, challenges from life, or our own internal self-doubts and pride. Hurdles don’t need to define who we are for with God’s help we can keep on going.
What defines us is how we run the race of life, whom we follow as our coach and guide and what we believe about God and ourselves. For the most intimate spiritual truth about each of us writes theologian Henri Nouwen, no matter what tradition we come from, each of us is a beloved child of God.
We each are known and loved by God before our birth, twinkles in God’s eyes, visions of hope in God’s heart, awaiting God’s calling to join in God’s story in the world, but over time we can develop tarnished self-images influenced by the world’s demands, our own choices and disappointments, our families’ negative messages and we find ourselves focusing on our own limitations, unworthiness, and forget God’s unconditional love for us.
Our spiritual journey is to reclaim, with God’s help, God’s image of us as God’s beloved son or daughter so we can embrace God’s love for us and share that love with our neighbor.
For Henri Nouwen claiming our belovedness is a life-long pattern realizing in our hearts we are to become bread for the world, undergoing the same process as the bread of the holy Eucharist we are chosen, blessed, broken and then given to the world. At the heart of the spiritual journey of being chosen, blessed, broken and given to the world we are called to claim and re-claim our choseness, to be a Christ follower, a Christian.
Two hurdles within our own human ego according to Nouwen sidetrack us from fully embracing our belovedness, our tendency to shrink our egos, to be self-rejecting and/or to inflate our egos with pride.
As we hear in our lessons this morning Moses faces the hurdle of self-rejection and inadequacy while Peter struggles with the hurdle of foolish pride and as promised, we will look at Moses’ and our battle today. The Good News is if we are side-tracked or even tumbled by the hurdles of self-rejection or pride God, like a good coach, is there to encourage, accompany, and guide us along the way, we are not alone.
In our Old Testament lesson many years have passed since Pharoah’s daughter adopted baby Moses. Moses, raised in Egyptian royalty and privilege, has killed an Egyptian for beating a Hebrew ruthlessly, fled to Midian for his life, married Reuel the priest’s daughter and become an 80-year-old shepherd living anonymously or so he thought in the wilderness. As ordinary as Moses may have felt God, like a good coach, never forgot Moses and his potential knowledge of his Jewish heritage and Egyptian culture, heart for justice, willingness to confront others and God did not hesitate to utilize Moses’ detour and hiding in Midian to prepare Moses for what was to come leading not the sheep but the people of Israel.
God who is a God of forgiveness calls us ordinary people when we repent to serve God in spite of our past mistakes. And God, like a good coach, equipped Moses, the 80-year-old shepherd for his next hurdle by re-connecting him with the Jewish people, teaching him about the challenges of wilderness life and then miraculously appearing to him in a burning bush, blazing yet not consumed.
As Moses curiously attends closely to the miraculous bush God calls Moses, not once but twice, from out of the blazing bush and all of us know what it means to be called by our mother or our father not once but twice. God invites and tests him to remove his sandals for he was on Holy Ground, to see if Moses is reverent and respectful when he learns whom is truly speaking so God can call Moses forward, letting go of his own sense of inadequacy to trust he can fulfill God’s plan and not his own plan.
And God, like a good coach, reassures Moses, encouraging him to let go of his sense of inadequacies. Moses might have been stuck on I am a murderer, a failure, a nobody to link Moses story with God’s s story - THE STORY. I am the God of your father, your family, your people, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, you are still chosen my beloved.
Moses still steeped in knowledge of Hebrew tradition hides his face believing it would be deadly to look upon Gods face. God at first bolsters Moses trust once again with what must be music to Moses' ears. From a transcendent view God sees the people’s misery, hears their cries under their taskmasters’ oppression, knows in God’s own heart their sufferings and is ready to act.
God descends to be among and deliver the Hebrew people from the Egyptians, bring them up to a land filled with milk and honey, work for justice for the Hebrew people and promises abundance. But just like a record player needle catching on a song Moses hears that dreaded scratch, the proverbial shoe dropping, God is calling HIM to join God, return to Egypt, confront Pharoah and lead God’s people to freedom. Can’t you just hear Moses respond.....DO WHAT? WHO ME, LORD?
Perhaps you have had a moment when you feel as if God is calling you to return to what feels like a dangerous place, to ask someone for their forgiveness, confront someone about a way they hurt you, resolve a conflict and no matter what your age or energy level or situation your first response is WHO ME…WHY NOW Lord?
God, like a good coach, yet again reassures Moses and us and will four more times before Moses embarks and returns to Egypt to confront Pharoah. God’s mission isn’t about YOU and me and our sense of your inadequacy, of what you have done or left undone. God’s calling you and me is about God and God’s Plan, God promises like a good coach to be present, encourage, reassure, and prepare us for God knows that there will be hurdles and challenges but God knows as we develop a stronger and stronger sense of ourselves as God’s beloved we will experience will be joy, freedom.
Just like Moses we need to be clear on our own abilities, our own limitations AND WHO is on the journey walking before, behind, and beside us.
In the Egypts of our lives, a land of many idols and false gods which god will we, like the Hebrews, believe in and follow?
God shares Gods divine name, I am who I am, Ehyeh asher Ehyeh, EH-hyah ah-SHARE EH-hyah which has no verb tense and is interpreted both as “I am who I am” and “I shall be who I shall be.”
God is now and God is eternal. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end and we are on the journey to both be and to become in the hope of eternal salvation as the beloved of God. Created in God’s image, chosen by God, blessed, broken and given to the world, we live both in the moment and the hope of all eternity.
God the good coach reassures, remembers, empowers, guides and is present with us each step of the race of life through each and every hurdle. God invites us as God did with Moses to let go of his focus on himself and his limitations, his sense of inadequacy and to embrace the possibilities God saw in Moses as his beloved.
With God’s reassurance, remembrance, presence, and power we both be and become more Christ like and let go of the world’s iniquities and our own sense of inadequacies
returning again and again to know that God always sees us as beloved.
What are the hurdles in your life? Turn your journey over to God. Remember God is with you. Be and become God’s beloved.
Cover Image: https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/diglib-fulldisplay.pl?SID=20230930276275683&code=act&RC=55954&Row=11