Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Proper 25A

Sometimes I think humanity has the shortest short term memory ever.

Case and point:
God is constantly turning over the way of the world:
raising up leaders from messed-up sinners
setting people free from different kinds of evil
working miracles of love even through the stoniest hearted people who start welcoming former enemies into their lives...

And every time it happens
we
are
surprised
by it.

we are surprised by something that happens over and over and over again...
So often God's something new...
is actually really really old.

This is part of the reason we share the stories of the Bible over and over and over again.
Even the boring bits.

The passage from Deuteronomy today shares the story of the transition from Moses as leader of the Israelites to Joshua, son of Nun. On the surface, it is not that interesting... kind of boring, maybe a little sad.

God shows Moses the whole Promised Land, but God tells him he has to die first.
So Moses chooses his successor and then dies.
The Israelites mourn for Moses.
And then Joshua leads them into the Promised Land.

Yet, while that summary tells you what happens, it leaves out all the good stuff that the author made sure to write into the story.

First, Moses goes up on top of a mountain.
Which, in the Bible, means something significant is going to happen.
Anyone remember Mount Sinai? The Ten Commandments?
Yea, that took place on top of a mountain.
And remember, Moses is close to 120 years old...
Its a miracle he made it to the top of the mountain.

Then, God shows Moses all of the Promised Land.
Which, is impossible from the top of that mountain.
They say that on a clear day, one can see as far as Jerusalem from the top of Mount Nebo, however, one cannot see the Mediterranean, which is the Western Sea.
God showed him things he wouldn't have normally been able to see.

After seeing way more than can humanly be seen, Moses comes back down the mountain.
Seriously, I have never met a 120 year old with this much vigor.
Moses then dies and is buried in the valley.
The author specifically wants us to know that Moses dies with his sight unimpaired and his vigor unabated.
So it would seem.
Though that is not exactly what the author writes in the Hebrew.
What the author is trying to tell us is that Moses was supposedly still sexually active leading up to his death.

Why does the author want us to know this?

Because the Israelites were doing something totally new. They were starting a whole new nation. Not based on lineage or wealth, but based on the promise of God in relationship with them.
God had just set them free in one of the first successful slave revolts in known history.
Compared to the other gods known at the time, this new God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was setting people free instead of enslaving people.
Which is what the other gods did.
God was doing
Something new.

And here they are again. On the cusp of something new, about to enter the Promised Land.

The Israelites had spent so much time in Egypt asking the age old question
we continue to ask over and over and over again
Are our lives set in stone and unable to change or can we be set free from whatever it is that enslaves us?
Have you ever asked yourself that question?
Is my life stuck the way it is or can it change?
I have asked myself that question.
This is why we tell this story over and over and over again.
Because it answers the question with a huge, resounding, God-shaking-the-earth
YES.
We can be free.
This story is just one example, from five thousand years ago.
YES
your life can change.
Their lives changed.
They were stuck in bondage. They were trapped by the malice of others.
They were stuck in a routine which ground them into the earth.
And God changed their lives.

So, they have started something new with God. And they get really excited about it. They want to share it.
That's what you do with Good News, you share it.
And they needed someone to share it with.
So they decide to teach it to their children.

Now you remember what the Egyptians had done to the Israelites when they were in Egypt land, right?
They killed their babies... 
so that there were not many children. 

That's why Moses went down the Nile river in a basket when he was a baby
to be found by the Pharaoh's daughter.

So now the Israelites had good news they wanted to share with their children and they didn't have that many children, so they had to create more.

And how do you create a lot of children?
Have sex.

The author is telling us that Moses was still participating in all the new stuff God was doing, even at 120 years old.
You are never too old or too young to be working with God.
God is always doing something new.

Then we come to the Gospel passage from Matthew.
God is doing something new here too.
Through Jesus.
The Pharisees come to Jesus with a question to test him.
Debate was the public forum of expressing opinions and teaching and sharing news
This kind of thing happened all the time.

The Pharisees ask Jesus a fairly tough question:
"which commandment in the law is the greatest?"

Remember, not only are there the Ten Commandments, there are 613 commandments written out in the book of Leviticus.
So choosing which is the greatest would take some serious study and skill.

But Jesus has done his homework and he gives the answer, 
the full summary of the law some call it.
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

In debate, once you have been asked a question and answered it, 
now it is your turn to ask a question.
Jesus does not disappoint.
He asks, "What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?"

Jesus wants to know what the Pharisees think of what God is doing through sending a Savior to his people. 
Because God was doing something new with the Messiah.
For so many years, the people of Israel had thought that the Messiah was going to be saving them from the political forces of the world.
Which is part of the reason the Pharisee's answer is "The son of David." 
In order to undo the political injustices done to Israel throughout the years, the Messiah had to be a son of the most famous and God-chosen king, King David. 

Yet, Jesus was not there to save the people from the political forces of the world.
Jesus was there to save the people from something much much bigger.
God was doing something new.

God is always doing something new in our lives.
Unfortunately we are not always able to see it.
We get caught up in distractions and our own expectations and we miss what God is doing.

What is God doing in your life?
Is it something new?

Of course, it may be that God isn't doing something new,
God is doing something very very old
perhaps we are seeing it new

God is always at work in the world 
and at work in our lives.
Your life is Not set in stone. 
You are Not stuck in whatever is holding you hostage.
You are Not stuck enslaved to the institution, addiction, or emotional drama which is tiring you out.
Our God is a God who sets people free.
Who makes promises to us and is faithful to us
even when we are not faithful to God.
Put your faith in God and look for God at work.
God is doing something new today.
Amen.