30 September, 2019

The Blessing: Liberation

A Sermon by Lia Scholl based on Exodus 1:8-14 and 3:1-15

In this morning’s text,
we find the Hebrew people living in Egypt.
Remember how they got there?

Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob, in Canaan
was thrown into a pit
by his own brothers who were
jealous of his fancy coat.

Joseph was taken to Egypt,
where he ascended to the head of food storage,
and when his father and brothers ran from famine
they found their forgiving brother
welcoming them in Egypt.

Then a new Pharaoh came to Egypt,
and he did not know Joseph or the Hebrew people,
and he feared them.

So he charged his people to “deal shrewdly with the Israelites,”
a hint to force them into labor,
and make their lives bitter with hard service.

The more they were oppressed,
the more numerous they became.
And Pharaoh became afraid of the numbers of Israelites.

So Pharaoh ordered the midwives
to put the baby boys to death.
But the midwives feared God
more than Pharaoh and refused.

At this time, Moses was born.
He mother hid him for three months,
then placed him in a basket and
sent him down the river.
He was saved
by the daughter of Pharaoh.

She contracted Moses’ own sister and mother
to raise the child in Pharaoh’s household.

So Moses was raised by his Hebrew mother
in the household of Pharaoh
and don’t you know he could see
the oppression of his people?

He could see it,
and he did something about it,
when he murdered an Egyptian
for beating one of his Hebrew relatives.

Moses fled Egypt, and settled in Midian.
He married Zipporah, and had a child.

And it seems as if Moses forgot about the plight
of the Hebrew people.
He was living his life, shepherding,
minding his own business,
where we find him today.

Standing on holy ground.
Watching a bush burn but not burn up.
Throwing off his shoes because the ground is holy.
Hearing God speak from the bush.

God had heard the Israelite people’s cry.
And wanted to send Moses to their aid.
But Moses had some excuses.
He had a whole lot of reasons not to save the people.
He had a whole lot of excuses not to
do what God expected.

You see, Moses had a fear problem;
he hid his face from God.

And you know, Moses had an identity problem;
he said, “Who am I that I should free the people?”

And Moses had a memory problem;
he had forgotten who God was,
and he said, “If they ask me who sent me,
what shall I say?”

Moses didn’t know what he could do…
he didn’t know whose he was…
and he didn’t know who he didn’t know.

This man who had miraculously lived when
Pharaoh was killing babies,
who had miraculously survived
when he killed an Egyptian,
who had miraculously found
a home in Midian,
had a fear problem.

This man who was raised in Pharaoh’s home,
educated by the best scholars,
attended the best parties,
AND cared for by the best community
loved by the best mama
served by the best sister
this man who knew he was

straddling both worlds, Egyptian and Hebrew,
had an identity problem.

And this man, who watched his people
suffer under his adoptive father’s reign,
who were forced into labor,
bitter hard service,
and yet were still thriving…

This man who sat on his mama’s knees hearing the stories
of Abraham and Sarah,
of Isaac and Rebekah,
of Jacob and Leah,
and of Joseph in Egypt…

This man, whose father-in-law was a priest of Midian,
a holy man who advises Moses,
who showed him compassion and tenderness
when Moses had nothing.
This man, Moses, had forgotten who God is.

Now… let me ask you something…

What will you use as an excuse
when your people are being oppressed
and God presses you into service?

Because folks? Your people, OUR people are being oppressed.
Our LGBTQ+ people are being harangued and harassed.
Our own former intern is being written about
in hateful terms, we’re getting phone calls, and hate mail,
and someone needs to speak up.

Trans women are suffering abuse—
and being killed.

Our people are being oppressed.
One of our loved ones is being told, daily, that they can’t be they.
That the way they experience their own gender can’t
be right, and that they need to pick a pronoun.

They’re also picked on because of their natural hair,
white folks wanting to touch it,
white girls yelling at them, here on campus,
“comb your hair!”

Our people are being oppressed.
The children in our city are being taught
that there is only one history and they are not in it.
Stories of Black bravery, of Black oppression, of Black
victories, of Black heroism, erased in our history books.

Our people are being oppressed.
Latinx children are still in cages.
Our brown neighbors are still facing check-ins,
detention, people screaming at them in WalMart.
Brown people are living in fear.

Our people are being oppressed
Guns violence.
Wars in our name.
Refugees turned away.
Oh! And climate change.
Your grandchildren may not have a future.

What are you using as an excuse?

Are you too old?
Are you too young?
Are you too busy?
Are you too poor?
Are you too angry?
Are you too enslaved to your own possessions?

Moses had a fear problem…
are you afraid?

Are you afraid you’re going to die?
Guess what? You are. Let that fear go.
Are you afraid you’ll go to prison?
You are already imprisoned by your fears.
Are you afraid of pain?
How is the pain of watching your
people suffer not the worst
pain you can know?

Moses had an identity problem…
have you forgotten who you are?

You are a child of the God Most High.
You have the power and purpose of the
God-most-high behind you.
Not just behind you, but around you,
under you,
through you,
in you.

Marianne Williamson (and this is not an endorsement of her for president) said the truest words ever:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

Moses had a memory problem…
have you forgotten the God that calls you?
Have you forgotten whose you are?
We serve a God who is with us.
Within us.
Around us, surrounding us,
and that God is powerful.

The Bible (Psalm 136) tells us that our God alone does great wonders,
5 and by understanding made the heavens,
6 and spread out the earth on the waters,
7 and made the great lights,
8 the sun to rule over the day,
9 the moon and stars to rule over the night,
10 and struck Egypt through their firstborn,
11 and brought God’s people out from among them,
12 with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
13 and divided the Red Sea in two,
14 and made Israel pass through the midst of it,
15 but overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea,
16 and led God’s people through the wilderness,
17 and struck down great kings,
18 and killed famous kings,
21 and gave their land as a heritage,
22 a heritage to his servant Israel,

23 It is God who remembers us in our low estate,
24 and rescues us from our foes.
This is the God we serve, whose steadfast love endures forever.

Friends.
Do not be afraid.
Remember who you are.
And don’t forget whose you are.

Amen? Amen.

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