St. John’s Episcopal Church
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  • Showing Up For Each Other: The Humility of Moses – The Rev. Michelle Meech

    October 29, 2023

    We’ve been following the story of Moses since the season after Pentecost started back in early June. Moses, who heard God’s call in the fire of the burning bush. Moses, the great prophet of the Jewish people, who led them out of slavery in Egypt through the Red Sea. Moses, who for 40 years, led these people through their wilderness, a time of scarcity and confusion. Moses, the unpopular leader, who came to know God face-to-face and was able to discern God’s will in the form of commandments at Mount Sinai; commandments that would enable life to flourish.

    Four of the first five books of the Bible are about Moses – Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy but most of our story so far has come from Exodus. Until today, when we are given this reading from the very end of Deuteronomy, the end of Moses’ life in the land of Moab.

    And in this poignant end to Moses’ life, is a deeply important message for all of us.  That this world is not our true home.

    Moses was tasked with leading the Jewish people to a place where they could find what they needed for their lives to flourish. A place where there would be enough for them to live peaceably with one another.  A place called “the Promised Land.” A land he would not actually ever enter himself.

    I find that this is one of the more poignant scenes in all of scripture.

    Moses, who went through so much in his early life – threatened with death by royal decree along with all the other newborn males, so that his mother floated him down the river where he was found by Pharoah’s daughter. But Moses always knew he was Hebrew growing up. He ended up killing an Egyptian who was beating a fellow Hebrew and fled from Pharoah for his life, once again.

    All this and then God commanded him to return to Egypt and lead the Hebrew people out of bondage. So he pled before Pharoah, until Pharoah relented (after the 10 plagues) and let the Hebrew people go only so that Pharoah would change his mind and chase the Hebrew people forcing Moses to split the sea in half so that they might be saved.

    As if that wasn’t enough, after breaking the Hebrew people out of Egypt successfully, it’s not as if they were grateful. He went through so much with his people – their shallow faith (the golden calf), their ingratitude, their ongoing complaints (at least we had onions in Egypt!). It’s like every time he turned around, every time he looked away for even a minute, they got off track once again.

    All of this, and when Moses gets to the end of his life, God says: “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.” 

    You and I are called. We are here in this place. We are claiming to be church, to be ekklesia, we are claiming it for ourselves. We are called out by God to be Christ in and for the world.

    Moses was called too. Moses was called out by God. It was a burning bush that he received to let him know that God needed him. But it doesn’t need to be a burning bush. Perhaps it’s the rising waters at our coastline caused by the ever-faster melting of our glaciers. Or it might be the mass shootings that never seem to end. It might be the war between the governments of Israel and Palestine. Folks, these are burning bushes. And they are just a few.

    Whatever it is, what we learn from the larger story of Moses is that being called by God is not about being powerful and getting all the toys in the end. It’s about the humility of showing up.

    Let’s talk a bit about humility because I’m not talking about feeling humiliation. I’m not talking about being shamed. I’m talking about what it means to recognize what it means to be human – with all of our skills and gifts and passion and vulnerability. To recognize this and offer it – offer all of it – to God.

    But what do we do when we feel like we have nothing left to give? When we feel that there is just too much.

    It’s no small thing that we talk about Love all the time. I think we should be talking about love all the time. Not a sentimental love or a nostalgic love. But a love that is born from a deeper understanding of the interconnected truth of the incarnation. We need each other. We cannot exist without each other.

    And this becomes even more evident more important more crystal clear in times when we are really feeling the weight of the world: The divisiveness of our society, the increasing anti-Semitism, the hurricane that wiped out Acapulco, the harsh truth of our loved ones being ill, the self-judgment we bludgeon ourselves with, the ever-increasing-never-ending to do list…

    When we are really feeling the weight of the world, this more than any other time, this is when we need to hang on to one another.

    I found this from author Cole Arthur Riley:

    Compassionate Christ by John Guiliani

    If your hope is waning, find those who can sustain it.
    And when the time comes, you will carry someone else’s hope for them.
    No individual can resist despair on their own.
    We steady each other. We cannot afford despair.

    This is the love we’re talking about, when we talk about love as Christians. This is what Jesus means when he says: ’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’… ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

    This is the love that is deeper than our flesh, that is beyond our imagining, beyond our perceived limits. This is the love that reaches out to grasp your hand and says, “no. I got you.” This is the love that moves us beyond ourselves, from me and you… into us and we. It’s the love that says, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” (a quote from Hebrews).

    The love that Jesus talks about is not nostalgia. It’s not sentiment. It’s not lollipops and unicorns.

    This love is an enfleshed, tangible, real and actual thing. Proof that the incarnate God, Jesus the Christ, is real and lives and breathes and walks among us right now, in this place. Christ is not just a theological image we have concocted. It’s not an idea that was created to try and make sense of some things that happened a couple thousand years ago to a really great guy who stood up to the powers that be.

    But Christ is palpable and substantive and flesh and blood. This – to be Christ for one another – this is our call. To be here for each other in times when the world seems to be too much. To hold one another’s hope. To stand up beside one another and say, I’ve got your back. To show up when things seem to be hopeless.

    Because Christian hope is not found in God answering all our prayers based on the things we think should be happening. Christian hope is the belief that God is with us in and through all of this. Emanuel, God is with us.

    We come to know that when we show up for one another. We come to know that Christ is real, when someone says, “I’ve got you.” This is true in all forms of ministry whether it be outreach or reading from the lectern or working with Angel Food East or working with children or singing in the choir.

    People are called, they show up in response to that call, and we as the Body of Christ, stand beside them and say, I’m with you. I’ve got your back. And so today we see one facet of that, one aspect of ministry and what it means to be the Body of Christ here together.

    We are not just celebrating the ministry of the choir, we are reminding ourselves what it means to have a choir, to have a group of people who help to lead us in worship, who commit themselves to this ministry, not just for themselves but for all of us. And to remind ourselves how we are called to be in relationship with a choir through our participation in the liturgy, honoring those who offer themselves into ministry by supporting them.

    If we learn nothing else from the story of Moses, may we learn, truly learn, what humility actually is: to recognize what it means to be human – with all of our skills and gifts and passion and vulnerability. To recognize this and offer it – offer all of it – to God. Regardless of the outcome.

    So that we may sustain each other. So that we may Love one another.