Sunday, September 13, 2020
Rev. Will White will begin a new Worship Series
“Through the Wilderness”
A tweet is floating around that simply says, “I miss precedented times.” How often do you hear that these are unprecedented times?
Of course, like all broad statements of that kind, this is both true and untrue. It is true that most of us haven’t lived with a pandemic. The natural disasters and the political and racial unrest all roll together to create a miasma of despair unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. Except we have. Maybe not exactly this, but we know the experience.
We’ve been here before. We call it wilderness. It is a regular occurrence in the lives of followers of Jesus. One might say it is standard operating procedure. But familiarity doesn’t mean ease. Wandering through the wilderness is a difficult journey at the best of times. Other times, it can seem impossible.
Our task in this series is to help us find our way through the wilderness of this time by allowing the first of God-wanderers in the book of Exodus to speak to us. The stories of the people of God, along with the hymns of the faith in the Psalms, become our guides through the wilderness today.
The first Message will be “Into the Sea”
The Scriptures for Sunday are
Exodus 14:19-31 and Exodus 15:1-4
There is an irony in the selection of texts for this week. We are two days past 9/11, a date when we mourn the loss of life in such large numbers in the terrorist attack on New York and Washington DC and Pennsylvania. And we read a story of a miraculous rescue through an impossible barrier and the subsequent loss of lives of the pursuing nation, while a song is sung in praise of the victory. We remember the false reports of Muslims in this country singing and dancing with joy at the devastation on 9/11. We were outraged that such a celebration should occur. Those lies were exposed, but some still cling to that image. So, how do we as the people of God celebrate the destruction of the Egyptian enemy in the sea with dancing and singing and feel good about ourselves? There is a rabbinic teaching that says that when the Israelites crossed the sea and were safe, a cheer broke out in heaven. Then when the sea crashed down on the pursuing Egyptian army, another cheer went up in heaven. But God turned to the angels and said, “Why do you rejoice when my children have drowned in the sea?”
We cannot resolve all these issues in one act of worship this month, any more than we can “explain” how the sea parted and the people were set free. But we can be aware of the implications of our celebrations and our praise. We can be aware that praying for freedom is threatening to the status quo and unsettling for many; some will be hurt in the struggle for liberation; blood will be shed. It is happening around us all the time. We cannot ask for an easy road; we cannot ask for painless transformation.
But we can, and we should, indeed we must, ask for God to go with us. That is the focus of our worship today—not a celebration over enemies, but a recognition that in the difficult times, and in the comfortable ones, God is with us. God goes before and God follows behind. So, like the people of God on the shores of the Sea of Reeds, let us rejoice that God is with us; when there seemed to be no way, God makes a way. When there seems to be no hope, God is our hope. And God continues to be our hope, the hope we live out in our moving forward, even when lying down and giving up seems like the logical thing to do.
Remember, we are in the wilderness. The people standing on the shore, amazed at what God had accomplished, were not done with their journey. They had only just begun. We are on a journey too, making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. And we have only just begun. We are still wandering, no matter how focused our mission and our goals might be, we are still wandering in the wilderness.
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The online services are at 9:00 am (Traditional) and 11:15 am (Common Ground Contemporary)