Tony E Dillon-Hansen
Last updated: 9/17/17 3:57 PM
Sermon based upon scripture: Exodus 14:19-31
May the Words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight. You are our Rock and Our Redeemer.
When many people think of the great story of Moses
and Israel crossing the Red Sea, they likely see the face of the actor,
Heston, playing Moses from that age-old movie, Ten Commandments
(or maybe the movie, "Exodus: Gods and Kings" from 2014 with Christian Bale playing the lead role.).
This story is rich with symbolism --enough to film it like a Tolkien epic with giant waves splitting apart leaving a valley for people to cross.
Then, we observe those giant waves crashing and destroying the Egyptian army.
There is a strong implication given the contrasts of natural forces versus the mechanisms of war.
This story is about being chased by a powerful army
that represents a past struggle that hopes to re-enslave or wipe out our people.
Suddenly, there is God providing waves of change.
There is a point after the waves have settled that a realization takes place.
At this point in the story,
we are at a new point in life.
– some call this a crossroads, a transition, or an awakening.
We must consider what happens when you have reached a point in life,
when things have changed,
especially after a long struggle (like our people in the story).
Yet, this is not just an epic of escaping cataclysmic disaster.
We face these crossroad-type assessments and transitions today.
Something has ended and something begins:
You just got a promotion or considering job change, survive cancer, veteran or refugee from war, face retirement, or graduate school.
One theologian likens Exodus to birth.
The types of transition we have are endless.
What do you when faced with decisions?
Are we content with what we have achieved and just stop,
or is there more to do on our journey?
Do you look for God?
It could have been easy for Israel at this point to say,
“well we have achieved freedom,”
and try to settle right there on the shore.
Some people are tired by just walking across a room,
but Israel made a mad dash across the Red Sea to escape the terror behind them.
They likely are exhausted.
God keeps going and instantly reminds us in many ways,
that there is something more to be done.
This is just a transition point,
and thus, it may seem like another daunting challenge
when that someone says,
“there's still work left...”
even though you are so tired of trying.
You are on the other side of a change, trauma, storm or loss.
Maybe, like the people in the lesson,
the tumult that was your path to this point has dramatically changed.
People in storm-ravaged areas might be asking these same questions.
You find yourself staring at the next chapter of life,
questioning “now what?”
People don’t like change.
We know, sometimes,
those waves of change that God sends look like more struggles on the horizon.
Yet, in the words of a favorite band of mine, Dream Theater,
“This is the life we belong to; our gift divine.”
To this point in life,
maybe you have been worrying about some darkness in your past (perhaps wondering if they might win the day.)
When you think about it, you may recall how God helped you to find a way to make necessary change in your life.
The direct result is looking at the wreckage and carnage of the past struggle.
Addicts might understand this as a moment of clarity.
Even in the moment, the transition,
the “what comes next” seems foreign and scary.
Further, the connection to waves and waters is not lost to our baptism here;
that God guides us and renews our faith
through the waters of baptism and baptismal renewals.
Thus, we have transitioned through baptismal covenant,
and we have been better for it.
Still, in this point, the options are clear.
You simply cannot go back;
you cannot be someone that you once were.
You can look at your options,
and then use your intuition, your experiences,
or your gut to do what feels right.
A Promised Land is somewhere over there still,
and we can walk with faith
– one step at a time to get there.
Whatever way you choose,
you only go forward from this spot and this time.
Our Scripture tells us that we do not need to walk alone.
With faith, we can walk knowing that God’s steadfast love is right there working and nudging us to keep following that good path.
God provides us with those guideposts of love and hope
to get to the Promised Land that awaits.
A curious thing about these moments of clarity is
that despite negativity from the struggle,
we might have managed to establish a reliable illusion by holding onto that pain.
The struggle gave us a sense of consistency and reliability,
like you could set your clock to it.
You may not have liked it,
but you knew the pattern and you adapted -- not always healthy ways.
Now, that has changed; now what?
Buddhists refer to this idea as part of the Four Noble Truths. That when we end our attachment to suffering, we can learn to mindfully walk the Path (with prayer and meditation) to a “Promised Land” or what Buddhist would say enlightenment. The realization of the suffering (and our attachment to it) is a powerful first step. This is a continuing effort. When we follow the path, learn to adjust life and let go of what we are afraid to lose, we may be able to find the Promised Land.
In Christian terms, we might hear God speaking.
We also realize that we don’t have to walk alone.
That struggle may have seemed easier to keep than taking these next steps.
I am not immune to this as I have decisions today that feel like this.
When I have been holding onto fear and anxiety,
I have observed God magically changing that (washing it away).
We are left standing there looking at the path to a Promised Land with altered vision because old threats may be gone,
but new challenges await.
We also know the transition, victory, and realization ultimately raise new questions.
In this moment when you recognize that change has happened,
you examine what happened,
assess your goals, decide what to do next,
and then take the next step.
Take stock in the gifts God has already given you.
You woke up today and you are breathing.
you have food, a roof over your head,
Transportation and beautiful community around you.
It can be good to be thankful for these gifts.
They will be your foundation for going forward.
Do you just stop? Do you continue un-healthy ways?
How long will the next part of the path take?
Will there be more struggle and how well will I adjust?
The answer is yes; you keep moving and you will struggle.
With this awakening, we have the freedom to choose.
Yes, there will be new pains and new loves, but the past does not need to dictate today or tomorrow. You can be free.
We may have to learn a new way to live or do something we have not had to do.
That is part of the mystery of God where the path is presented with the potential of grace, promise and of course, more messiness towards your Promised Land.
We have realized something happened,
and it is up to us to decide to take the next steps.
Then, we may find love within ourselves, with our neighbors and with God.
We can work together against the machines of war, slavery and injustice.
We may truly see the Promised Land laid out for us.
We can take that next step --and then another.
You don’t need Heston, acting like Moses, to help you because you have someone much bigger and much more forgiving. You have God; you have Jesus.
We can walk with faith and God’s love instead of holding onto the struggles of the past.
We can remind each other how we are all shining examples of God’s love
and how we are all called as God’s children.
We know there will be more challenges.
Yet, with God still speaking and guiding us, that Promised Land is waiting for us.
Take the next step you always envisioned you could, and look for God’s hand.
Thanks Be to God.