Here at Abbey Way, we value telling the story of God from one generation to the next. The lectionary text for this week is Joshua 3:7-17. It is a story that begins with a new generation standing at the edge of the Promised Land. Notice how Joshua makes meaning of what happened that spring day at the Jordan River and how it holds meaning for us as well. Try not to get caught up in this wondrous story. #goodluck
Falling down and getting back up again is part of Abbey Way's core identity. Even as our own self-identity has the opportunity to transform more into wholeness in the falling down and our desire to get back up again, is this action equally matched by a new identity of God revealed? The story of Moses and Yahweh teaches an essential truth.
This week in Exodus 33, we are given the opportunity to listen in on a private dialogue between the LORD and Moses. God has said that he will not go with the people into the land that he has promised them. But what will be the fate of the people if God does not go? Will God and Moses work things out?
Tune in and find out.
You may have heard sermons on this text before. It probably it is summed up something like this: bad people, bad leadership, bad God. The text is not what you think it is. Read it for yourself then listen to the sermon.
1 When the people saw how long it was taking Moses to come back down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron. “Come on,” they said, “make us some gods who can lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.”
2 So Aaron said, “Take the gold rings from the ears of your wives and sons and daughters, and bring them to me.”
3 All the people took the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron.4 Then Aaron took the gold, melted it down, and molded it into the shape of a calf. When the people saw it, they exclaimed, “O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!”
5 Aaron saw how excited the people were, so he built an altar in front of the calf. Then he announced, “Tomorrow will be a festival to the Lord!”
6 The people got up early the next morning to sacrifice burnt offerings and peace offerings. After this, they celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.
7 The Lord told Moses, “Quick! Go down the mountain! Your people whom you brought from the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. 8 How quickly they have turned away from the way I commanded them to live! They have melted down gold and made a calf, and they have bowed down and sacrificed to it. They are saying, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.’”
9 Then the Lord said, “I have seen how stubborn and rebellious these people are.10 Now leave me alone so my fierce anger can blaze against them, and I will destroy them. Then I will make you, Moses, into a great nation.”
11 But Moses tried to pacify the Lord his God. “O Lord!” he said. “Why are you so angry with your own people whom you brought from the land of Egypt with such great power and such a strong hand? 12 Why let the Egyptians say, ‘Their God rescued them with the evil intention of slaughtering them in the mountains and wiping them from the face of the earth’? Turn away from your fierce anger. Change your mind about this terrible disaster you have threatened against your people!13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.[a] You bound yourself with an oath to them, saying, ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven. And I will give them all of this land that I have promised to your descendants, and they will possess it forever.’”
14 So the Lord changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had threatened to bring on his people.
1 Then God gave the people all these instructions:
2 “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.
3 “You must not have any other god but me.
4 “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. 6 But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.
7 “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.
8 “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 You have six days each week for your ordinary work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.
12 “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
13 “You must not murder.
14 “You must not commit adultery.
15 “You must not steal.
16 “You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.
17 “You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.”
Partnership in God's Kingdom comes in many ways. This is one of the stories of what God is doing between Abbey Way and the Clauson family in Mexico.
We’ve been covering new ground this summer as we have studied Jesus’ word in Matthew 25, the corporal works of mercy. We have learned that Mercy is: God’s willingness to enter into our chaos and the chaos of the world. We have been challenged to judge our own understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus through this text. We have considered “the least of these” and our response to them. We have recognized places in our own souls that need God’s merciful touch. We have heard the promise of Jesus, “Truly…as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.”
Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food.
· Jan shared about Meals on Wheels. We each have our own stories of responding to hunger in our world. Hunger may be a part of our own story. We learned that to demonstrate mercy requires something of one’s self. It may be when we’re less certain that we know what to do that we are further opened to God’s mercy.
I was thirsty and you gave me drink.
· Jesus identifies himself with the least, the marginalized and vulnerable. Jesus identifies himself with the thirsty. We learned that leading with mercy takes us to suffering in the world. Who are the thirsty? And why are they thirsty? Perhaps, “It is in our unknowing that our hearts have the opportunity to expand and grow.” We wonder, “What does God’s mercy look like here?”
I was a stranger and you welcomed me.
· “A harbor to the harborless.” Jan shared how she had a house but no home after her mom died. If we aren’t aware of our own longing for home, our homeless hearts may check out before we begin to help another. ‘I was a stranger’—the one outside, this is who Jesus indentifies himself with, ‘the strange.’ We are challenged to reach out beyond the familiar, and as we learn to see Jesus in the stranger, there needs to be a willingness to embrace, to move towards.
I was naked and you clothed me.
· What would Jesus say to us about the experience of nakedness? All parts of the body are necessary, and on the ignoble parts, we bestow more honor. Jan preached that “to clothe the naked or to receive it, we need courage to humbly make peace with our own vulnerability, our own nakedness.” A fear of our own vulnerability keeps us from God and one another. God’s mercy comes to our own places of shame that need God’s healing and redemption. And we are then implored to move toward nakedness with compassion to clothe, humbly recognizing the value of human life, giving reverence and honor.
I was sick and you visited me.
· Mercy looks like showing up. Embodied mercy looks like showing up to the sick. In the chaos of sickness, Jesus compels us to show up. We humbly submit ourselves to God and to one another as we do this work of showing up to visit the sick. Our world is in need of more showing up people bearing mercy. “I was sick and you came…” Jesus said.
I was in prison and you came to me.
· “Release to the captives” –this is one of the primary works of Jesus as proclaimed in his Isaiah 61 mission. To release the captives, those in bondage of all sorts, this is why Jesus came. What are the captive places in our own hearts? In our family? In our world? Here we were challenged: Don’t discount what you have to offer, don’t discount God’s mercy in and through you because imprisonment comes in many forms. And Jesus mission to bring release is ours as well.
Bury the dead.
· The final act of mercy is burying the dead, honoring them to their final resting place. Jesus’ own body was affectionately cared for when he was buried. We honor people’s bodies by burying the dead, for we believe in the resurrection of the dead—bodies included—that this is important in the last things. We heard the story of Bellen and her family who stayed to see her laid to rest, standing until the last goodbye was complete. God’s willingness to enter into death through Jesus that we might have the hope of life –that is God’s mercy.
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when…?’
And the king will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.”
What has stood out to you over these summer months in the corporal works of mercy? What has connected to your own story?
How has one of the corporal works of mercy connected with your own story?
Kids: When did you help someone else this summer? Share the story.
Choose one. Give an example.For me, clothing the naked was one that stood out. I was with someone I love this summer whose soul was oh-so vulnerable, naked, pained. It reminded me of a vulnerable time that I went through. I noticed some fear still around my own vulnerability but I also noticed a deeper compassion in myself for this person and a desire to honor her, to extend to her the same mercy God showed me.
May your mercy be embodied in us, Lord Jesus. Amen.
-Pastor Laura Van Norman
Pastor Laura Van Norman's sermon from RealLife Covenant Church in Waseca.