08 Jun Exodus: God’s Relentless Pursuit
On Sunday I will begin a new sermon series on the book of Exodus. Exodus tells the story of Moses who is to the Hebrew scriptures (the Old Testament) what Jesus is to the New Testament: the dominating figure, the man whose story must be told, the person right in the thick of God’s redeeming action, the one whose life and work changes everything that comes after. There are a good many Christians who don’t see the need to delve very deeply into the Old Testament. We’ve got Jesus now, so everything else is irrelevant, right? Wrong. Exodus has a lot to say about our faith and our 21st century lives.
Preparing for this study has gotten me thinking about story and the power of story to define us, shape us and give our lives meaning and purpose. Think about your family. There are stories that are told and re-told, passed down from one generation to the next about certain events or people that have had a significant impact on your family tree. Perhaps it is the story of the first of your ancestors to come to the United States. Where they came from, why they left, and the experiences they had as new immigrants are all embedded into the fabric of your family.
The Great Depression was a seminal event in my family, like it was for numerous families in the 1930’s. My grandmothers were both teenagers during the depression and one story my maternal grandmother still recalls is how her mother picked strawberries—hot, back-breaking labor for pennies a day—in order to have enough money to buy material to sew dresses for my grandmother and her sister’s high school graduations. I remember “Mama Moore,” my maternal great-grandmother, from when I was 4 or 5 years old. She had long, long gray hair that she always wore in a bun. I was fascinated by how she held it in place with just a couple of bobby pins!
The Great Depression shaped both of my grandmothers in profound—and completely opposite—ways, particularly in their attitudes about money. One grandmother lived her adult life pinching pennies, determined she would never be so poor again. The other one spent money more freely, not wanting to be deprived and do without, as had been the case for most of her childhood. Those differing attitudes shaped values and set priorities, then got passed down to my parents and eventually to me.
Because one of my grandmothers lived to 95 and the other one is still going strong at 99, I have had the luxury of understanding the origins of their different perspectives. But, often such links get lost. We see the result, but we don’t know the “back story” and therefore don’t understand the “why.” With no understanding, we can be quick to judge and to “throw the baby out with the bath water” when something doesn’t make sense or seems outdated. In some families, certain attitudes or perspectives get handed down as unquestioned truth: of course we do things (or think about things) this way because it is the only right way to do it! We lose the freedom to adapt the central elements of the original story to fit our own lives and circumstances.
One of the delights of sacred texts is that we are never meant to rehearse the stories of our faith as simply historical events. Each and every generation is meant to enter these defining stories anew, to make them our own. That’s why we tell the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection every year during Holy Week and Easter. We are intended to plumb the story for how Jesus is acting to save us, here and now, not just what happened nearly 2000 years ago. Likewise, we will explore the story of Moses to ask aloud how God is delivering us, here and now, from the pharaohs and slavery of our day. I have already been struck by how relevant Moses’ story is which is simply a reminder that human nature is remarkably consistent—but, thankfully, so is the love and power of God.
I invite you to join us for this sermon series, “Exodus: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Us.” Sermons will be posted on our website if you’re not in the vicinity to join us for Sunday worship.
Yours for the Kingdom,