Tuesday, March 14, 2017
The Divine Drama Act II The Exodus
The Mighty Acts of God
In school we are taught all about history. In American schools we are taught primarily about American History. But there is Also Central and South America, and our Neighbors to the North. I lived in Canada for 11 years and learned a great deal about Canadian, English and European History.
But Africa, China, India, Russia, The Ukraine and The Crimea, The Middle East they have history too. How did Israel come into being since World War II? What happened to the Palestinian people when hundreds of their villages were destroyed and millions of their young people became refugees? How is it that we know so little about so much.
As the Philosopher George Santayana is often quoted; “Those who forget their history are condemned to repeat it.”. Yes, we need a well educated citizenry, so that we are not so easily led astray by those who control power and wealth. But that is another sermon for another time.
For today let us focus on Sacred History or Salvation History. This is what I’m seeking to do here with you as your priest during this Lenten pilgrimage we share.
Last week we spoke of the Act I of God’s Salvation Plan: Creation. I described just a little bit of how the Bible came to be and then we explored the Two Creations stories; the one in which all went well, God rested, blessed the work he had done, and called it “Good.” In the Second Creation Story, things did not go so well. There was that pesky apple; Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the snake, there was a cover up, Cain killed Abel and nobody wanted to accept responsibility for anything they had done. “Am I my brother’s keeper” Cain said to God, by way of deflecting attention.
God expelled them all from the Garden. The alienation from one another and God, and the ensuing violence became the story we know all too well down through history. The first creations story remains though; the way to live in which we are at one with God. And the Spirit always asks; “Which story do you want to tell with your life; the one in which all is well with us and God, or the one in which there is alienation and blame coverup and violence?
By the way, the Genesis account of how things came to be includes a wonderful set of stories of the flood, Noah and the Rainbow, the Tower of Babel and so on. Some of those stories come to us from the “Gilgamesh Epic” which is the oldest known major literary account of ancient history. Dating from around 2100 BC this literature from Mesopotamia would have been known to the Children of Israel. The Biblical take on these stories however is unique because they are not stories of a king but stories of God’s Kingship.
The Creation story continues in today’s fist lesson in which God counts Abraham’s faith as righteousness. It was because Abraham “believed” that God blessed him and Sarah with a child that they became the father and mother of of many nations. Genesis is the account of Creation; Act I of The Five Mighty Acts of God.
Act II is about the Exodus. You know the stories, of how God looked upon the sufferings of the people in slavery, and then the one of the Baby in the bulrushes.
Then one day as he was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, he came upon this extraordinary sight. The burning bush and yet the the fire did not consume it. And angel spoke to Moses out of the bush we’re told; “Put off the shoes form your feet Moses, for the land of which you are standing is holy land.” I hope you all realize that the land on which you stand, and the lives which you are living are holy.
Then God spoke to Moses; “I have seen the affliction of my people and I know their sufferings. I have come down to deliver them from slavery and to bring them to the Promised Land!”
But then God said “Go down Moses, tell old Pharaoh, Let my people go!” That’s the part that terrified Moses. Who am I that I should go to the Man of Power and speak so to him?
What comes next fascinates me. Moses wants to know God’s Name. After all, all the nations on earth have gods. Each of them has a name. What is our God’s Name?
What happens then is something that changes all of Sacred History. We discover God is not merely a national possession but that God is a Creator of everything that is. More than that God is planted in the human heart too as One who seeks to right the wrongs of all. For wherever there is injustice and wherever there is suffering there you will find God.
So God tells Moses; my name is “I AM”. In the Hebrew the mood of the verb I AM has no equivalent in English. You can probably translate the name “I AM” to “I AM WHOEVER I CHOOSE TO BE. In other words, you’ll see who I AM at the time you need to see it.
You can imagine Moses’ consternation. “I AM”? That’s it? What am I supposed to tell these folks about Who You Are? They’re going to want something better than “I AM”!
What Moses tells the people is that God’s name is so holy that we cannot say it out loud. But the essence of who God is Being itself. As I am a human being and with all the mystery that evokes, so too God is all of Being. But more than that God acts in history to bring us up out of slavery and into freedom in the Promised Land. Now that’s what it means to be “I AM”. You’ll see.
The slavery or the injustice is not forever. God acts in human history down through the ages, not just in Moses’ time, but also in our own. You know Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela and how they all became part of Who God IS in history. When God says I AM, we may have our fears and doubts. But God speaks somewhere in the depths of our being to say “Go down Moses, tell old Pharaoh, Let my People Go.”
What happens next in Salvation History as Moses lived it which the children of Israel, is that God summoned him up to the mountain again for that biblical “40 days”. There he was given the Law of God written on the two tablets. There we learn or our duty to God and our duty to one another.
You can turn to the Catechism in the Prayer Book if you will to page 847 and 848. The commandments as written down in stone for us on God’s Holy Mountain you can find on page 317 and 350. What you see on pages 847 and 848 are by way of restatement for our education in the ways of God.
The Exodus teaches us that God IS. The essence of God’s being is that whenever and wherever there is injustice and suffering there is God. And God will send his church into the midst of that injustice and suffering to be the hand of God in history.
God brings us up our of slavery and into the Promised Land of freedom again and again. By the way the British were slaves more than 1800 years ago. Here’s an interesting historic fact for you. When St Augustine saw those Anglo looking children in the slave market in Rome. He asked; “Who these children?”
His priest said to him; “Sunt Angli”, which in Latin means these are English.
“Non sunt Angli, sed Angeli” which mean these are not English, these are Angels. And with that the first missions were sent to England to bring the Gospel to those shores.
But with Freedom there comes Law. You see then how God acts in history not just to get us to believe as if some kind of intellectual or emotional response were enough. God seeks an ethical response too. God frees us from slavery. God brings us to the Promised Land. God brings us Freedom. With Freedom there comes Law.
Again we return to Act I in the Divine Drama. In the first Creation Story all is well. We are one with God. In the second Creation Story things go from bad to worse.
In Act II the Divine Drama builds. God looks at our sufferings and the oppression and injustice and sends us into the world to bring freedom and the healing touch of Godly and human love.
In the Name of God, the Most Holy, Undivided, and Everlasting Trinity. Amen