21 Pentecost A 10 29 17
It is amazing for us to consider the life of Moses. We know him from the beginning: being born and put in a basket and set afloat in the Nile River. Then there was the Burning Bush, the first Passover, the Exodus, manna from heaven, water from the rock, the crisis of the golden calf, and the Ten Commandments.
Moses led a life of fidelity to God. We honor him and note his many achievements.
One day a
boy was sitting on a park bench with one hand resting on an open Bible. He was loudly exclaiming his praise to God. "Hallelujah! Hallelujah! God is great!" he yelled, not caring if anyone heard him or not. Along came came a man who had recently completed some studies at a local university. Feeling himself very enlightened in the ways of truth and very eager to show this enlightenment, he asked the boy about the source of his joy.
"Hey" asked the boy in return with a bright laugh, "Don't you have any idea what God is able to do? I just read that God had Moses open up the waves of the Red Sea to lead the whole nation of Israel right through the middle."
The man smiled and sat down next to the boy and began to tell him about the "realities" behind the miracles of the Bible. "That can all be very easily explained," he said. '"Modern scholarship has shown that the Red Sea in that area was only 10-inches deep at that time. It was no problem for the Israelites to wade across."
The boy was stumped. His eyes wandered from the man back to the Bible laying open in his lap. The man, content that he had enlightened a poor, naive young person to the finer points of scientific insight, turned to go. Scarcely had he taken two steps when the boy began to rejoice and praise even louder than before. The man turned to ask the reason for this resumed jubilation.
"Wow!" exclaimed the boy happily, "God is greater than I thought! Not only did He lead the whole nation of Israel through the Red Sea, He topped it off by drowning the whole Egyptian army in 10 inches of water."
God is great indeed, and so is Moses, for that matter. We honor Moses today because, as you could hear in our Hebrew Bible reading, Moses ' earthly life came to an end on the mountain overlooking the Promised Land. He never got there.
Those Biblical scholars and the killjoy I was talking about in my joke say that God deprived Moses of actually setting foot in the Promised Land because Moses had disappointed God by taking credit for some of the great deeds God enabled him to do. I mentioned the reading concerning the death of Moses this week at an Interfaith Council meeting and one of my Jewish friends suggested that Moses wasn't permitted to get to the Promised Land because he was impetuous.
Nobody asked me. But I think Moses died before he got to the Promised Land because he was old and tired. I can relate.
I wanted to talk about Moses today because I think of him as such an exemplary Godly man. Yesterday I had the opportunity to consider him at length because I spent the day at the Poughkeepsie Yacht Club on a mandatory work day with all the members pulling the docks out of the river and stacking them for the winter on the shore.
In the way that I learned in seminary I tried to think about Moses and his labors on behalf of the people of God and what made him so special. He certainly is the most prominent person in the Hebrew Bible and as we have read these past few weeks, he repeatedly intervened with God on behalf of his ragtag followers.
As a Jew, Moses isn't considered a saint, but he's about as close as anyone gets in the Hebrew Bible. It occurred to me that as we conclude our readings about his life and leadership we might use his story as a template for remembering the saints in our lives.
Next Sunday is All Saints Sunday. You're going to have an opportunity name a couple of the saints in your life, if you like, and tell us why you consider them saints. So let's just look at a few instances in the life of Moses where what we can call his saintliness shone through.
The first example I think of is when Moses, who had been raised as the son of Pharaoh's daughter, defended an Israelite slave who was being mistreated by his Egyptian overseer. Though we don't know how he came by the information, we see that Moses never lost his identity as an Israelite.
Moses also bravely confronted Pharaoh, demanding again and again that Pharaoh "let my people go." His bravery was matched by his persistence.
Moses also believed God. When God told him to do things, he did them, even though we know he felt inadequate and fearful.
Moses wasn't afraid to take the troubles of his followers to God and ask for God's intervention. He knew his purpose in God's name was the people's protection, so he went to God in the tent and on the Holy Mountain as an intercessor with the Almighty.
Moses had a vision for his people that he prosecuted to the end. Whether it was his outrage over the Golden Calf or his effort to share his spirit with the 70 elders, Moses sought to raise the spiritual sensibilities of his followers, to share his ministry.
Which is these attributes do you think might apply to the people you consider your personal saints? You've got a week to think about it and I hope you will. All Saints Day gives us an unusual opportunity to think about those folks we know of or who have actually been present in our lives, who drew us nearer to God, who helped us see ourselves as God's people, who encouraged us to be courageous in expanding our faith and to believe in God.
Another reason I hope some of you will do this next Sunday is that by telling the congregation about our saints we open our lives and our hearts a little bit and let ourselves be known more deeply. Please consider this a heartfelt invitation.
And let us all remember Moses. In our prayers let us ask God to make us as faithful as he was in our own lives, maybe not parting the Red Sea but definitely following and loving God and loving our neighbor in heroic ways. Amen