Eldad & Medad
Trinity B 5 27 18
Last week we zipped right by the story of Eldad and Medad, the two guys who prophesied, as Moses hoped and as God had inspired them. They did this even though they weren't among the 70 who were called to prophesy and failed. How many of you noticed the sign on the corner this week?
BE LIKE ELDAD AND MEDAD
FIND OUT HOW
SUNDAY AT 8 AND 10 AM
How many of you would like to find out how to be like Eldad and Medad?
I promised today that we'd talk about how to be like Eldad and Medad. I wondered who would show up for that sermon. After all, you've had a full week to think about them. These two men were carrying out the will of God and the dream of Moses even when those who were actually selected for the job couldn't be bothered.
This Bible lesson is one of the key pieces of evidence that religious vision and leadership does not only come to those who are authorized. The spirit--Christians call it the Holy Spirit--moves where it will. In this case it moved into Eldad and Medad and inspired them to prophesy. This is such good news! Everybody should celebrate. But instead...
The 70 just sat on their hands, figuratively. They couldn't muster the energy or the vision to do anything. And Joshua! What about Joshua, he went tattling to the teacher...I mean Jesus.
We all know people like Eldad and Medad. They dive in. They get to work. They figure out or maybe they are inspired with what has to be done. And they get on with it. We also know people like the 70. These are people who have been given an important job and it might not be kind, but we think they are spending more time sitting around thinking how important or how busy they are than they are figuring out how to share Moses' burdens. Or they're arguing about what need to be done, as if they were ever going to agree, all 70 of them. We also all know people like Joshua who probably couldn't figure out what to do himself, but he could see that unauthorized men were doing what the 70 had been called to do, so he tattles on them as if they'd done the wrong thing.
What are Eldad and Medad doing? What Moses asked and what God wanted. They were telling the people in the Jewish encampment of the importance of following the guidelines of their faith. They were sharing what we would call the Good News. Some Bible scholars contend they were warning the people of a coming struggle--a battle-- with the surrounding peoples. They were taking care of business, if you will. Isn't that the way we want to be? Don't we look at the 70 or at Joshua and readily say, "I sure don't want to be like that!"
So how do we manage to be like Eldad and Medad? For starters we need to have a line of communication with God. We need to be seeking a notion of what it is God would have us do. We might have that understanding because we read about it in the Bible. You know, that Love God and love your neighbor stuff.
Sometimes other people let us know what God would like. They give us the idea that when they do certain things, they feel like they're pleasing God. Have you had that happen? Has someone invited you to participate in something because they say it makes them feel they're pleasing God or doing their part?
I've had people invite me into ministries within the church that have given me this sensation. Have you?
I got asked to help with a housing repair ministry in Pensacola. I knew it was good work but when I did it I truly felt like God approved. Likewise, feeding the homeless at Trinity Cathedral in Miami felt like I was passing out the bread and wine of communion, except it was a banana and a yogurt and an apple. Do you know what that feels like? I presume that's how the people who volunteer in our food pantry feel.
An active prayer life helps too. If we are in touch with God about the things going on in our life and our desire to serve God the chances of discerning what it is God would have us do increase exponentially. That may be because we aren't distracted by other things and it may be because we are clearer about what we think God wants. Either way, prayer works quite well in discerning the will of God. We just have to ask.
Then there's this: paying attention to what we read and what we pray. We can think about the ideas that are coming out of our mouths or being read by our eyes and consider what they mean to God, to us, to all of God's people. When we think of the things that get us moving in faith it is often the phrases we've been repeating all our lives which represented ideas that gradually became important parts of our faith.
Like that part of the Lord's Prayer where we ask God to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. We inherently understand that we can't reasonably ask God to do more for us than we're willing to do for others. Yet how often...
There's also something not to do: sit around like the 70 waiting for inspiration to hit us. We need to be always looking for ways to fulfill God's will. Not wait for something like the Mission Impossible taped message: "Your mission, should you decide to accept it..."
Here's one last do/don't do combination: tell others and don't be self congratulatory or smarmy. When we figure out what moves us in faith, what makes us feel better connected to God, it helps us and it helps the other person and it helps God, for that matter, if we let it be known. Telling those at the service last Sunday of the request of made of me to conduct a baptism for a stillborn child was such a situation. I wanted to do it. I know God wanted me to do it. I was never called to actually perform the sacrament, but I did volunteer. It felt right. As though I had carried a bit of God's grace to the grieving family by being willing. And I was given that grace, too, by being asked and by being willing.
Now we don't know exactly what motivated Eldad and Medad. We don't know what inspired Isaiah, either. The images in today's Hebrew Bible reading, the cleansing of his lips by winged seraphs with hot coals sounds a little unpleasant. But then when God asked, "Whom shall I send," Isaiah didn't falter for a second. He said, "Here am I. Send me."
Let's all say that together: Here am I. Send me. Again.
In our Gospel today Nicodemus is actively seeking an understanding of God's will. He sneaks out at night to visit Jesus and asks questions. Jesus chided Nicodemus, saying, "
If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?" Perhaps one of the most difficult things in faith is to simply accept them and not demand earthly explanations. That is what Jesus identifies as Nicodemus' problem and we know from later encounters, Nicodemus took Jesus advice and followed it. He was rewarded with a strong faith. When Jesus was being abused by the religious authorities before his crucifixion, Nicodemus reminded his colleagues that anyone brought on charges deserved a hearing. Nicodemus also helped in embalming Jesus body after his death.
Another way to open ourselves to God's will is to think about our faith. Since this is Trinity Sunday we might think about how it is that as Christians believe in the three persons of God, Father Son and Holy Spirit, and how they might enlighten us as to what it is we could be doing to advance the will of God.
For example, look at our collect today. In it we have reinforced the Trinitarian proposition in the first sentence: we have noted God as Almighty and everlasting, then extended that power and eternal nature to "the eternal Trinity."
Our opening hymn today is "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty." I
t was originally written to be sung specifically on Trinity Sunday. Listen to a couple of the verses from that hymn: "God in three persons, blessed Trinity." And "Which wert and art and ever more shall be." Those verses tell you about the three persons of the Trinity, as well as their eternal nature.
Here's another thing to think about in our effort to be more open to God: As with most of our prayers, our Collect for Purity, which we pray together at every Communion service, makes reference to all three elements of the Trinity. So you can see if we are conscious about it, we know God and God's will well enough to affirm the integrity of the Trinity all the time. Multiple times during a service.
I think we'd like to be like Eldad and Medad. They were not Christians, so they weren't Trinitarians. They had their own understanding of God that drew them into a life in faith that stands out in the bible in sadly stark contrast to those who were annointed. But they sought and recognized God's will for them and they then set out to fulfill it. We all benefit from their example.
This Memorial Day weekend let us also recognize that those who answered the call of duty and paid the ultimate price for it. It's not exactly the same thing as answering God's call, but I do believe it is close. Because ultimately it means putting one's life on the line for the good of society. And that is a godly choice, indeed.
A sermon preached at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Poughkeepsie NY on Trinity Sunday 2018 by The Rev. Tyler Jones, Rector