October 18th: Proper 24, the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

The Rev. Joseph Peters-Mathews is the vicar of St. Hilda St. Patrick. The sermon for Sunday, October 18th, was based on the below manuscript. The sermon was preached on Exodus 33.12-33.

We’ve been following the Hebrews around
since late August,
hearing a few weeks ago
about their deliverance from Egypt
and last week about them turning from God
to worship a golden calf.
Moses who grew up in Pharaoh’s court
has not had an easy time
leading his people out of bondage.
They’ve whined since they escaped.
God keeps providing for their needs
and they keep needing more
or not being satisfied.
I love when they derisively complain
about “This Moses.”

Today Moses is exhausted and frustrated.
He’s followed God’s directions,
and he’s negotiated with God
on behalf of his people.
He tells God that he wants to do the right thing,
but God isn’t making it the easiest
what with keeping so many details hidden.
Moses and the Israelites
are human,
and God is God.
They, we,
are impatient and want answers.
They, we,
need our needs met, yes
and don’t always distinguish between
wants and needs all that well.
They’ve escaped Egypt
and made a god for themself
when Moses takes too long
coming back to them.
Rather than rely on the God
who freed them from oppression,
they turn to a god that they made,
knowing that at least they can see it.

That all doesn’t sound too unfamiliar, huh?
I myself have confessed to you
how I want to do things my way
and how it’s impacted my pray life.
I am trying to not be anxious about next month,
but after 2016 and everything that’s happened
to so many people,
that’s difficult.
With over 210,000 Americans dead
from a terribly handled, still going, pandemic,
one wonders how to rely on God.

What’s also so clear,
is how our society has created our own god,
that we worship and turn to:
The Economy.
The number of people suffering from COVID19,
even when they live,
could be lower.
Cases are growing at a speed
not seen since the summer peak in July.
The death toll could certainly be lower
but our country was more concerned
about the god of money
than the fullness of life
made available to us
in Christ’s resurrection.
As the New York Times reported on Thursday,
“8 Million Have Slipped Into Poverty Since May
as Federal Aid Has Dried Up.”
If we’re wondering where God is,
God may be wondering where we are, too.

And whether we’re us in the United States
or the Hebrews wandering the desert
processing their generational trauma
and learning how to follow God
God hasn’t left us and doesn’t leave us.
Moses has stuck up for the Israelites
and gotten them spared from God’s hot wrath.
They’ve whined and complained,
they’ve made Moses so mad he’s thrown down the 10 Commandments
and had to go get new ones
they’ve gotten impatient and made a new god,
and God doesn’t give up on them.
In the passage today,
after all that,
God says that Moses has found favor
in God’s sight.
After all their challenges so far
and those just keep getting repeated
through the Hebrew scriptures,
God says, “My presence will go with you,
and I will give you rest.”
Moses says,
“We’ve made mistakes,
but please don’t leave us, God.
Show me your glory,
if I have found favor in your sight.”

And God agrees!
God doesn’t only agree
to let Moses see God,
but to keep Moses safe while it happens.
God agrees to put Moses in the cleft of a rock
and cover Moses’ eyes as God passes by
so that Moses can see God’s glory and live.
God doesn’t have to do any of that,
but God loves the Israelites and Moses,
and wants them to enjoy God’s goodness.
Even when they fail to honor God
and need prophets to correct their ways
or a Babylonian captivity to remind them
who delivered them from Pharaoh’s grip,
God doesn’t abandon them.

God doesn’t abandon us, either,
even when we have collectively turned
from caring for the poor
to caring for corporations.
God loves us and sent Jesus
to deliver us from death and sin’s grip.
God has set us free
to be about God’s work in the world.
God will put us in the cleft of the rock
so that we don’t die when God passes by.
We know how we’ve failed to honor God,
despite God setting us free.
We’ve had prophets from the time this country was founded
telling us about the wrongs we’ve committed.
We’ve had prophets all summer long
asking us to turn our hearts and minds
to truly love our neighbors as ourselves.
Babylon hasn’t captured us yet!

“I will make all my goodness pass before you,
and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The Holy One of Old;
and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious,
and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.”
As people saved by grace through Jesus the Christ,
people shown mercy,
we are called to show mercy and be gracious.
God’s goodness has passed before us,
has come to dwell among us!
May we turn our hearts to it
and proclaim in word and action
the same grace and mercy. Amen.

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