Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Where There is No Way, God Makes a Way

This was the sermon I preached last Sunday.  As you might be able to tell, I don't work from a manuscript, rather I use a rough outline, so what I actually said isn't fully detailed here.  Also, the ending, which is abrupt here, was much longer but really just recapped what I said in the body of the sermon.  

Where There is No Way, God Makes a Way
Exodus 14:19-31, Luke 24:1-5
Brian Wallace
Northmont United Presbyterian Church
Sunday September 11th, 2005

  1. One can hardly preach on September 11th without remembering the tragic events of September 11th, 2001.

  2. Four years later, we can still see the effects of that tragic day.

  3. And still, four years later we look along our Gulf Coast and find that still, almost two weeks after the hurricane hit, people are still in the city which is is now become a toxic disaster. We have in our own country refugees, and countries around the world are pledging to help us. Some project the death toll will be at least four times that of 9/11. I read yesterday that the state of Louisiana has ordered no less than 25,000 body bags.

  4. If we look around the world we find that the world is in no better shape.

  5. Roughly half the world's population lives on less than 2 dollars a day.

  6. 30,000 people per day die around the world from hunger, which is as many as died in last year's Tsunami.

  7. Yet this is the world we live in, and its easy to see why people think that things are truly hopeless.

  8. It seems that even what good we can do, even the money we give to mission, even the projects we do,

  9. And even in our own lives we've experienced tragedy. Just look at the prayer chain each week. We have people in this congregation who have experienced abuse, who have fought many battles with illnesses of all kinds. We sit here tonight and know that Elora Gier, one of our middle schoolers, a young woman who has already experienced a great deal of tragedy in her life, is in children’s hospital being treated for Leukemia. Even if it hasn't happened to you, you've watched friends, family members, and maybe even your own children suffer through the various battles of life.

  10. I know in my own life I watched families last summer in the Hospital, and journeyed with patients through the valley of the shadow of death, and watched some of them not make it out.

  11. We've also witnessed the ability of humanity to inflict destruction upon itself. This year alone we've remembered the first used of atomic weapons, an event that has shaped the world until this day. We've also remembered the holocaust where at least six million people perished at the hands of the Nazi regime

  12. In light of all of this it is easy to get frustrated, depressed, and even angry at the mess that the world is in.

  13. So what are we to say to this world?
Move 1: Israel and Us
  1. In many ways, the people of Old Testament Israel aren't that much different than us, and the world, while in some ways it has changed dramatically, in other ways is very much the same place. They, like us, suffered from the tragedies of life.

  2. The Book of Exodus details the major tragedy of their lives, their captivity into slavery in Egypt.

  3. The book of Exodus also serves to continue to story of the people of Israel that begins in the Book of Genesis as well as provides the foundation for the rest of the New Testament.

  4. The chief thing we learn from the early chapter's of Exodus is that they were an oppressed people, made to be the Pharaoh's slaves for whatever building project he had in mind. Needless to say, being slaves wasn't exactly their idea of a good time.

  5. We also see what one the key characters here being Moses. What is so important to remember about Moses is that he didn't want the job that God gave him, in fact, Moses did everything he could to get out of the job.

  6. And the people were thankless, as we saw in the story. Just prior to our story tonight we read that when they got nervous because the Egyptians were pursuing them they started saying all sorts of things about Moses and how we had done this on purpose just to kill them, when nothing could be further from the truth.

  7. So, its safe to say that that the Israelites certainly knew tragedy and its impact on life after all, Moses really didn't like the situation he was in.

  8. So it is safe to say that Moses and the Israelites certainly understood tragedy just like we do.
Move 2:
  1. But what we find in this story is that in situation where there is no way, God makes a way

  2. See, the Israelites were pretty much between a rock and a hard place, well, I guess in this case between an army and the sea.

  3. The mighty Egyptian army was coming after them and all they had protecting them was a cloud. Things didn't look good, in fact there was no place they could go at all.

  4. And the problem, as we saw, was that they turned on Moses.

  5. And the thing is, we can understand their fear completely. You see, when life is ordinary and simple we are perfectly comfortable, because we know how things work out. We trust that in our normal lives that God is watching over us and protecting us.

  6. But when things go out of the ordinary, when things turn from what we're used to, now that's when we get nervous and upset and we often ask that question, “Can God really cope with this situation?” We in essence say, “Well, God has gotten me through this far, but I'm not sure about this one, there's no way out”

  7. Our African-American friends have a saying that I just love, “When there is no way, God makes a way”

  8. And that's precisely what happened here. God made a way.

  9. This is what we must confess in this day and age. God will make a way through our suffering and gloom. There is hope.

  10. In the life of Israel the event of the Exodus became foundational. In fact, throughout the Old Testament God often speaks “I am the Lord Your God, who brought you out of Israel” and the people of Israel remember God as the one who brought them out of Egypt and through the waters of the sea.

  11. We as Christians confess that on Easter morning the tomb that held Jesus Christ was empty. But certainly on Friday morning and all day Saturday, it looked as though there was no hope for the followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus was dead, and there appeared to be no way. But where there is no way, God makes a way, and through the resurrection God made a way.

  12. In this day and age we need to reclaim this Exodus story and the resurrection story as an example of the awesome power of God to make a way where there is no way.
Move 3:

  • But how do we know that God will make a way? Or even more so, how does God make a way?

  • In the Reformed tradition we talk about God's providence. The Westminster Confession says that

  • God, the creator of all things upholds, directs, disposes, and governs all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge and the free and immutable counsel off his own will, to the praise and glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.” (Adapted from WC V.1)

  • To put it more simply, everything that happens occurs within God's control. But more than that, everything that happens happens within God's control and for God's purposes.

  • Such is clearly the case with the Exodus story. Everything in this story worked out just as God intended it to to accomplish his desired outcome. As one commentator put it, “What we see here is that the whole situation has been orchestrated by God down to the T.”

  • The problem with the issue of providence is that its hard to understand how God can be in complete control of things when things are so bad. I mean, if God has worked out everything perfectly in the Exodus, why do things around us look so awful?

  • As St. Paul wrote to the Romans, “In everything God works with those who love him to obtain what is good.” - Romans 8:28, BDAG

  • The key phrase here is “God works with those who love him”

  • The world is a world full of humans, who are free, and sadly and unexplainably we as humans turn away from God and sin, by choosing to do things our own way and not God's way. We hope that God is on our side and ask God to help us to do things our way, rather than asking if we're on God's side and doing things God's way rather than our own.
Move 4:
  1. But doing things God's way isn't always easy, and often requires us to completely rethink how we do things and what we do.

  2. Take Moses for example

  3. As we said, Moses didn't want the job he had.

  4. But what we see at the end is the response of the people to Moses - “Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. So the people feared the Lord and believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses”

  5. Throughout this whole story there has been an interesting combination of Moses and the Lord at work.

  6. The question might be, well, who parted the waters? Moses or God? Well, the truth of the story says that both of them did. As one commentator said, “The agencies that create the path through the sea are threefold – divine, human, and nonhuman, working in harmony with the other. As has been the case throughout the Exodus narrative; God does not work alone; God works through both human and non human powers to accomplish the divine purpose.

  7. Moses was so in line with the will of God that at the end of this story the Israelites believed in both the Lord and in his servant Moses

  8. But you see, in order to do this, in order to be in line with God's will, Moses had to leave his comfort zone completely. He had to do what he didn't really want to and he had to subject himself to God's command entirely.

  9. To follow God's will we must be willing to rethink how we do everything, and even what we do.

  10. When we look at the state of the mainline churches here in the United States we might want to seriously think about what we're doing, and if we're really doing the will of God given the results we're seeing.

  11. What are some of the things that we might need to rethink as far as what we do?


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