Thursday, October 02, 2014

"Exodus to Egypt” September 28, 2014, MCC Windsor (Narrative Lectionary)

Exodus 14:10-14, 21-29
As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to God, and they said to Moses, Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Werent there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? Didnt we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. Its better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’”
But Moses told the people, “Dont be afraid. Just stand still and watch God rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. God own self will fight for you. Just stay calm.
Then Moses raised his hand over the sea, and God opened up a path through the water with a strong east wind. The wind blew all that night, turning the seabed into dry land. So the people of Israel walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side!
Then the Egyptiansall of Pharaohs horses, chariots, and charioteerschased them into the middle of the sea. But just before dawn God looked down on the Egyptian army from the pillar of fire and cloud, and threw their forces into total confusion. God twisted their chariot wheels, making their chariots difficult to drive. “Lets get out of hereaway from these Israelites!the Egyptians shouted. The Holy One is fighting for them against Egypt!
When all the Israelites had reached the other side, God said to Moses, Raise your hand over the sea again. Then the waters will rush back and cover the Egyptians and their chariots and charioteers.So as the sun began to rise, Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the water rushed back into its usual place. The Egyptians tried to escape, but God swept them into the sea. Then the waters returned and covered all the chariots and charioteersthe entire army of Pharaoh. Of all the Egyptians who had chased the Israelites into the sea, not a single one survived.
But the people of Israel had walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, as the water stood up like a wall on both sides.

 Matthew 2:13-15
After the wise men were gone, an angel of God appeared to Joseph in a dream. Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,the angel said. Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.
That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herods death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: I called my child out of Egypt.

Will you pray with and for me? You who are always with us, give us courage to follow when you point out the way. Grant us your vision for this world, and the wisdom to make this world your realmon earth as it is in heaven. In all your names, amen.

Last week Rev. Roland spoke of Joseph and his time in prison. So  how did we get to the Red Sea? The rest of the story is that while in prison, Joseph made several correct predictions from the dreams of others, and was able to save Egypt from a famine. Back home, his father (who thought Joseph had been killed by wild animals) and his brothers were facing the same famine, and sent emissaries to Egypt to ask for help. Joseph recognised them as his brothers and they were reconciled. Jacob and the rest of the family moved to Egypt, where they were given land and settled in. Butand here is where our story today picks upmany years later, the Hebrews were still in Egypt, but treated more like slaves. Under Moses, and with the guidance of God, they left Egypt to return to Canaantheir promised land. But the ruler of Egypt, Pharaoh, changed his mind and decided he didnt want to let them go, so he chased after the fugitives with his cavalry. The Hebrews are caught between the sea and Pharaohs army. This is where our story picks up.

They are caught between a sea too deep to swimand they have no boatsand an army bearing down on them. There seems no escape. But God makes a way out of no way, and opens the sea for them. The sea parts, leaping backwards in the Cecil B DeMille image that I think all of us of a certain age have. They cross through on the sea bed and when Pharaohs army tries to cross, they are all drowned. The Hebrews are safe on the other side of the sea.
And they are going to their Promised Landnone of them have ever been there, not even Moses, their leader. They dont know the way, or how they will survive on the way. They have no idea how or when they will get there. But they are out of Egypt, and going to a Promised Land of milk and honey.

Sounds like a church, doesnt it? We, here at MCCW, we have been in Egypt, in prison like Josephwe have had our times of struggle, both as a church community and as individuals. We have faced serious illnesses, we have been rejected by family or friends when we came out, we are in recovery from addiction, we have lost loved oneswe have been in Egypt.

And we have a promised land, toowe say it every week in the prayer Jesus taught usmake our earth like heaven, may your will, God, be done here on earth as it is in heaven.

But we dont know how to get there. We dont know quite what it is supposed to look like, except that it is supposed to be better somehow. We have never been there, none of usand like the Hebrews, we tend to complain that this is hard work and we want to sit down where we are and call that the Promised Land.

But it isnt, is it?

So we have to look at how we are going to get therewe will talk about where MCCWindsor's Promised Land might be in a few weeks, so be thinking about thatbut we need to be sure we have what we need for the journey there.

What does a community need to flourish and grownot merely survive, but grow? A community, whether it is a church or a town or a family,  needs people who will give of themselves. We all have different gifts and different resources, but we can all give of ourselves. 
It boils down to thisif you have felt nurtured and sustained by this community, if you have found support, encouragement, friendship, a closer relationship with Godany or all of these thingshere in this church community, then share some of that support and nurture and love with others by supporting this community in whatever way you can. It would be lovely if the worship celebrations simply happenedbut they dont, do they? We need a place to worship, we need a telephone and website and Facebook so people can find out about us, where we are, what we are doing; we need to purchase paper for the bulletins, and wafers for communion. We need people to set up the altar, play the music, make sure the sound system is working, set up coffee hour, keep the books, make sure the insurance we need to keep our doors open is paid. We need canned goods and other food for the WellCome Centre Christmas dinner, and gifts for the families we support at Family Services and Community Living. We need people to pray for the church, for each other, for the larger world beyond our doors. We need people to share.

The Hebrews did not go through the water alonethey went through together, with Moses leading them, but even he didnt know where they were going, and in fact, Moses never saw the Promised Land. But he listened to God and followed Gods directions, and together the Hebrews as a people made it, But they didnt know that when they stood on that muddy shore and looked one way to the army of Pharaoh and the other to the deep sea.

Many of you remember our 25th anniversary celebration, back in January 2012. Wasnt that great? A whole weekend of time spent with each other and with Rev. Elder Troy Perrydinners and stories and memories and worship. The memories people had of the early Pride celebrations, led by MCCW; the outreach through monthly dinners and a hotline; and more 
recently, our work with Community Living, Family Services and the WellCome Centre. We remembered MCCW as a safe place, a place where we could be all of who we were, our true selves, when the rest of the world was not so welcoming or accepting. We remembered the mutual support in difficult times--I remember the care I received when I was going through my cancer treatment. We remembered the friendships, the laughter, the love, those wonderful moments when we knew we made a positive difference in the life of Windsor.

What will the memories be in another 25 years? What will members of MCCW be remembering at our 50th anniversary celebration? What memories will they have? We here today, you and I, are the ones who will be making those memories. We who have been fed spiritually and emotionally here, who have found a home and a shelter and a safe
place and a launching pad for our dreams and hopeswe are the ones who will bring MCCW on the next stage of the journey to the promised Land. We are the ones who will share our resourcesour time, our talent, and yes, our treasure, tooto bring those dreams to life. We know what this church has been, is, and can becan we do any less than nurture each other, this community, go together through that Red Sea and find out what God has planned for us? Can we do any less for and with the God who has, through this community, lifted us, loved us, led us? God didnt just bring the Hebrews to the other sideGod went with them every step of the way, even though they had no idea where they were going, how they would be fed, how they would get thereGod was with them. God is with us too, my sisters and brothers. God goes with us on this journey we take in communitytogether, with God strengthening us, we can move on the next stage in our journey.

In your bulletin, you received a brochure and a form "My Pledge," Today we will prayerfully consider how we might share our time in support of MCC Windsor. In the coming weeks we will also consider how we might share our talents and our treasures. For now, take a few moments to pray about this; and as we sing our response hymn, consider how you are being called to share your time. Then write your commitment on the form. There are two copies of the form--one is for you to place in the offering plate--your promise to God--and the other is for you to take with you, to remind you of your pledge. Post it on the fridge, the bathroom mirror, the back door--wherever you will see it everyday, and be reminded of it. The usher has pens and pencils if you need one.

Shall we pray--loving God, open our hearts, minds and spirits to your call on our lives. You have given us so much; bless us as we share that bounty with others. In all your names, amen.

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