Moses: Standing in the Gap

Exodus 32:1-14

mosesonthemountainLast week we talked about the Passover as the meal signifying Israel’s freedom from slavery in Egypt. Remember the way the rabbi described it? “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat!.” The story of Passover is a microcosm of the larger liberation project God launched for the whole creation, summed up in Jesus’ meal with his disciples. In the communion meal, Jesus announces deliverance from human slavery to sin and death through the shedding of his own blood—the lamb given for his people. That’s how we summed up the Christian message: “They killed him, he won, let’s eat!”

But while we talked last week about what God frees his people from, this week’s text is really about what God frees his people for. What is freedom for?

For the answer, we have to go back a little further. Remember the beginning of the story, when God created humans and gave them the vocation of being his co-regents of creation, to be priests in the temple he has created, mediating and taking care of the creation. That was their mission and they were free to take express it in any way they saw fit, so long as they did not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and circumvent God’s wisdom, which is only given to human beings through relationship with him. They were “naked and unashamed” – which is like the freedom a toddler has when he strips naked in the front yard and runs through the sprinklers – a joyous freedom to experience the life God intends in its fullness.

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The Promise of Passover

Text: Exodus 12:1-13; 13:1-8

applying-bloodSeveral years ago, when I was serving another church, I became friends with the local Rabbi and we thought it would be great idea to do a joint study with our congregations during the season of Lent and Passover. It was a fun and fascinating experience as we had a chance to compare and contrast our two historic and biblical faiths.

One of the questions we were asked by a member of one of our congregations was a simple one: “How would you sum up the message of your faith in one sentence?” Josh went first saying, “That’s an easy answer for Jews: they tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat!” I loved the simplicity of that and it reminded me that the whole identity of the Jewish people is found in the story of slavery, redemption, and celebration.

We see all of that in this week’s passage from Exodus, the story of the Passover, but to get there we need to catch up in the story. Last week we ended the book of Genesis with the story of Joseph, a righteous Hebrew who became a high official in Egypt after he was sold into slavery there by his brothers. A great famine hit the region, and Joseph’s brothers came down to Egypt to buy grain. There Joseph revealed himself to his brothers and forgave them. The whole family then moved to Egypt and there they began to fulfill the promise God had given to Abraham and the mission God had given them at the beginning of creation: they “were fruitful and multiplied” and the whole land of Egypt was filled with the family Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

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Joseph: 50/20 Vision

Genesis 37-50

scars-tell-a-storyOne of the key tasks that every parent seems to take on is teaching your kid how to ride a bike. When I did that with our kids (seems like an eternity ago), I was struck about how different it is to learn today than it was back when I was a kid. Sure, some things are the same – the process still involves a lot of running behind the wobbling bike yelling “Pedal and steer! Pedal and steer!” I taught Rob in the parking lot of an elementary school near our house in Utah, and there was a pole for tetherball there in the middle of the playground. It was like a magnet to him (he pedaled, mesmerized right toward it…bam!) Fortunately, he was wearing his helmet. To me that’s the biggest thing that’s changed. Nowadays we wouldn’t dream of letting our kids ride around without a specially-fitted bike helmet. But back when I was 6 or 7, learning to ride, going to the emergency room was a rite of passage.

I still have the scar on my forehead from when I took a header off my banana-seated, sissy-barred Schwinn. I remember being so freaked out about the stitches that they put me in a straitjacket! So, when we had our discussion about wearing helmets (which I do, too, now) I pointed out that scar to my son.

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The Beginning

A Sermon for the First Sunday of the Narrative Lectionary

Genesis 2:4-7b, 15-15; 3:1-8

I’m very excited to begin our journey through the Narrative Lectionary this week, which will take us on a sweep through much of the Bible between now and Pentecost Sunday next May. I’m excited about this because I love to tell this story—the most important story ever told.

Like any good story, it’s the kind that invites us to find ourselves within it. The difference, however, is that this story is actually THE story—the one that matters the most; the story in which all of our stories find their true meaning.

And like any good story, it begins at the beginning—this one from the VERY beginning. We’re only going to spend three weeks in Genesis on our rapid tour through the Bible, but this is a foundational story for the rest of the story. Like any good novel, the first few chapters set up the narrative, introduce the main characters, and provide the engine for the rest of the plot.

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My Hopes for the WCA

wcaI will be attending the first gathering of the newly formed Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) on October 7 in Chicago, along with a “remnant” of orthodox colleagues in the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference. The recent election in the Western Jurisdiction and appointment of an openly lesbian bishop to our annual conference have raised the stakes for those of us who serve in the West and in other jurisdictions and annual conferences that are in open defiance of our Discipline. 

I have been excited to watch the formation of the WCA as a unified voice for orthodox United Methodists. Nearly a thousand have already registered to attend the one-day gathering, but very little has been said about what will actually take place on October 7. There is great anticipation that this meeting could be a watershed moment for United Methodism, but I also sense an equal amount of skepticism that the gathering will simply be a continuation of the strategies of the various orthodox renewal movements that have been part of the UMC for the past several decades. Groups like Good News and the Confessing Movement have done good work holding the line, lobbying for traditional doctrine and discipline in the church, and acting as a voice for orthodoxy in the midst of the denominational leadership’s continuous left turns toward a progressive theological unitarianism. Recent events, however, have indicated that the time for lobbying, politicking, and voting has passed.

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