|The following is Rev. Meeter's sermon for September 15, 2002|
|Proper 19 A Br1, Exodus 14 Daniel Meeter|
|Wind, Waves, and Dry Feet|
|#2 in Exodus, the Greatest Story Ever Told|
None of the Israelites had ever been to a seashore before. They had never been in a boat, they had never been swimming, they had never even taken a bath. Water was not their element. And this particular body of water was like an arm, reaching into the land, of the great encircling sea, and so it was an extension of what they called "the waters under the earth," or, the Deep. This sea would terrify them. And the walls of water on either side would have terrified them more. Death and destruction so close beside them. That night they died, surrendering to their death was how they gave in to Godís rescue.
You understand that the fearful walls of water protected them. The Egyptian cavalryís strategy would have been to ride up alongside them and attack their across the flanks. But the water was like a wall to them. What a fearful and terrible protection. How vulnerable they were.
How vulnerable we are. That is one of the chief lessons of the 9/11 attack, to remind us of our vulnerability. Compared to other countries, we thought we were exempt. And we have spent enormous sums of money on insurance and health care and national defense, as if to become invulnerable. But we have discovered we are fragile and susceptible.
It isnít surprising that after 9/11 some people questioned God. Perhaps what did need questioning was their view of God, the God who would always rescue us and keep us safe. Yes, this morningís story is about a rescue and deliverance, but it is a delivery for a specific purpose, it is a rescue for obedience. But sometimes, as in the case of Jesus Christ himself upon the cross, it is not Godís will to rescue us, but that we bear with the death and grieving of the world.
What is Godís will? How do we know what Godís will is? Did God will the destruction of the Towers? Did God cause it? No. Did God permit it? Obviously, God gives room to us to tell our own story, even when it goes against God. Was God trying to teach us a lesson? No, God doesnít teach lessons in that way, all the lessons we need to know from God are in the Bible. So what is God showing us in Exodus 14?
We are watching God gather a people, God gathering and protecting a community, through blood last week and water this week. This community, alone of all the communities of its time, is absolutely non-hierarchical, no nobility, no upper-class, no warrior class, every one stand the same before God and each other. These people are no better than anyone else; the only thing that distinguishes them is that God has been gracious to them and they have responded to Godís call. Together they have accept Godís leading, even in the face of danger and death, and learn to trust in God for their very lives. And their purpose and mission as this community is to be devoted to God and to bear witness to God in the world, even against the dominant powers of the world, the empires and governments around them. God desires this community to be free, free from fear of death, free and therefore absolutely vulnerable, free in order to become a people who glorify God and enjoy God forever.
We are members of this community. Our baptism was an extension of this Red Sea. We are part of a worldwide fellowship and community, reaching back across the centuries, and this community is meant to be a our greatest loyalty. Our most significant loyalty of all our other loyalties is our devotion unto God. This community God gathers, preserves, and protects, in order a light to the world and salt on the earth, and of this community you are and always will be a living member. God will never let you be removed from it.
We face death and destruction every day. We need to accept that we are vulnerable. We are not wrong to be afraid of evil. But our security comes not from our own courage and power, but from our trust in God. We trust God to protect us and preserve us, because we know we have a job to do. We are not in denial about evil and its capability, we are not foolish about human sin, but we are not in the power of evil, we do not let it control our behavior. We do not respond to evil with more evil, we do not respond to terror with vengeance, nor to hatred with violence. This story tells us that it is Godís will to preserve us and protect us such that we can carry out our mission. And our ultimate mission includes our death, and our subsequent resurrection. So we are able to put our current existence in its proper context, to not be so defensive about it, to accept that we must die, to let ourselves be vulnerable, to take ourselves and our projects a little more lightly, knowing that we are sinners too, and have had to be forgiven in our rescuing. God will preserve us and protect us, even in our dying and grieving and beyond it. There is a tremendous freedom in this for obedience. Joyful obedience.
Last week I was very aware of Alan Hayes, our friend and church member who died last spring. His photos are in the art show, his photos provided the cover of our special bulletin last Tuesday night. Who could have imagined last September that he would come to be numbered among the dead? But heís also numbered among the living. This is what Jennifer Nelson said to me this week: "When I look at his pictures, I think of him standing in the joyful company of all those who have died and gone before, like from the World Trade Center. Heís already passed through to the other side, ahead of us, and we are just behind." The joyful desire for eternity, it is mixed with grief, but it makes our present joy even more full.