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“The Oppressed Shall Go Free”

Rev. Katherine Todd
Exodus 12:1-14
Romans 13:8-14

 

Exodus 12:1-14

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.

 

Romans 13:8-14

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.


 

We have been following this story of Joseph – how he was sold by his brothers as a slave, how he was falsely accused and thrown into prison for years and years, and how he finally got out because of the way he used his gifts of interpreting dreams and because he believed God’s Word spoken through dreams.

Joseph was placed as something of a Father to Pharaoh of Egypt, and when Joseph is reunited with his family, he entreats them all to come to Egypt – to survive the long years of famine with him there.

And that is where they have remained….until the days when the new Pharaoh does not know them and feels their growing numbers and prosperity to be a threat.  And this is when we hear of baby Moses narrowly escaping infanticide – rescued from a basket among the reeds, along the Nile river.

Then we heard of Moses who – having fled Egypt after lashing out and killing an Egyptian, who had been beating an Israelite, and marrying and setting up home in the dessert – sees a bush burning in the wilderness and hears the voice of God calling him beyond his every excuse, to be a part of God’s liberation of his people from Egypt.

What a journey!!!

 

 

And here we find the Israelites on the eve of their great liberation – having endured all the plagues sent upon the land of Egypt, and bracing for the worst one yet, the death of all the eldest Egyptian boys in the land.

We have reached this point in which the heart of the Pharaoh is so hardened that nothing less than the death of his own eldest son, will cause him to stop murdering and enslaving the children of Israel.

What a terrible place to be.

 

Isn’t this how every war begins? …When the cost of doing nothing exceeds the cost of doing something?

 

And so this most terrible plague of all, the death of the first born males of Egypt – the pride joy, the economic back-bone, the seat of power – these young ones are struck down…

And it is terrible.

 

 

And here on the eve of this most terrible plague of all, God is instructing the people to be prepared.  …to be prepared because their liberation – long out-of-reach, will come (and go) swiftly

…for God knows that Pharaoh’s own brokenness and openness will be but momentary.

After his moment of heart-broken surrender, Pharaoh pendulums right back to his former position of hardness toward the Israelites and will send his entire army after them, a people fleeing on foot, from a nation chasing them on horse and chariot.

And what a staggering and terrifying position in which to find oneself…

 

All of this lies just ahead, and so God instructs them to eat up – dressed, sandals fastened, staff in hand.  Whatever perishable food they cannot consume is to be burned.  THIS shall be their new beginning – their first of months, their start to a new year…and a new life.

Their deliverance will come in a flash.
And they must be ready to seize it.

 

For God will free them mightily and powerfully, as those on the wrong side of love and justice, are brought to their knees…to consider the evil they have wrought and the lives they have pressed and taken.

A reckoning is here.

 

I am intrigued too at this verse in Romans today:

“Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law… Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”

The very point of all the laws that God would give the Israelites, through Moses, was love.  For GOD IS Love.  GOD IS LOVE.

…The point all along was LOVE.

 

The Israelites are called to be God’s embodiment of love – that God’s love might shine into all the darkest places, setting creation free in the knowledge of God’s own delight!

“Love does no wrong to a neighbor.”

Love does no wrong to a neighbor.
LOVE does no wrong
To a neighbor.

 

Can we say that we have done no wrong to a neighbor?

 

We have taken moments to collectively remember our national sins of the genocide of Native Americans, the kidnapping of their children, and the stealing of their lands.

We have taken moments in these past weeks to collectively remember our national sins of the enslavement, of the oppression, of the lynching, of the discrimination, of the criminalization, and of the mass-incarceration of our fellow citizens and neighbors of color.

 

Can we say that as a nation, we have been on the right side of Love?
Have these actions embodied the love and deliverance of Christ?

 

When God again moves swiftly to let the oppressed go free, will we be swimming in the swift current of God’s saving LOVE?

Will we stand – fighting the current, clinging to our former positions of power and ease, comfort and stability – losing our souls to save our “lives”-as-we-know-them?

Will the flood have to overtake us,
Or those we love,

Before we let go and allow God to set God’s beloved people free? 

 

I know many among us have long worked and fought, spoken out and sacrificed, that the oppressed might go free.  I know many of you live lives that embody the LOVE of Christ, in so many acts of generosity and loving compassion.

 

God is alive.

And God is still writing the stories of history.

God is making wrong things right:
setting the prisoner free,
     giving sight to the blind,
     and proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor. 

 

Where will OUR lives stand,
Where will we AS A CHURCH stand,

 

When God swiftly rights the wrongs?  When God swiftly delivers?  When hearts and economies and powers must be broken wide open, to finally make room for the Spirit of God – just as the hearts and economies and powers of the Egyptians were to broke wide open, that justice might flow down like the mighty rivers…

Where will WE stand???

 

Our actions and inactions have consequences.
And LOVE calls us to account.
LOVE calls us to right the wrongs.
LOVE calls us to join with Christ in proclaiming,

 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

 

Paul declares in Romans,

“…it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12 the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light”

 

 

Let us pray: 

Holy and Mighty God,
Lover of Justice,
Protector of the Weak,
Deliverer of the Oppressed,
Lover of our Souls,…

Hear these our prayers. 

You have woken us.
We are awake.
We were blind, but now we see.
The night is gone.  The day is near. 

Help us…
to systematically
and completely lay aside every work of darkness
and to clothe ourselves in your love,
your armor of light.

 In Christ’s name we pray,
Amen.

 

 

“Carrying On the Calling of Christ”

Rev. Katherine Todd
Acts 10:34-43
Isaiah 42:1-9

 

Acts 10:34-43

Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

 

Isaiah 42:1-9

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

Thus says God, the Lord,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people upon it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
I have given you as a covenant to the people,
a light to the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the Lord, that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to idols.
See, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth,
I tell you of them.


 

“See the former things have come to pass and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.”

 

Isaiah is telling the chosen people about what God is about to do.  He is tilling the soil, fertilizing it…  He declares to the people that this chosen one – in whom God delights and has placed God’s spirit – this one will not raise his voice in the streets.  This one will not break the backs of the weary or the spirits of the weak.  Unlike so very many who have come before, this one will not despise the weak and weary.

 

The people need this heads up because God is doing something new.  God is coming in an unimaginable way.  God will meet them in power and love never-before-seen.  And they would need clues in order to discern that this mild-mannered, gentle teacher was the long-awaited one.  The God of creation – mighty and holy – was also steadfast in loving, slow to condemn, and quick to show mercy.  These aspects of God were not widely understood or known.  God was preparing their hearts to recognize Christ when he came.  Or at least to begin to put the pieces together after the fact.

God was equipping the people, those who were listening, with eyes to see and ears to hear God when God came and dwelt among us.  For God would break the molds of our expectations, and we would need to have warm and ready hearts.

 

What also strikes me about this passage is the statement that this chosen one would not grow faint or be quenched until justice was established in the earth.  This is a very encouraging statement.  It is assuring us that the chosen one will establish justice.  The chosen one will be successful.  Christ will not fail.

And I find this very encouraging.

 

It doesn’t say justice in heaven.  It says justice in the earth.

And that is a hard bit to swallow, given that it’s now been 2000 years and injustice still seems to reign and have the day, in so very many instances.

So what does this mean?

 

I cannot be sure.  This is a question on my heart as well.  But I remember that even when the powers that be sought to stop Christ, crucifying him on a tree, even then, Christ conquered death and rose again.  Even then, Christ was not quenched.

In fact, Christ returns from the grave and appears to the disciples, teaching them even more.  And when Christ finally departs from them, it is not to death, but to ascension.  Christ is taken alive up into heaven.  Christ still lives.

And with Christ’s ascension into heaven, another person of the Trinity would come:  One who would intercede for them with sighs deeper than words.  This One would guide them, comfort them, and empower them so that THEY THEMSELVES would become Christ’s hands and feet on earth.

 

So perhaps the work is simply not yet done. 

Could it be that Christ is still living and active, working and moving, restoring and healing, working justice and loving mercy….through you and me?

Could it be that the reason we don’t see justice covering all the earth is that Christ is not finished through us yet?

Could it be that we are called to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God?

Could it be that we – who have believed and received the Spirit of God – we have been uniquely and purposefully equipped to bring about justice on the earth, the Kingdom of God, here and now??

 

God continues to amaze.  Our God is beyond our conceiving or imagination.  God’s ways are higher than our ways.  God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts.

But God has started something in Jesus Christ that has changed the course of history.  We have known love that was before unimaginable.  We have known unparalleled forgiveness.  We have experienced an acceptance that the world does not know.  We have been made part of God’s family, before our lives were holy or full of goodness.

GOD has begun something marvelous.  And it is not over.  The work is happening still. 

 

So if you look around you and see injustice…  If bitterness and strife dominate your landscape…  If you, like the prophet Habakkuk, cry out to God asking, “why do you let my eyes look upon this iniquity?”…  Perhaps God has given you eyes that see and a heart that protests, for such a time as this!  Could it be that God has equipped YOU to be part of the solution, the healing, the reconciliation, the justice, the forgiveness?  Could it be that God has filled you with the Spirit, that you might follow God’s lead, in being Christ’s hands and feet here and now, so that miracles might happen, truth might be spoken, and deliverance might come to the people?

 

Could it be that we have been called by name, loved and forgiven, healed and equipped, and given Christ’s same calling: 

I have given you as a covenant to the people,
a light to the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.

 

If you don’t feel up to this task, that is perfectly normal.  None of us are.  Not on our own, that is.  But by the Spirit of God, WE TOO are given as a covenant to the people, to be a light in the darkness, to open the eyes of the blind, to set the prisoners free. 

 

We have a divine calling.  By the loving mercy of our God, we have been brought into the holy work began in Christ Jesus over 2000 years ago.

WE are part of carrying out Christ’s work of justice, healing, freedom, and wholeness through-out the earth.

 

Do not underestimate the value and significance of your life.  Christ saw you as worthy, as he hung there on the cross, refusing to save himself that he might save each of us.

 

YOU are divinely loved

YOU are called by name

YOU are made like none other

And YOU have a divine calling in this world

 

May we each spend such time in the presence of God that we are radiant with the Spirit of God, and that God’s work and presence might flow freely and fully through each one of us – setting the captives free, and shining the light of God’s unbending love to all who sit in the shadow of darkness.

May it be.