Ready for the journey? Ready to get this year started at Forest Hill Church?
Just as in the Exodus story, this first Sunday in September is the “beginning of months!” It is the “first month of the year for us.”
Pathway has begun, the choir is back! Adult Ed has re-started; how many of you are going to be part of the Galatians study?
After church today we have the Greater Cleveland Congregations meeting concerned with criminal justice and the overcharging of minor offenses that greatly effect the urban poor.
Tonight is the beginning of Youth Fellowship – Keon will have this place rocking – clapping down the hallway leading to Bodwell Hall – live band, food, fellowship.
Yes, it is the beginning of the months for us.
Back in the day: The People of Israel are about to leave Egypt. The Exodus is about to start.
God is very specific about how to prepare for this journey – giving Moses and Aaron very detailed instructions. On the 10th take a lamb for each household – a lamb without blemish. AND if you don’t have a lamb because of your household conditions or economic standing – then you share.
On the 14th you are to slaughter the lamb and take the blood and mark the doorposts.
Roast the lamb with bitter herbs – nothing raw or boiled – keep its head on and organs in (yum, yum!)
Nothing is to be wasted; next morning burn all remains.
Dress light; loins girded – women, translate that for yourself – we get the idea! Sandals on feet, staff in hand.
Eat quickly (sounds like the all-American family eating on the run) because God’s spirit will pass through and pass over and it won’t be good for the oppressors (in this case the Egyptians) but it will be good for the oppressed.
From this day onward you shall remember this day and celebrate it as a festival forever!
As you and I prepare to take off into the new program year it is important to take on the characteristics of an exodus, the holy journey; a stepping out – on the “pathway to the promise land” (the name of our children’s education program!) As soon as we step out of this building today, we continue the journey of our lives – so at this rest stop called church let’s consider what God told the people and what God is telling you and us.
What are the marks of God’s travelling community?
Children – your parents probably tell you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day…. They are right. You gotta eat before you go.
You can’t just set off all willy-nilly to school, or to work, or into the wilderness without holy food. (maybe a consecrated pop-tart?)
Today we will eat the bread and drink from the cup –the lamb of God –Jesus Christ – as we set on the journey.
And the Lord requires a sacrifice of something of value – a precious lamb – and to be particularly aware of those who do not have enough.
The community attuned to the spiritual journey (and this is true of any individual journey as well) is aware that there is no success without sacrifice; we cannot reach our destinations without collaboration and sharing.
There are no lone rangers because we can’t make it through the wilderness alone. So no cliques, and no special privileges for those who have more.
And in a world divided by the overfed and the famished – it is good to remember God’s call on our lives. Called to be an Exodus people, we sacrificially give of the best that we have and we share so that all might partake of the abundance.
Take some of the blood and mark your doorposts. Even today you will see the Mezuzah on Jewish homes: “Shema Israel, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad….Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is one!”
As Christians on a journey we mark – perhaps not our doorposts – but we mark our foreheads with the indelible mark of those on a journey – an exodus of faith. We baptize and identify ourselves as a community on the move.
I am serious about this: each day you need to remember that you are a baptized child of God – perhaps that will give you courage, strength to face whatever comes, it will save you from despair. As Aloysha tells his students in the Brothers Karamazov: “One good memory can save you!”
Let there be no waste. What words to hear in our day and age when we seem to waste everything… and blue bags blow with the wind, and plastic bottles befoul the way – WASTE nothing – dispose properly…. Leave your campground better then when you found it. On the exodus we do not waste or leave trash! And truly for those on the spiritual journey – there is no waste – God calls for it all – the treasures and the trash – the mistakes as well as the miracles…
We are called to action – travel light, gird your loins, put on your sandals, take your staff. Paul, a good Jew would remember this in his letter to the Ephesians (6:13ff) “Therefore take up the whole armor of God…fasten the belt of truth, put on the breastplate of righteousness… As for shoes put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace…take the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit – which is the word of God!”
The journey is into action – not passivity. As travellers we are called into life at its fullest and messiest – so we talk about and do something about racism, sexism and all the isms, and we get our hands dirty in the work for justice, and we welcome everyone who walks through these doors – for Jesus Christ, the leader of our journey casts no one away and is always on the side of the oppressed.
Any journey worth taking leads from oppression to freedom – not some simple, sweet and easy walk… NO – the faith walk is into reality that there are haves and have nots, there are the powerful who seek to take and the powerless who don’t have choices.
This exodus is through he wilderness of injustice, and addictions and all sorts of evil. The journey will take you knowledge and away from closed minded systems – and narrow interpretations – which can be so very oppressive.
Don’t be naïve. This trip will take everything you have… everything you are. But you are not alone, we will walk the road together – because God has called his people out! God has called you and me to walk!
And God tells the people to remember this day and to celebrate it. I love that about our God and about our call. Remember and celebrate.
We are committed to remembering our story. We simply cannot be the people of God without knowing the story of God’s people. We study the Bible and engage with it because it gives us the narrative, it calls us to interpret the living word – it lays out a travel plan and a vocabulary – what to avoid and what to take on… how to act and survive the wilderness, how to read the signs and guideposts – “it is a lamp unto our feet and a guide unto our path.” We HAVE to study the Bible – or we are nothing else than yet another socially active non-profit – and there are already plenty of those.
If there is no fun and celebration then it is not worth the trip. The chosen people of God on a journey celebrate! I like that in a religion. So no sour faces, or dour requirements – we are a community of joy.
Food, fellowship, adventure, action – a good story and lots of celebrations – what’s not to like, people?
Today, this day is the day that the Lord has made. Come, join us on the journey from light into light, and strength to strength – on this the beginning of the months, the “first month of the year for us!”
Don’t miss a Sunday….or you will miss a lot!