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Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost

08/27/2017

Lord Help Us Through the Waters

Grace mercy and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Dear friends, the word of God for our meditation today is Exodus 14:10-31. It was the Old Testament reading and I won’t read it again. It’s the account of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea on their escape from Egypt.

I imagine that for most of us unless we’re really good swimmers, the thought of being trapped in the middle of a large body of water is a rather scary kind of thought. I remember back in high school I was aware of a young man who drowned. In seminary again I knew someone who drowned while swimming off one of the beaches in Australia. If you think about that I think the drowning would be one of the more scary ways to pass from this life. This last 24 hours Hurricane Harvey entered or came ashore on the coast of Texas bringing with it in some places over 30 inches of rain. At least that’s predicted as the hurricane stalls over south-central Texas. You can imagine how the creeks and rivers, and the streets, and every place else that can hold water is going to be flooded, and there will certainly be loss of life. We don’t really think about the power of rushing water until you see it in such a grandiose situation like the floods in Texas right now.

Water can be scary but we also know that water can be wonderful. Our bodies are made up of mostly water. All of us need to drink water almost every day unless we get it in other forms in our food and other kinds of drinks, but we need the water in order to survive. And there’s another way in which water is both scary as well as necessary, and that’s the water of baptism. If you think about it the water of baptism seems a little bit scary. Can you imagine being a little baby? Most of us don’t remember it, but when you’re a baby and there’s water being poured over your head that’s a little bit frightening I would imagine. If you are a Baptist and you’re baptized as an adult, and you remember that, then your whole body is immersed in the water. St. Paul says the that is a picture, no matter how the baptism is occurring is occurring, that is a picture of how our old Adam is to be drowned by repentance and contrition. That in its place a new man rises. The image of Christ that we wear as a robe of righteousness. So the water can be scary because it represents death but the water is also a refreshing water of life by which our sins are taken away. And our place in God’s family is secured.

An example of an ancient Egyptian chariot with a driver (unseen on the left) and a soldier who could fire arrows from the chariot.

The Red Sea (lower left)

Place yourself back into the sandals of the Israelites. This is approximately 1500 BC, just in round terms. So doing the math this is about 3500 years ago. A lot has changed in these 3500 years. Back in the days of the Israelites, there were only a fraction of the number of people on earth as there are today. Back in the days of the Israelites, the only way to travel was by foot or by animal. In fact, the Egyptians had chariots which were in a recent development. This band of Israelites descended from Abraham were bearers of the promise of God. God said that out of them he was going to make a great nation. They didn’t quite seem like a great nation yet they were slaves in Egypt. They served there in Egyptian taskmasters. God had said that they would receive the promised land, the land of Canaan. The land the God gave to Abraham, but they were living as exiles in a foreign country. They didn’t have possession of the promised land. In fact, it was held by peoples who were much more advanced. Much more civilized. Much better trained in the art of war. They had great cities with tall walls. The Israelites from a human standpoint didn’t stand a chance. The Israelites however also bore the promise that God gave Abraham. He said out of you I will bless all nations on earth. Going all the way back to Adam and Eve, God had promised I will bring forth the seed of the woman who will crush the head of Satan. And who will defeat sin on your behalf and give you a right status with me. The Israelites knew this promise and they knew that God always kept his promise. They knew that God promised them the land of Canaan. They knew that God was going to make them into a great nation, and yet what they were seeing on this evening did not give them confidence. As they walked up to this body of water, in Hebrew it’s called Yam Suph, the Sea Of Reeds. It’s probably one of the northern lakes in the Delta of Egypt, not the Red Sea that is called the Red Sea today., but still a large body of water that was going to prove very difficult to cross, if not impossible what with all their children and animals and the possessions that they brought from Egypt. And so the Israelites grumbled against Moses who was sent by God so if they grumbled against Moses they were actually grumbling and complaining against God himself. Why didn’t you let us die in Egypt? Did you bring us out into the desert because there weren’t enough graves back there? They said Moses didn’t we tell you to leave us alone? It’s not reported that they actually said those words. It seems like they’re doing what a lot of us do we change history in our minds to suit our own desires to make ourselves look good. How many times haven’t we thought oh I predicted exactly that somebody in our family will say? No, that’s not really what you said. The Israelites had really said to Moses why did you make us a stench in the nostrils of the Egyptians. They were kind of angry with Moses for making them come to the attention of the Pharaoh who made their work and their tasks much more difficult. Making bricks without using straw, but the Israelites were kind of projecting their present thoughts into yesterday’s memory. And Moses prayed to God. God help me show your glory. God told Moses to lift up his arms which he did. Over the Red Sea, the waters parted and the waters stood up on the left side and the right side, like a liquid wall, and the wind blew across that channel and dried up the ground so that the Israelites could walk on dry hard ground. They and their children and their animals and all of their possessions crossed the Red Sea and that wasn’t all that God did to show his glory. During the Exodus God’s presence, the glory of the Lord went before the Israelites. During the night and was a pillar of fire lighting the way. During the day it was a pillar of cloud that they could look for, and as they came to the Red Sea as the waters parted, the glory of God the angel of the Lord, and in the New Testament to tells us that this is Christ himself, Jesus Christ himself going before now goes around behind the Israelites and forms their rear flank making sure that the Egyptians could not come to them. Shining light on the Israelites to provide safe passage through the sea and keeping the Egyptians in darkness on the other side. When the Israelites had safely passed through one day was breaking the Israelites looked and saw that the Egyptians were starting their pursuit, but God was not done yet showing his glory by helping the Israelites. God made it so that the wheels of the chariots of the Egyptians malfunctioned. They fell off. They jammed. The Egyptians became confused they couldn’t even tell the direction that they were trying to travel, and as they came to a standstill in the middle of the Red Sea.With all of the Egyptian army in pursuit. God showed his glory by bringing the waters to a crashing terrible end for the Egyptians. God chills us and thrills us as he says to the Israelites, “these Egyptians that you see before you today you will never see again.” And God throws us and shows us as he says these words the Lord will fight for you. You need only to wait quietly, or in the NIV you need only to be still. The Lord is going to fight for us. We need only to be still. And yet how often our sinful nature rebels against this idea? We grumble and we complain don’t we? The blessings that God gives even though they may be so abundant don’t seem to be enough. Our sinful nature and our greed are never satisfied. We think that the trials the troubles the tribulations that God sends our signs of God’s carelessness instead of God’s loving discipline for us. We forget that God has prepared a cross for us to bear there will be the perfect one to train us and to bring us into eternal glory. We grumble we complain God’s blessings don’t seem to be evident enough. God didn’t give me enough of his gifts and he has had such high expectations for me we say, how can I possibly be a servant of God? Well, in spite of our complaints in spite of our inadequacies, in spite of our sins and rebellions, God has fought for us. He brings us through those terrible water. He rescues us from drowning. He brings us to safe ground just as he saved the Israelites, so he will save us.

One day Jesus fed 5000+ people with a few loaves of bread two small fish. As Jesus sent the crowd a way he sent the disciples away to in a boat and he sent them into a storm. This was a terrible storm and the experienced fishermen that the disciples were, even they had trouble with the storm. They were afraid they were going to drown. Jesus just lets them go. While the disciples were straining at the oars to get to the other side, they saw a phantom looking figure and they were afraid, but when they looked closely and they heard his voice call out to them, they saw that it was Jesus. Jesus said to Peter, “come out here to me.” He invited Peter to walk through the water. Can you imagine how scary that would be? This choppy water with the wind and I don’t know if it was hurricane force, but it was scary enough. And yet for that moment, Peter was confident and he was filled with faith and he said yes Lord yes Jesus I will do anything you tell me to do. And he went out and the water supported his weight. Peter walked to Jesus but Peter’s immense faith started to fail he looked around. The gospel writer tells us that he saw the wind. He didn’t really see the wind. He saw the effects of the wind as the waves were making him bounce up and down. I suppose on the water and Peter became afraid. He forgot to look to Jesus alone and he looked to his own problem. And he thought he was going to drown and so he did begin to sink, but he called out called out to the right source of help. He said Lord save me and Jesus reached out his hand took Peter and helped him back into the boat.

God helps us to when we grumble or complain when we forget to keep our eyes focused on Jesus. When we get distracted by the problems of this life no matter what they are; from family, from school from work, from the community, or even imaginary problems of our own devising. When we take our eyes off of Jesus, we are reminded once again that Jesus is the only source for hope, and for safety, and for salvation, and for eternal life. Call out to him. Lord save me! Call out like the Israelites called out, “Lord help us!” Call out like the church through all of the ages has called out Lord, be with us sustain us keep us faithful to you and give us that crown of life that lasts into eternity. May the Lord keep each and every one of us focused on him. Focused on that cross. Focused on that empty tomb so that with our eyes drawn heavenward we can go through any of life’s difficulties with full confidence and with full speed ahead.

Amen

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

  1. In Spite of our grumbling
  2. So that we will trust in you

SERMON TEXT:  Exodus 14:10–31

See First Lesson


Bible Readings

FIRST LESSON:  Exodus 14:10–31

As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians marching after them. The Israelites were terrified and cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you took us to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Wasn’t this what we said to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone. Let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm, and see the salvation from the Lord, which he will perform for you today. For the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you. You must wait quietly.” The Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to set out. As for you, lift up your staff, stretch out your hand over the sea, and divide the sea so that the Israelites can go through the middle of the sea on dry ground. I myself will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go into the sea after them, and I will gain glory through Pharaoh and his entire army, through his chariots and his charioteers. The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord, when I have gained glory through Pharaoh, his chariots, and his charioteers.” Then the Angel of God, who was going in front of the Israelite forces, moved and went behind them. The pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and stood behind them. It went between the Egyptian forces and the Israelite forces. The cloud was dark on one side, but it lit up the night on the other. Neither group approached the other all night long. Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all night long the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned the sea into dry land. The waters were divided. The Israelites went into the middle of the sea on dry ground. The waters were like a wall for them on their right and on their left. The Egyptians pursued them, and all of Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his charioteers went after them into the middle of the sea. During the last watch of the night, the Lord looked down on the Egyptian forces from the pillar of fire and cloud. Then he confused the Egyptian forces. He jammed their chariot wheels, and they had difficulty driving them. The Egyptians said, “We must flee from Israel, for the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt!” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, and the waters will come back over the Egyptians, over their chariots and their charioteers.” So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea returned to its normal place. While the Egyptians were fleeing from it, the Lord threw the Egyptians into the middle of the sea. The waters came back and covered the chariots and the charioteers, the entire army of Pharaoh that went into the sea after the Israelites. Not even one of them survived. But the Israelites went through the middle of the sea on dry land, and the waters were like a wall for them on their right and on their left. On that day the Lord saved Israel from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the mighty hand which the Lord put into action against the Egyptians, and the people feared the Lord and believed in the Lord and in Moses, his servant.

SECOND LESSON:  James 1:2–8, 12

Consider it complete joy, my brothers, whenever you fall into various kinds of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces patient endurance. And let patient endurance finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any one of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives it to all without reservation and without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, without doubting, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. In fact, that person should not expect that he will receive anything from the Lord. He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. Blessed is the man who endures a trial patiently, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, which God promised to those who love him.

VERSE OF THE DAY:  Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

GOSPEL: Matthew 14:22–33

Immediately Jesus urged the disciples to get into the boat and to go ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed the crowd, he went up onto the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone. By then the boat was quite a distance from shore, being pounded by the waves because the wind was against it. In the fourth watch of the night, Jesus came toward them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified and cried out in fear, “It’s a ghost!” But Jesus spoke to them at once, saying, “Take heart! It is I! Do not be afraid.” Peter answered him and said, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus said, “Come!” Peter stepped down from the boat, walked on the water, and went toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind, he was afraid. As he began to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand, took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. Those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God!”

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