The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

September 12, 2021

Order of Worship:

As we continue our series Exodus: Journey to Deliverance, the people of Israel have been freed to leave Egypt, but there is still one more significant obstacle to actually getting out of the land where they have been oppressed. May the Spirit open our hearts to the lessons of the Word:

Exodus 14:5-31

  • As the Israelites are going out of the land, Pharaoh has a ‘change of heart’ (or it continues to harden as we talked about a couple weeks ago). Pharaoh decides that the Israelites should not be free after all and begins to pursue them with a vast army and many chariots. When the Israelites see the army coming behind them, they are somewhat understandably afraid. They cry out to Moses, “What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?!” During their years in the desert, they will repeatedly complain to Moses with similar questions, implying that they were better off enslaved. How often do we as people stay in a bad situation because we are more afraid of the unknown? When is it worth the risk to venture out into the ‘wilderness’ or new and unfamiliar places?
  • Moses assures the people that God (whose power they have seen in the plagues, who has guided them this far in the pillar of cloud) will deliver them. “The Lord will fight for you; you have only to keep still” (verse 14). The language here is similar to Psalm 46. Re-read the psalm and spend some time praying through the verses. When has God been your refuge; what do you need God’s help with now? In the age in which we live, it seems that ‘the earth changes’ more quickly than we can keep up with; why is it important to create times of stillness, when your anxieties and worries can be calmed? The first line of verse 10 is often used as a meditation focus or breath prayer; practice taking a deep breath in while saying “be still” and exhale with the assurance of “know that I am God.”
  • God parts the sea and the people walk through on dry land with the “waters forming a wall for them on their right and left” (verse 22). This moment is frequently referred to as the ‘birth’ of the people of Israel – the symbolism is fairly obvious as they come through the water and up onto the shore again. They are about to begin their journey as God’s chosen nation and the new life that will mean. It is no accident that this miracle is also a part of the liturgy for the sacrament of Baptism. As we bless the water, we are reminded of the new life God is still calling each of us to today. How are you being “Christ’s faithful disciple, obeying his word and showing his love” right now? Spend the day taking note of each time you come into contact with water; how does the ubiquitous reminder of your baptism call you to pay attention to God’s miraculous work in the world?
  • The Jewish tradition includes stories called midrash, speculative tales that fill in the ‘gaps’ left in scripture. One such midrash on this text says that as the people came through the sea and started to sing and rejoice (read the Songs of Moses and Miriam in the next chapter) the heavenly choir of angels joined in. But God told them to stop and be quiet. “The works of my hands are drowning, but you would celebrate? Were the Egyptians not also my children?” We can sometimes lose sight of the fact that all people, even those who hurt us or we are in conflict with, are nonetheless also created in the image of God. How do we practice “praying for those who persecute you” and “loving our enemies” (Matthew 5:44)?

The story that begins with the Israelites afraid of the Egyptians ends with a people who “feared the Lord and believed in God” (verse 31). God will continue to guide the people, blessing them in the wilderness as they grow in their understanding of what it will mean to be a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (1 Peter 2:9). May we also live into that identity as disciples of Christ and proclaim the mighty acts of God ‘who calls us out of darkness into marvelous light.’

Shalom to you all,

Pastor Maggie Rust

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