Armadale UCA

6th September 2020


The Exodus - by Yoram Raanan

` Be prepared…`

Pentecost 14
Rev Fiona Winn

Welcome and Grace

Scripture sentence

`Don’t run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe each other. When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along. The law code…finally adds up to this:
Love other people as well as you do yourself.
You can’t go wrong when you love others…
The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! We can’t afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours…in bickering and grabbing everything in sight.
Get out of bed and get dressed!
Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute.
Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!`
Romans 12: 8-14 (The Message)

TIS 445 (omit vs. 3) `Jesus where`er your people meet`
https://youtu.be/C6ytM9DwOWs

(William Cowper 1731-1800)

Jesus, where’er Thy people meet,
There they behold Thy mercy seat;
Where’er they seek Thee Thou art found,
And every place is hallowed ground.

For Thou, within no walls confined,
Inhabitest the humble mind;
Such ever bring Thee, where they come,
And, going, take Thee to their home.

Dear Shepherd of Thy chosen few,
Thy former mercies here renew;
Here, to our waiting hearts, proclaim
The sweetness of Thy saving Name.

Here may we prove the power of prayer
To strengthen faith and sweeten care;
To teach our faint desires to rise,
And bring all Heav’n before our eyes.

Lord, we are few, but Thou art near;
Nor short Thine arm, nor deaf Thine ear;
O rend the heavens, come quickly down,
And make a thousand hearts Thine own!

Opening prayer
All mighty God, God of awesome, awful judgement,
God of boundless, infinite mercy,
we come together today to worship You, to ponder, to wonder,
aware of Your might, hopeful of Your tender mercy.
You are a God we cannot – and must not – pigeon hole.
Your ways are not our ways. Your thoughts are not our thoughts.
In the beauty of the earth, the glory of the skies,
in the story of Your people, the story of Your Son,
in the coming of Your Spirit,
You draw near to us and invite us to draw near to You.
We hear again ancient stories written not to us but for us;
stories of Your confounding love and fearful judgement.
We remember Your burning holiness and clear instructions,
how to honour, liberate and build each other up.
We reflect on Your patience and impatience,
Your desire for Your people do justice,
love mercy and walk humbly with You.
In times of trial when we are tested to the uttermost,
You are with us and provide a way through.
In our lostness, You seek us out and set us on the right path.
In our suffering You comfort and strengthen us.
Come to us now, each of us with our different joys and fears,
our courage and our cowardice, our humility and our hubris…
and forgive us.
Forgive us for the times we have spoken out
when we ought to have been silent…Lord have mercy…
Forgive us for the times we have been silent
when we ought to have spoken out…Christ have mercy…
Forgive us for when we were not brave,
wise or compassionate enough to comfort or confront another
or when we did it badly or from a dark place…Lord have mercy…
Beyond easy understanding Abraham says to God
`Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?` Genesis 18:25.
We trust ourselves to the justice of Your judgement. We hear Christ`s words of grace `Your sins are forgiven` Thanks be to God. Amen

Readings

Exodus 12: 1-14 - The First Passover Instituted

12 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 neighbour 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. 10 You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 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 Lord12 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 Lord13 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.

14 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.

Psalm 149

Praise the Lord!
Sing to the 
Lord a new song,
    his praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in its Maker;
    let the children of Zion rejoice in their King.
Let them praise his name with dancing,
    making melody to him with tambourine and lyre.
For the Lord takes pleasure in his people;
    he adorns the humble with victory.
Let the faithful exult in glory;
    let them sing for joy on their couches.
Let the high praises of God be in their throats
    and two-edged swords in their hands,
to execute vengeance on the nations
    and punishment on the peoples,
to bind their kings with fetters
    and their nobles with chains of iron,
to execute on them the judgment decreed.
    This is glory for all his faithful ones.
Praise the 
Lord!

Matthew 18:15-21

15 “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16 But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

TIS 650 `Brother, sister let me serve you`
https://youtu.be/EQaOErUUjm8

(Richard Gillard 1953-)

1. Brother, sister, let me serve you;
let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace to
let you be my servant too.

2. We are pilgrims on a journey,
and companions on the road;
we are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load.

3. I will hold the Christ light for you
in the night time of your fear;
I will hold my hand out to you,
speak the peace you long to hear.

4. I will weep when you are weeping;
when you laugh I'll laugh with you;
I will share your joy and sorrow,
till we've seen this journey through.

5. When we sing to God in heaven,
we shall find such harmony,
born of all we've known together
of Christ's love and agony.

6. Brother, sister, let me serve you;
let me be as Christ to you;
pray that l may have the grace to
let you be my servant too.

Reflection and Q and A

`Be prepared`

The chapters between last week`s Old Testament reading in Exodus and this week`s tell the story of a wilful, vindictive king who suffers plague upon plague, judgement upon judgement, who makes up his mind to let the people of Israel go – only to go back on his word as the situation eases.

The institution of the Passover is a story of obedience and disobedience, of promises made and promises broken, of a king who does not, will not listen – and who pays the price along with his people – and a God who hears the cry of his people and finally, definitively, acts in awful retribution and terrifying mercy.

When the Lord strikes it will be the death of the firstborn of every living thing in the land of Egypt - from the Pharaoh in his palace, to the prisoner in the dungeon - and all the livestock too.

This judgement is over all living things. No one and nothing will be spared. There is an awful fairness to this judgement. The only way to be safe is to be covered by the blood of the lamb…

The lamb is sacrificed; its blood the way by which the people will be saved, safe; their liberation and freedom assured; their dignity and future, free from oppression or slavery, made possible.

The freedom of God`s people comes at great cost – violent, frightening, unthinkable.

There will be nowhere to hide on this night of death.

Do you see any connection between the story of the Passover and what John the Baptist says on seeing Jesus at a distance `Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world`? John 1: 29

What kind of God works in this way? A vindictive God? A capricious God? A violent, angry, malevolent God?

Remember, this is the God who said of himself to Moses `I am who I am…``JHWH, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…this is my name for ever and this is my title for all generations`. Exodus 3: 15

This is the God that Pharaoh has disrespected and whose people Pharaoh has continued to mistreat and oppress.

Pharaoh has had his chances…The various plagues convince him for a time to choose to do the right thing – and then he relents…time and time again…(Free will anyone?)

Finally there is no way back for Pharaoh. God will intervene. Blood will be shed. There will be great grief and mourning for those who are not prepared.

Why so much death and suffering? Is there any other way?

And what does it mean for us today?

The shedding of blood is a recurrent theme of salvation.

God`s ways are not our ways; God`s thoughts not our thoughts.

The story of the Passover is a terrifying story - yet it is the story of God`s people`s escape out of terrible oppression into liberation, dignity and freedom.

What do we need to be liberated from?

Are we prepared to go God`s way?

Are we prepared to do things God`s way - even when, particularly when - we don`t understand?

Are we prepared for the consequences if we prefer to do things our own way?

At the beginning of Genesis (3: 7) Adam and Eve attempt to cover themselves with fig leaves. Finally God makes more adequate and acceptable coverings - `And the Lord made garments of skins for the man and for his wife and clothed them` (Genesis3: 21).

Something has died, blood has been shed for the man and woman to be safe. God clothes them and restores their dignity and self-respect.

In the Romans reading today we are told `to put on the Lord Jesus Christ` Romans 13: 14, echoing words of Julian of Norwich, I read this week `For as the body is clad in cloth, and the flesh in the skin, and the bones in the flesh, and the heart in the trunk, so are we, soul and body, clad and enclosed in the goodness of God.`

The Gospel tells us what that will look like, how we are to behave towards those who have hurt us, acted against us. We are to die to our pride and self-righteousness, go and speak with the other, sort things out. Short accounts. Keep relationships true and clear. Travel light and unencumbered. Be prepared.

`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. ` Exodus 12: 11

George Steiner described the essence of Jewish identity was “always having a bag packed”. Are we ready for the journey?

Prayers of the People

Keith Ferguson

Loving god we give you thanks that you have created a world of rich beauty and diversity, hear our prayers for all your people. We pray today for all the countries of the earth whose people are suffering with the pandemic that has caused death, division, and economic hardship. We pray for Governments, that they accept medical advice and take appropriate action, for the scientists and the medical teams as the try and find a cure and a vaccine to stop the spread of the virus.

We pray for those in the world who are suffering hunger, disease, and disasters, and for the leaders of nations and those who govern.

Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayers

We give thanks that you have revealed yourself to us in your son, hear our prayers for your church, the clergy, and people. We pray for places where your church has lost its vision, for places where your church has strayed from your teachings, for all priests and pastors, our own minister Fiona and those responsible for the church’s resources. Open our eyes to recognise you among us wherever two or three gathers in your name.

Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayers

We give you thanks that you teach us the ways of forgiveness and reconciliation: hear our prayers for the people of this community. For those who have been made redundant and those who cannot find work, for those whose needs are ignored and those who cannot care for themselves, for ourselves, and each other, our families, and our friends.

Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayers

We give you thanks that you heal the sick and go in search for those who are in need. We pray for those whose lives are ruled by addiction to alcohol, drugs or gambling. For the broken hearted, and those who have lost all purpose in life. We pray for the sick and the dying, for all in aged care, and the nurses and carers who look after them .

Loving God in your mercy, hear our prayers

We give you thanks that you rejoice to bring home all your sons and daughters: we remember all who have died in your love. We give thanks for those who disclosed your love to us. Help us to live so others will recognise you in our midst, that with angels and saints we may come to see your face in heaven.

Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayers

Let us now join together in the prayer that Jesus taught us ...

TIS 258 `Praise to you O Christ our Saviour`
https://youtu.be/Hv_oh5zkl6I
(Bernadette Farrell 1957-)

Refrain:

Praise to you, O Christ, our Saviour,
Word of the Father, calling us to life;
Son of God who leads us to freedom:
Glory to you, Lord Jesus Christ!

You are the Word who calls us out of darkness;
You are the Word who leads us into light;
You are the Word who brings us thorough the desert:
Glory to you, Lord Jesus Christ!

Refrain

You are the one whom prophets hoped and longed for;
You are the one who speaks to us today;
You are the one who leads us to our future:
Glory to you, Lord Jesus Christ!

Refrain

You are the Word who calls us to be servants;
You are the Word whose only law is love;
You are the Word - made flesh who lives among us:
Glory to you, Lord Jesus Christ!

Refrain

You are the Word who binds us and unites us:
You are the Word who calls us to be one;
You are the Word who teaches us forgiveness:
Glory to you, Lord Jesus Christ!

Refrain

Blessing
May the blessing of God, loving Father,
redeeming Son, inspiring Holy Spirit,
grant you courage, hope and perseverance in love, true love,
today and always. Amen