Sermon Proper 19a 9-13-2020
September 13, 2020, 12:00 PM

Father Michael Sermon:  Proper 19a

 

 

“When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that the Lord had displayed against the Egyptians, they feared the Lord and put their faith in him and his servant Moses.”

 

 

We all know the story of Exodus.  We know how Moses led the Israelites across the Red Sea “dry Shod” and how all the chariots and soldiers and Pharaoh himself were all drowned when God told Moses to extend his arm over the sea a second time.  This is the most important story of the Hebrew Bible:   More important than the flood of Noah or  the walls of Jericho tumbling down. This story is also very, very important for African American Christians;

Just Remember this song:  (please don't sing along) Cue Paul Robeson, Go Down Moses.

The question to ask ourselves is this:  What does the first reading and this famous spiritual teach us about our God?  The most important thing the Bible and this spiritual tell us is that we have a God who takes sides.  God takes sides and He takes the side of the poor and the oppressed.  In more theological terms we say God has a preferential option for the poor and the oppressed.  Therefore it is so, so important for us to remember when we pray and when we draw close to our God, that the God we love and worship takes sides and He takes the side of the poor and oppressed.  This is our God and if we want to be like him we have to take his side.  That is always the side of the poor and the oppressed.

You know John Lewis.  I am reading his autobiography called Walking with the Wind.  Lewis speaks of his affinity for the Jewish people and he says:

“There was a small department store in downtown Troy operated by a Jewish merchant.  I remember how it stung me when I heard people say things about him, the same kind of things they said about us.  I grew up in church singing “Go down Moses.”  I grew up studying Bible stories about the Jewish people.  I identified with those stories.  I felt a kinship with the children of Israel.  I could see their struggle was very similar to ours.  I never lost that feeling.”

For this reason Lewis says we can't stand for the backlash against minority communities.  He says we must stand with Blacks, women and gays.  We must stand with Native Americans.  We must stand with Hispanics.  We must stand with the poor.  Our first Lesson teaches us that God takes sides and he takes the side of these people.  This is the reason John Lewis risked his life so many times.  He took the side of God.

You know who else was inspired by the story of Moses and the Israelites?  Martin Luther King.  King frequently mentioned the story of Exodus.  Frequently.  In one of his addresses from 1957 called Give us the Ballot and we will transform the South, our forefather Martin concluded that address by saying:

Each of us must keep faith in the future.  Let us realize that as we struggle alone, God struggles with us.  He is leading us out of a bewildering Egypt through a bleak and desolate wilderness, toward a bright and glittering promised land.”  

Then King ends his address with the words of the famous poet, novelist, and civil rights activist James Weldon Johnson.  You know him.  With his brother John he wrote “Lift every Voice and Sing.”

God of our weary years

God of our silent tears.

Thou who has brought us thus far on the way,

Thou who has by thy might

Led us into the light.

Keep us forever in the path, we pray

Lest our feet stray from the places, our God

Where we meet thee.

Lest our Hearts drunk with the wine of the world

We forget thee;

Shadowed beneath thy hand, may we forever stand

True to God and true to our native land.

These are truly great men: Moses, John Robert Lewis, Martin Luther King, and James and John Johnson.  Let us remember them and honor them in this season by fulfilling the wish, the legacy, of John Lewis to vote and to help others to vote and when there are obstacles to voting, voter suppression, let us take God's side and speak and act against it.

 

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