5th Sunday After Trinity

Let us pray.

May our loving, liberating, lifegiving God

Give us ears to hear

His message today. Amen.

…………………

The God of the Old Testament

Is a liberating God.

The whole project that God is embarked upon

Throughout the entire First Testament

Of the Bible

Is one of liberation.

The authors return to this theme

Over and over,

In particular the story of Exodus,

The story of how God freed God’s people

And led them through the Red Sea

To the Promised Land.

If you’ve never heard the story,

It goes like this:

The Israelites had become enslaved in Egypt.

They had journeyed down there

To escape a famine in their own land.

And when they became numerous,

When they had so many children

That the inhabitants of Egypt began to fear they would take over

Those Israelites found themselves enslaved.

Sentenced to hard labour

Their children tossed into the river Nile.

But God heard their cries.

God sent Moses

To tell ol’ Pharoah

To let my people go.

There were some plagues in there,

But the result was, finally,

That Pharoah did let God’s people go.

Until he didn’t.

And pursued them

To the shores of the Red Sea.

The Israelites needed a miracle.

So God gave them one.

God parted the waters of the Red Sea

And led the Israelites through on dry ground

Before sending the waves crashing down

On the Egyptians behind.

If you read the Old Testament,

You’ll see that this story

Is referred to again and again.

The Psalmist, in particular,

References it constantly.

To remind the Israelites

That their God is about liberation.

Now, I know that’s not something many Christians are used to hearing.

I often hear from folks that they don’t like the God they encounter

In the pages of the Old Testament.

He’s angry,

They say.

He’s mean.

I want to worship the God of the New Testament.

That God’s about love

And kindness

And mercy.

But here’s the thing:

They are the same God.

Because God,

The same God who’s about love

And kindness

And mercy

Is the God who is also about the project

Of liberation.

And while that is good news

For the Israelites who walk through the Red Sea

On dry ground

It might sound kinda angry and mean

To Pharoah.

…………………..

In our Psalm today,

We hear a story about a tyrant.

The Psalmist addresses the tyrant directly,

Asking why he boasts of wickedness

And plots ruin.

He accuses this tyrant of loving evil more than good

And lying more than speaking the truth.

And then he prays this angry, shocking prayer:

“Oh, that God would demolish you utterly,

Topple you, and snatch you from your dwelling

And root you out of the land of the living.”

Yikes.

I hope that nobody who says they’re praying for me

Is praying that prayer.

But I accept it’s a possibility.

It’s a tough thing

To do the examination of conscience we need to do

To consider the fact that we might

Actually

Be Pharoah to somebody.

We all want to be Moses.

But what if we’re Pharoah?

The Israelites thought that they couldn’t possibly act like Pharoah.

They were the good guys, right?

But then the prophet Amos comes along

And tells of God’s judgment.

Just like the tyrant,

They practice deceit with false balances.

They oppress the poor,

Buying and selling them

For hideously low prices,

Exploiting their hunger and poverty

To enrich themselves.

God sees this behaviour and judges it.

Not because God is mean.

Because God is about liberation.

What does this prophecy sound like

To the poor and needy who are being sold?

Pretty good news,

I would think!

To hear that while human beings may assault and oppress you,

That human beings may harm you

May insult your dignity

May smother your smudges

Forbid your pipes,

Stop your drums,

Hide your masks,

Destroy your totem poles,

Silence your songs,

Still your dances

And ban your potlaches

But God

God hears your cries.

God sees your pain.

God judges the people

Who are hurting you.

Because it is not loving

To allow God’s beloved

To become enslaved.

It is not kind

To ignore the cries

Of those who are being sold for a pair sandals.

It is not merciful

To pretend that pain and anguish

Are somehow okay with God almighty.

And so what are we

Who are Christians,

Who worship the God of the whole Bible

The Old Testament and the New Testament

The God who is about liberation

And love

And kindness

And mercy

To do with these passages?

With these pronouncements of judgment

That anyone –

Even those whom God previously liberated

From their own oppressors –

Can become a tyrant?

Even those who had once fled Pharoah

Can become

Pharoah.

We who follow after the way of Jesus

Are no more exempt than anyone else

From God’s judgment

Upon our tyrannical impulses,

And we would do well

To see and tremble

Lest we be toppled

And rooted out of the land of the living.

Because there is more than one way to demolish a tyrant.

There’s the obvious way, right?

The way we’re all thinking of.

Where God strikes down the one

Who trusted in great wealth

And relied upon wickedness

With a lightning bolt,

Fire from heaven.

But there’s another way.

What if the tyrants

Toppled themselves?

What if Pharoah

Hadn’t had a hardened heart?

What if Pharoah

Hadn’t needed 10 plagues

To convince him that he was on the wrong path?

What if Pharoah

Hadn’t chased after the Israelites

Into the Red Sea?

What if Pharoah

Had recognized the error of his ways

And repented,

And returned to the Lord?

That’s what we promise in baptism,

Isn’t it?

That when we fall into sin,

We will repent,

And return to the Lord.

We don’t say if

In that promise.

Because there is no doubt we will fall into sin.

And since there is no doubt about it,

There needn’t be any shame about it, either.

We are sinners,

Every last one of us!

We have all been tyrants

In our own way

In our own time

To somebody

That God loves

At least as much

As God loves us.

The important part is

That we repent

And we return to the Lord.

That we not make excuses for our behaviour,

And get defensive,

And say stuff like, “Well, that’s just how I was raised,”

To excuse the way we treat

God’s beloved children.

We may all be tyrants,

One way or another,

But we have a chance

To topple ourselves

Before it’s too late.

Before God sends a famine on the land

Of hearing the words of the Lord.

We have a chance

To take a step back.

To get off our high horse.

To listen to the cries

Our neighbour is offering to God

Because of the persecution

We are inflicting upon them

And to demolish utterly our tyrannical ways

With repentance,

With gentle and humble hearts

Willing to change our ways

To follow after God’s way.

So we all may be liberated

Not only from the clutches of earthly tyrants,

But from the greatest tyrant of them all: sin.

Because the great project of God

The God of the whole Bible

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

The God of Moses, and Miriam,

Of Deborah and David,

The God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Is one of liberation.

May the God who made us

Make us all free.

Amen.