The Road to Freedom Requires Courage
Preparing for the First Sunday in Lent, Two Days Before Sunday (Year C)
Psalter: Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
Old Testament: Exodus 6:1-13
Epistle: Acts 7:35-42
God of the covenant, in the glory of the cross your Son embraced the power of death and broke its hold over your people. In this time of repentance, draw all people to yourself, that we who confess Jesus as Lord may put aside the deeds of death and accept the life of your kingdom. Amen.
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go and tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites go out of his land.” But Moses spoke to the Lord, “The Israelites have not listened to me; how then shall Pharaoh listen to me, poor speaker that I am?” Thus the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, and gave them orders regarding the Israelites and Pharaoh king of Egypt, charging them to free the Israelites from the land of Egypt. (Exodus 6:10-13).
The people of Israel have been in slavery in Egypt. They have been slaves for so long that there is no one alive who remembers what it is like to be free. Your Egyptian taskmasters are harsh, generously using the whip to keep you moving as you toil from sunup to sundown building Pharaoh’s monuments—testaments to his power and his greatness—and to his exploitation of others.
You are fairly well fed, not because Pharaoh is concerned for your personal well being, but because he needs your stamina for his own ends. And while the food may be decent, slavery still tastes bitter. Some of your fellow Israelites have given up hope of deliverance. They wonder where God is. They wonder why God hasn't acted on their behalf. It appears that this will simply be their lot in life. They dislike it, but they have accepted it.
But you have listened to others among your people who still have hope. They believe that God will deliver you in God's time. Why he has not yet done so, no one can say; after all who can know the mind of the Lord? But they have told you that deliverance is coming. They tell you to have hope, to believe. God is faithful. God keeps God's promises.
Then one day, while you are in the middle of your day's dosage of back-breaking labor, you hear some news—perhaps a rumor—but it is making its way through your people. Someone has arrived from the desert, an Israelite named Moses. He has come to announce to Pharaoh that the Israelites are to be freed, that their God demands it. Could it be true? Could this Moses be the one to lead the people to freedom? Some readily believe; they are so desperate for anything that will allow them to hang on to their hope. Others gave up so long ago, that as far as they are concerned, this rumor is just one more set up for disappointment. It's just one more opportunity to be played for a fool. But you believe. You have no reason to have faith, but you do. You are ready to place your trust in this Moses, believing that God will use him to take you on the road to freedom.
But the journey to liberation will not be easy. Just because God has promised to deliver you does not mean the trip will be easy, nor unfraught with peril. God never promised things would always go well. Indeed, even getting out of Egypt will be quite a chore. Pharaoh is not going to part with his slave labor force without a fight. Indeed, he will make things worse in the hope of turning the Israelites against their newly found deliverer, Moses. He will force them to gather their own straw to make bricks. Pharaoh is not only ruthless; he is quite savvy.
But on the road to freedom courage is critical because such a journey is not for the faint of heart. It is not for those who value comfort above all things. Some will blame Moses for their situation. How easily we human beings can forget the facts of our situation when the emotion of the moment takes over.
But God will make good on his promise. The Israelites will leave Egypt with Moses in the lead. They will travel the road to freedom to the Promised Land. But the journey will still not be easy. Some will want to give up and go back deciding slavery isn't that bad after all. But others will move forward with Moses because they have the courage needed to travel the road to freedom.
Courage is critical.
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