A Sermon for the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

By: David H. May, Rector


Today is the first day of our Season of Stewardship. This is a time we set aside each year as a parish family to each say our prayers, to remember God’s goodness and blessings for us in our very own lives, and to discover that I have a desire to say ‘thank you, God’, and to express that – in this case – by offering a pledge to our parish church. I think it’s really important to pray about this. My own prayer often includes my fears and worries and cares along with my hopes and the desires of my heart. In my prayer, I seem to need to unwind myself from myself enough to find myself in a place where I can be still, finally, and side by side with God discover that God’s finger prints are all over our lives even if we don’t exactly remember God putting them there. A few weeks ago, sitting outside the church here, after unwinding enough with God I began to remember so many gifts given. And then something more. It was the sudden realization that God was there in the gift, and I thought: ‘Oh! It was you, Lord, you were there, and I didn’t know it. Not an idea of you, or a thought about you, but you.’ Two things in particular were remembered for me that day.

First, you know that way back at the end of March, 35 women came to stay with us through the Caritas program. One day, months later, after being away from the church working from our homes, I found a hand-written note from one of those women stuck up onto a bulletin board in the church. It had been there, all those months. I’d never seen it. What she wrote was her prayer of thanksgiving and a prayer for the hands which were preparing meals for her and the other women. But when I saw it, it was God – reminding me that God is with us even if we don’t always know it.

And a second thing remembered. It’s from a few days after we said good-bye to our dear brother Gersain. I found a balloon left from that celebration outside. It had lost its helium lift and had drifted away. I found it stuck up in a bush. It wasn’t a red balloon like fire, but the effect was the same – like when Moses saw a bush burning and heard God calling to him. God was in that place, beside us even if we didn’t quite know it.

This week, you should receive something that looks like this in the mail. [Show packet.] It’s from us! This past Friday Patsy Simril and Wayne Dementi and Robin Lind and Jill Aveson and Christy Gurkin sat around tables with masks on and tables set apart from one another, in these awkward ways we do things these days, and stuffed our stewardship packets for you. What you’ll find in yours includes an amazing brochure that Ashley Cameron created. It tells the story in pictures of who we are right now, and how in all these sort of odd, awkward ways, the Spirit keeps leading us to be the Church of Jesus.

At the top of the inside of the brochure is a picture. [Show them picture.] I love this picture and the way it tells part of our story right now. In a way, I guess you could say, it’s just a picture of the empty church. That’s correct as far as it goes. But I don’t really see it that way. To me, this picture speaks to the openness of the future that God is leading us towards. When? I don’t know. What will it be like? I don’t know.

I think we all have questions just like these right now and are impatient to get them answered. We’re tired of waiting. It’d be nice if we could get back to making plans and organizing ourselves and putting dates into calendars that would stay put. That’d be nice. But that just not where we are.

Which actually leaves us in a good position to come beside Moses and Yahweh, the LORD, in this morning’s reading from the book of Exodus. I love how the Bible gives us God. And gives us God on God’s terms. This is not the God of the Greek philosophers – the Prime Mover, the First Cause, the God without feeling or affection, unchanged and unchanging, unmoved by the joys and tragedies of our lives. It is not the God turned into an idea like all the ‘omnis’: omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent and all the rest. Those are ideas of God. We don’t need ideas of God. We need God.

The God of the Bible hears and listens and speaks and declares and changes. This is the God who takes both the freedom he has given us and our own failures and sins into account and then reimagines our future with us.

This conversation between God and Moses comes after what Moses thought was a catastrophe that couldn’t be overcome: a breach had been opened up between God and God’s people that couldn’t be overcome. Here’s what had happened. Earlier Moses and God were in conversation together on Mount Sinai sealing the betrothal between God and the children of Israel with the giving of the Ten Commandments. The children of Israel waited at the bottom of the mountain. And waited. And got restless and impatient and fearful and angry. It was taking too long. And they got tired of waiting. So, they decided to take matters into their own hands, create their own solution, their own plan. And they make a golden calf to pay homage to and worship instead of the God of Sinai who had kept them waiting. God sees this and decides ‘it’s over between us!’ Actually, it’s worse than that, but Moses talks God down from his anger by reminding him, ‘you’re God. You can’t do this.’

Not long after, Moses and God talk more. Moses is wrestling with God about his own fears and cares and worries. He wants to know if God is going to stay with them as they move forward.

“I will go with you,” the Lord says. But Moses presses him, “No, not just with me, with all of us, these are your people”. “Yes,” the Lord says, “I will go with you all”.

And then Moses says, “Let me see you.” And the Lord says, “You cannot see me face to face. But I will hide you in a crag in the rocks. And as I pass by you, I will shield you with my hand til I have passed by. You will see me after I have passed by”. You will see my finger-prints all over your life and know that I was there with you.

We set this time apart, this season of stewardship, to say our prayer, to have our conversation with God of our worries and cares, our hopes and best desires, like Moses. To see God’s blessings, God’s fingerprints all over our lives even if we don’t quite remember God putting them there at the time.

“I will go with you,” says the Lord. “You cannot see me face to face. But you will see when I have passed by you. You will see that I was with you. You will see that it was me with you all along.” And give thanks. Amen.