The Great Escape part 4

23 October 2011

Last week, we concentrated on the story of the plagues and the Passover.
And we remembered it is a story which is a complex story which sometimes gets told simply.   Overly simply
There is part of that in today’s reading as well, and it is good that we don’t lose that element.
We can probably quite seriously understand Miriam’s song at the end of chapter 15
“I will sing unto the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously – the horse and rider thrown into the sea”
It is a song of joyous relief.  We have seen images of that same joyous relief coming from Libya over the past 48 hours.
We saw it coming from the USA and other areas across the world at the death of bin Laden in May.
There is something about this relief from an oppressing force that touches our very depth.
In fact this song by Miriam is the oldest recorded part of scripture.

There are times for us to reflect on the ethics of jubilation at the death of someone
And today the feelings that we have and we hear from others about Gaddafi
may help us reflect on the ethics of the joy of the Israelites.
It is no easy matter, and simplistic reactions either way undermine the ethical complexity.

But for today, I want us to think about those times when we or others
find ourselves trapped, bound and with no apparent way out
When we, like the Israelites, are caught between the Pharaoh and the deep red sea.

This story is one of the foundational stories of our faith
because we all live this story in one way or another.
All of us sometime find ourselves standing with our ancient forebears
on the banks of the Red Sea crying out in terror.
We commit ourselves to feeding the voice of hope in each of us,
while not shutting out the voice of despair.
For the voice of despair is part of the story too.  
It is the voice of despair which prompts God to say
“I have heard their cry and I have come to set them free.”

And when Jesus stood on his own Red Sea shore
and cried out in despair in the Garden of Gethsemene saying,
“Father, Isn’t there some other way than plunging into the sea of death in front of me.
But not my will but yours be done,”
there was God, ready to act again to ensure that although he plunge into the sea of death,
the way would open to the promised land of resurrection life on the other side.

When we shut out that voice and try to pretend that everything is on track and under control,
we start trying to prove it by asserting control and grasping at straws.
For the Hebrew people only two options seemed possible.
Either surrender and return to slavery and endure the increased suffering,
or fight the armies of slavery and at least die as martyrs in some kind of heroic freedom fight.
The odds behind them were overwhelming, but the sea in front of them was impossible.
And had they turned to engage with the pursuing armies, either in surrender or in battle,
surely they would never have even noticed the opening of a way through the impossible.

The God who hears our cry of despair, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
will act to save us. ”
The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land;
 and the waters were divided.
The Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea,
the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.”
The promise from Exodus – notwithstanding its ethical complexities,
is that God will come to save us,
to open a way through the sea of impossibilities and allow us to walk through.
And if we will take the way that God opens before us,
that same sea that saves us
will sweep away and destroy the forces of slavery and oppression
that sought to drag us back and hold us down.

The challenge is always, to be able to wait and trust,
 to resist the urge to hastily manufacture some half-baked solution of our own,
and to thus, in our busyness, miss the sign of the waters parting in front of us.
For God does not push us into the path that has opened.
God opens the way and bids us follow.

And just as the towering walls of angry water looked every bit as fearful
as what the Hebrews were fleeing, and just as arrest and crucifixion looked horribly worse than the mess Jesus was already in, so too for us the way that God opens will probably not look like a walk in the park on a summer day.

But God hears the voice of despair.
And God responds and comes to save.
And the promised land of life in the wide open spaces of God’s love
lies on the other side of the opening sea.
And blessed are those who put their trust in God
and step forward when God opens the way.

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