Message for Pentecost 12 on Matthew 15:21-28 and Acts 2:37-42 given on August 20, 2023 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Richardson, Texas. Because we are starting Life Groups in the fall, I changed the New Testament reading to Acts 2.
Our theme right now is “Together in the Boat” (which is funny because there are no boats in our readings today!). It refers to our Gospel last week when the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water in the midst of a storm. Peter walks on the water briefly before the wind scares him, but the storm only calms down when Jesus and Peter get back in the boat together with the rest of the disciples. Dealing with life’s storms and challenges is more successful when we are together in the boat with Jesus.
We have a problem today, however, because our Gospel reading seems to challenge this theme—like Jesus himself is pushing the idea that not everyone is welcome in the boat of faith with him. But that doesn’t really sound like Jesus, so we need to take a closer look. He seems awfully rude to the Canaanite woman, while they are up on the border with what is now Lebanon. But I wonder if his comments are not really intended to teach the disciples a lesson.
Jesus has just finished instructing the disciples about eating with unclean hands—that it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth—it is what one says that defiles, because this comes from the heart.
In their encounter with the Canaanite woman, it is the disciples who speak of her negatively, that is with defiled hearts. Granted, she is their enemy, and Tyre economically exploited Israel, especially with grain futures, leaving only crumbs for the Israeli farmers. This woman clearly benefited from these economic structures because she is wealthy—her child sleeps on a bed not simply a cot like most of the poorer peasants that they know.
So the disciples have no patience for this wealthy enemy, and they say so: Send her away Jesus, because she keeps shouting at us. She is a nuisance, a pest and the kingdom is not for her anyway. Send her away – the Greek word is apoluson
But her daughter is sick, and no amount of money has made her well. She acknowledges who Jesus is, Lord, Son of David. This woman actually has the posture and the words of worship – Lord have mercy on me. She is speaking the traditional language of Israelite prayer and worship. Kyrie eleison.
Do you hear the alliteration in their words?—eleison---apoluson. The alliteration in Greek sets up the contrast between the woman and the disciples. The woman--an enemy--has the mind and heart of worship and asks for mercy - eleison. The disciples, have the mind and heart of superiority and exclusion and say– "go away" -- apoluson
Apoluson – this is the same word in Matthew, Mark and Luke in the feeding of the 5000. The disciples say to Jesus, "send the crowds away, we have nothing to offer them." That was pretty recent, and the disciples have not learned the kingdom way, yet.
Jesus lays bare what the disciples really sound like, to hear the exclusion and defilement that was coming out of their hearts; how it sounded when they thought that all the good stuff of God was just for them:
So using sarcasm, Jesus says to the disciples (not the Canaanite woman), Well, yeah, I was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel
The disciples hear how ugly the sound. And it gets worse before it gets better. The Caananite woman then kneels before Jesus, now with the posture of worship to accompany the words. With an urgent cry she says, Lord Help me. Again, acknowledges Jesus as her Lord and Savior.
Jesus then magnifies the cost of exclusion and control rather than inclusion and embrace: It’s not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs. He is voicing the disciples’ frustration over the economic exploitation of Israel at the hands of Tyre, but personalizing it to this woman—it does sound so awful.
Maybe the disciples are shocked at Jesus words – maybe they feel they are justified—but we do not hear another peep out of them. One hopes they really hear and see the defiling sin that can come out of the human heart.
The Canaanite woman argues her position –even dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the children’s table. All people deserve God’s grace and favor, even a crumb. Because God's grace is so fast, even a crumb is sufficient!
The gospel is preached by a pagan, foreign woman – even she, on the lowest rung of the social, political and religious ladder to the Israelites – is not beyond the reach of God’s mercy. Jesus commends the woman’s faith and worship and wisdom. She’s inside the boat—and so is her daughter. So are the disciples, recipients themselves of Jesus’ mercy and learning.
The disciples more deeply grasp the truth that no one falls outside of the embrace of God. Then I imagine the disciples start to remember:
• Jesus healed the Gerosene demoniac – who was also outside of Israel—he’s in the boat
• Jesus touched and healed lepers, the lame and those wracked by demons – all unclean and outside of the social and religious communities in Israel—they’re together inside the boat
• Jesus even healed the Roman centurions’ slave – another enemy and oppressor of Israel –and they’re together inside the boat
Maybe this trip to Tyre and Sidon at the border had to happen for the Pentecost that was to come after Jesus resurrection to make sense at all.
Because by the time of the Pentecost event in our Acts passage the whole Mediterranean world was visiting Jerusalem for the festival, and the disciples stopped asking who was in the boat and who was out—they just up and baptized 3,000 people! As you recall at the beginning of Acts Chapter 2, there were Parthians, Medes, Cappadocians, people from Phrygia and Pamphylia, (and all the other names you hope you don't have to read as Assistant on Pentecost!). There were wealthy and poor, women and men, single and married, kids and elderly. They were all gathered together in one place.
The point is—everyone was together in the boat with Jesus. Now, they did not have a mega church building—so they gathered together in small groups and house churches.
Our Acts text says, They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Like the disciples did in the conversation with the Canaanite woman, they experienced transformation in their shared life together through the presence of Jesus’ power in their gatherings! They came to a deeper relationship with Jesus and with each other—they experienced healing, new life, and new relationships, so they invited others to join them! And that’s how the early church grew.
We hope to grow this way too—spiritually, numerically, relationally, devotionally, missionally—by starting Life Groups in September. This is one way to practice living faith together in the boat with Jesus.
Some of you have participated in Life Groups at other congregations—or done them here with our Rooted groups a few years ago, some of you have been in a dedicated Bible study group, or women’s group that share many patterns of a Life Groups. For others, this will be a new practice.
We are hoping that everyone will give it a try for the 6 weeks of our Spiritual Growth Challenge in the fall, we hope groups will continue beyond that. This week I invite you to pray about joining a Life Group yourself. Then begin asking God to show you someone you can invite to join you in a Life Group, especially someone from a different background, like the Canaanite woman in our Gospel reading, so we too can be transformed through new relationships.
We are expanding the boat at St. Luke’s and we want to practice our All Are Welcome invitation with intention and love. With Jesus, no one is supposed to be sent away; everyone is welcome to receive the love and goodness of God.
It’s time to let as many people as possible know that St. Luke’s is a place where they are invited into the boat together with us and Jesus! Amen.
Message for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost on Matthew 14:22-23 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Richardson, Texas. It is also Blessing of the Backpacks, Sunday School Teacher Installation, and Installation of the Family Ministries Director, Building Manager, and new Youth Leader, a Baptism and a Community Party and Waterslide after church!
Almost every message we hear about this passage is about Peter having the guts to get out of the boat to try to walk on water, and that’s a good message. But today, we are going to look from a different view. I wonder if the smartest thing to do in the middle of a storm is to get out of the boat? Usually the best thing to do is to rely on each other and keep one another safe in the midst of the storm. But not Peter. Is he thinking about anyone else? How do you think his behavior looks to everyone else inside the boat?
Theologian Mitzi Smith reminds us, “Sometimes we want a miracle for ourselves at the expense of others who are in the same boat as we are.”
Jesus indulges him, but Peter does not last long when the winds blow and the storm is a strong as ever. He can only do what all of us must do at some point in our lives, and cry out, “Lord, Save me!”
And of course, Jesus does save Peter--from his fear, his doubt, his selfishness in front of the other disciples. But it’s what happens next that is the real point of the story that we never emphasize.
Jesus and Peter climb into the boat and it is only when they are in the boat, together with all the disciples that the wind ceases, and the storm stops.
Being in the boat together with Jesus—that’s when things really change, that’s when Jesus calms the storm, that’s when life is manageable, that’s when the storms of life are not overwhelming—when we are living in the boat with the community of disciples with Jesus by or side.
Instead of me preaching much more about this—we are going to live the sermon together—embodying the message—in this service and in our event after church. You essentially are the preached Word today, because we are living out what it means to be in the boat together with Jesus.And we are going to start by Installing our Christian Education Staff & Teachers. [Installation of Teachers & Staff].
We can only teach our children how to follow Jesus by being in the boat together with Jesus.We will do this again by blessing the children with their backpacks for a new school year. Everybody’s children are in the boat with us, and so is our community, and we extend the blessing of Jesus out into our community. We want our children to know, that wherever they go, our love, the love of Jesus and our prayers always go with them. Even when they’re not here on Sunday, we are still in the same boat together. Any family can call on any one of us for help if they need it during the week. Our new bag tags this year say, "God's got your back!" There are plenty to go around, so please take one for your purse or brief case. [Blessing of the Backpacks & new tags]
Jayne and her family are already in the boat with us, and Baptism is the official welcome! Jesus loves us all, and today we celebrate that this is true for Jayne in particular! [Baptism of Jayne Marie, a Sunday School student!]
Now my image of this story—is what would have happened if Peter would have said, Lord bid US to come to you on the water, instead of ME.
It would have been a grand experiment—All 12 disciples getting out of the boat together—holding hands or locking elbows—they all could have walked on the water together. Maybe if it were all of them doing it together, Peter would not have so easily looked at the storm instead of keeping his eyes on Jesus. Maybe feeling his brother’s hands in his, he would have felt their strength, known that he was not standing against the storm alone; maybe he would have kept his eyes looking forward at Jesus, rather than over at the wind. That would have been a miracle to behold—12 disciples walking water—arm in arm!
That’s the image I have of us moving forward as St. Luke’s!
We are starting a Spiritual Growth Challenge in September and we are launching Life Groups—so that none of us has to try to do life and weather the storms that come up alone. There will more information in the next few weeks, but I want to get the idea out there that Jesus designed us to do life together.
Groups can decide when and how often to meet. But the idea is to have a group that you build deep trust with over time, who are there for you, pray with you, and will cry out, “Lord, save me” with you when you feel like you are sinking—that is what I call a school of love.
More storms will come—literally and metaphorically—that is life, and it will be ok, because we are together with Jesus. Sometimes we will try new things and we will step out together, arm in arm with our eyes on Jesus.
Who knows what kind of miracles Jesus has in store for our future—it might even be better than a whole group walking on water. I am excited to find out—I hope you are, too.
Image: Sharon Ang, pixabay
For four weeks, I am preaching on Old Testament Bible stories. This week is the story of Deborah recorded in Judges 4-5. Preached on July 23, 2023 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Richardson, Texas.
As we deal with this text from Deborah, I want to address two issues, first, the violence of it. This is a story that would have originated in the Iron age, so we have to hear it in its own historical timeframe. It’s easy to think that somehow God changed from the violence of the Old Testament to the nonviolent Jesus of the New Testament; it is more accurate to say, that people’s experience of God evolved along with history. Not every war or act of violence in the Old Testament is sanctioned or directed by God. Also, every oppressed people from the Israelites in bondage in Egypt, today’s text in Canaan, to people fighting an unjust oppression of any kind today, seek a God who will fight for them.
However, even in the Old Testament, the battles that God fights are not against peoples and cultures—even some Canaanites believed in Yahweh—God’s fight is against evil. Israel is an instrument of divine judgement on corruption and harm, as God fights evil. Sometimes this judgment is also directed at Israel, which is why they also come under oppression and judgement as we read in our story today.
The second issue I want to highlight is how unusual it is to have a religion that continually reveals the failures of its adherents in its sacred texts. But that’s what we have in the Old Testament—the very human story of the Israelites failing in their Covenant relationship with God and coming under judgement. These kinds of failures are repeated in the Old Testament, particularly in the book of Judges. It lets us know that that none of us live out our relationship with God perfectly. These stories also show God’s faithfulness and steadfast love for us after repeated failure—God continues to send new leaders throughout the Old Testament as a whole, ultimately sending us himself in Jesus.
In Jesus the Christ, God reveals that God is not distant from the injustices of violence and death, but God fully enters with us these horrific realities, and overcomes them with his love and his very life for us. So, now with this frame, let’s look at Deborah’s story:
Our story begins as we’ve said, with Israel’s failure: the “Israelites again did things that the Lord saw as evil.”
What were they up to? Well, all kinds of stuff they knew were against God’s law and expectations:
• Like not worshiping God on the Sabbath
• Not taking care of the poor, the widow, and the orphan who are suffering among them
• And the Ten Commandments?! Israel treated them more like the ten suggestions, barely.
• They were more interested in the Canaanites and their pagan Temples
• They worshipped pagan gods, partying at the Temple which involved unmentionable acts, and harm to the body, child sacrifice, and the abuse of the vulnerable people of society
• All of the things that were evil in the sight of the Lord
But their actions were not without consequences. When community cohesion frayed, it became easy for a foreign power to take them over—the Lord gave them over to King Jabin of Canaan—a nasty and oppressive man who backed up his iron-fist with 900 iron-chariots. Israelites had no freedom--they were treated like slaves with high taxes to support a system that brought them little benefit. They had left oppression generations ago in Egypt, and here they were in the land of milk and honey. But the milk had gone sour and the only thing the bees left behind was their sting!
They endured cruelty for twenty years and could not take it anymore. So they cried out to God for a rescue—Israel needed a leader—someone to help get them out of this mess they had gotten themselves into. Whom would God send? Israel was looking for another Moses or another Joshua to rally the troops, to lead the way, to inspire a courageous heart, but no such man appeared on the horizon.
They did not expect the answer to be Deborah, the prophet and judge who sat under a palm tree named for her, where she settled disputes and spoke the word of the Lord. Deborah’s name in Hebrew, means “honeybee” which is significant because Israel was supposed to be in a land flowing with honey, but the Israelites were miserable, so to them, the bee was just an annoying insect. It is also significant because scientists today have found that aerodynamically, it is impossible for bees to fly—their body is too large and heavy, and their wings are too weak and small for flight.
But it was this woman, Deborah, this “honeybee”, that God chose to lead Israel out of its perilous predicament of oppression and pain. God spoke directly to Deborah, giving her military instructions on how God would enable Israel to defeat Sisera and his 900 chariots of iron. But Barak balked at Deborah. He essentially said, “Yeah, right! I’ll go only if you go and put your life on the line as well!”
“Barak’s” name means “lightening”—which in his case means a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing!
Why was Barak and probably most of Israel reluctant to trust her?
• Perhaps it is because Deborah had no military experience.
• Maybe because any plan seemed impossible up against 900 chariots of iron.
• Or most likely, Deborah did not fit the picture of the leader they had in mind.
Israel was looking for a man—someone who carried the commanding weight of Moses or Joshua. Perhaps God worked through women in small things, but for the big stuff, God needed a man, with experience, affluence, and authority. When God chose the unlikely leader of a woman, this honeybee, to rally the troops and lead them into battle, the Israelites asked themselves, “Does this be have sting? Can this bee even fly?
But bees do not know that they shouldn’t be able to fly, so they just go ahead and fly anyway. God’s ways of working are not ours to control or determine. God’s leaders do not necessarily fit our picture, expectations, or comfort zone. How often do we miss God’s leaders and God’s messages because we are looking in the wrong direction for the person we want, rather than the person God has chosen? How easy it is, even when we are desperate and asking for help, to put God in a box and limit the ways and the unexpected variety of people through whom God is working to bring us new ideas, grace, and good news?
Who would have imagined the positive leadership our youth offer our church:
• Virginia did the historical display in the Gathering Area, as her silver award for girl scouts, and we have a visitor who recognized his dad’s college roommate in Pr. Addix –
• And Ashley joins Virginia in being our 2 Nursury attendants –they were the first to step up when we needed new people working in the nursery. Who would have imagined the history our youth keep us connected to, and their presence in the nursery would contribute to our church growth today?
• Natalie built the outdoor food pantry outside as her silver award, and this has become a vital ministry for our community with so many people from the community both getting food from it and contributing to it—Who would have imagined our youth expanding our food outreach food ministry?
• Sam is helping to renovate the Youth room with his Eagle Scout project and this will give the youth a great space to invite their friends and help expand our program. Who would have imagined that our youth again are expanding our opportunities for ministry and contributing to our building renovation?
• Ivanna blesses us in worship regularly with singing with P-squared, the Choir, solos, and playing the violin—who would have imagined that one very young person could bless us with so much praise and worship leadership?
• Brynn, a confirmation student regularly brings a friend with her to church --Who would have imagined that one of our best evangelists is middle school student?
Who would have imagined that Deborah, a woman, would be the chosen military leader to bring Israel’s freedom and turn Israel away from doing evil? Who would have imagined that honeybees could fly? God imagined it and made it so. Deborah can fly. How did Deborah survive in a harsh world? She did not take to heart others’ skepticism and doubt her own calling, she just flew anyway. Deborah was indeed the greatest of the Judges—like Mohammed Ali said of himself, Deborah can “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” She had what it took—not just because of her faithfulness, but because of what God can accomplish through anyone who is a willing servant.
But the real miracle of the Deborah story is not that God called a woman to be a judge, a prophetess, and a military leader, but that when God did, the people of Israel actually followed her. Sisera’s 900 chariots of iron got stuck in the mud of the riverbank and had no power. Sisera abandoned his army and ran off like a scared rabbit to find refuge for himself. He was killed by another unlikely, out-of-the-box person—a Canaanite woman who was faithful to God, named Jael, who “nailed” the victory for Israel by driving a tent peg into Sisera’s temple while he slept.
A woman indeed got the glory for the victory—Jael, a foreign woman, Deborah, and God! After this victory, the people of Israel had peace for 40 years under Deborah’s rule. Now that’s the land of milk honey!
Our invitation this week is to listen to the unexpected people God is using to speak to us this week—who may not fit into our box or expectations. When we do listen to these unlikely messengers or leaders, God’s purposes for freedom, healing, and new life can be accomplished.
Our Statement of Welcome is a conscious way of saying that as a community we will not give in to a limited definition of who God can work through. St. Luke’s life and mission are growing and expanding because you are open to receiving the leadership of all the people God might choose regardless of ethnicity, race, class, income, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, disability, age, mental health, criminal record, or religious background—and given the leadership of our youth—we can also add age! Our youth have not doubted that they can make a contribution, so they just fly anyway.
And as you watch for new messengers and voices this week, be aware of how God is using you to be a Deborah for someone else. Because Aerodynamic or not, bees can fly. And that includes you.
For four weeks, I am preaching on Old Testament Bible stories. This week is the story of Moses recorded in Exodus 3, 14, 16, 34 & Deuteronomy 34. Preached on July 16, 2023 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Richardson,
A week ago Friday, we celebrated my Dad’s 88th birthday. As many of you know—he’s had a challenging health year. We are grateful for your prayers and happy to report that he’s just about back to normal. As we always do, we asked my dad for his words of wisdom on his birthday. During Covid, when we all needed a little levity, he raised his glass and said, “wine, women and song!” But this year, he said,
1. Always be honest and truthful
2. Always give thanks to the Lord your God
3. Never give up
This got me thinking about life lessons from Moses. His story is so long—with parts in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy—we usually hear just a snippet at a time, but what do we learn about living in a harsh world from the span of his whole life? There are more lessons than we can name in one Sunday of course—but I would like to talk about six. I invite you to identify one or two lessons as your spiritual growth challenge for this week:
1. No one survives or succeeds alone – Moses should not have survived childhood—all the Hebrew males were to be killed. But the midwives did not obey Pharoah, Moses’ mother did not obey Pharoah, and the Pharoah’s own daughter did not obey him either. Moses’s older sister Miriam watched over her brother and told the Pharaoh’s daughter she would find a woman to nurse the baby. Miriam brought Moses back to his own mother until it was time to be adopted by Pharoah’s daughter. All these women acted in defiance of death, doing what was right in the face of injustice. Without all of these women exercising the small power they did have, Moses never would have survived.
As an adult, Moses also does not succeed as a solo act. When God calls Moses out of the burning bush, Moses protests not once, not twice but 5 times! He says, “who am I to do this, they won’t believe me, and I can’t speak well, and please send someone else.” You can argue with God, but I can tell you, you are going to lose. God has answers. God sends his brother Aaron with Moses who will be his spokesperson and help speak to the people on Moses’ behalf.
Miriam leads the people in praising God with her tambourine—the first time music is recorded in the Bible. God always surrounds us with people who have gifts and skills that we do not, so that we can succeed together in doing what God calls us to do.
Without everyone doing their part, sharing their gifts—from when he is a baby into his adult leadership—there is no Moses. The same is true for us—when everyone is sharing their gifts and doing their part, our families, our work place and St. Luke’s grows and succeeds—everyone’s gifts and service and talents are needed to make the whole work.
2. God is life and breath – When Moses asks what he should say when people ask, what is this God’s name who is sending him to free the Israelites from the Egyptians, God said to Moses, “I Am Who I Am. So say to the Israelites, ‘I Am has sent me to you.’”
God is life itself, God is breath, God is existence itself, infused in every bit of creation whether visibly aflame or not. This is not a name, so much as it is a fact of reality. Moses, you, and I—all of us—have been unconsciously breathing in and out the presence of God since the moment we were born.
A friend of mine just returned from Alaska and she told me that although not many people get to see it because of the weather and cloud cover, she got to see the top of Mount Denali. She said, it was a profound experience of “being right-sized”—then she described what she meant: “I am not piece of crap, I am not the most important person. I am part of this immense creation and a part in history—I felt right-sized.”
This is what God is doing with Moses before the burning bush—Moses feels like an inadequate piece of crap, and God is helping him to feel right-sized. God is actively giving you breath and life as a gift each new day. What is the burning bush, or the Denali reminder that helps you with right-sized humble gratitude for life, for God?
3. God can make a way where we can see no way – No doubt the Israelites thought Moses was a little off his rocker when they were heading straight for the Red or Reed Sea with the Egyptians on their tails. Sure, they had just witnessed 10 plagues, but what are frogs and locusts next to a mighty body of water with a whole nation to get across it with no boats and no bridge? But just like Jesus could calm a storm, God could whip one up that forced the waters aside. Moses held up his staff as God instructed, and a way was made across the sea on dry land.
Sometimes when we cannot see a way forward, God has a miracle waiting in the wings hoping we have the right-sized humility to ask for help. We have seen this at St. Luke’s with our capital campaign. It was suggested that we modify our half a million dollar goal, but the committee said, “no, this is our plan for our future mission!” and we not only met our goal, we exceeded it! A way was made where some couldn’t see a way! And we rejoice.
This month, a family here was on the verge of loosing their housing, but through some very generous donations by members to my pastor’s discretionary fund, this crisis was averted, they are getting help and financial coaching. A way was made where they couldn’t see a way! And we rejoice.
If God can do all this, and make a path through the sea, then God can help you through whatever obstacle you face.
4. Spending Time with God Shows – It is no accident that as soon as the Israelites were free, Moses went up on the Mountain to talk with God and came down with the Ten Commandments. The first three commandments outline our relationship with God, so I can quote my dad here—always give thanks to the Lord your God and make this relationship the primary one of your life. The next seven commandments define our relationship with others.
Living faithfully with these kinds of rules and responsibilities happens more easily when we love the Lord our God first and foremost. Moses did not just receive the Ten Commandments, he embodied them, loving God first and foremost. The people could see the difference in Moses when he spent time with God— the light of God’s presence shined through his face. We mean it literally in our baptismal service when we say, “let your light so shine before others that may see your good works and glorify your father who is in heaven.” We do not have to try to shine God’s love, it happens naturally when we spend time with God in conversation and prayer. Moses demonstrates that when we spend time with God, God shows for others.
5. Trust is a daily habit – Life was not always easy in the desert, and God did provide for the Israelites. But the people complained to Moses anyway and thought life was better back in bondage in Egypt. There will always be people who are not willing to sacrifice to participate in the new thing that God is doing—even if it means freedom, new life, and new opportunity. This is another reason why the first 3 Commandments are about our relationship with God—because trusting God is a daily practice.
When God provided quail at night and manna in the morning to eat —they could only collect enough for one day unless it was for the Sabbath. If the Israelites hoarded it and tried to save some for the next day, it stunk and got worms. They had to trust that God would provide more manna the next morning, and more quail the next evening. Thus, Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer, “give us this day, our daily bread.” Trusting God for what we need is something we practice every day, that God can and will provide us for our daily needs—not just physical needs—but spiritual, emotional, or relational needs. Ask God for what you need and watch for the ways God provides for you.
6. Entrust the future to God and a new generation – Moses was so reluctant when God first called him—but look what God did through him over 40 years of leadership! Like my dad says, Moses never gave up on God, and God never gave up on him. Moses persevered into the greatest leader that formed the nation of Israel and brought them to the edge of the Promised Land. But then it was time to let go. Moses could see the Promised land, but he could not enter it.
It was time to pass the baton to the next generation—to Joshua and Caleb to lead them into the phase of their life.
In his speech, Moses’ tells them to trust that God will go before them, to not be afraid, to be strong and courageous because God will not abandon or forsake them, just like God stayed with them through the previous 40 years.
This speech of Moses always reminds of my mom when she died—she knew that her first great grandchild was on the way, but she did not live to see her born. She knew my oldest, Daniel was about to graduate high school, but she did not live to witness that either. As a great Mom and Nana, she entrusted the future to the next generation. I never would have guessed then, that Daniel would be working for me now.
I wonder how much my mom—angel wings and all—might have to do with getting me to learn from Daniel, the next generation right now! But I try to do it weekly as my spiritual growth challenge because this is urgently needed for us to grow as the church today. I learn from Daniel on how to use the website, social media, and the new digital sign in ways that appeal to younger generations. And there’s so much more I learn all the time.
And what about you? Where is God calling you to grow spiritually this week? And if there is a place where you feel stuck, have questions, or want to grow more, I hope you will call or text me or one of your spiritual friends in the pew next to you. Because that brings us back to lesson #1—God does not call us alone, but surrounds us with each other, to learn and grow together, and that’s what makes us a community where spirits come alive!