January 7, 2018: Sometimes, it Takes Faith (in God)

Posted on : Jan 4th, 2018 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

There are many times in our lives when we find faith to be trying.  Trying to be faithful can test our faith, our patience, our very trust in God.  In moments of doubt and testing, I always find it helpful to look at the faith stories of others.  Moses is one of my favorites.

From the very moment that Moses encounters God as told in the story of the burning bush, good old Moses is a definite “NO!  God, You’re asking the wrong guy.  Anyone but me, please.”  Moses is not reluctant.  He’s just absolutely sure that he’s not the one to follow God.  He graciously offers his brother to serve in his place, but for some reason, God has faith in Moses, which is more than Moses has in God.

Even after Moses reluctantly agrees to follow God, things do not go well.  Moses asks Pharaoh ten times to “let God’s people go.” And every time, God hardens Pharaoh’s heart.  Each request came with increasingly awful plagues:

Blood, frogs, gnats, flies, death of livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness and the death of all first born males.  If I were Moses, I think I would have given up after plague #3 (gnats), maybe I’d have made it through flies and deadly pestilence, but I probably would have not made it to #10.

Surprisingly, the tenth time is the charm. Pharaoh finally gives up and Moses leads the people of God into the wilderness to face countless other faith challenges.  Only thing is, the people didn’t know they were about to face yet more faith challenges.  In fact, a lifetime of faith challenges.   Note to self:  most faith stories do not end with the words “And they lived happily ever after.”

As you enter the church, a sign on the Winchester Cathedral in England says,

“You are entering a conversation that began long before you were born and will continue long after you’re dead.

Those words are important to remember as we think about Faith.  Faith isn’t always easy.  In fact, it is sometimes very hard to have faith.  To be a Christian means we don’t have to make up this faith as we go.  Faith isn’t about simple answers, it about entering into a conversation with God, ourselves and our community, as active participants, who both listen and speak, knowing that our knowledge is partial, and our faith is ever-evolving.  Faith is about encountering our God, who is the Beginning and End of this cosmic conversation, which began long before we were born and will continue long after we have passed on.

In the next six weeks we are going to look at six different stories of Faith:  Stories about having faith in God, faith in ourselves and faith in others.  I hope it will be a great way to begin the New Year!

Blessings to each of you on your journey of faith!

Dan

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Exodus 7:14-11:10 (edited)

Moses’ encounters with Pharaoh

Then God said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go. Go to Pharaoh in the morning. Say to him, ‘The God of the Hebrews, sent me to you to say, “Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness.” But until now you have not listened. Thus says our God, “By this you shall know that I am God.” See, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall be turned to blood. The fish in the river shall die, the river itself shall stink, and the Egyptians shall be unable to drink water from the Nile.’”

Moses and Aaron did just as God commanded. The river stank so that the Egyptians could not drink its water, and there was blood throughout the whole land of Egypt. But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts; so Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them. Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart.

And all the Egyptians had to dig along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the river.

Seven days passed after God had struck the Nile.

Then God said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says our God: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will plague your whole country with frogs.

So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt.

Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron, and said, “Pray to God to take away the frogs from me and my people, and I will let the people go to sacrifice to your God.”  And God did as Moses requested: the frogs died in the houses, the courtyards, and the fields. And they gathered them together in heaps, and the land stank. But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart, and would not listen to them, just as God had said.

Then God said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, so that it may become gnats throughout the whole land of Egypt.’” Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff and struck the dust of the earth, and gnats came on humans and animals alike; all the dust of the earth turned into gnats throughout the whole land of Egypt. The magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, but they could not. There were gnats on both humans and animals. And the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God!” But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, just as God had said.

Then God said to Moses, “Rise early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh, as he goes out to the water, and say to him, ‘Thus says our God: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. For if you will not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you, your officials, and your people, and into your houses; and the houses of the Egyptians shall be filled with swarms of flies.

Again Pharaoh said, “I will let you go to sacrifice to your God in the wilderness, provided you do not go very far away.”  Then Moses said, “As soon as I leave you, I will pray to God that the swarms of flies may depart tomorrow from Pharaoh, from his officials, and from his people; only do not let Pharaoh again deal falsely by not letting the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.”

So Moses went out from Pharaoh and prayed to his God. And God did as Moses asked: God removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his officials, and from his people; not one remained. But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and would not let the people go.

Then God said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, and say to him, ‘Thus says the God of the Hebrews: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. For if you refuse to let them go and still hold them, the hand of God will strike with a deadly pestilence your livestock in the field: the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the herds, and the flocks. All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but of the livestock of the Israelites not one died. But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he would not let the people go.

Then God said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of soot from the kiln, and let Moses throw it in the air in the sight of Pharaoh. It shall become fine dust all over the land of Egypt, and shall cause festering boils on humans and animals throughout the whole land of Egypt.” So they took soot from the kiln, and stood before Pharaoh, and Moses threw it in the air, and it caused festering boils on humans and animals. The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils afflicted the magicians as well as all the Egyptians. But God hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and Pharaoh would not listen to them, just as God had spoken to Moses.

God then said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt; afterwards Pharaoh will let you go from here.

About midnight I will go out through Egypt. Every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne to the firstborn of the female slave, and all the firstborn of the livestock. Then there will be a loud cry throughout the whole land of Egypt, such as has never been or will ever be again. But not a dog shall growl at any of the Israelites—not at people, not at animals—so that you may know that God makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. Then all these officials of yours shall come down to me, and bow low to me, saying, ‘Leave us, you and all the people who follow you.’ After that I will leave.” And in hot anger he left Pharaoh.

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