July 19, 2015: The beginning of God’s grace & “favor”

Posted on : Jul 16th, 2015 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Does this sound familiar?

(Pharaoh said:) These people are lazy, and this is why they whine, [saying] “Let us go to offer a sacrifice to our God.” Let them have more work, more servitude! If they work hard enough, they’ll stop listening to false messages!”

Then the slave-drivers and the overseers went to the people and said, “Pharaoh says, ‘I will not give you any more straw. Go out and find your own straw wherever you can. But not one load of bricks will be subtracted from your daily quota.’” So the Hebrews scattered throughout the country scavenging for bits of straw. The overseers harassed the workers, telling them, “You must meet your daily quota, just as you did when we provided you with straw every day!” The Israelite officials, who had been appointed by Pharaoh’s overseers, were beaten, and asked, “Why haven’t you met your quota of bricks as you did yesterday and the day before? As yesterday, so today!” [Exodus 5]

How many times has this been said about the working poor? About undocumented immigrants?   About poor African Americans?

Looking back on what was going to befall Pharaoh and the people of Egypt, I’ll bet Pharaoh wished he had heeded the words of Moses and Aaron. All they asked for was for Pharaoh to let God’s people go into the wilderness for a three day pilgrimage to worship their God, during which they could offer sacrifices to God. Such “grace” or “favor” seemed ridiculous to Pharaoh. That would be “lost productivity.” So, Pharaoh instructs the slave-masters to make their life even harder and more miserable.

Every year at Christmas time, I get a personal chuckle as Fox news begins their annual rant about “the war against Christianity.” It’s over the use of the greeting “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” To them, it is just downright wrong to use the more inclusive greeting “Happy Holidays,” than the specifically Christian greeting, “Merry Christmas.” However, what nobody seems to catch is that “Holidays” is an Old English contraction of the words “Holy Days.” “Holy Days” – religious days set aside for worship – were the only “holidays” the majority of the population had in the ancient world and even through much of the time of the Industrial Revolution. That’s because people – adults and children – worked seven days a week, usually from sun up till sun down. There were no “days off” or “holidays” as we know them today; no government sanctioned and/or employer paid “days off.” In fact for about 1600 years after the beginning of the Christian era, the only “holidays” we working people of the western world got, were the Church’s “Holy Days.” And at that, the Church – which in the western world at that time was only the Roman Catholic Church –created these “days off” by making certain Holy Days, “Days of Obligation.” “Days of Obligation” were days on which you HAD to attend worship (Mass). The Mass on these “Holy Days/Days of Obligation” lasted for hours. The festival was then celebrated by a feast or major dinner of some kind. And that my friends, is the origin of a “Holy Day” as a “holiday.”

Now, when you think of what we’ve done to the meaning of “holidays” or “Holy Days” today, you’ll see that something drastic has changed. There is virtually no worship involved. We are not taking time out of our overcommitted, outrageously busy lives to worship: to nurture our spirit, to nurture our spiritual side, to sit quietly and peacefully in the presence of the Divine, to be at rest, to be one with all that is.

In this 5th chapter of Exodus, we discover a whole new dimension of God being revealed in sacred story and a whole new relationship between God and people. The working poor get this. The rest of us may have to struggle a bit. What this story tells us is that God is a God of Grace. God is involved in the everyday, working lives of God’s people – even the poor and oppressed. God’s grace and “favor” speaks even to those in ultimate positions of authority. And with this, God expects us to worship God.

God Bless!

Dan

 

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Exodus 5: 1–18

Pharaoh places an even greater burden of work on the people of Israel.

[the Inclusive Bible, slightly edited by Dan Smith]

After this, Aaron and Moses went to Pharaoh and said, “These are the words of our God, the God of Israel: ‘Let my people go, for they wish to observe a pilgrimage festival in the wilderness.’” Pharaoh asked, “Who is this god of yours, and why should I listen to any demand to let Israel go free? I do not know this god, and I will not let Israel go.”

They replied, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please allow us to travel a three days’ journey into the wilderness, where we will offer sacrifices to our God, or we will be confronted by plagues, or the sword!”

But the ruler of Egypt said, “Aaron and Moses, who are you to take these people from their work? All of you, get back to your work!” Pharaoh continued, “Look at all the people in this land – and you’re holding up their work!”

That same day Pharaoh gave instructions to the slave-drivers of the people and the overseers. “You will not gather straw any longer for the workers making bricks. Let them gather their own straw. But don’t lower their brick quota. They are to make as many bricks as before. These people are lazy, and this is why they whine, [saying] ‘Let us go to offer a sacrifice to our God.’ Let them have more work, more servitude! If they work hard enough, they’ll stop listening to false messages!”

Then the slave-drivers and the overseers went to the people and said, “Pharaoh says, ‘I will not give you any more straw. Go out and find your own straw wherever you can. But not one load of bricks will be subtracted from your daily quota.’” So the Hebrews scattered throughout the country scavenging for bits of straw. The overseers harassed the workers, telling them, “You must meet your daily quota, just as you did when we provided you with straw every day!” The Israelite officials, who had been appointed by Pharaoh’s overseers, were beaten, and asked, “Why haven’t you met your quota of bricks as you did yesterday and the day before? As yesterday, so today!”

Then the Israelite officials complained to Pharaoh. “Why do you treat your subjects the way you do? We are not provided with straw, but we’re still told, ‘Make bricks!’ We are beaten, but it is not we who are at fault – the fault is with you!”

Pharaoh replied, “Lazy! You people are lazy! That’s why you keep saying, ‘Let us go into the wilderness to worship our God.’ Now get out of here! Go to work. Find your own straw, and fill your quota of bricks.”

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