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Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter 2020

    Apr 26, 2020

    Passage: Exodus 18:1-12

    Preacher: Rob Donehue


    Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter (Year A - 2020)
    April 26th, 2020
    St. Anne’s, Conway SC (Online)
    Morning Prayer



    Exodus 18: 1 - 12 1 John 2: 7-17 Mark 16: 9-20

    You know, I am constantly amazed at how the stories we hear in scripture continue to be relevant to our own lives here and now. When I first had a look at the readings for this morning, I figured that the Old testament lesson would be a little dry; perhaps some details of Israel’s wandering in the desert. And maybe, on the surface, that’s what the reading from Exodus sounded like to you. Just an odd bit of detail about Moses going to meet his father in law. But I think that the story of Exodus has a special significance for us that very much speaks to the present time. 

    Before I explain why, I want to remind you all of some of the back-story. If you are familiar with the book of Exodus, then you probably know that the main part of the story has to do with the people of Israel being enslaved in Egypt and how God sends Moses and Aaron to tell Pharaoh “Let my people go.” And there are all sorts of signs that God performs to convince Pharaoh until finally Pharaoh gives in and lets the people of Israel leave. Only they don’t get very far before Pharaoh changes his mind and chases after them. And the people think that their goose is cooked. But God delivers the people of Israel and they walk through the Red Sea on dry ground. Y’all are probably quite familiar with that part of the story. After the Israelites are delivered from the Egyptians, they start their journey in the wilderness. And it doesn’t go very well for them. 

    In one episode right before we get to today’s reading, the Israelites run out of water and complain that God only brought them out of Egypt to let them die of thirst. Some of them even say that it would be better to go BACK to Egypt rather than to have to deal with the hardships they are facing. That’s when God sends manna to feed them. But even with that, some of the people are not quite convinced that God is going to take care of them. So it’s not going all that well for Moses. This is the back story to this morning’s reading from Exodus. 

    Bring it up to this morning - and what we hear comes as a little break in the story. Moses gets a visit from his father in law, who brings with him Moses’ wife Zipporah, and Moses’ two sons, Gershom and Eliezer. And it’s this visit that tips us off about what’s going on. Because if you take it as a given that Moses, as the leader of Israel, in some sense represents the identity of the whole people of Israel, then the names of his sons are going to represent the whole people of Israel as well. And what are the names of his sons? You might have missed this detail from the reading, but basically Gershom means “Stranger or Alien,” and Eliezer means, “God delivers” or “God saves.”

    So what we’ve got is a story in scripture telling us that Israel’s identity is bound up in the idea that “God delivers the stranger and alien.” 

    And when Moses’ father in law Jethro hears of everything that God has done for Israel; how God HAS delivered this people who were treated as aliens in a foreign land, his response is what the people of Israel’s response should have been all along: he praises God. So we get this reminder in the middle of the Exodus story that while the people continue to look backward to the way things were in Egypt, at least one person sees the truth of what’s going on and praises God for it. 

    I know that many of us have probably thought or said how much they look forward to things returning to “normal,” that we wish we could go back to the way things were. And it may feel like we’re currently wandering in the desert; that we are living like strangers in a strange land. But the message of Easter is that God has delivered us. From the power of sin and death. And God will deliver us even from this time of trial. Even though we are living through trying times, the truth remains that we are a people who have been delivered. And that’s something that we can rejoice in, even in the midst of our current hardships. Because I truly believe that even though we cannot go back to the way things once were, God will bring us through this time to something better.    

    That’s why I look at Sunday mornings as a kind of “break in our Exodus story.” We get to hear a reminder that our God is a God who saves. And we get to hear that story not just from scripture but from each other as well - and even sometimes from people we didn’t expect to hear from. Since we’ve been doing these online services, I’ve heard from people that I’ve never even met before telling me how thankful they are for the blessings that God has shown them. They’ve tuned in even having never set foot in Lackey Chapel, and they have discovered that ours is a joyful community where they feel at home and where they get to hear some good news. And that’s been a reminder to me that God DOES deliver the stranger and alien. Because to God, none of us are aliens or strangers. We are all beloved children. That is our story, and it’s a joy every time we gather to hear it again. 

    So, as hard as things might remain for a while, I want to encourage you all to remember your identity. And tell the story to each other. Share it with whoever will listen. You are a people who have been saved. As I’ve mentioned probably more than once, the name Anne comes from the Hebrew word for grace. So St. Anne’s identity is bound up in the idea that we are a people of grace. And it’s God’s grace that has delivered us and will deliver us still. 

    And while our deliverance might not look like what we want it to look like or feel how we want it to feel, the truth remains that God is with us in our trials and will bring us at the last, to our journey’s true end. 


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