Needing a New Exodus

Do you think things are improving, going sideways, or backwards in our world? N.T. Wright’s book The New Testament in Its World is proof-positive that the world has seen worse days than ours, but it also wonderfully lays out God’s plan in Jesus Christ to redeem the world, and set things right. It has been a timely study with all that we have going on. It addresses our COVID-19 ravaged and racially distraught world with mascots changing, statues toppling, and every other kind of turmoil.  It begs the question, “Where do we turn for an expectation that everything is going to be okay?”

 Decades ago we saw impoverished and victimized people find hope in Liberation Theology. The leaders of this movement were primarily in Central and South America, with people like Gustavo Gutierrez, Jose Bonino, and Oscar Romero. The 60’s and 70’s gave birth to similar movements in the US with the work of James Cone and Carol Christ with Black Liberationist Theology and the Feminist Movement. Though some have said that Liberation Theology is a relic of the past, recent events have given it new life.

If Jesus is King, though some might find the notion of royalty offensive, then how does that shape our current theology of God’s Peaceable Kingdom? How do we keep things both orthodox and sensitive to the plight of the oppressed? One way to do that is to use what the earlier practitioners used. They based their whole premise of God taking the side of the poor on the Exodus events. The Exodus became an outright call to revolt and protest in an earlier generation, but what many find most hope-filled about the Exodus is that God does the action, the saving, and the liberation. We’re actors in the drama, but God is the Director.

The Exodus is, therefore, not as much about anarchy and lawlessness, but non-violent witness. If focused on what God does, then it truly represents the original Exodus. The Jews in Egypt didn’t fight back. God did it for them. This has been the most successful model of real liberation. Although it is not natural for any of us to be passive, even Jesus’ “exodus” from the tomb wasn’t by his own hand. God delivered him, and He can deliver us! It is God’s mighty acts in salvation that give us hope. No protest movement or revolt will long live unless God be the Warrior that defeats pharaoh’s armies and parts the waters!

The Exodus events are echoed throughout the entire Bible and human history. Think about how its themes are repeated. Moses is called from childhood to be special as he was saved as an infant from drowning and raised as an adopted child of pharaoh. Jesus certainly had a unique birth through the Virgin Mary. Moses worked many signs and miracles, and so did Jesus. God provided Moses with bread from heaven in the form of “manna,” while Jesus fed the multitudes and called himself “the Bread of Life.” Moses liberated people, and Jesus frees us from sin, death and so much more. Moses led the people through the wilderness to the brink of the Promised Land, but Jesus takes us all the way in! Jesus is Moses on steroids. Jesus delivers and gives real hope that lasts.

There are more similarities than imaginable. For instance, it is perfectly appropriate for, “The Ten Commandments,” with Charlton Heston to be shown at Easter, an Exodus movie that merges with Jesus’ own exodus/departure from the grave. The Jewish deliverance commemorated via the Passover meal is fulfilled in Jesus, as it says in I Corinthians 5:7, “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the feast!” Jesus becomes the unblemished Passover lamb that was sacrificed to protect us. He is called “the Lamb of God” by John the Baptist (John 1:29), and “the lamb that was slain before the creation of the world” in Revelation 13:8. The connection with Jesus and the Passover meal in Exodus are obvious!

There are also plenty of similarities between Moses and Jesus. One is the comparison of Moses on Mt. Sinai and Jesus on the Mountain of Transfiguration. In their respective mountaintop experiences, we see that Jesus is transfigured and his face and clothes are brighter than lightening, while Moses’ face was shining so brightly when he came down from Sinai that people couldn’t dare look at him. Jesus takes Peter, James, and John with him up his mountain, and Moses takes Joshua. For both Moses and Jesus, a cloud covers the mountain, and God speaks from both clouds. The similarities are beyond coincidence.

Another similarity between Moses and Jesus occurs when they do miracles. Pharaoh’s magicians declared in Exodus 7:16-18 that Moses did his signs, “by the finger of God.” Luke 11:20 says that Jesus also did his, like driving out demons, “by the finger of God.” Over and over again, you can hear the words and phrases of the Exodus repeated and magnified in Jesus’ ministry and in all the writings of the New Testament. Words like “redemption,” “redeem,” “deliver,” “deliverance,” “slavery,” and “freedom,” are rooted in the Exodus experience. Maybe the correlation isn’t an accident.

Perhaps the storyline of the entire Bible and all of human history is about God’s rescue mission to give us all a way out, an EXODUS from whatever is attacking us. It’s not a new thought either. People have long clung to Exodus hope when caught in a bind or worse.  We need a Deliverer, and an Exodus. This has been repeated throughout history. For instance, it was Esther who, “for such a time as this,” helped inaugurate the Israelite’s return from exile back to the Promised Land, a mini-Exodus, out of Babylonian and Persian bondage. Just take a look at Nehemiah 9 to see the correlation. Look at Psalms 77 and 78 to encourage you when you feel in bondage. Both the Old and New Testaments use the Exodus as a sign that no matter what God’s people are going through, God isn’t going to let us down.

The Exodus inspired African-American slave spirituals like “Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt’s land. Tell old pharaoh, let my people go!” To be set free, of course, is not just an African-American desire. We all need Jesus to get us out of the mess we’re in. Liberation is the desire for anyone who is overwhelmed by bondage as an oppressed people, those overcome by addictions, depression, health constraints, COVID-19, job losses, financial crisis, and death itself as it lurks at everyone’s door.

Would it make things better if we saw Jesus as the New Moses, a Better Moses, and the Only Everlasting One who can set us free? I think so, especially for such a time as this. We all need a mini or a maxi-Exodus. I pray so! Let it happen, God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus, Narcie, and a Topsy-Turvy Week

Every week is an adventure! Who knew that last Saturday, November 1, we would have the earliest recorded snowfall in South Carolina? I ended up driving through a rough stretch of it to get to my brother who was hospitalized with a heart attack. Since Saturday he’s had a total of two, his renal function needs to improve, and God bless his wife. She is literally the best thing that has ever happened to him!

Last Saturday was also my first Apple Fest at St. John’s and it was unbelievable. What an amazing gargantuan task to turn the church into a mall with crafts, treasures, jewelry, casseroles, baked goods, apples galore, clothing for sale, and a silent auction. I suspect that $20,000 was raised for missions. Saturday night was frigid and I was unfortunately on hand to see my SC Gamecocks humiliated by Tennessee. Sunday was wonderful with an attendance of 1061 as we celebrated the Saints and had a baptism!

Monday was the day for my brother’s second heart attack and oral surgery for me. I have been loopy to say the least. My brother is improving, but slowly. Caleb is home from visiting a friend which is grand, but along the way this week there have been 3 flat tires, a hack on my bank account, Cindy locked her car keys in the car at work an hour away. Oh well, the list of the ups and downs could go on, but…!

I am grateful. When I make my pledge to the church this Sunday the most important Bible verse in my mind will be I Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This doesn’t mean that the topsy-turvy circumstances are God’s will, but giving thanks is! Saying, “I’m doing okay, under the circumstances,” sounds pretty good, but as Christians we are never “under” the circumstances. Thanks to Christ we are more than overcomers. Romans 8 reminds us that NOTHING can separate us from God’s love and care. My giving needs to reflect just how grateful I am for a God who helps us overcome our circumstances!

Yesterday afternoon brought the best news of the week. Our daughter, Narcie, went for her usual 3-month MRI on her brain tumor. She’s had two brain surgeries in the past 4 years and the prognosis hasn’t been a good one. Her doctors have been very blunt, but she’s a fighter and full of a realistic faith. Yesterday she had the MRI and then met with the oncologist. He gave her good news that the tumor was not growing then she asked the question she had not been wanting to ask, “Has my prognosis changed?” Originally they were thinking 3-5 years, but the doctor said yesterday that he thought he could conservatively push her survivability out another 6 on top of the four. We are ecstatic!

I know that there are situations where there is despair beyond hope and I commiserate with those of you who live in chronic chaos, pain, or dilemmas of any kind. I also know this: No matter what we go through or how down we feel, Jesus is more than ready to hear, listen, and respond. Sometimes we don’t get the response that we prefer, but we have a friend in Jesus who has been to the grave and back to set our course on the path to hope and heaven.

I don’t what this week has done to you, but in all of our topsy-turvy lives, Jesus remains constant. Hang on to that, no matter what. Thanks for your prayers for Narcie. I am grateful more than words can express.

Almost Plucked Rooster

 

Stuck in Life’s Cracks

>Well, Life does have its moments, doesn’t it? It’s a Monday morning and the week is backed up every day with appointments, meetings, letter-writing, conflict management and so much more. Every day the tyranny of the urgent is sudden, overwhelming, unexpected.

I feel like one of the disciples scared, apprehensive, and panicky on the boat with Jesus during the storm on the Sea of Galilee. I want Him on deck to rebuke the wind and the waves and say those all important words, “Peace, Be still!” I know in my head that Jesus is with me through life’s unexpected storms, but it’s my heart that is unsettled. The 18-inch connection between head and heart needs reconnecting this morning. I’ve had my devotional and prayed, but, nevertheless, sense a antsy anticipation of “What next!?” I know that it will be something, out of nowhere, and my — will be stuck in a tree, in a crack. Help me, Jesus, get loose and walk by faith and not by sight, to trust you when stuff happens – even as I wrote the first part of this sentence, my cell phone rang with something unexpected and before I could even finish this, my office phone rang with another crisis – such is life.
 
Yes, such is life stuck in the cracks, but the good news for me and you today is that Jesus has been in the crack, too, then broke free and will break us free. No matter what happens today, Jesus is on our side and will deliver us. He pulls us through – may it be so. Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.