September 20 2015 Reflection

75th Anniversary
‘Trusting in God

BIBLE READINGS
Exodus 14:13-31

1 Corinthians 10:1-4

REFLECTION

The story of the parting of the Red Sea in Exodus is perhaps the most popular of all stories in the Bible. This story has influenced even the cultures and people outside of Christianity.

Apart from the miracles told in the story, however, the heart of the story is Moses' words to the people of Israel in the opening part of the story (v. 13, 14): “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today.... The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent (ESV).” The words be silent can also be translated as be still or do nothing.[1] This was a bit unusual because, in other holy wars that Israel had to wage, they still had to do their bit even though God would help them.

Indeed, the story was a story of a battle, but a battle not between humans against humans; it was a battle between humans against the divine. Pharaoh’s mighty chariots, perhaps the most advanced weapon in ancient time, stood no chance against God's power. In v. 25, it is said that God rendered the chariot useless by making its wheel, the most crucial part that made a chariot swift and deadly, fail. Indeed, in the face of God’s power, the powerful army of the Egyptians was rendered powerless.

But unlike the depiction of this story in popular culture where Moses is seen as the ‘hero’ who rescued Israel, the ‘hero’ in the story was God himself. God was the active agent who made it possible for Israel to escape. Moses was simply someone who obeyed God’s command. At the end of the story, the narrator told us that it was God, not Moses, who saved Israel that day from the hands of the Egyptians (v. 30).

Friends, for the people of Israel, ever living in an existential threat from other bigger and mightier nations around them, this story brought comfort. The story affirmed that they existed not because of their might, but because of God’s.

But the story means something more: the event of Exodus was seen as the moment when the people of Israel were born. Unlike other nations that depicted the birth of their nation in mythical stories, Israel believed that their nation was born out of God’s mighty act in their history. God did not create them in mystical acts, but by rescuing them from the bondage of slavery. God delivered them from slavery like a midwife delivers a baby from his mother’s womb. And just like there is nothing a baby needs to do to be delivered, Israel had to do nothing when God delivered them from Egypt.

As such, God was the reason for their existence. Their existence would always depend on God and not on their might or wit, and they would do well if they remembered this.

Likewise, our congregation here in Rockingham was born out of the act of no other than God himself. In the historical booklets, which are available in the atrium/hall, you will read the names of the people who were instrumental in the building up of this church. On the back page of one of the booklets, was the photo of the Foundation Stone of the Methodist Church on Parkin Street. Written on the stone is the quotation from Psalm 127:1, “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it." Indeed, we won’t be here, in the first place, if God had not moved the hearts and wills of our founding fathers and mothers.

When I was a still a theological student, one of my supervisors, the Rev. Dr. Ian Robinson, told me a theological statement that I still remember today. He said that the sad thing about the Church today is that even if the Holy Spirit left the Church, it would continue on as if nothing had happened. Indeed, it is a sad thing if the Church can survive without the Holy Spirit because it means that the Church has never depended on the Holy Spirit.

But a church that never depends on the Holy Spirit of God is not the Church in its truest sense. By definition, the Church is a community that is created by God and, as such, must always depend on God for its existence.

Indeed, God is the only reason why we still meet here after these years. 75 years is a long time in a person’s life. Many things are not the same after 75 years. If you go to McDonald’s today, the menu is different from and more expensive than when it was first offered 75 years ago. It is the same with this congregation.

It is the same with this congregation. The congregation has changed, a lot. The people who serve and worship in this congregation have changed. There are many people in the photo albums, still in their younger and more attractive selves obviously, that I still recognise; but there are many more that I don’t. Likewise, there are names that I know, but many more that I don’t.

But one thing is constant. And that very one thing is expressed in the opening words of our Call to Worship today: “We have gathered as God’s community, in these 75 years, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” The other names may change, but the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is the same.

God was, is, and will always be the reason why we are here. And we will and shall never replace God as the source of and reason for our existence. We are all simply God’s agents, like Moses, who channel God’s will through our beings.

This continuity of God’s presence was articulated in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that we hear today. For him, Christ was also present on the journey that Israel took in the desert. The spiritual bread and drink that nourished them on the journey were the same bread and drink that nourished the Church in his time.

They are the same spiritual bread and drink that nurture us today. The Rock that nurtured Israel is the same Rock that nurtures us along the way. That Rock, Paul said, was Jesus Christ. And we will do well when we remember that our community is built upon this Rock.

Amen.

Rev. Toby Keva

[1] Note of Exodus 14:14 on D.A. Carson (General Ed.), NIV Zondervan Bible, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan (2011)