God sees, hears, and knows the pain of this world, and calls you and me to be God’s hands, God’s voice, God’s instrument for healing and deliverance.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Lectionary 22 A
Texts: Exodus 3:1-15; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
The God WHO IS said to Moses: “I have seen; I have heard; I know; and I have come.”
Moses’ people are in bondage in Egypt; Moses has fled a crime and is hiding in the wilderness. He’s married, and is tending his father-in-law’s sheep. Does Moses ever think of his people’s suffering?
But God comes to him in this burning-but-not-consumed bush and says, “I have seen the abuse of my people in Egypt. I have heard my people’s cries. I know their pain and suffering. And I have come down to rescue them.”
God sees, God hears, and God knows. And God comes to deliver, to rescue, to bring healing. And back then, God’s people were brought out of slavery into freedom. But consider this: in our world today, where the many problems and struggles and sufferings and abuses and pains are so evident, the Triune God sees all this suffering and oppression, too. The Triune God hears the cries of all God’s children who are in pain, knows they suffer from injustice. And today, God says, “I have come to deliver my children.”
But in these readings, God comes by calling Moses. And the Roman Christians today.
God comes in the burning bush for one reason, to call Moses to be God’s hands, God’s voice, God’s instrument to deliver the people.
Paul’s Roman Christians are likewise called. Everything Paul urges today is God’s response to what God has seen, heard, and known, with the Roman Christians as God’s means of deliverance. By holding fast to what is good while resisting evil. By loving each other as siblings, even with their great differences. By rejoicing in hope, patiently suffering, persevering in prayer. By contributing to the needs of those siblings and offering hospitality to those strange to them. By blessing persecutors and enemies, setting aside vengeance, and above all, being people of peace even if others aren’t.
God sees, hears, and knows, and calls regular people to be God’s coming.
Which is why Jesus is calling you and me to a cross-shaped life today.
Paul’s words today are exactly what taking up your cross might look like in your life. It will be challenging, frustrating, overwhelming. You might be tempted to give up. You will have to stand in the face of evil with only your trust in God at your side. You will be asked to be vulnerable in many ways.
That sounds a lot like what happened to Moses when he followed the call, doesn’t it? It sounds a lot like what happened to these first disciples who also became witnesses by their very lives offered for the world.
This is both Good News and frightening news: God sees, hears, and knows the pain of this world. And God comes to deliver, to rescue, to heal.
But God won’t do it without you. Without me. To love. To embrace. To make peace. To stand against evil, even if it means saying to the Pharaoh of this land, “God says, let my people go.”
It actually comes down to what kind of rock you’ll be.
Simon got a new nickname last week. “Peter,” meaning, “Rock.” His trust and love became part of the bedrock of this new community of faith Jesus is building. So do yours and mine, as we heard last week.
But this week, Simon the Rock is compared not to a bedrock foundation, but to a rock that sticks up in the road and makes people trip. “You are a stumbling block to me,” Jesus says, “working against my coming to deliver, to rescue, to heal.”
These are both possible for you and me. Will you let the Spirit transform you into Christ, that your fear, love, and trust in God become part of the foundation of God’s Church, that you, like Moses, like the Christians in Rome, become part of God’s coming to deliver, to rescue, to heal?
Or will you be a stumbling block to God’s rescue, planting yourself in your place, refusing to risk, to love, to make peace, because of whatever reason you have? Maybe it’s fear of being hurt that plants you or me in the road. Or our stubbornness that we don’t want to change, or be challenged. To live as Paul describes would require for each one of us dramatic changes in how we relate to others, especially to those who are strangers to us and those who are enemies.
But our refusal to follow Christ with our lives of vulnerable love trips up God’s plan of salvation. Becomes not an instrument for God’s rescue, but a hindrance to it.
So will you take up your cross and follow Christ?
Everything is at stake. Literally. Everything. This world is in flames, and filled with fear. God sees this, hears the cries, knows the pain, and wants desperately to come and bring deliverance, rescue, healing.
Will you take the time to turn to the burning bush and hear God call you? Will you listen to your brother Paul urge you to find a completely new map to how to live your life as Christ? Even if, as God’s Son tells you today, it will be costly, sacrificial, vulnerable?
Because if, with the strength and courage of the Spirit, you and I answer and follow, then Jesus’ words today will be fulfilled: there are people here right now who will not die before they see Christ’s reign.
Because such following in this path would create a world where no one weeps alone, where more and more work for peace even if others fight, where mutual love and respect abound, where strangers receive hospitality and siblings in need are cared for, too, where revenge is non-existent, and even enemies are loved. Such a world is the reign of Christ. And it could be now.
God sees, God hears, God knows. That’s astonishingly Good News.
And now God says, “I need you, because I have come to deliver my children, to bring rescue to my world. I will be with you, as I was with Moses, and those first disciples, and, like them, you can and you will be my hands, my voice, my instrument for justice and mercy and healing in this world, so all will know that I see, and I hear, and I know, and I have come.”
In the name of Jesus. Amen