Archive for August, 2008

Exodus 3:1-15


I.      Way In

A.   Friday afternoon, to EPC, run in and get something from my desk

1.    Hall on main floor, a sound like Niagara Falls in men’s room

a)    This is never good news

b)    Went in with trepidation

2.    Saw the urinal

a)    Handle stuck

b)    Water overflowing

c)    Water on floor

d)    How long had it been going?

3.    Tried to fix it

a)    Fiddled with the handle

b)    Looked for a turn off knob there

c)    Went to basement, boiler room

(1)  Found main shut-off valve

(2)  Warned Salvation Army

(3)  Shut off all water

4.    Did the trick

a)    Flow stop must have reseated the valve

b)    When I turned the water shut-off back on there was no more flood

c)    Still some work to do on the bathroom

B.   Bridge

1.    When I came in the church, something caught my attention

a)    Preferred not to hear it

(1)  Like I said, knew it would not be good

(2)  Knew I was not going to spend the next hour or so the same way I had planned

b)    But there was  no way I could just not hear the water

(1)  No way I could just turn away

C.   Today’s reading:

1.    So it was for Moses the shepherd

a)    Certain things he could expect to happen at work

(1)  Finding lost sheep

(2)  Getting the flock to the watering hole

(3)  Chasing away wolves

b)    But you never saw a burning bush

(1)  Not one like this

(2)  Burning, but not consumed

(3)  Not natural

c)    But he couldn’t turn away

2.    turned aside to get a better look at something by the side of the road that caught his eye

II.    Tell the Story

A.   Context

1.    today’s reading is one of the most familiar stories, Moses and the burning bush

2.    Previously, chapt. 2, we are introduced to Moses

a)    Born during Pharaoh’s pogrom against Hebrew boy children

b)    His mother hid him away, found by Pharaoh’s daughter and raised in his household

c)    When Moses was grown, he saw how the Egyptians kept the Hebrew people in forced labor

(1)  Moses witnessed an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his kinfolk

(2)  Moses killed the Egyptian and hid his body in the sand

d)    The next day he went out and saw 2 Hebrews fighting and tried to break them up

(1)  One said, “Who made you a ruler and judge over us?  Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?”

e)    Moses was afraid his secret had gotten out

f)     Pharaoh did hear about it, and set out to have Moses killed

g)    Moses fled to Midian

(1)  There he married Zipporah

(2)  And had a son, who they named Gershom (meaning “foreigner”)

h)   In the days to come, the Hebrews were treated worse and worse under Egyptian slavery

B.   Today we find Moses, the shepherd, keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro

1.    led the flock to Horeb, the mountain of God (a.k.a. Sinai)

2.    Saw the burning bush, on fire yet  not consumed

3.    “I must turn aside and look at this great sight”

4.    When God saw that Moses had turned aside, God called to Moses from the bush.  “Moses, Moses!”

5.    Moses said, “Here I am.”

6.    Holy Ground

a)    God said to stop, come no closer.

b)    “Take off your shoes for this is holy ground.”

7.    God said, “I am …

a)    The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob

8.    Moses hid his face, he was afraid to look at God

9.    God said, “I have seen the misery of my people in Egypt…

a)    I have heard them cry out

b)    I have come to deliver them from Egypt

(1)  Into a good land flowing with milk and honey

c)    “I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people out of Egypt.”

10. Moses tried to talk God out of sending him

a)    Who am I to go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?

(1)  God said, “I will go with you.”

(2)  God said that this, the burning bush, shall be the sign that God has sent him

(a)  Then you shall bring the people here to worship God on this mountain

b)    Who shall I tell the Israelites is sending me?

(1)  “I am who I am.”  hy<h.a, rv,a] hy<h.a,

(2)  Tell them, “I Am has sent me to you …

(a)  The Lord, the God of your ancestors

(b)  The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob

(3)  This is my name forever … for all generations

III.   So What

A.   Moses turned aside to look at the miracle

1.    How many times do we pass by, preferring not to look?

a)    Maybe an unpleasant sight

b)    Maybe something we don’t want to get involved in

2.    Wonder if God had some other things in mind if the burning bush didn’t get Moses to stop

3.    When God saw Moses turn aside to look, God spoke to him

B.   God gave Moses a job to do, to free the oppressed Israelites

1.    Moses unfit?

a)    A murderer

b)    We find out later, he does not speak very clearly

c)    God said, never mind, you are the one I choose

(1)  God wasn’t waiting for the first one to come by and see the bush, God was waiting for Moses

2.    God promised to never leave Moses by himself

C.   Conclusion

1.    God initiates to us in miracle

a)    God of compassion, not like the other Gods that require obedience and sacrifice without compassion

b)    The visible miracle – the burning bush that is not consumed

2.    God calls his people as partners

a)    Even if we think we are unfit

(1)  Imperfect

(2)  Broken

(3)  “Not ready for prime time”

b)    To work out miracles of compassion

c)    As agents of restoring love

d)    God goes with us as a sign

e)    Instructs us to claim our calling in his name

3.    So let us  not look away when God shows us a sign, but look aside and pay attention

4.    God started the story of the liberation of the Hebrew people with a sign to Moses, a sign he could not ignore.  God called Moses to a task, and equipped him for it.

a)    You know the story of the plagues Moses foretold to Pharaoh, and God made them happen…

b)    God promised to be with him, and even when it was unimaginably daunting, there was God

5.    God has called us into his service as well

a)    Sign may not be the burning bush

(1)  What has yours been?

(2)  What has God shown you?

(a)  a new way of worship or service?

(b)  Practice or discipline

(c)  Relationship to renew or restore

b)    Task may not be as daunting as freeing the Hebrew people

(1)  But it may make a big difference to somebody. Maybe even you

(a)  Hungry are fed

(b)  community is made of strangers

(c)  relationships are restored

(d)  brokenness is healed

c)    Through a miracle, we have been called into God’s service as witnesses to and agents of his reconciling love.  Let us not look away, but turn aside and open our eyes to God’s calling.  Then let us go, with God’s guidance and presence, into the places he is calling us to be  … to make a difference.

d)    So let it be with us.  Amen


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Genesis 45:1-15

“I am Joseph, your brother.”


I.         Way In

A.      Ever had a ‘big mistake’ come back to kick you in the ass?  CLEAN THIS UP

1.      Moment when you realized you were totally found out

2.      Taken completely off-guard

3.      Physical, emotional reaction

4.      Consequences

a.      What you expected

b.      Worse than you expected

c.       Better (much better) than you expected

B.      My example

1.      “Do you know anything about this dent in the truck?”

C.      Story of Joseph

1.      Made into a musical, Andrew Lloyd Weber’s first

2.      a surprising story

a.      first I had to get past the fact that the version I saw, Donny Osmond played Joseph

b.      What do you think we expect out of Joseph?

i.        His father’s favorite son

ii.      Rest of the family tired of him, “the dreamer”

·         Make matters worse; Daddy got  him a special, wonderful, colorful coat

·         While the rest were wearing rough cloth and animal hides

iii.    Brothers got rid of him, sold him as a slave

c.       But when his brothers, starving from the famine, came to Egypt in need…

i.        They met a man who they thought was an Egyptian that could help them

ii.      Of course, we all know it was Joseph, their brother

D.     And today’s OT lesson tells us about the dramatic scene

1.      Think about this like we were thinking before about consequences

a.      What do you think his brothers expected Joseph to do when they learned he was the very one speaking to them?

b.      Before you knew, what did you expect Joseph to do?

II.      Tell the Story

A.      Context

B.      Today’s reading

1.      Joseph had been trying not to let it get to him…

a.      Knowing the power he had over his brothers at this moment

i.        Here they were groveling before him, not knowing it was their brother they sold as a slave

ii.      And here was his chance to get even

·         For the meanness, the cruelty, the humiliation

2.      He cried out, “send everybody away from me”

a.      This was between him and his brothers

b.      It was not his intent to shame them, in private, and surely not in public – before the Egyptian court

c.       Even so, this was an emotional event …

i.        … “he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, even over at Pharaoh’s house they heard it.”

d.      “I am Joseph, is my father alive?

i.        Brothers were dumbfounded

e.      “Come closer”

i.        Imagine their reaction as they realized this was their brother Joseph

ii.      Imagine what they thought they deserved from him

iii.    Imagine them pulling away from him as they thought they were figuring out why he had tricked them …

·         And brought them to Egypt after seemingly catching them stealing from him

·         Bad enough to get caught ‘stealing’ from Pharaoh

·         But now they find ‘their accuser’ is their own brother – whom they had once sold into slavery

3.      “I am your brother, Joseph…

a.      Whom you sold into Egypt”

4.      “Now, don’t’ get all freaked out,” he told his brothers

a.      God has sent me to preserve life

b.      The famine has been in the land for 2 years, and there will be 5 more years without plowing or harvest

5.      God sent me before you to collect a remnant of the people

a.      Your force didn’t send me here, God’s will delivered me here

6.      Joseph had just finished setting his brothers up in a scheme to test their character

a.      Wanted to see how they had changed since they sold him to slavery

b.      Joseph’s plot had put him in a position to demand the youngest son, Benjamin, be given as his personal slave in exchange for theft charges Joseph had trumped up against them to test them

c.       The other brothers, knowing Benjamin was their father, Jacob’s favorite. had offered themselves in place of 15-yer-old Benjamin

7.      This is the point in chapter 45 that Joseph couldn’t control himself

a.      Joseph personally witnessed the transformation of his brothers

b.      He remembered them as cruel, deceptive ones who sold him away

c.       On this day he saw that they had become caring and loving, willing to sacrifice themselves for another

d.      He saw the possibility of restoration for his family

8.      The history we know of Joseph and his brothers xxx

a.      …. Helps us understand the tenderness and affection of the flossing scene

b.      As Joseph “fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept”

i.        The same way his father greets the prodigal son in the gospel story

c.       Then Joseph kisses and weeps over each other brother in the room

III.    So What?    We learn something here about forgiveness and reconciliation

A.      Joseph names his brother’s transgression immediately

1.      “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt.”

2.      He names it and does not minimize what they did

a.      Never says, “Oh, that’s okay.  Don’t worry about it.”

3.      Says, “I am your brother”

a.      Emphasizing the fact that they have done this to their own kindred

4.      Joseph can see that they are truly sorry

a.      …that transformation is possible

b.      And his brothers have turned from their brutal and jealous ways

i.        Evidence: their genuine compassion for their father and willingness to sacrifice themselves for their younger brother, Benjamin

B.      Joseph shows them that his forgiveness is complete,

1.       he doesn’t[t carry a butter grudge against them

2.      The brothers are reunited and restored

a.      Through Joseph’s forgiveness

b.      Which is sealed with an embrace of reconciliation which is full of hope for the future

i.        Joseph plans the  great family reunion where his family is restored

·         All coming to live together near him in Goshen

·         Where there will be food and homes

·         A place for Jacob, their aging father

ii.       The ‘falling upon the neck’ and kissing of each one kiss for each one is a dramatic ending

·         a sealing of this promise

·         and a sign that forgiveness is complete

C.      Joseph …

1.       … was the dreamer

a.      His dreams were one of the things his brothers hated about him

i.        One of the reasons they wanted to do away with him

b.      And his dreams were the reason for his rise to power with Pharaoh

2.      …shows us the possibility of renewal in grace

a.      By offering not what his brothers expected they deserved

b.      But opening himself to them in forgiveness, restoration and the promise of new a new beginning and life together

D.     For us …

1.      Remember talking in the beginning about the biggest mistake

a.      And how it comes back around

b.      And how it feels when you know it’s ‘come back to haunt you’

c.       Something like the feeling Joseph’s brothers felt when they heard him say, “I am Joseph your brother.  You know, the one you sold into slavery in Egypt.”

i.        Hopefully, our ‘worst mistake’ moment is not quite this severe

d.      But it’s that feeling in the pit of your stomach …

i.        When you know it’s time to come clean

ii.      Or when you know somebody else is about to put together all the pieces and the entire, big, ugly picture is about to unfold

2.      “I am Joseph, your brother.”

a.      Name for the moment we are called to repent

i.        Acknowledge our transgression and turn from those ways

b.      It’s the name for the moment that we feel a pit in our stomach

i.        The physical and emotional feeling we experience…

ii.      … when we feel that a big  transgression will be exposed

iii.    And we begin to imagine the outcome

iv.     Especially when we expect the very worst

3.      Then, even when we know we’re guilty, deserve to be found out

a.      We know there will be consequences

i.        The conseq. May be worse than we expected; sometimes, not as bad as we expected

b.      Our transgression will be taken seriously

i.        God cares when we step off of the path he makes for us

4.      Yet God also takes forgiveness seriously

a.      Transgression or mistakes are not the final word

b.      In Jesus Christ, God’s forgiveness for us ins complete

c.       And we have the promise of restoration and reconciliation – the same as we see with Joseph and his brothers

i.        Restored relationship

ii.      A new life together (like with Joseph and his family and brothers in the land of Goshen)


Walter Brueggemann

Neither the freedom of the creature nor the gracious sovereignty of God is canceled. In our lives we cannot avoid being accountable for actions which hurt and give pain to others whether on a personal level or indeed on a global level. However, it is the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit which can overcome our sin, bring new life and possibilities from situations” Genesis, John Knox, 1982, p.347

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