1st Scripture Reading: Exodus 33:12-23 and Psalm 98
Do you hear what’s happening here, in the reading from Exodus? Moses is arguing with God!
We all have a spiritual nature. We may not listen to it a whole lot, but we all have it. Moses had it too, and, created in the image of God, he asserted his highest knowing, his best self, his higher self, and that knowing came to the fore. You may have noticed that his tone is hardly deferential, and he even presents to God a better strategy than what had been proposed by God. Moses spoke from the certain knowledge that he had been called and named by God for this purpose – to lead these people. He bargained with God for a better deal, and he got it!
Notice what Moses did not do: he did not give away his power as a child of God, inheritor of the kingdom. I do not believe that our Creator intended us to be doormats. We have been gifted with so much, brothers and sisters in Christ. We have been given intelligence and memory, and the ability to learn from experience. We have been gifted with the responsibility and the potential of free will. We are accompanied by the Holy Spirit, or Jesus, or Divine Wisdom or whatever you call your inner guidance. We are not alone. We are called sometimes to special tasks, called by name. Within that calling we are expected, challenged even, to bring to the work the very best we can pull out of ourselves. We remember that Jesus did that – he poured himself out in service to humanity and the world. In theological language it’s called self-emptying or kenosis.
And that’s what Moses was doing. He basically told God that he knew how to do the job God had called him to do, and he even had a good idea or two of his own as to how to do it better, to the greater glory of God, and only with God’s help. Can you imagine the courage it took to do that? Maybe we have good ideas that we could ask for God’s help with. Maybe God would be happy to have our best efforts to do God’s work in the world, and to the very best of our ability.
God doesn’t need shrinking violets! God needs spiritual co-creators – people with the courage and the imagination to help create the kindom of God right here on earth.
Hymn #161 MV “I have called you by your name”
2nd Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 and Matthew 22:15-22
With God’s help we can act with integrity and righteousness. But we know, don’t we, that sometimes that inner knowing, that certainty that Moses demonstrated so clearly, that knowing of what is right butts up against what is the law of the land.
Jesus said: “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and to God the things that are God’s.”
Jesus did not charge us to tear down authority structures or governments we find to be unjust. He lived in a time of “might is right”, and to challenge every injustice would have been suicide. And things don’t appear to have changed that much, do they? We still need to pay our taxes, and we sure don’t always agree with how taxation is applied. For the sake of a peaceful and harmonious country, we do make compromises rather than plunge the nation into civil war and much chaos and destruction. We are learning different ways to work together to bring about social justice.
And so we work away at perceived injustices incrementally and with glacial slowness at times it seems. Change can happen overnight, but usually it doesn’t.
How long has it taken, for instance to publicly confront the abuse of women in the film industry, that those immersed in it have known about for decades. And I am not pointing fingers only at the men involved, by the way. The women who did not have the courage to speak up, the good men who turned their eyes away, the women who used such opportunities for their own advancement, all have a share in the responsibility for this blatant abuse of male power over less powerful women.
I heard about the case of a young Haitian man, recently admitted to the USA as a refugee, who in defense of the charge against him of raping several women, argued that in his country such male behaviour was acceptable, and therefore he should be released.
I would argue that we need to open our eyes, here in Canada, to the fact of gender inequality and abuse of male power in most of the rest of the world. Patriarchy is as old as human civilization, and deeply entrenched in our psyches and our institutions.
The changes that have been made in Canada and the US that support the equality of women and gays and transgender people have not come easily. In some parts of the world women are still chattel to be bought and sold and discarded at will. Gay and transgender people live in fear of their lives.
We are in deep need of a collective healing. Somehow we must cleanse ourselves of the age-old idea that some of us are better in God’s eyes than the rest of us.
Children of a loving God, a Creator who is the One who generated all we see and know about, we are all part of this earthly family. We are all related – dependent on one another for all that is life-sustaining on this beautiful planet. God knows each of us by name, and calls each of us to some part of the Divine Purpose.
I invite you to close your eyes for a moment and remember who you are – a blessed child of God, entrusted with the work of embodying God’s grace and goodness.
Beloved, let us sing together “I am a child of God”.
Hymn #157 MV “I am a child of God”