I have come down

28 August 2011
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 17A (RCL)
Exodus 3:1-15
Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26
Romans 12:9-21
Matthew 16:21-28

We have two very startling passages this Sunday: Exodus and Matthew. In the Exodus passage, God says “I have seen the misery of my people. I have heard their cry of distress.” In the whole pantheon of Egypt, was there any god who paid any attention to the goings on of the people? especially enslaved people? Here is the great theological insight of Israel, which we simply take for granted. God notices. And God says, “I have come down,” to do something about the situation. Israel’s faith, or trust, in that attribute of God would be tested again and again: really? God has come down? So is our faith tested again and again. We see plenty of evidence to the contrary.

Second startling passage. Just after Peter has given Jesus his identity as the Christ, he question’s Jesus’ claim that he must go to Jerusalem to suffer and die. This is not how thing are supposed to go for the Christ. But for a God who “comes down,” how else could things go? Either God gives the world freedom, or not. If God comes down, and manipulates things to certain ends, then God doesn’t really enter relationship with us, or the world. If God is going to come down and enter things the way they are, this is how it ends up.

But, God asks us to get involved in relieving the distress of his people. “You go to Pharaoh,” God says to Moses, “I will be with you.” Sometimes we have to speak truth to power, and sometimes we have to be with the distressed. The passage from Romans speaks about the kinds of relationships that must exist among the followers of Jesus, and as far as in us lies, between us and the world. We are the followers of a God who has “come down” and hears the cries of distress.

If that’s not what you signed on for, don’t turn aside to see any burning bushes!

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