“You’re Making a Big Mistake” August 30, 2020

“You’re Making a Big Mistake”

Exodus 3:1-15

Matthew 16:21-28

When I am asked why I ever entertained the notion of filling the pulpit, as they say – when I’m asked why I became a preacher, I usually answer that it wasn’t my idea. Truth is, there was a handful of people who dragged me kicking and screaming into this thing called ministry in the United Methodist Church. I resisted at first. To my way of thinking, I was totally unqualified: I didn’t have the education, I didn’t have the background, and I didn’t have the experience. But they persisted. I would have been content to address a congregation 3 or 4 times a year. That way I could pick and choose. I could stick to scripture that I like – scripture that everyone likes. That way, no one gets hurt. But…it was not to be. I have to say, though, that I’m glad they persisted. The plotting behind my back, the money that mysteriously appeared when I needed to go to licensing school, the words of encouragement – I can’t begin to thank these people enough. Along the way, I’ve learned a few things. I’ve learned that left to my own devices, I will fail every time. I’ve learned to lean of God’s grace, because when God works through us and when God works in us, there’s no telling what can happen. And I’ve learned that when God calls us, we best be listening.

Two of our Scripture readings today tell us of folks who were called by God. Now let’s be clear: I am in no way putting myself in the same category as Moses and the Apostle Peter, but I can relate. I can relate to both of them. Now Moses had led a gifted life while in Egypt. But even though he was raised in Pharaoh’s house, he never turned his back on his people. His future looked bright, but then he made a big mistake. Upon spotting an Egyptian whipping an Israelite slave, Moses lost his cool and ended up killing the Egyptian. Moses was now a wanted man, which drove him to the land of Midian to live out the next 40 years of his life as a dirt farmer and keeper of sheep – a far cry from life in Pharaoh’s palace. But he was content, I suspect. He had a family, he had livestock; life was good. When God appeared to him in the form of a bush that was on fire, however, all that was about to change. Now, we’ve all heard the story but there is one piece that bears repeating. (vs 9)  “The Israelite cry for help has come to me, and I’ve seen for myself how cruelly they’re being treated by the Egyptians. It’s time for you to go back: I’m sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the People of Israel, out of Egypt.”

11 Moses answered God, “But why me? What makes you think that I could ever go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt?” Did you catch that? “What makes you think that I could ever do such a thing? It’s a big mistake calling on me to do this incredible thing!” And to this, the Lord answers, “I’ll be with you. I’ll be with you.” My point here is that I find it plum amazing that while standing on holy ground and in the presence of God himself, the first reaction that Moses had was that he was expected to do this incredible thing on his own. “I’ll be with you,” God said. “I’ll be with you.” And he was.

Peter, on the other hand, didn’t suffer from a lack of confidence. No, Peter had it all figured out. When he announced (Matt 16:16) that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, he spoke a remarkable truth. But at the same time, Peter carried a whole rash of ideas about what this Messiah business is all about. I imagine he looked for a Messiah to show up and be the tough guy; to kick the Romans back to Rome and get things back to normal for the nation of Israel. O happy day; this is going to be great! And so it was that when Jesus announced that he had to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things and be killed and raised on the 3rd day, Peter’s bubble was burst. “Bad idea,” he said. “You’re making a big mistake! God forbid, Lord. This won’t happen to you.” At this point, Jesus rebukes him in the same way that he rebuked Satan when he was tempted in the wilderness, “Get behind me, Satan. You are a stone looking to trip me up. For you are not fixing your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (I’m paraphrasing here) In a way – and I’m going out on a limb here – Peter and the Tempter had one thing in common here: they both were saying, “If you are indeed the Son of the living God, then prove it by doing what I ask you to do.” Which is, I’m sure you’ll agree, a big mistake.

So why is it that we resist God’s call? It’s a valid question; what is it that holds me back? The answer came to me in a discussion of the difference between a disciple and an apostle, believe it or not. The short version might be that a disciple is a student and a follower, whereas an Apostle is an agent – one who goes out in the world as an ambassador of Christ. But the key difference – and one that I can understand – is in our faith. Think about it. We aspire to be disciples of Christ and we know that that requires faith in Christ. We nurture that faith through study, through prayer, through worship. Faith in Christ, that’s the key here. But to take that faith to the next level; the level of Moses and Peter and Paul. Do we dare to hope for that kind of faith? Could we handle that? I believe we can.

You see, whereas the disciples have faith in Jesus, the Apostles have the faith of Jesus, and that makes all the difference. It changes things. It changes hearts and it changes lives. We are called to that faith and we are called to show the world what this amazing faith can do. We are called to imagine something more; we are called to imagine the life that Jesus promises. Simply put, we are called to be the church. Seeing you here today is the living proof that the church still aspires to greater things; to carry the faith of Jesus into the world. In the words of the MT pastor Derf Bergman, “The bush is still burning and God is still speaking.” Make no mistake, God is still speaking.

Amen & Shalom


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