Tears & Fears
Last week was tough. Events in our nation stirred us in a variety of ways, including frustration, disappointment, disheartening and even fear of what is to come. And on top of that we lost a dearly beloved member of our church family. I have to admit my own emotions have run over several times. I have cried for the loss of life in our community, especially our sister, Ms Doris. I have cried tears for those who feel threatened around our nation. I have cried tears for my children as they have seen images and heard chants on the news that I thought they would only see in historical videos. I have cried for people living in fear, especially those whose fear motivates them to advocate for the separation of people.
A story from Exodus 1 reminds me about what fear can do in the hearts and minds of people. Recall this story which is often overlooked:
Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.
This story is one in which the people of a nation (Egypt) feared the growing numbers of another ethnic groups (the Israelites). The Egyptian Pharoah intentionally decided to “deal shrewdly” with the Israelites because he feared their growing influence in his nation. And so Pharoah commanded the people of his nation to “oppress them with forced labor.” That is to say, Egypt enslaved the Israelites. Egpyt was “ruthless” and made the lives of the Israelites “bitter with hard service.” And all because the Egyptians, particularly their leader, feared another group of people.
Fear can certainly lead a person to take actions that are shrewd, ruthless and bitter.
How often do we stop and consider the motivation behind beliefs and actions? Do people ever act on their fears? Is it possible that a viewpoint might be tainted by fear of someone or some group that has a growing influence? Do people with fears sometimes act in ways that are shrewd, ruthless and bitter? If so, do they realize it?
Reflecting on these questions matters if we are to prevent our own fears from rising up as shrewd, ruthless, and bitter actions. The question for you and me is this: Will we be the Pharoah of the Exodus story? Or will we be Israel?
It’s pretty clear who God favored in this story. Despite the efforts of Pharoah and Egypt, the people of Israel continued to grown in number, to spread and multiply. What an amazing outcome for Israel in the midst of such unjust treatment by the Egyptians. It is as if God was at work blessing the Israelites in spite of the Egyptians fear, in spite of their terrible actions.
Of course, we know the end of this story. God raises up one of those Israelites in dramatic fashion. And that man, Moses, comes beating down Pharoah’s door, demanding, “Let My People Go!” And, with God’s help, Israel finds freedom.
It is my prayer that we all find freedom just like Israel…even when we act like Pharoah.
God’s Words for This Week
Exodus 1:8-2:10 – Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” (NRSV, v.8-10)
Psalm 138 – Finish what you started in me, God. Your love is eternal—don’t quit on me now. (The Message, v.8)
Romans 12:1-8 – So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. (The Message, v.1)
Matthew 16:13-20 – I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (NRSV, v. 19)
This Week at Hood
Member and Regular Attender Meetings – If you have not had your member profile interview, please call Pastor Jason or Joanie to set up a time this week!
Wednesday, August 23, 3:30-4:30 pm – Prayer & Inspiration, Fellowship Hall
Thursday, August 24, 1:00-3:00 pm – Pastor Jason at The Cellar for drop-in coffee and conversation (108 N Wilson St.)
Sunday, August 27, 11:00 am – Worship
Sunday, September 10 – Launch of a Freeway: A Not So Perfect Guide To Freedom (A 6-week sermon series and Small Group Bible Study…more details coming soon!)
January 17, 2018
January 16, 2018
January 10, 2018