The Story of the book of Judges is in so many ways the story of humanity. Again and again we see the pattern: Israel sins, times get rough, they repent, God saves them…only to have the pattern repeat all over again. This is our story isn’t it? We do what we aren’t supposed to do, life gets rough, we amend our ways and vow never again…only to do it once again. What I find interesting about all of this is that the all knowing God continues to forgive. The Lord knows we’re going to fail, he knows that we’re bold faced lying when we say we’ll never do it again; yet he forgives us anyway. Think about it…The Father sent Jesus into the world knowing full well that we and all humanity would gather to shout “Crucify him, Crucify him!” He knew this and he sent Jesus anyway! He sent him to forgive us and to give us life. That should change everything! As people who bear the name of Jesus in our hearts, as people who bear the Cross of Christ upon our foreheads this simple truth should change everything! We are a people of this cross shaped, Jesus sending, forgiveness living kinda life…the game changing way of life!
I’ve found when it comes to talking about sin that everybody has their favorites. Usually these sins that are the great and horrible sins in their eyes are the one they don’t have any trouble with at all. Of course not! “Everyone else is a horrible miserable sinner; I’m not so bad…people should be more like me” And do we ever let people know it when we act this way! And we all do. We like to pick up our favorite sticks and beat people with them. That’s why the 10 Commandments are so very important. They don’t just list our own favorite list of sins…they list all sins. Even the one’s that I’m guilty of in my self righteous perfection. Think of it this way. The 10 Commandments have long since been divided into two tables. The first dealing with how we relate to God and the second dealing with how we relate to each other. Now, compare that to the cross; it has two beams…the vertical showing how we relate to God and the horizontal showing how we relate to others. Many are good at relating to God and they think others should do as well as they do…they take that vertical beam and beat others over the head with it. Still others do the reverse with how we relate to our neighbor…we like to beat people up who don’t see things as we do. The 10 Commandments call us to bear all 10 of them…not just the ones we like. When you do that you bear both beams of the cross…not just one. And dealing with both makes it a whole lot harder to beat people up. Remember, Jesus called us to take up our cross and follow him…and again he said that his yoke is easy and his burden light…come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest!
Does God care? Is he involved in our lives? Does he hear us when we pray? Does he see us when we cry? These are the questions we all wonder about deep down in the depths of our soul. Moses’ call story in Exodus 3 answers these questions with a resounding yes! God sees us, he hears us, he knows our sufferings and…he does something about it! He comes down to us and brings us up out of the mess we find ourselves in. God is in the business of making a way where there is no way. Now, we might argue with his way. We might try to get out of it. We might even try to explain to God why it is that his plan is foolish and ours is better. But always God is making a way for us, even despite our excuses. He is making a way for us where there seems to be no way.
“We plan…God laughs.” Oh how true this can be! We make our plans…we prepare our checklists…and then they go right out the window when the winds of life start to blow. This was true for Joseph. Being turned on by his brothers…not in the plan. Being cast into a pit and later sold into slavery…not in the plan. Spending years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit…not in the plan. That’s often how our plans can go…but always there is God’s plan. God has a plan and he is always about the business of bringing that plan to fruition in our lives and in our world. We have an active, involved God who has his hands on our lives. God’s fingerprints are everywhere! When he formed us out of the dust of the earth, like a potter leaves his prints on the clay so God has left his fingerprints on us. When he baptized us and marked us with his cross forever he left his fingerprints upon us for all time! You are God’s good creation…you are his new creation! His fingerprints are upon you and he’s guiding you along the ways of his plan for you and your life. He guided Joseph through all adversity so that his plan of blessing for him and all people could be accomplished. God is present in your life in the same way!
What is faith? We talk about it all the time but what is it … what does it look like? Faith is trusting in the promise of God even when all the evidence says otherwise. Abraham, the father of faith, is the example that we look to in the Bible. He was called to go to a land he did not know, to be the father of a great nation (even when he couldn’t have children), and to be blessed to be a blessing to the whole world…and Abraham went! He get’s up and he goes…trusting God. When we look at the balance of his story we see that God was faithful to his promises to Abraham. He went to that land of promise…his eyes beheld it all…his feet walked along its pathways. The great nation he was to father was underway…it was a modest start but the impossible had happened…the child of promise had been born; even in their old age! And the blessing that had been given to Abraham and Sarah had spread to Issac…and it was poised to spread further! But there’s more! When we look at the wider story we see how God remained faithful to Abraham. The land and the nation he was to father we see today in the kingdom of God! We see it in every church, wherever two or three are gathered in the Lord name, and wherever a christian boldly sets their foot. The Child of promise…well, look to Jesus. He is the only beloved child who is bound and has wood laid upon him…who is sacrificed so that we may all live. And the blessing? Well the blessing is forgiveness, salvation, and everlasting life offered to all because of Jesus…the seed of Abraham! All of this is what faith is!
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” This is among the worst advice ever given. Words have tremendous power. They can tear down or they can build up. It was with words that God created everything in the universe! That great power of God’s, speaking words, was gifted to us. We were invited to join God in speaking! Yet how often do we use our words to tear down and to destroy…rather than to build up! It is part of the human condition…to use our words to tear down. Always there is God, speaking words of creation…Let there be light. Always there is God, speaking words of affirmation…you are my son, with you I am well please. Always there is God, speaking words of salvation…This is my Body, this is my Blood, given for you! The voice of these words booms out over creation…listen to this voice amid the chaos and noise that is all around you.