Making wreathes

Be the Bigger Person

Post Script: This sermon unfolded differently than the manuscript I prepared. Check out this link to my YouTube channel if you would like to compare the two: Sermon on 9/6/2020

Message Title: Be the Bigger Person
Theme: Life Lessons from the Playground
Season: ORDINARY
Main Text: Matthew 18:15-20
Scripture Reading: Exodus 12:1-14
RCL Scripture: Exodus 12:1-14; Psalm 149; Ezekiel 33:7-11; Psalm 119:33-40; Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 18:15-20
Focus: Jesus speaks about conflict resolution.
Function: To acknowledge our desire for restitution or reparations and God’s calling for us to ‘be the bigger person’ as God is ‘the bigger person.’
Determine which fights are worth fighting and which fights require us to be ‘the bigger person.’
Other Notes: COMMUNION

SCRIPTURE READING: Exodus 12:1-14 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month will be the first month; it will be the first month of the year for you.[a] Tell the whole Israelite community: On the tenth day of this month they must take a lamb for each household, a lamb per house. If a household is too small for a lamb, it should share one with a neighbor nearby. You should divide the lamb in proportion to the number of people who will be eating it. Your lamb should be a flawless year-old male. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You should keep close watch over it until the fourteenth day of this month. At twilight on that day, the whole assembled Israelite community should slaughter their lambs. They should take some of the blood and smear it on the two doorposts and on the beam over the door of the houses in which they are eating. That same night they should eat the meat roasted over the fire. They should eat it along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Don’t eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over fire with its head, legs, and internal organs. 10 Don’t let any of it remain until morning, and burn any of it left over in the morning. 11 This is how you should eat it. You should be dressed, with your sandals on your feet and your walking stick in your hand. You should eat the meal in a hurry. It is the Passover of the Lord. 12 I’ll pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I’ll strike down every oldest child in the land of Egypt, both humans and animals. I’ll impose judgments on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. 13 The blood will be your sign on the houses where you live. Whenever I see the blood, I’ll pass over[b] you. No plague will destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. 14 “This day will be a day of remembering for you. You will observe it as a festival to the Lord. You will observe it in every generation as a regulation for all time.

LORD’S PRAYER

SERIES INTRO: Life Lessons from the Playground

During the month of September, we will channel our inner child to remember the lessons we learned from the playground. As we dive into Jesus’ teachings from Matthew, we will also see parallels to our lives from 0 to 90.

PLAYGROUND LESSON: “Be the Bigger Person,”

I am the middle child and only girl. My older brother, Josh, is 2 years older than me. My younger brother, Micah, is 4 years younger. I have to say; we were perfect children. (I can say that because my parents aren’t here to contradict me.) On the rare occasion we fought, it was natural for us to escalate the argument until we were hurt or crying.

PHOTO OF US ADORABLE KIDS W/ GRANDPARENTS: I know, it’s hard to imagine these cute kids acting up, right?

Consider your childhood. Do you remember the words of adults as they would break up a fight? Kids yelling ‘they started it!’

If they broke a fight up before bloodshed or tears, you could almost bet that an adult would tell you to “be the better person” or “take the high road” when you wanted to get even with the sibling who wronged you.

“Be the bigger person.” BLEGH! Who wants to do that? And what does it mean, anyway?!

“Be the bigger person” is an idiom I’ve heard adults tell kids when a conflict arises and retaliation is due. But what do we mean by this phrase? (AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION)

Urbandictionary.com defines “the bigger person,” this way: The person that does the right thing despite not being advantageous to oneself. It is a type of moral high ground.”. [1]

TRANSITION: We’re supposed to know better and rise above even in those difficult moments when our anger is boiling. In our Text for today, we see Jesus break down how to resolve conflict without punching your sibling until they cry. Is this a solution for every debate and conflict, or is this solution conditional?

SCRIPTURE & EXPLAINATION: Matthew 18: 15-20

VS 15-17 15 “If your brother or sister sins against you, go and correct them when you are alone together. If they listen to you, then you’ve won over your brother or sister. 16But if they won’t listen, take with you one or two others so that every word may be established by the mouth of two or three witnesses. 17But if they still won’t pay attention, report it to the church. If they won’t pay attention even to the church, treat them as you would a Gentile and tax collector.

  1. Disclaimer about abusers harbored by the church: Churches have taken this scripture and twisted it and used it to protect the wrong group of people. They’ve protected abusers and blamed the victims. But something deeper is going on here than a blanket solution for all conflict.
  2. Outline for conflict resolution:
    1. Correct them alone
    2. Bring 2-3 witnesses to speak truth
    3. Bring them before the church
    4. treat them as you would a Gentile and tax collector.”
  3. If you don’t listen to my perspective, then you must be an outsider… a HEATHEN! Obviously, you’re damned if you don’t see my perspective as the right perspective.
    1. A common interpretation of this passage includes the conclusion that if the wrong-doer still doesn’t change their ways, the offended should abandon the offender or cast them out or “treat them like a heathen” as some translations state. Consider those heathens hopeless, they’ll never change.
      1. But that perspective doesn’t fit the God who gave us Jesus. That interpretation doesn’t fit the God who patiently walked with the people of Israel through their stubbornness, unfaithfulness, and indecision.
    2. Alternate interpretation: “Treating them like a Gentile and a tax collector” should mean someone that doesn’t know any better. Treating them like a heathen, means they learned how to live differently in their childhood and you need to find common ground.
      1. I would push this even farther into this thought. We recognize that Christianity is a diverse group of people who interpret scripture in different ways. My dream is a day when we can recognize the fights worth fighting and to let go of preference differences.

VS 18-20 18I assure you that whatever you fasten on earth will be fastened in heaven. And whatever you loosen on earth will be loosened in heaven. 19Again I assure you that if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you. 20For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.”

  1. Community matters. As we gather in community and listen for God’s guidance, we move in the ways God directs.
  2. ‘In theory,’ if we are gathered in community, listening for God’s direction, and living it out, then our actions coincide with God’s will.
    1. Fasten & Loose- our ministry will be focused on what God calls us to.
    2. Agree & God will do it—our ministry will be equipped by God.
    3. Where two or three are gathered—We will be God’s representatives on this earth.

INTERPRETATION:

  1. Jesus is teaching us about maintaining relationships with those to whom we disagree.
    1. Frequently, Jesus takes the laws of Moses or the cultural norms of the day and elevates the expected behavior of God’s children.
      1. No longer is restitution enough, as the Jewish laws outline.
      2. We’re looking to repairing the relationship and community damage.
  2. This conflict resolution chart that Jesus introduces doesn’t match the systems Jews had in place.
    1. When you dive in to the laws in Exodus, Leviticus, or Deuteronomy (for some light reading) you will see a detailed list of what God requires providing restitutions for wrong doings. The Old Testament has an extensive list of scriptures about restitution.
      1. 2 types of restitution
        1. Making ourselves right with each other (Exodus 22)
        2. Making ourselves right with God
        3. Resource links[2] [3] [4]
      2.  “An eye for an eye” came from Leviticus with the concept of restoring the damage done. Pay back what you have wronged.
  3. There has been a culture of restitution and righting your wrong doings for centuries. Jesus seems to shift the conversation about conflict deeper than expecting only restitution but towards a deeper resolution.
    1. God’s people aren’t called to make things even.
    2. God’s people are to demonstrate the very grace that God gives on us to others; they are to surpass the expectations of culture and repair relationships.
  4. Back to Abuse: Unfortunately, Society knows churches can harbor abusers and sexual predators under the cover of Matthew 18. We’ve all heard those tragic stories in the news.
    1. Terrible Scenario: The abuser repented… they said sorry. They said they’ll stop. So, we can move on. It’s what Jesus would do….
      1. STOP! Jesus died on the cross. We do not have to hang victims on the same cross for the salvation of their abusers.
    2. You may develop questions about broadly applying this scripture:
      1. But how does Matthew 18 work in relation to abuse or sexual assault?
      2. What does Matthew 18 mean for the criminal justice system?
      3. What does Matthew 18 mean for capital punishment?
    3. I will not solve this riddle for you today. I have baggage attached to abuse and forgiveness. I encourage you to wrestle with this text and let God direct your heart.
      1. God will never use evil for good. No person is stuck in an abusive situation for God’s will.

APPLICATION: To acknowledge our desire for restitution or reparations and God’s calling for us to ‘be the bigger person’ as God is ‘the bigger person.’ To determine which fights are worth fighting and which fights require us to be ‘the bigger person.’

  1. Setting aside the questions about abuse for another time. I’m willing to get together throughout the week to chat about these questions.
  2. Jesus is changing the way arguments end. Jesus is raising the bar on expectations. No longer is it about being the bigger person and letting things go. It’s about rebuilding what we have torn down.
    1. Let’s consider if we are acting like God’s representatives. Are we exposing ourselves as God’s people with grace and mercy?
  3. Social Media has stunted our ability to navigate tough conversations. Social media *seems* to help us make social connections, but it has destroyed our ability to connect face to face.
    1. My social media problem: I’m part of the problem. I get riled up, like anyone else, when I scroll through Facebook and see: A misinterpretation of scripture; Putting words in God’s mouth; False information being spread that perpetuates distress; or Assumptions about my demographic/generation
      1. I catch myself wanting to pull out my keyboard and attack the offender with skillfully chosen words as my weapon. ‘I’ll show you.’ That isn’t healthy! That isn’t the way a follower of Christ should behave.
      2. Conclusion? I’m getting rid of my personal Facebook and will only maintain a professional profile for use for church.
  4. Learn to have conversations with someone you disagree with and don’t assume the worst.
    1. PHOTO OF US AS ADULTS: My brothers and I are all grown up. Aren’t we cute? We’ve learned how to navigate hard conversations or to recognize when something isn’t our business. I used to hate being the only girl and middle child. Now I love the family dynamics our birth order has brought out.
    2. How do you handle tough conversations within your family? What about friends?
    3. When was the last time you agreed to disagree with someone and walked away still friends?

CONCLUSION: I cannot guarantee that Liberty will ever be completely unified in politics, theology or favorite worship songs. I can guarantee that we are better together in our diversity of thought. We are closer to understanding God when we can bridge our mental divides.

If you have difficulty or disagreements with another person, remember the lessons of our childhood. Be the bigger person, don’t retaliate. Don’t escalate. Repair. Use wisdom to not enable habitual abuse.

COMMUNION: We take communion together today and remember our diverse minds.Communion is about our salvation in Christ and it is about the commitment we make to a group of people. We won’t give up growing together.


[1] https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=bigger%20person

[2] https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Restitution

[3] https://founders.org/2019/05/15/5-principles-of-biblical-restitution/

[4] https://ibw21.org/commentary/the-torah-case-for-reparations/

Starting a Mountain Headboard

On a whim during lunch Josh and I decided to make a headboard. I have hated our current headboard since day one. It’s metal bars are not great for a lazy afternoon read and my pillows frequently slip through the bars. Yes, I realize #firstworldproblems.

So as we sat at Olive Garden for some delicious carbs, we plotted out our dream headboard.

Conveniently enough, Lowe’s is right next to Olive Garden. We left the restaurant, bellies full, and went shopping for wood!

Here is an example of our inspiration.

The plans became real as we walked out of Lowe’s with a truck bed of wood.

Got wood from Lowe’s
Prepping border (in retrospect, I regret staining this now….we later sanded the whole project, including the border)

Whose Redemption Story Is this?

Outside Worship at Liberty Baptist Church in Tipton, IN on 8/30/2020

Message Title: Whose Redemption Story Is this?
Theme: Redeemer of Stories
Season: ORDINARY
Main Text: Exodus 3:1-15;
Scripture Reading: Romans 12:9-21
RCL Scripture: Exodus 3:1-15; Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45b; Jeremiah 15:15-21; Psalm 26:1-8; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28
Focus: God invites Moses to be part of the redemption of Israel.
Function: To accept the invitation of Redemption bringers, but let go of the desire to define the route.
Other Notes:

SCRIPTURE READING: Romans 12:9-21 Love should be shown without pretending. Hate evil, and hold on to what is good. 10 Love each other like the members of your family. Be the best at showing honor to each other. 11 Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic—be on fire in the Spirit as you serve the Lord! 12 Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home. 14 Bless people who harass you—bless and don’t curse them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and cry with those who are crying. 16 Consider everyone as equal, and don’t think that you’re better than anyone else. Instead, associate with people who have no status. Don’t think that you’re so smart. 17 Don’t pay back anyone for their evil actions with evil actions, but show respect for what everyone else believes is good.18 If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people. 19 Don’t try to get revenge for yourselves, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath. It is written, Revenge belongs to me; I will pay it back, says the Lord.[a]20 Instead, If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. By doing this, you will pile burning coals of fire upon his head.[b] 21 Don’t be defeated by evil, but defeat evil with good.

LORD’S PRAYER

BOOK INTRO: Could I really do a book series without talking about Harry Potter? If you have lived under a rock for the last 20+ years, you may not have heard about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The world was first introduced to this world in 1997 with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

A young boy is orphaned at infancy and raised by his maternal aunt & uncle. When he turns 11, he learns that he is a wizard when he receives an acceptance letter to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. This revelation, in retrospect, explains some odd situations of his childhood. His aunt and uncle had kept this detail a secret as they vehemently opposed anything odd and especially hated magic.

A whole unknown world opens up to Harry as he learns about magic, how his parents really died, and the struggle of good and evil magical forces. One particular cultural lesson involved House Elves.

House-elves do not look like the elves of Lord of the Rings. They are small magical creatures typically found enslaved to wealthy magical families and frequently mistreated. Dobby was Harry’s first house-elf interaction. It wasn’t until later that Harry learned Dobby’s owners were the Malfoys, who abused him terribly. Harry helped to trick Lucious Malfoy into freeing Dobby.

Now Dobby was a unique elf; he had disobeyed orders and also enjoyed being set free. This was not the norm for house-elves; they were loyal, obedient, and lovers of hard work. If you haven’t read the books, you would never know the house-elf of Bartemous Crouch Sr, Winky.

Winky was loyal to the Crouchs and served them no matter the scary, dangerous, or even illegal task they demanded of her. Winky gets fired when she is caught at the scene of a crime (because of orders by her master) with a piece of evidence connected to the crime.

She goes into a drunken stupor, disappointed in herself and feeling as though she disgraced her house-elf family tree. Dobby helps Winky get a job at Hogwarts, where Hermione has taken up the unwanted task of demanding justice for the house-elves. She establishes a club called: Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare. House-Elves maintained Hogwarts behind the scenes. Hermione took up knitting to trick the elves into freedom. 

Ironically enough, most of the house-elves avoided Hermione and her work because they enjoyed their job at Hogwarts and saw Dobby as odd and the condition of Winky as tragic. They did not want freedom.

No matter what, Hermione did not want to listen to the words of House Elves or others connected to house elves. She demanded justice and justice would only be served her way. (Although, I regularly agreed with Hermione that the House-elves didn’t even know how much better wizards could treat them.)

TRANSITION: In our text for today we see Adult Moses, no longer a baby in a basket, in a conversation with God about justice for Israel. God wants to invite Moses to take part in providing justice for Israel. Let’s see how the conversation goes….

SCRIPTURE: Exodus 3:1-15

VS 1-4 Moses was taking care of the flock for his father-in-law Jethro,[a] Midian’s priest. He led his flock out to the edge of the desert, and he came to God’s mountain called Horeb. The Lord’s messenger appeared to him in a flame of fire in the middle of a bush. Moses saw that the bush was in flames, but it didn’t burn upThen Moses said to himself, Let me check out this amazing sight and find out why the bush isn’t burning up. When the Lord saw that he was coming to look, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” Moses said, “I’m here.”

  1. When we last saw Moses, he was weaned from his mother and placed in Pharaoh’s household. Much time has passed since Moses’ infancy.
    1. Pre-Script: Moses ran away from his problems in Egypt
      1. Killed an Egyptian guard in defense of a Hebrew
      1. Ran away to Midian for fear of consequences
      1. Got married to a Midian woman, Zipporah
      1. Tended his father-in-law’s flock
  2. Moses had not only run away from his consequences; he had run away from his people and his God. God was not on Moses’ radar. Nevertheless, God got Moses’ attention with a natural phenomenon.

VS 5-10 Then the Lord said, “Don’t come any closer! Take off your sandals, because you are standing on holy ground.” He continued, “I am the God of your father, Abraham’s God, Isaac’s God, and Jacob’s God.” Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God. Then the Lord said, “I’ve clearly seen my people oppressed in Egypt. I’ve heard their cry of injustice because of their slave masters. I know about their pain. I’ve come down to rescue them from the Egyptians in order to take them out of that land and bring them to a good and broad land, a land that’s full of milk and honey, a place where the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites all liveNow the Israelites’ cries of injustice have reached me. I’ve seen just how much the Egyptians have oppressed them. 10 So get going. I’m sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

  1. God saw the pain of his people and wanted it stopped!
    1. My people have suffered, and it isn’t ok.
    1. Repeat: My people have suffered in Egypt. It’s time for a change.
    1. I’m sending you, Moses, get going!

What does Moses say back… to the burning bush?

VS 11-15 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I to go to Pharaoh and to bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 God said, “I’ll be with you. And this will show you that I’m the one who sent you. After you bring the people out of Egypt, you will come back here and worship God on this mountain.” 13 But Moses said to God, “If I now come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they are going to ask me, ‘What’s this God’s name?’ What am I supposed to say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I Am Who I Am.[b] So say to the Israelites, ‘I Am has sent me to you.’” 15 God continued, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, Abraham’s God, Isaac’s God, and Jacob’s God, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever; this is how all generations will remember me.

  1. That’s right, Moses talks back to the burning bush. Moses doesn’t respond to the suffering of his people or how he was spared and lived in Pharaoh’s house in safety. Moses only responds to the responsibility expected of him. God you want me to do what?! You want me to put myself at risk?
    1. God assures Moses that he’ll be with him.
  2. But once again Moses protests: Ummm… who are you?!?
    1. Moses to God: So, you say you’ll be with me… cool, cool but …umm… which God should I tell them is helping them out?
    1. God gives Moses his name: call me Yahweh (I Am Who I Am or I Am)
      1. God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
      1. Know my name!

EXPLANATION & INTERPRETATION:

  1. God reached out to Moses while Moses was tending the flock. God got Moses’ attention with the burning bush. Through this conversation God invites Moses to be part of the rescue, restoration, & redemption of Israel. God revealed God’s self to Moses. God even presented Moses with God’s name.
    1. AND STILL MOSES WAS HESITANT.
    1. Post-Script: Moses is hesitant for many reasons
      1. I don’t know who you are & Israel doesn’t know who you are
        1. My name is Yahweh
      1. Israel won’t listen to me & Pharaoh won’t listen to me.
        1. I’ll give you the words & powers to prove I’m with you.
      1. Also, I can’t speak well.
        1. Fine, take your brother.

APPLICATION: To accept the invitation of Redemption bringers, but let go of the desire to define the route.

  1. Book Redemption: We learn in the epilogue of the Harry Potter series that Hermione finishes her education and works for the Ministry of Magic. She was so upset by the welfare of House Elves that she pursued a career in the Ministry of Magic to change things working within the system.
    1. If you keep diving into the lore of Harry Potter, Hermione eventually becomes the Minister of Magic (equivalent to the American President or British Prime Minister)
    1. Hermione had to adjust her goals to bring about change.
  2. If I’m honest, I can get stuck somewhere between Moses & Hermione for justice. Either I am fearful for my safety or I can want to set the terms of redemption.
    1. God’s redemption comes on God’s timing and in God’s way. We don’t get to choose WHO gets redeemed; that is under God’s judgement.
      1. ME & BLM: I can feel that way about the Black Lives Matter movement. Yes, I recognize healing needs to happen. We cannot deny there is pain surrounding racism. But I catch myself asking: Can you do it my way? Can I define what is enough healing or reparation?
    1. God’s got the itinerary; We don’t get to choose HOW others gets redeemed; that is under God’s judgement. God may ask you to give something up that isn’t a problem for someone else. We can’t play the redemption comparison game. The outline of our little redemption stories will not be the same.
      1. We need to let go of defining the outline of everyone’s little redemption story. ‘But! But! He still cusses! She still drinks! I don’t approve of their sexual practices! They didn’t follow the police officer’s commands!’
        1. We are all a work in progress. It is not our job to compare our progress and determine a ‘winner.’
      1. Let’s take a non-religious example for a moment: Diabetics & Carbs. Yes, we’re all supposed to be reasonable with our carb intake, but diabetics must intentionally watch their carb consumption. 
    1. My job is to follow God faithfully, not define the route. My job is to adjust my own expectations and understanding through God’s guidance. My role is to tell each person God loves them no matter where they are in the redemption process.
      1. ME & BLM: I need to listen to the pains of the BLM movement without the need to define their route to healing or offer Band-Aids for the festering infection of racism. I need to continue to look for ways that I can do better when I know better.
        1. My role is to ask myself:
          1. Am I listening?
          1. Am I learning?
          1. What ways can I adjust?
      1. What ways is God asking you to listen, learn, and adjust?

CONCLUSION: God invited Moses to be part of the justice and redemption of Israel. Moses was hesitant. We, like Moses, have received an invitation. The invitation is there, but it’s God’s itinerary, not ours.

Writer’s block and Speaker’s remorse

Sometimes, I can be extremely naive to my own mistakes. I can be clueless to the ways I may offend individuals, living blissfully in my ignorance.

As I reflect on each sermon or professional conversation, I look back and see when I’ve made insensitive or inappropriate errors in communicating.

One particular blunder has continued to chew in mind.

One Sunday, in a sermon, I casually compared my dog’s anxiety to that of a veteran’s PTSD…. Saying something to the line of “Much like a ‘nam flashback.'” FROM THE PULPIT no less.

FACE TO PALM! 🤦🏼‍♀️🤦🏼‍♀️🤦🏼‍♀️🤦🏼‍♀️🤦🏼‍♀️

Looking back, I’m so embarrassed. I strive to always be someone who speaks intentionally and in consideration of other. My judgement lapsed in the midst of making light of my dog.

I have loved ones who have been changed by war. I myself struggle with PTSD, not related to military service. Why did I think that would be ok?

🤷🏼‍♀️🤷🏼‍♀️🤷🏼‍♀️🤷🏼‍♀️

It’s haunting the empty spaces in my mind. I lay in bed embarrassed. And I need to say I’m sorry.

I can’t move on to finish my sermon for tomorrow while this looms over my head.

I know better. I will do better.

Headboard remake

A friend (Abby Johnson) gave me a twin bed frame and headboard. I decided to breathe new life into it.

I sanded…. A lot…

Time to torch

Originally, we were going to add a stain on top of the burning. But we’re so happy with the burning that we decided to coat with acrylic and be done.

Finished product! Now to set up the frame and get a mattress & box spring.

Hard candy experiment

My friend Caele and I got together last night and attempted to make some candies. This was our first attempt ever at making hard candies. I think we did pretty good.

Recipe found on Pinterest

Unconventional Redemption

Message Title: Unconventional Redemption
Theme: Redeemer of Stories
Season: ORDINARY
Main Text: Exodus 1:8-2:10;
Scripture Reading: Romans 12:1-8;
RCL Scripture: Exodus 1:8-2:10; Psalm 124; Isaiah 51:1-6; Psalm 138; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20
Focus: God uses women in Israel’s exodus & redemption story.
Function:  To find yourself and others in the Big Redemption story and see your little redemption coinciding with The Big Redemption.
Other Notes:

SCRIPTURE READING: Romans 12:1-8 So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature. Because of the grace that God gave me, I can say to each one of you: don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. Instead, be reasonable since God has measured out a portion of faith to each one of you. We have many parts in one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function. In the same way, though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other. We have different gifts that are consistent with God’s grace that has been given to us. If your gift is prophecy, you should prophesy in proportion to your faith. If your gift is service, devote yourself to serving. If your gift is teaching, devote yourself to teaching.If your gift is encouragement, devote yourself to encouraging. The one giving should do it with no strings attached. The leader should lead with passion. The one showing mercy should be cheerful.

LORD’S PRAYER

BOOK INTRO: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

  1. We finally have a “combo-breaker” in our books in the Redeemer of Stories series. I read today’s book before I saw the movie! Aren’t you proud of me? Don’t be. I need to read more.
  2. Book details: In 1962, Madeleine L’Engle released the first book in a growing series titled A Wrinkle in Time. This book is a balance of the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres and debated to be part of Christian fiction.
  3. Synopsis: (Nice video summary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMacFsaOzuk)
    1. The book opens by introducing the reader to the Murry family; which includes a husband and wife scientist team, their daughter Margaret who is always called Meg, twin sons Sandy & Dennis, and youngest son Charles Wallace.
    2. Mr. Murray has gone missing and has been missing for a long time. Many in the community assume he left his family, but the Murry’s know better. Their father is mysteriously missing, but Sandy and Dennis do not seem to miss a beat. However, this tragedy significantly affects Meg and Charles Wallace. Meg struggles with her emotions and continues to have problems in school. Eventually, we meet a classmate of Meg’s, Calvin O’Keefe, who befriends Meg when she doesn’t even like herself. Charles Wallace, though a prodigy at home, struggles with casual interactions.
    3. Charles Wallace meets a group of mysterious old women with odd names: Mrs. Whatist, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. As we get to know these characters, they seem to be angels or aliens or some kind of celestial beings with capabilities unlike humans. These mysterious women, along with Calvin, help Meg and Charles Wallace on their journey to find their father.
  4. Morning Focus: Meg doesn’t like herself. Meg doubts her intellect and capabilities and is impatient. She gets angry and defensive easily and takes time to calm down. Through the journey to find Mr. Murray, both Meg and Charles Wallace, face challenges that highlight the hardships they’ve encountered in their father’s absence.

TRANSITION: Meg doesn’t feel qualified to help in the rescue mission of Mr. Murry, except as protection for Charles Wallace. She doubts her place in the story. In our text for today, we will hear the beginning of a very familiar story but with a new focus. My hope is you hear your place in this story as we consider new vantage points.

SCRIPTURE: Exodus 1:8-2:10

Summary: vs 8-14

  1. Joseph and his brothers have passed away
  2. The Pharaoh that is now in power, never knew Joseph and now fears the Hebrews/Israelites.
  3. Pharaoh enslaves the Hebrews.
  4. The Hebrews now make mortar, bricks, and work the field.
  5. But still their numbers grew and Pharaoh was scared of an uprising.

1:15-2:10 15 The king of Egypt spoke to two Hebrew midwives named Shiphrah and Puah:16 “When you are helping the Hebrew women give birth and you see the baby being born, if it’s a boy, kill him. But if it’s a girl, you can let her live.” 17 Now the two midwives respected God so they didn’t obey the Egyptian king’s order. Instead, they let the baby boys live. 18 So the king of Egypt called the two midwives and said to them, “Why are you doing this? Why are you letting the baby boys live?”19 The two midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because Hebrew women aren’t like Egyptian women. They’re much stronger and give birth before any midwives can get to them.” 20 So God treated the midwives well, and the people kept on multiplying and became very strong. 21 And because the midwives respected God, God gave them households of their own. 22 Then Pharaoh gave an order to all his people: “Throw every baby boy born to the Hebrews into the Nile River, but you can let all the girls live.” 2 Now a man from Levi’s household married a Levite woman. The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She saw that the baby was healthy and beautiful, so she hid him for three months.When she couldn’t hide him any longer, she took a reed basket and sealed it up with black tar. She put the child in the basket and set the basket among the reeds at the riverbank. The baby’s older sister stood watch nearby to see what would happen to him. Pharaoh’s daughter came down to bathe in the river, while her women servants walked along beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds, and she sent one of her servants to bring it to her. When she opened it, she saw the child. The boy was crying, and she felt sorry for him. She said, “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children.” Then the baby’s sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Would you like me to go and find one of the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” Pharaoh’s daughter agreed, “Yes, do that.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I’ll pay you for your work.” So the woman took the child and nursed it. 10 After the child had grown up, she brought him back to Pharaoh’s daughter, who adopted him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I pulled him out[a] of the water.”

EXPLANATION & INTERPRETATION: God uses women in Israel’s exodus & redemption story.

  1. Yes, this is the story of the birth of Moses. And frequently, we skim past the opening chapter to focus on the baby in a basket. But there are some significant stories we miss when we jump into the river before considering how the baby got there.
  2. 5 Women in Moses’ story: In this passage we learn about five women paramount to Moses becoming the man who would lead the Hebrews out of Egypt. Moses would have never gotten into the basket in the river or raised in Pharaoh’s house if it wasn’t for these five women.
    1. SAY THEIR NAMES:
      1. Two Midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, who defied Pharaoh’s orders and allowed Hebrew baby boys to live.
      2. A Mother, Jochebed, who gave birth to a son and hid him from the officials and eventually placed him in a basket in the river for his safety.
      3. A Sister, Miriam, who protected her baby brother and encouraged Pharaoh’s daughter to adopt him. She was clever enough to get her own mother to raise Moses ‘for’ Pharaoh’s Daughter.
      4. Pharaoh’s Daughter– Though we never learn her name, this Unnamed Woman, adopts a baby, in defiance of her father’s decree. She raises a Hebrew in Pharaoh’s household but waits until he is weaned thus allowing his beginning years to be with his biological family.

APPLICATION: To find yourself and others in the Big Redemption story and see your redemption coinciding with The Big Redemption.

  1. These five women were part of God’s redemption story for Israel and tantamount to the Exodus story. Yet we don’t tell their stories in Sunday School. They don’t have their own VeggieTales episode. And churches build a theology that invalidates their role in the Redemption of Israel or the Church as a whole.
  2. Redemption in the book: In A Wrinkle in Time we see Meg underestimated herself because of her flaws and overestimate Charles Wallace because of his talents. Meg doesn’t even consider that her flaws could become talents with practice and determination.
    1. It isn’t until they send the kids into a task without Mrs Who, Which, and Whatsit that Meg’s thoughts are challenged. Mrs. Whatsit gives each kid a gift to help them in the task at hand. To Meg, she gives her faults. This forces Meg forced to consider how her faults could help her.
  3. Our Little Redemption: I have said this before but I believe that hurt people hurt people. I believe the world is full of hurt people that can perpetuate unhealthy practices and teachings because of pain. Specifically, I believe our own insecurities can frequently lead to discrediting others as we discredit ourselves. We make this weird competition game, and God’s gospel gets muddled with jealousy.
    1. Ubuntu: My dream is we take part in changing the competition. My dream would be adapting a philosophy of Ubuntu. There has been a few different versions floating around on Facebook, but the general concept is of unity.
      1. Ubuntu[1]: “I am what I am because of who we all are.” (From a definition offered by Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee.)
        1. “A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.” — Archbishop Desmond Tutu
        2. “A traveller through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food and attend him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu, but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not address themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?” Nelson Mandela
      2. This philosophy removes the concept of competing for value. We can care for each other because we recognize our connectedness. We can fill our role in this world because everyone is filling a custom-made role. No one is competing for space to exist.
    2. Each a role, unique from others
      1. Humans don’t have to compete for God’s favor or love.
      2. Humans don’t have to compete for redemption.
      3. Humans don’t have to compete for a role in God’s redemption story.  
  4. The Big Redemption:
    1. For centuries, the church has been perpetuating damaging teachings by underestimating and undervaluing the role of women in sharing & living out the Gospel message. It wasn’t until I was a seminarian, that I realized that not every Christian church teaches the same perspective on women.
    2. Ultimately, the teachings boil down to two perspectives:
      1. Complementarians: God views men and women as separate, distinct, with different roles, though equally valued and loved. Men lead, women serve.
      2. Egalitarians: God values all humans equally and equips individuals based on their talents and gifting, not based on their gender. Anyone can lead or serve.
    3. You can find both perspectives in scripture. BUT when you consider that both arguments are present, it rather disassembles the complementarian perspective.

CONCLUSION:

  1. God uses all of us. God uniquely equips all of us.
    1. It doesn’t have to be a competition. It could be a collaboration. We work together, in the spirit of Ubuntu, as part of God’s Big Redemption story.
    2. We all may be in the midst of our little redemption stories but are still able to participate in the bigger picture. You don’t have to have God all figured out to be loved by God or to be part of the Big Redemption story.
  2. Benediction:
    1. Validate our own redemption story
    2. Validate other’s redemption story
    3. Take part in God’s redemption story and recognize it isn’t a competition of favor, reward, or holiness.  

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubuntu_philosophy#:~:text=with%20%22unhu%22.-,South%20Africa,of%20who%20we%20all%20are.%22&text=Nelson%20Mandela%20explained%20Ubuntu%20as,him%20food%20and%20attend%20him.