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Sermon delivered by Pastor Ray from Sunday, March 29, 2020.  (adapted for posting)

 

I am beginning to understand what it feels like to be in bondage. The coronavirus has become like our jailer. It has separated us from one another, pushed us into solitary confinement and locked us up in chains of fear and anxiety. If we do venture out of our bubble cell, we are haunted by thoughts that the virus will find us and send us deeper into the pit. We are extremely aware of what we touch and where we put our hands after we touch something. We are extremely aware of the people around us—the person who stands too close, the person who coughs, the person who wipes their nose and then touches the produce in the grocery store. We feel completely vulnerable. There seems to be no protection no matter how many times we wash our hands and sanitize our door knobs. And there seems no end to the news of suffering and grief.

Like the people of Israel who were bound in the chains of slavery (Exodus 2), I’ve cried out to God for deliverance from my chains and for the removal of the jailor. “Lord, save us! Break the chains that bind us!”  But God is silent.  There is no answer. Nothing changes. In fact, the situation gets worse every day. More people get sick. More people die. And with every new statistic, the chains tighten around me. I am not just chained by isolation and the chains of fear and anxiety, but new chains appear, taking hold of my soul—chains of helplessness and hopelessness, chains of despair and abandonment. I was having trouble sensing God’s love and presence. I prayed, but there was no answer to my prayers.

But here’s the thing: God is silent until God speaks. After years of seeming abandonment by God, God appeared to Moses and spoke: “I have heard. I have remembered. I am aware of the suffering. I have come down.” (Exodus 3:7-9) The Israelites, I’m sure, questioned God’s love, God’s care. They may have even questioned God’s very existence. But just because God is silent, doesn’t mean God isn’t there with us, aware of our bondage and the chains.

My friends, the story of the Israelites teaches us that though our situation is difficult and challenging and though we are bound by invisible chains, God has NOT abandoned us. God hears us. God sees us. God knows our suffering. God remembers God’s covenant of love. And just as God came down to break the chains of suffering, so God will come down to break the chains. God will help us. God will deliver us. God always acts according to God’s plans—plans to give us a future and a hope.

But here’s another thing I don’t want us to miss: God told Moses, “I have come down to rescue them,” but the next thing God said is strange: “NOW YOU GO. I’m sending you. You must lead my people out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:10)

When God comes down to rescue God’s people, God raises up an agent of liberation.
God came down and raised up Moses, sending him to liberate the Israelites from their bondage. God came down and raised up Esther, sending her to the King to protect the Jews from annihilation. God (literally) came down in Jesus  and announced freedom for the captives free and good news to the poor. (Luke 4:16-22)

So, who is God raising up as agents of liberation now?  I believe God is coming down and is raising up the church by the power of the Spirit to break the chains of injustice and lead God’s children to God’s new heaven and new earth. Filled with the Spirit of God, we are the people with the power. We are the people with the hope. We are the people, armed with the powerful name of Jesus to break every chain.

In the name of Jesus, we break the chains of fear with faith. In the name of Jesus, we break the chains of despair with hope. In the name of Jesus, we break the chains of hoarding with generosity. In the name of Jesus, we break the chains of misinformation with the Truth. In the name of Jesus, we break the chains of violence with justice and peace. We break the chains of disease. We break the chains of poverty. We are people empowered and equipped by God to do the liberating work of God.

So, let the church rise! Let the church hear the call of Christ. Let the church stand in the gap to intercede for the least and the lost. Let the church share. Let the church be good news for the poor and the oppressed. Let the church rise up to do the liberating work of God!

Amen!

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