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WHO ME, LORD?





THE TITLE OF TODAY'S TALK IS: WHO ME, LORD?



LITTLE DID I KNOW AT THE TIME JOHN HARTLEY INVITED ME TO PREACH, EXACTLY WHAT I WOULD BE ACCEPTING. FIRST, I DIDN'T EVEN GIVE A THOUGHT ABOUT WHO WOULD BE PRESIDING. I HAVE BEEN WORSHIPPING WITH THIS CONGREGATION ONLY A YEAR AGO APRIL OF THIS YEAR. I HAVE KNOWN IRIS AND HER HUSBAND, GEORGE, DR. GEORGE OWEN, SINCE 1970. WE SERVED TOGETHER AS VOLUNTEERS IN A COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION. SO IT'S A PLEASANT SURPRISE TO BE SHARING THIS SERVICE WITH A FRIEND OF LONG ACQUAINTANCE. I DIDN'T KNOW THAT WOULD BE THE CASE WHEN I ACCEPTED THE INVITATION.



I ALSO DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT ANOTHER REMARKABLE COINCIDENCE WHEN I ACCEPTED JOHN'S INVITATION TO PREACH. WHEN JOHN FIRST APPROACHED ME ONE SUNDAY AFTER SERVICE, HE SAID HE HAD A FAVOR TO ASK. HE PREFACED HIS REQUEST BY SUGGESTING I DIDN'T HAVE TO GIVE HIM AN ANSWER RIGHT AWAY. JUST GIVE THE REQUEST SOME THOUGHT. TO TELL THE TRUTH, I WAS IN A RUSH AND ONLY HALF PAYING ATTENTION.



FIRST, JOHN ASKED ABOUT MY PLANS FOR THE MONTH OF JULY. WOULD I BE IN TORONTO? NOW, HE HAD MY ATTENTION. I HAD NO SPECIAL PLANS FOR JULY AND SAID SO. THEN, AS IF IT WERE JUST AN ORDINARY REQUEST, NOTHING SPECIAL, JOHN ASKED IF I WOULD TAKE ONE OF THE SERVICES. MY IMMEDIATE RESPONSE WAS SOMETHING LIKE: WHO? ME? ARE YOU SURE ABOUT THIS? DO YOU REALIZE WHAT YOU ARE ASKING ME TO DO? I'VE NEVER DONE THAT BEFORE. I DON'T KNOW IF I CAN DO THAT. "WELL, THINK ABOUT IT," JOHN SAID. "WE'LL TALK ABOUT IT FURTHER, IF YOU WANT, WHEN WE BOTH HAVE MORE TIME."



OF COURSE, AS YOU NOW KNOW, I ACCEPTED THE INVITATION. JOHN THEN GAVE ME A CHOICE OF TWO SUNDAYS. I CHOSE THIS ONE, GIVING THE SCRIPTURAL TEXTS OF TODAY ONLY A QUICK GLANCE. NOW, I THINK TO MYSELF, WHAT AM I GOING TO TALK ABOUT? TO MY SURPRISE, AS I READ THE TEXT OF TODAY'S FIRST LESSON FROM EXODUS, I WAS STRUCK FOR THE FIRST TIME BY WHAT MOSES MUST HAVE FELT WHEN GOD ASKED HIM TO DELIVER HIS PEOPLE FROM ISRAEL. WHO ME, LORD?



HOW INADEQUATE AND RELUCTANT MOSES MUST HAVE FELT AT THAT MOMENT. IN A WAY, IT WAS HOW I FELT WHEN JOHN ASKED ME TO PREACH. OF COURSE, THERE'S NO COMPARING WHAT I WAS BEING ASKED TO DO AND WHAT GOD WAS ASKING MOSES TO DO. JOHN'S REQUEST WAS MUCH EASIER. HOWEVER, COMPARISONS CAN BE UNFAIR. IT'S NOT REALLY FAIR TO COMPARE SOMEBODY'S FEELINGS OF INADEQUACY WITH SOMEBODY ELSE'S FEELINGS OF INADEQUACY. FEELINGS ARE FEELINGS AND CANNOT BE MEASURED. I AM SURE THAT EACH OF YOU AT SOME TIME HAS FELT INADEQUATE AND RELUCTANT WHEN GIVEN A SPECIAL ASSIGNMENT OR CHALLENGE. WE MIGHT TRY TO BEG OFF, LIKE MOSES, OR LIKE I TRIED TO DO WITH JOHN. THE FEELING IS BEST SUMMED UP IN THE WORDS: WHO ME, LORD?



WELL, THAT'S WHAT MOSES WAS FEELING: INADEQUATE AND RELUCTANT. GOD WAS CALLING HIM TO RESPOND TO THE AFFLICTIONS OF HIS SISTERS AND BROTHERS WHO WERE ENSLAVED IN EGYPT. WHO ME, LORD? HOW COULD MOSES RESCUE HIS PEOPLE? HE HAD NO ARMY. HE WASN'T A GREAT SPEAKER WHO COULD NEGOTIATE THE FREEDOM OF HIS PEOPLE. HE WAS FULLY AWARE OF HIS SHORT-COMINGS AND HIS INADEQUACY. HE MUST HAVE FELT A BIT OVERWHELMED AT THE ENORMITY OF THE REQUEST. BESIDES, MOSES WAS LIVING IN ANOTHER COUNTRY. HE WAS A SHEPHERD. HE WAS A SUCCESSFUL SHEPHERD, WITH WIFE AND FAMILY. HE WAS VERY WELL OFF, COMFORTABLE, YOU MIGHT SAY. HE HAD DONE WELL FOR HIMSELF. GOD WAS NOW ASKING HIM TO RISK ALL, TO LEAVE EVERYTHING BEHIND, AND TO GO TO A LAND HE WAS FORBIDDEN TO ENTER. HOW COULD HE, MOSES, ACCOMPLISH GOD'S WILL? HOW WOULD HE CONVINCE THE JEWS THAT GOD HAD SENT HIM TO DELIVER THEM, LET ALONE CONVINCE PHARAOH THAT GOD HAD SENT HIM? THE JEWS WERE PHARAOH'S SLAVES. MOSES WAS NO MATCH FOR A PHARAOH, A MAN WITH A LARGE AND POWERFUL ARMY AT HIS COMMAND. YOU ALL KNOW THE STORY. YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENED. GOD DELIVERED HIS PEOPLE, AS GOD HAD PROMISED THEM.



WHAT WE ARE CELEBRATING TODAY, IN THIS SERVICE OF WORSHIP, IS GOD'S VIGILANCE, GOD'S CONSTANT CARE, AND GOD'S PLAN FOR THE REDEMPTION OF ALL CREATION. GOD'S LOVE FOR US IS DEEP AND CONSTANT. GOD WANTS TO DELIVER HIS PEOPLE AND HIS CREATION FROM THE EVILS THAT BESET THEM: FROM OPPRESSIVE GOVERNMENTS, FROM POVERTY, FROM IGNORANCE, FROM VIOLENCE, FROM THE GLOBAL THREATS OF ACID RAIN, FROM THE GLOBAL RAPE AND POLLUTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT, FROM HUNGER, FROM THE THREAT OF WAR. WE ASK, LIKE THE JEWS IN EGYPTIAN BONDAGE, O LORD, WHERE ARE YOU? DELIVER US FROM THESE DANGERS, FROM THESE THREATS TO YOUR PEOPLE AND YOUR CREATION. SEND US LEADERS WHO WILL WORK TO ESTABLISH YOUR KINGDOM ON EARTH.



THE GOD PORTRAYED IN THE STORY OF MOSES IS NOT AN IMPERSONAL DEITY. THE EARLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH WAS PLAGUED WITH MEN WHO BELIEVED AND TAUGHT THAT GOD IS AN IMPERSONAL GOD. THIS TEACHING HAS FOUND ITS WAY RECENTLY IN WRITINGS AND TEACHINGS OF THE NEW AGE MOVEMENTS. THE GOD OF MOSES, LIKE THE GOD WHOM WE ARE CALLED TO WORSHIP IN THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH, IS A GOD WHO WITNESSES OUR STRUGGLES AND SUFFERING AND WHO CHOOSES TO INTERVENE. GOD CALLED MOSES TO INTERVENE ON HIS BEHALF. MOSES WAS GIVEN THE MISSION TO FREE THE SLAVES AND GOD PROMISED TO BE WITH HIM, TO HELP HIM.



AGAIN, MOSES LOOKED AT HIS LIFE AND THE MISTAKES HE HAD MADE. HE HAD SEEN AN INJUSTICE AND IN TRYING TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT HE HAD KILLED ONE OF PHARAOH'S MEN. HE TRIED TO COVER IT UP. HE WAS FOUND OUT, FELL FROM PHARAOH'S FAVOR AND WAS SENT INTO EXILE, FORBIDDEN EVER RETURN TO HIS HOMELAND.



WELL MIGHT MOSES HAVE ASKED, "WHY ME?", SAYING TO GOD: "I AM NOBODY. HOW CAN I GO TO THE KING AND BRING THE ISRAELITES OUT OF EGYPT?" WELL, MOSES WAS NOT SO UNLIKELY A CANDIDATE AS HE MIGHT HAVE THOUGHT. WHO AMONG THE HEBREWS HAD A MORE INTIMATE KNOWLEDGE OF THE WORKINGS OF PHARAOH'S COURT AND THE WAY NEGOTIATIONS TOOK PLACE THERE? WHO AMONG THE HEBREWS KNEW MORE ABOUT DESERT SURVIVAL? WHO HAD SEEN AND FELT INJUSTICE ANY MORE STRONGLY THAN MOSES? WHO HAD ALSO HAD THE COURAGE TO TRY TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT? WAS MOSES SO UNLIKELY A CANDIDATE FOR GOD TO SEND AS AN INSTRUMENT OF HIS SALVATION FOR THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL?



PSALM 103 REMINDS US OF OUR GOD'S QUALITIES. FAR FROM BEING AN IMPERSONAL DEITY, OUR GOD IS A GOD WHO FORGIVES, HEALS, REDEEMS, CROWNS US WITH LOVE AND MERCY, SATISFIES US WITH GOOD THINGS, RENEWS OUR ENTHUSIASM AND WORKS JUSTICE FOR THE OPPRESSED. THE PSALMIST REMINDS US THAT GOD IS MERCIFUL AND GRACIOUS TO US, DOESN'T BEAR GRUDGES AGAINST US. GOD'S LOVE FOR US DEFIES WORDS TO DESCRIBE IT. IN THE WORDS OF THE PSALM: "AS FAR AS EAST IS FROM WEST, AS HIGH AS THE SKY IS ABOVE THE EARTH."



MOSES HAD FAITH IN HIS GOD AND THAT FAITH WAS REWARDED. TRUE FAITH ALWAYS SEEMS TO FIND ITS REWARD. AS DISCIPLES OF JESUS, WE HAVE INHERITED NOT ONLY A FAITH THAT BELIEVES IN THE EXISTENCE OF GOD. IT IS ALSO A FAITH THAT TRUSTS IN GOD, ONE THAT BELIEVES IN GOD'S DIVINE PROVIDENCE. THE SCRIPTURES ARE SIMPLY A RECORD OF THAT PROVIDENCE, ESPECIALLY TODAY'S READING FROM EXODUS. TO BELIEVE IN DIVINE PROVIDENCE IS TO BELIEVE THAT GOD CARES AND PROVIDES FOR OUR NEEDS, THAT GOD IS PRESENT IN HIS CREATION. GOD DOES NOT ABANDON HIS PEOPLE OR HIS CREATION.



WE SEE GOD'S DIVINE PROVIDENCE IN CALLING MOSES TO BE AN INSTRUMENT IN THE REDEMPTION OF THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL FROM THEIR EGYPTIAN ENSLAVEMENT. IS THE DELIVERY OF THE EASTERN EUROPEAN PEOPLES OF TODAY FROM THEIR POLITICAL BONDAGE NO LESS A TESTIMONY TO GOD'S DIVINE PROVIDENCE THAN THE DELIVERANCE OF THE JEWS FROM THEIR ENSLAVEMENT TO PHARAOH?



WE SEE GOD'S DIVINE PROVIDENCE IN SENDING HIS SON, JESUS CHRIST, TO DELIVER US FROM OUR BONDAGE TO EVIL AND TO CALL US TO WORK WITH HIM AND THROUGH HIM FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD. FROM TIME TO TIME HE SENDS US A JOHN XXIII, A MOTHER THERESA, A GORBACHEV, AN ALBERT SCHWEITZER, A PASTEUR, A MADAME CURIE, AND THE LIST COULD GO ON AND ON.



LIKE MOSES OF OLD, WE ARE CALLED TO TRUST IN GOD AND TO BE HIS INSTRUMENT IN WHATEVER WAY WE CAN, USING WHATEVER TALENTS AND GIFTS GOD HAS GIVEN US TO WORK FOR JUSTICE IN A WORLD IN WHICH THE WHEAT AND WEEDS, LIKE GOOD AND EVIL, LIVE SIDE BY SIDE. DO WE, LIKE MOSES, SAY, "WHO ME?" OR ARE WE WILLING TO RISK SHARING OURSELVES AND THE GIFTS GOD HAS GIVEN US SO THAT THE WORLD MAY BE A BETTER PLACE BECAUSE WE HAVE WORKED THAT GOD'S WILL MIGHT BE DONE? CAN WE CATCH A VISION OF GOD'S "NEW CREATION" AND COMMIT OURSELVES TO WORK PATIENTLY FOR ITS REALIZATION?



I SUPPOSE WE COULD SAY, WHAT CAN I DO? WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO ABOUT ALL THE PROBLEMS OF THE WORLD. HOUSING, POVERTY, UNEMPLOYMENT, POLLUTION. BY OURSELVES, ADMITTEDLY, WE CAN PROBABLY DO VERY LITTLE. I'M TOO BUSY; I'M TOO OLD; I'M TOO TIRED. TOGETHER AND WITH FAITH IN THE PROMISE OF GOD TO BE OUR GOD AND HIS PROMISE TO BE WITH US ALWAYS, IN ALL OUR FAILURES AND TRIUMPHS, OUR SUFFERINGS AND OUR JOYS, WE CAN PROBABLY DO MORE THAN WE DARE IMAGINE.



WHAT IS THIS WORK OF THE "NEW CREATION"? IT IS THE WORK OF HUSBANDS, WIVES, TEACHERS, NURSES, PHYSICIANS, POLITICIANS, ALL GOD'S PEOPLE, EACH WITHIN HIS OR HER OWN CAPACITY AND WITH GOD'S HELP TO WORK FOR JUSTICE IN THE WORLD, TO HAVE COMPASSION FOR THE LONELY AND THE SUFFERING, TO SHARE WITH THE HUNGRY AND THE POOR, TO DEFEND THE RIGHTS OF THE HELPLESS, THE DISABLED, THE MINORITIES, THE DISENFRANCHISED OF THIS WORLD. THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT SCRIPTURE ASSURES US THAT GOD'S PRESENCE WILL BE WITH ALL WHO ARE CALLED TO BE HIS PEOPLE, THE INSTRUMENTS OF GOODNESS. SOME DAY GOD'S PURPOSES WILL TRULY TRIUMPH.



IN THE PARABLE OF THE WHEAT AND WEEDS, WE ARE REMINDED THAT THE WORLD IS A PLACE WHERE GOOD AND EVIL LIVE SIDE BY SIDE. WE ARE ALSO GIVEN A MESSAGE OF HOPE, THAT GOD'S REIGN IS INEVITABLE. JESUS ENCOURAGES US TO BE TOLERANT AND PATIENT. THE REALM OF GOD IS NOT AN INSTANT HAPPENING, BUT A GRADUAL PROCESS. EVIL IS WITH US, YES. BUT THE MESSAGE IS THAT EVIL CAN BE OVERCOME.



THERE WAS A TIME WHEN THERE WAS NO SOCIAL SECURITY. THERE WAS A TIME WHEN WORKERS HAD NO INSURANCE PLANS TO PROVIDE FOR THEIR FAMILIES IN THE CASE OF DEATH. THERE WERE NO WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION PLANS, NO HEALTH INSURANCE FOR THE ILL. ONCE, THERE WERE NO CHILD LABOR LAWS TO PROTECT CHILDREN FROM BEING ABUSED OR LABOR UNIONS TO WORKERS FROM BEING EXPLOITED. PEOPLE LIVED IN FEAR OF A WHOLE ARRAY OF COMMUNICABLE DISEASES. WOMEN COULD NOT VOTE OR HOLD PUBLIC OFFICE OR ATTEND UNIVERSITIES. MANY OF THESE EVILS HAVE BEEN OVERCOME. BUT GOD STILL CALLS US TO SHARE OURSELVES AND OUR GIFTS CONTINUING TO FIGHT EVIL, TO HELP IN THE WORK OF REDEMPTION. THERE IS STILL WIDESPREAD POVERTY IN THE WORLD. CHILD ABUSE AND CHILD NEGLECT IS AN EVIL STILL WITH US. MORE THAN HALF THE WORLD'S POPULATION STILL CANNOT READ AND WRITE. MANY COUNTRIES ARE WOEFULLY SHORT OF HOSPITAL FACILITIES, PHYSICIANS, NURSES. CHILDREN IN MANY COUNTRIES ARE DYING FOR LACK OF PROPER MEDICAL CARE. WHOLE NATIONS ARE THREATENED WITH HUNGER. THERE IS STILL NEGLECT AND ABUSE OF THE ELDERLY. SURELY, THESE EVILS TOO ONE DAY WILL BE OVERCOME.



LET US PRAY. ALMIGHTY GOD GRANT US THE GRACE TO RESPOND TO YOUR CALL TO PARTAKE IN THE GREAT WORK OF REDEMPTION, GRANT THAT WE MAY BE INSTRUMENTS OF YOUR WILL ON EARTH, IMBUE US WITH A RENEWED VISION OF YOUR CREATION AND THE GRACE PERSEVERE THROUGH ALL SUFFERING IN THE HOPE OF THE GLORY TO COME.