But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
O my help, come quickly to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the sword,
my life from the power of the dog!
When God directed him to take on a new job, Moses responded with several objections. "Suppose they won't believe that the Lord wants me to do this?" After viewing a demonstration of several signs that would make the Egyptians willing to believe, Moses then offered another disqualification--he was not an eloquent speaker. The Lord assured him, "I'll teach you." Moses, still unwilling, pleaded with the Lord to send someone else. The Lord said Moses could take his brother Aaron with him.
When Moses did go to Pharaoh and ask that the Israelites be allowed to take off work long enough to celebrate a festival, the Pharaoh responded negatively and even directed that their work be made more difficult to perform. The people became very angry with Moses and Aaron.
Moses had had to leave Egypt because of a crime he had committed. He's now living somewhere with a family and a job. God directs him to go somewhere dangerous and to perform a task that he doesn't consider himself competent to do. What would any of us say to God under these circumstances? How is it that some people are willing to leave comfortable places to do really hard things?
The pharaoh could not identify with the needs of the large immigrant population. Those in authority often can not get too worried about what the lower classes are going through.
God sent Moses and Aaron to help their people. When the immediate consequences were negative, they turned on Moses and Aaron. People we are trying to help may be incapable of taking the long view when the short view right in front of them is so terrible.
Jesus reminds them of the joy of recovering those who stray from the flock. Then, he talks about the difficulty of living with those who don't leave. "Here's what you can expect: some church members are going to treat you badly. Don't ignore the problem. Even if you are not at fault, you still have the responsibility to mend the relationship."
Here's the hard part. Start by going directly to the offender. Don't go around telling everybody else how much you are hurt. First, tell the one who hurt you.
Then, if that doesn't work, and only if that doesn't work, share your concerns with a couple of other church members. If that doesn't work, and only if that doesn't work, then you may tell others in the church about the problem.
If the offender won't listen to the whole church, then treat that person like a Gentile and a tax collector.
Notice the irony in this last instruction by remembering how Jesus treated Gentiles and tax collectors.
Thinking about forgiveness and the congregatingness (congregatability?) of the congregation, I read Kathleen Norris' typically wonderful poem, Mrs. Schneider in Church:
Here's the first and last stanza:
It's the willingness to sing
that surprises me:
out of tune,
we drag the organist along
and sing, knowing we can't,
and our quite ordinary voices
carry us over.
Now we are changed,
making a noise
greater than ourselves,
to be worthy of the lesson:
all duly noted,
(Excerpted from Cries of the Spirit, Beacon Press, ed. by Marilyn Sewell
Psalm 22 begins in despair, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" It lifts up complaints of mistreatment and mockery and threats. And, intertwined with these laments, are words of remembrance of what God and done and a call to God to do more.
Verse 22 begins with "Save me" but then shifts to "You have rescued me."
How do rescued people respond?
Thank God and make those thanks public. Give thanks in the middle of the congregation.
Those people present there at that place will hear of God's work. And not only them. All of the families of the earth will know what God has done and what God can do. People living now and people to come.
Whose praise of the Lord have you heard? Who has heard your praise of the Lord?
Prayer for Today: On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, pray the Kaddish.