Playing Small

October 29, 2017

Series: October 2017

Category: Faith

Speaker: Rob McClellan

Deuteronomy 34:1-12

1Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the LORD showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, 2all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, 3the Negeb, and the Plain — that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees — as far as Zoar. 4The LORD said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.” 5Then Moses, the servant of the LORD, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. 6He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day. 7Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated. 8The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended.

9Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the LORD had commanded Moses.

10Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face. 11He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the LORD sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, 12and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel. THIS IS HOLY WISDOM, HOLY WORD. THANKS BE TO GOD.

  Playing Small

Finally, the people of God have made it. Led through the wilderness of uncertainty they now stand at the precipice overlooking the promised land.  I am, of course, speaking of our arrival at the end of stewardship season.  Today, we dedicate our pledges to support this church.  In a little bit, you will have a chance to bring your pledge card forward.  If you have already pledged or you would like to promise to pledge, you have a card on which we encourage you to write a prayer for this congregation, for its wellbeing, for what it might become.  It is only together that we will make it to the promised land of what God has in store for Westminster.  We are on the cusp.

Moses was on the cusp; Moshe in Hebrew, which means “to draw out,” recalling how as a tiny baby he was drawn out of the river. Moshe who led his people from captivity to freedom is given the chance to view the promised land, but not to enter it.  Disappointment is part of our story.  You know that.  So is accountability.  Long before, when the people had cried out for water, God came to Moshe and told him to speak to the rock and out of it would flow water. Moshe instead struck the rocks and water flowed (Num. 20:9-12).  Interesting how God remembers when Moshe resorted to force rather than trusting in the power of the word, Moshe who earlier killed one of the Egyptian oppressors.

I can only imagine the bitter sweetness of seeing what has been worked for, prayed for, lived for, and yet not to be allowed to enter in. Moshe, literally, falls just short.  Commentators focus on the lavish praise given him at the moment of his death, “Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moshe,” they remind us the passage says (Deut. 34:10), perhaps because they, too, want to gloss over the disappointment.

The task of leading the people into the promised land falls to Joshua, in Hebrew is Yeshua, meaning “Yahweh (the name for God) is salvation.”  If you read Deuteronomy in Greek, the name is slightly different…it’s Ἰησοῦς…in English, Jesus. Yes, Jesus is named for the one to whom the mantle was passed to bring the people into wellbeing, into true freedom, from oppressive rule, from empire, into salvation. 

Do we know that we, too, carry the mantle of blessing?

This blessing comes like prayed for rain upon a scorching earth. Have you seen this video of American Samoan firefighters who came to help us in California?  They come down from the hillside with their tools, singing a hymn in their native tongue to a tune that will be familiar to you, at the end shouting, even in the midst of devastation, “God is good. All the time.  All the time, God is good.  Good is great.  Everyday.  Everyday.  God is great.”      

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They came to save us. They came to save you.  Isn’t it nice to know you don’t walk alone?

Now some community raised these men in the faith when they are children. Who is there to raise ours?  There are many wonderful institutions and people out there; none are charged singularly with teaching our children this.  This is why we give to the church, to be sure the values we hold as dear will be passed on, we who are:

Spiritually exploring – unafraid to explore, question, challenge, be expansive, even unorthodox, because that is a sign of a vibrant faith.

We who are open and inclusive – not only are we unthreatened by various ways expressing love, but we recognize it is in diverse expressions that we see a fuller expression of God’s love.

We who are committed to a faith that is applicable – we believe the Spirit equips us to put our faith to use in daily life, individual and collective.

We who are welcoming of families and children – we recognize all that faces raising young ones and we are committed to providing not just a moral/spiritual basis, but a set of relationships that will serve people as they grow. This is one way we serve the world.

We who are grounded in Christ – with a wide array of beliefs, we remain grounded in Jesus who embodies for us love made manifest.

Remembering the importance of humility, this church does no one a favor by “playing small” to use Marianne Williamson’s words. We must not be afraid to dream big and allow for God’s big dream to be made manifest in us.  Our mission in Marin is neither insignificant nor redundant.  It is essential, so please give.  Give, not only think of what you can do, but realizing that perhaps your neighbor cannot for reasons you cannot see.

I invite you now to come forward now and place your pledge and/or your prayer on the table to be blessed. You don’t have to form a single file line or even two; it will be messy.  In the kingdom of heaven, people shall come to God in piles…If you need someone to help you bring it forward, just hold it in the air – your sister or brother in Christ will carry it for you…

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Let us pray,

Holy One, it was in a burst of generosity that the universe was born. In you was light, and that light has been the life of all things. 

You are the inspiration behind the wonder of every scientist. You are the calculus of the poet’s observation.  You are the fire in the prophet’s belly.

Everywhere we turn we see the abundant ways in which you have provided, food which grows from the earth, water which falls from the sky, beauty which inspires the heart to care.

As if to leave no doubt, you indeed gave yourself, in Jesus Christ, gift wrapped in swaddling clothes so that we might have a lasting image of your generosity.

In this spirit, we are joyful for the chance to take our place among those who walk through the wilderness propelled by a burning bush and sent to put out a fire, among those who bring water to the scorched earth and thirsty people, among those who sing of your goodness, of your Alleluia, of your praise, even in the midst of destruction.

We dedicate these gifts and this church to you, Amen.