The Long (and Final) Goodbye
Below is the final message I shared with my campus family today. It was a good and difficult time filled with memories, laughter and tears.
Last week we spoke of Joseph, his father Jacob and how Joseph’s entire family came to live in Egypt. Joseph’s generation passed away followed by many other generations. In time a Pharaoh, who didn’t know the story of Joseph, rose to power. This Pharaoh came to fear and despise Jacob and Joseph’s offspring whom had multiplied greatly, became very numerous. The Egyptians began to worry these “outsiders” would someday take over the land. To keep this from happening Pharaoh took away their freedom made them slaves.
In the beginning of the book of Exodus God hears the cry of these descendants, now slaves, known as Hebrews and raises up a servant named Moses. God calls Moses to lead God’s people out of bondage into a new land, a new place where they could worship God and live in freedom.
However, even after God showed his mighty power through great miracles and made a promise the Hebrews would be God’s chosen people they would not listen to God. They would not trust God to do as he promised; lead them to a new place. These people complained about everything! They accused Moses, God’s servant, of not knowing what he was doing. They missed Egypt and wanted to go back. They grumbled in their hearts, became angry, doubted God in times of difficulty, and didn’t believe God could do what he promised. They could not move into God’s future promise because they clung to past familiarity.
Ultimately, their lack of faith, holding on to the past and fears of the future cost them dearly. God led them into no man’s land to meander aimlessly until the first generation died out. Instead it would be their children who would receive the benefits of the new land, the new place God had promised.
After most of this generation passed away a new one stood on the border of God’s Promised Land ready to go, to believe what the former generation could not. To journey on to this new place they had to leave the past behind, which included parents they had buried, places they were familiar with, lands they once called home and step into the next place God had prepared.
As they ready themselves Moses addresses them…
Moses says;…if you’ll follow your God, heart and soul, and listen to His voice and obey His commands and remember His regulations, which are written in this book.
11 What I’m commanding you today isn’t too difficult for you; it’s not out of reach.12 It’s not up in the sky, so you don’t have to say, “Who will go up into heaven and get it for us and tell us what it is, so we can obey it?” 13 It’s not across the sea, so you don’t have to say, “Who will go beyond the watery abyss and get it for us and tell us what it is, so we can obey it?” 14 No, the words you need to be faithful to the Lord are very close to you. They are in your mouth if you will speak of them and in your heart if you will treasure them.
15 Look, I give you two choices today: you can have life with all the good things it brings, or death and all the bad things it brings. 16 If you do what God commands you today and love the Lord your God; if you live as He wants you to, if you obey His commands, regulations and judgments, then you’ll live. He will bless you with a new place, give you a new land.
17 But if your heart turns away and you don’t listen, if you go astray and you bow down to other gods and worship them,18 then today I assure you you’ll be destroyed. You’ll not inhabit this place; this new land will not be yours.
19 The Lord is giving you the choice today between life and death, between being blessed or being cursed. Choose life, so that you and your family may live! 20 If you love the Lord your God and listen to His voice and always remain loyal to Him, for He is your life, then you’ll be able to thrive in this new place the Lord has promised you.
This must’ve been a bitter sweet time for Moses. He is 120 years old but is still very capable of leading. However, Moses is also human and flawed. He has made mistakes and God has revealed to him he will not be journeying with this generation to this new place. Moses accepts this and after addressing the people he anoints others to lead them where he cannot.
God does give Moses the assurances of his faithfulness by taking him up a mountain and showing him the new land, the new place God’s people will make their home.
Moses climbed up from the plains of Moab to the top of Mount Nebo, to the peak at Mount Pisgah on the east side of the Jordan River across from Jericho. The Lord showed him the whole land that would be Israel’s territory: Gilead as far as Dan, 2 all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all of Judah’s territory to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, 3 the southern desert, and the basin in the valley of Jericho, the “city of palms,” as far as Zoar.
The Lord (to Moses): 4 This is the land I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I told them, “I’ll give this place to this generation. I’ve let you see it, even though you will not be going with them.”
5 So Moses, the Lord’s servant, died and was buried in a valley in the land of Moab. 8 The children of Israel stayed in the plains of Moab and mourned for Moses, until the grieving period was over.
Today, in many ways, we are experiencing this story in the book Deuteronomy. It is a day of decisions. It is a time when we must choose this new way or choose to hold on to the past and what is familiar.
I have served this campus church for 5 ½ years and my history pales in comparison to some of you who have been at Lebanon Valley Nazarene much longer. I can only speak from my experience and from what many of you have shared with me. There have been some wonderful times and some rough times. Moments we’ll treasure forever and memories we’d like to forget! But God has always been faithful.
In many ways we have wandered in the wilderness for these past 8 months wondering where the path would lead us. Though unsure of the way we now stand on the border of something new and unknown.
The choice becomes; do we leave the past behind, the good and the bad, highlights and low times, beautiful and less desirable events and journey into this new place, or hold on to what was, complain, grumble, fear and miss the new thing God wants to do and is doing.
Crossing the border, going to this new place requires leaving some we love behind, familiar surroundings and a place we’ve called our home. It won’t be easy but life rarely is and God is always faithful.
In some ways I see myself as Moses in this story…give me time to explain before you start rolling your eyes and thinking; “The Pastor really does need this sabbatical if he’s comparing himself to Moses!” It’s in very small ways but I maybe sense what Moses was experiencing in this selection of text.
Like Moses, I have set the choices before you today and beg you to choose life.
Like Moses, I ask you to trust God and walk his way. He will not abandon the work of his hands.
Like Moses, I have had a group of leaders and supporters who have walked with me as I have led and who will go with you as we separate.
Like Moses, I stand on the border of this new and unknown territory but cannot go with you.
Like Moses my heart hurts today as I see my dear friends and loved ones prepare to continue on without me.
I wonder if Moses regretted his actions and hasty words which kept him from continuing the journey. I want you to know I regret not being able to do more to keep this campus church open and this from being our last Sunday. I am sorry I could not lead in such a way this could have been avoided and to keep this wonderful community whole and moving forward.
This deep sadness is tempered by God’s assurance that he keeps his promises even through the weaknesses and shortcomings of leaders. I stand here today seeing, though unable to experience, God’s faithful hand which will guide you and lead you to a new place filled with his blessings!
Hopefully, unlike Moses, I will not be buried here today but like Moses I can rest knowing God is faithful.
Today, in the midst of our parting and pain, let us choose to celebrate the future unknown and not cling to the old which is passing away.
The Greatness and the Goodness of God
1 I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
2 Every day I will bless you,
and praise your name forever and ever.
3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.
4 One generation shall tell of your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
8 The Lord is gracious and merciful;
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 The Lord is good to all,
and his compassion is over all that he has made.
The Lord is faithful in all his words,
and gracious in all his deeds.
14 The Lord upholds all who are falling,
and raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand,
satisfying the desire of every living thing.
17 The Lord is just in all his ways,
and kind in all his doings.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
He also hears their cry, and saves them.
20 The Lord watches over all who love him.
Posted on February 23, 2014, in Mindfulness and tagged #comfort, #death, #ego, #God, #humility, #inspire, #journey, #kindness, #Lectionary, #life, #mindful, #poems #poems #poet #poetry, #suffering, #wisdom, Bible, Christianity, Religion and Spirituality. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.