Recent weeks have brought lectionary texts from Exodus along with earthquakes, Hurricane Irene and other extreme weather. There is always somebody ready to interpret natural disasters as messages from God. One politician (in jest?) opined that nature’s recent extremes were a message from God telling congress to rein in spending. This seems an opportune time to preach about the plagues in Exodus. Interested in giving it a try?
A Contest of Kings
A Sermon on Exodus 5:1-6:1, 6:28-8:19; 12:29-40
Pharaoh tightened his grip on the Israelites. “Who is ‘the LORD’?” he demanded to know. “This ‘LORD’ of yours is irrelevant! I’m king here. I’m in charge here. I’m god here. No! I will not let Israel go!” And Pharaoh tightened his grip on a people whose spirits were already broken.
It was submit or die. Try to fulfill the Egyptians’ impossible demands or die. The Israelites were totally preoccupied with survival. They were exhausted. There was no time and no energy to hope, no resources to dream on. No vision. The way things were was the way they would always be.
And what happened when Moses and Aaron stirred things up? Things got worse, that’s what! Maybe Pharaoh was right. Maybe the Lord was irrelevant. Now they were struggling under even more cruelty, more brutality, more beatings and more blood, and the Lord didn’t seem to be lifting a finger to help.
We don’t have to work too hard to imagine what the iron fist of Pharaoh looks like and what that grip feels like, and what a broken spirit is. It’s the stranglehold of addiction. It’s the prison of being dependent on an abusive spouse. It’s the overwhelming weight of injustices, millions and millions of people unable to afford health insurance in the richest nation on earth, to name just one. Corporations paying CEOs millions and millions, while moving jobs offshore and paying little or no taxes, to name another. When Pharaoh is in charge we can’t imagine any other way to live except by high oil consumption and dependence on terrorist-producing regimes like that of Saudi Arabia. When Pharaoh’s in charge, helpless hungry people starve even though there’s plenty of food to go around in this world. Pharaoh’s in charge whenever people shake their heads and say, “Nothing’s going to change. All we can do is what we always did.” (more…)