Anglican Church of Australia Innisfail/Tully

Pentecost 19  2017


We perhaps read the extract from Exodus this morning with some amusement. We remember that old familiar saying when the cat's away, the mice will play. Without supervision, people will do as they please, especially in disregarding or breaking rules.

You can imagine the gossip and innuendos building up in the Israeli community. God and Moses have brought them out of Egypt against their better judgement and they are now languishing in the desert without regular supplies of food and water. Their leader Moses has gone off to consult with God. The people, have had enough. It is time to make gods who will do their will not take them out into the desert, to utter disaster.

Very little has changed down through the ages. People of today seek to set aside the God who has protected them and cared for them in favour of gods who will obey their will, gods to whom they do not have to be accountable. These are gods such us luxuries, money, iPhones, sport and freedom of living an unaccountable life. In essence this can be a life where in we do not have to go to the trouble of caring for and loving our neighbour and God. It is a life where we think we are not accountable to our neighbour or God. Nothing could be further from the truth; each of us will be accountable to God whether we like it or not. We can build all the false gods we like and bow down before them and worship them, but they will not intercede on our behalf to the one true God.

In the case of Israel, God was exceedingly angry with the people who worshipped the false gods and he remonstrated with Moses:  
Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.’

God had given up on these people and was prepared to put them aside and start again to build a new nation based on his faithful servant Moses. These were a people whom God loved and interceded on their behalf with the Egyptians, but enough was enough. The lesson we can draw from this is that even though God loves us and has sent his son as a sacrifice for us, we cannot ignore God in favour of our own gods. We will be accountable.

In this case God relented in the face of Moses’ skillful intercession. Moses uses God’s own world to plead the case of the unfaithful nation. Herein lies a lesson for us all. God was determined to deal heavily with the Israelis but he relented at the request of his servant Moses. At times we may feel that things are hopeless, but just as Moses did, we can seek out God and ask him to deal with our problems. God not only sent his Son to be a sacrifice for us but sent Jesus to intercede for us. Just as Moses used God’s promises to intercede for the Israelis Jesus will intercede for us in the face of our distress.

Prayer is a powerful tool and the lesson from Exodus should be a demonstration for us of the power of uplifting issues through Jesus Christ to the Lord God. God is prepared to listen to his people no matter the problem. We should take great comfort from this.

Paul in his letter to the Philippians extols the value of prayer as he calls on his people:
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

On many occasion we feel the pressure of this modern world. In circumstances where things do not go as we would have expected or wished, we fret and are anxious. In this society this is reflected in the growing occurrence of mental health issues and its cost to our economy and our relationships. Paul teaches that this is unnecessary. We should simply put our cares and worries at the foot of the cross. Hand all our earthly cares over to Jesus and wait on the Lord.

In this Paul calls us to continually rejoice in the Lord and he even repeats this advice. But he is appealing to us to rejoice in the Lord in order that we might be an example to the community. If our gentleness is evident to all, our way of life will be alluring to our fellow man.

It is interesting in this chapter that Paul does not concentrate on the theological issues of our Christian lives but on our relationships with one another and with society.

Paul calls on us to stand firm in the way of the Lord. We must help and support each other just as he called on the Philippians to support Euodia and Syntyche (sintachee). Even though as Christians we may at some point face strained relationships, Paul calls on each of us to put these aside through the love of our brothers and sisters. If we do these things the peace of God will transcend upon us and our community, what a blessing this can be. Paul sums all this up in the following verse:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

This in a nutshell is what our Christian approach should be. Paul is calling on us to think about these things, to ponder on these issues. So that what is in our hearts may be reflected in the way we live our lives. Purity and love will flow from our actions as reflected in the following poem by Michelle Lowndes.

The Eternal Virtues Of God

Concentrate on things that are real,
Things of God and not of this world
Worldly hopes and dreams will fade,
Along with the flowers that wither away
The better things worth thinking of
Are the treasures found in the word of God
Things that are true, noble and right,
Wholesome and pure, lovely and kind
These things have virtue and deserve our praise
They are eternal treasures that will never fade
These are the qualities we should all long for
And are the lasting treasures of the Lord
For flowers do fade and eventually die,
But God's holy word remains forever alive.
© By M.S.Lowndes

Paul Beasley