Thursday, August 25, 2011

Confessions of a Pastoral Nerd

Our lectionary readings this week (which technically were last week's readings) are Exodus 1:8-2:10, Romans 12:1-8, and Matthew 16:13-20, which can be found here.

Remember Jeff Foxworthy's "You might be a Redneck if..." jokes that were so popular a few years ago? Well...I have a variation on the theme:

"You might be a Pastoral nerd if you have spent the last year being excited about the arrival of September 2011, when you will get to preach for two or three months on the book of Exodus."

Seriously. When I realized the Fall 2011 Year A Lectionary takes us on a lengthy journey through Exodus, I could not have been more excited. Why, you ask? Well, many reasons, and I will give you just a few below:

1. Exodus brings us face to face with the great questions. You all have known me long enough now to know that I love asking questions, and Exodus' narrative takes many of the major questions of our faith head-on. Genesis may be the first book of the Bible and allow us to dip our toes into some of these issues, but Exodus is where the story really begins and the questions begin to flow...questions such as, "Who is this God?" "What does this God care about?" "What is the human relationship with this God, and the human role in this God's world?" "How does this God want us to live with one another?" "What does this God think of our suffering?" "How can we begin to honor and worship this God?" "Where is God?" And seriously...this is just the tip of the Exodus iceburg. Now til November won't be nearly long enough to get to all of these, but Exodus can prompt us to wrestle together with the questions that matter most.

2. Exodus shows us what salvation looks like. Centuries before Jesus, God set about saving God's people from themselves, from the snares of sin, and from each other in a daring act of liberation that unfolds across Exodus' pages. Long before Jesus, here we learn that salvation often involves suffering; that it involves a relationship of incredible trust between God and God's people; and that God will go to any length to see God's people restored to the freedom for which they were intended. Our relentless, passionate God emerges full force here as one who will not let us go, challenging us to consider again the ways we need God's salvation and the ways we can participate in God's redemptive work in this world.

3. Exodus is a story of community. Here, for the first time, God works not just in the life of one individual or family, but an entire people, knitting them together to be a sign of God's presence in this world. It lays out life together not just as one of morality and being "good people", but of being utterly concerned for the common good and the welfare of both one's neighbors and one's enemies. It shows the life of God's people as a life lived collectively, and navigated in covenantal relationship with one another. This means it is a story with tremendous power to shape and define our life together with one another in community at Broadneck.

4. Finally, Exodus is a story for a time of change. We see that in the first startling line of our reading for this week: after rehashing Israel's history, and its favored status in Egypt because of Joseph's work, we get this disruptive news: "Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph." The Hebrew people had to navigate a rapidly changing world, one that tried to strip them of their core identity as people of the promise, one that required innovative new leadership and great discernment of God's movement. As we seek what it means to be God's people in our rapidly changing times--times this week rattled by earthquake and threatened by hurricane, among so many other things--how can the Exodus journey provide us with wisdom for our own?

I could go on forever about this, but will stop here and just encourage you to join us for Bible study on Saturday morning as we enter into Exodus, to check in with the blog each week for reflections on parts of Exodus we may not have time to cover in worship, to spend some time with this great book yourself, and to take advantage of other opportunities that may emerge this fall that allow you to immerse yourself in this great story. It may make me a pastoral nerd, but I think the possibilities for this book to reshape our congregational imagination are rich beyond description, and I cannot WAIT to get started.

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