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Baptism for Millions of Hebrews

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Sermon on Exodus 14

Title: Baptism for Millions of Hebrews

Baptism- caring your child through the red sea. 

Can’t go back again.

Identity change in coming to God that way.

Congregation,

          Who are you really.  Let’s get deep and philosophical for a minute.  Who are you really.  What defines you?

          Some people have asked me if I am going through some sort of identity crisis trying to grow a beard.  Maybe a little bit.  For a little while I want to be known as the pastor with the beard.  But maybe Rev. Leder has that position secured already.  I’ll have to find a different identity.  Whatever it is we all have our moments where we want to redefine ourselves.  Maybe the life we are living isn’t in line with what we feel on the inside.  Through crisis we search to make the outside look more like who we feel like being on the inside.  The identity crisis.

          The Hebrew people of Exodus have experienced a kind of identity crisis.  As they are in Egypt suffering under the bondage of Egypt, they know they should be much different.  This whole life in Egypt started when their forefathers settled in the country during one of the worst economic and humanitarian disasters of their day.  The were 7 years of drought.  People all around grew hungry and starved.  And the situation could have developed into something much worse.   But God put a Hebrew named Joseph son of Isaac the son of Abraham through some pretty tough times just to have the Pharaoh make him the second in command.  Joseph had the insight from God that this famine was coming.  And the 7 years of plenty that came first, grain was stored up for the whole region to come and eat off of.

          Joseph and his 11 brothers settled in Egypt, grew in number.  Their people ended up saving the region and Egypt from terrible times.  The Hebrew people should have been seen as heroes.  Actually, when people saw the Hebrews they should have seen that God works his power through his people.  It was promised to Abraham after all that the whole world would see blessings through his descendants.

          Identity crises set in when the new pharaoh of Egypt decides that the Hebrews are too many and getting too strong.  Throw all the newborns into the Nile River.  Then put the people to work as slaves.  Moses thinks he is going to rescue the people, work them harder.  The Hebrews have Abraham’s blood flowing through them.  God chose to love them.  AND GODS PEOPLE SHOULDN’t BE SLAVES.

          Slavery tries to ruin a persons identity.  Much like domestic abuse.  It takes people of value and seeks to demean them and put them down.  Keep them down so I can hold my teetering position of power.  Slavery tries to strip away the positive identity and replace it with a broken identity.

          The Israelites’ are experiencing an identity crisis. 

God, through Jesus Christ, restores true identity!  Its not our doing.  When we redefine ourselves we find a hairdo or a new toy.  God institutes real change.

          We talked about that last week.  It was through the death of that lamb, the lamb that would be Christ and that would be part of what we celebrate during one the sacraments we have.  The Lord’s Supper.

          But the Passover only touches the surface of the marvellous things God begins doing for his people during this great exodus.  He doesn’t just restore the identity they had before the exodus.  He gives them a new and better identity. 

        This is God’s historic moment.  This is Israel’s historic moment.  This is our historic moment as well.

          Historic is a word being tossed around a lot lately.  Because of the events of this past week, this week already will be monumental differences.  For the first time in two years we won’t have to watch a political ad on TV!!!!!

          It has taken a long time for it to sink in… why the amazing hype of Obama’s success in the election.  Why does it have African Americans weeping for joy?  Here’s what’s started to settle in for me as I was working through this passage: 

Barak Obama’s ascension to the white house has brought a new identity to black people all over.  Slave marked their identity yet.  Second Class citizen and outsider deeply intrenched itself in their identity.  But now that Obama has won this election, it can help restore them from that broken identity.  President of the United States now can be added to the collective identity of African Americans.  Used to be slaves.  Now can be anything.

          For Israel, the drama unfolds in a more dynamic way than the excitement of hearing about the polls closing.  And it is by far, more important than even the next leader of the US. 

          Verse 8,

8The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly. 9The Egyptians—all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, horsemen and troops—pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea near Pi Hahiroth, opposite Baal Zephon.

10As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord.

          God brought them out of Egypt.  He brought them to the edge of the red Sea.  Now Pharaoh with his hard heart says, no way!  You are slaves.  Always will be MY Slaves.”

          And the Israelites respond with fear.  Moses.  We told you.  Leave us in Egypt.  Did you bring us out here because you want to kill us.

          Moses’ answer is so powerful.  Verse 13.  “13Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.

                  

14The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”   

God echoes his protection in verse 16-18.  God’s plan.

16Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. 17I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. 18The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.”

          We know how the story turns out.  Whether we know it better from Disney’s Prince of Egypt move, or Charlton Heston’s 10 Commandments.  Hopefully you know the Biblical account the best.  The miraculous power of God holds back the Egyptians.  The Holy Wind of God pushes the Red Sea apart and makes dry ground for them.  The Israelites make it safely between those massive walls of water.  The Egyptians who try and follow don’t make it.  The walls of water come crashing in around them.

          Verse 30-31

30That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. 31And when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.

          What changed for the Hebrew people?  What really changed?  They were still the same people.  They had the same likes and dislikes.  They had the same families.  But one critical thing changed.  They have crossed through the water.  They crossed through.  It may not sound significant.  But it is.  God opened up the sea for them.  This is something that can never ever ever be undone for these people.  They have taken the next step of faith.  They have put on a new identity.

          And the Hebrews, they always and forever will be the people that were saved from slavery and bondage.  They always will be the people God loved so much that he would crush their enemies in the Red Sea after his own people were not harmed by it.

          Josh and Amy, Lillians baptism is a very special and powerful time.  So often when we think of babies we think of the anne geddy dress them up like flowers and teddy bears and ooh I just have to snuggle them.  The specialness in baptism comes with the power of God to give a new and lasting identity. 

          The water of baptism that we put on Lillian is much like the water of the Red Sea.  The water that touched her head didn’t harm it.  It symbolizes a washing away of the stains of sin and death, but all the more powerfully, it says that today she is a part of the people of God through Jesus Christ. 

          Lillian now is marked with something that can never be taken away from her.  She has passed through the waters of baptism.  And through the hand of Christ, she is right now a child that belongs to Jesus Christ.

          Grandpa and Grandma, and Pake and Beppe, you can get back to snuggling soon, but today we remember that part of what makes Lillian so special Jesus Christ already stands by her.

          And Josh and Amy, the call for parents comes as we watch what happens with the Hebrews as they passed through the waters.  It was the families that crossed through together.  No family said to their children, okay kids we have decided to cross through the Red Sea to follow God.  Now we don’t want to try and sway your opinion or anything, so if you discover that some day its right for you to try and have an exodus from Pharaoh’s tyranny we can tell you about it. But, well, tata off we go. 

          The parents bring the children along.  Because they love their children, they carry them through the waters of the Red Sea.  Just like you carried Lillian to be baptized. And when she gets older she will have the choice of how to live her life.  But this part is up to you.  Its up to me as a parent.  Its up to all of us as who have been baptized and then claimed the promises of Christ for our own. 

          If there are some people here who have not been baptized . . .          

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