Genesis 40: Don’t Forget – You’re Not Forgotten

Slide1

[My sermon this morning at 6:8 Community Church continuing the story of Joseph. My thoughts on being forgotten, God’s hesed, and remembering others.]

We’re forgetful people: our keys, wallets, purses, phones (and wedding rings if you’re my wife). We forget all kinds of things. But the worst is when we forget another person… kind of like this: [show Home Alone “Kevin’s Not Here” clip].

Slide2

I used to think that clip was ridiculous. How could you forget your son?!?! After 8 months of Isla, I totally understand how it could happen. My memory gets worse every day. For Kevin, being forgotten turned out ok. He even enjoyed being alone. And, sure, he had to face some challenges but he made it. Of course, we know it’s a movie, and a comedy at that.

Slide3Reality is far less humorous. Being forgotten is a deadening experience – emotionally, spiritually, even physically. When we’re forgotten by those we know and love, we begin to lose our sense of belonging and purpose and, eventually, hope. When I forget someone, it means that, in some way, there wasn’t space for that person in my life. This happens to all of us in all kinds of way. We’re forgotten by our friends, families, neighbors, co-workers, even our church.

Slide4But we find ourselves on the flip side too; we often forget those we know and love. And then once we consider those outside our everyday social networks, our memory problems only get worse. Do we remember the poor? The hungry, the homeless, the widows and orphans – the prisoners, the immigrants and refugees, those caught in violent conflict or abusive situations? What about the elderly, the home-bound, the sick, and the intellectually and physically disabled? Or even single parents, the long-term unemployed, or those caught in depression? Remembering those who live in these kinds of difficult, painful, and sometimes even oppressive situations can be especially hard. It feels easier to forget. Even if that person is us; sometimes we’d rather even forget about ourselves. What does it mean for us to remember when remembering is so hard?

I’ve met a handful of people who are all too easy for me to forget. I want to tell you about one of them. About 7 years ago on a mission trip to Liberia, West Africa, I met a shy little girl on a beach. I noticed her staring blankly at us white folks, watching in the distance as we played joyfully with other Liberian kids. I could tell she wanted to play too so I stopped to talk with her. I found out that, like many in Liberia’s capital city, she was a fisherman and was out selling her catch; probably 8 or 9 years old. It’s hard to stop and play when you know what not selling those fish could mean for you and your family. She told me her name… but I forgot.

Slide5I conveniently forget about this little girl because her life holds up a mirror to my own. In it I see God’s unquenchable desire for justice, righteousness, and comprehensive peace for all people. I see my complicity in sinful social structures that desecrate her life and deny the abundant life that Jesus desires for her. I see that she is my neighbor and, whether I realize it or not, I need her just as much as she needs me. My story is incomplete without hers. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly….”

Slide6When I forget that little girl’s story, I forget myself. Whenever we forget about others – rich or poor, strangers or loved ones – we all end up a little more forgotten, a little more lost, a little more alone, a little farther from God’s dream of justice lived out in diverse communities. No one should be forgotten. But we’re sinful people, wounded people: we all forget and, in differing ways, we’re all forgotten.

So let’s take a few minutes to remember Joseph’s story. At this point, Joseph reminds me of the lyrics of that Chumbawamba song circa 1997: “I get knocked down! But I get up again!”

Slide7He’s a natural born leader who gets sold into Egyptian slavery by his jealous brothers. But he gets back up and becomes the head of Potiphar’s household! He gets knocked down again when Potiphar’s wife falsely accuses him of raping her and he gets thrown into prison. But he gets back up: he’s appointed as the head prisoner. Joseph seems to keep landing on his feet… for now. Follow along as I read from Genesis 40 about what happens next to Joseph in the prison:

Some time later, both the wine steward and the baker for Egypt’s king offended their master, the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was angry with his two officers… [and] put them under arrest with the commander of the royal guard in the same jail where Joseph was imprisoned. The commander of the royal guard assigned Joseph to assist them. After they had been under arrest for some time, both of them… had dreams one night, and each man’s dream had its own meaning. When Joseph met them in the morning, he saw that they were upset. He asked [them], “Why do you look so distressed today?”

They answered, “We’ve both had dreams, but there’s no one to interpret them.” Joseph said to them, “Don’t interpretations belong to God? Describe your dreams to me.”

The chief wine steward described his dream to Joseph: “In my dream there was a vine right in front of me, and on the vine were three branches. When it budded, its blossoms appeared, and its clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, so I took the grapes, crushed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and put the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.”

Joseph said to him, “This is the dream’s interpretation: The three branches are three days. After three days, Pharaoh will give you an audience and return you to your position. You will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just the way things were before when you were his wine steward. But please, remember me when you are doing well and be loyal to me. Put in a good word for me to Pharaoh, so he sets me free from this prison. I was stolen from the land of the Hebrews, and here too I’ve done nothing to be thrown into this dungeon.”

When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was favorable, he said to Joseph, “It was the same for me. In my dream, there were three baskets of white bread on my head. In the basket on top there were baked goods for Pharaoh’s food, but birds were eating them out of the basket on my head.”

Joseph responded, “This is the dream’s interpretation: The three baskets are three days. After three days, Pharaoh will give you an audience and will hang you from a tree where birds will peck your flesh from you.”

The third day was Pharaoh’s birthday, and he gave a party for all of his servants. Before all of his servants, he gave an audience to the chief wine steward and the chief baker. He returned the chief wine steward to his position, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand. But the chief baker he hanged, just as Joseph had said would happen when he interpreted their dreams for them. But the chief wine steward didn’t remember Joseph; he forgot all about him.

Joseph doesn’t land on his feet this time; he’s face first. How do we know?

Slide15First, we notice the repetition of the word “dream.” It appears 65 times in the Old Testament. 22 of those are in Joseph’s story and 10 are in this chapter! Ten repetitions in the same story mean that dreams are a big deal! Up until this point in the story, dreams have been dangerous. Remember what happened when Joseph told his family about his dreams? His brothers wanted to kill him! His dreams have gotten him into this mess. When we hear “dreams” 10 times in Genesis 40, all our warning lights should be flashing red. We know what happened last time. Trouble is coming.

Slide16Second, we hear Joseph’s desperation as he pleads for help from the wine steward and laments his situation. He’s been stolen, kidnapped – a victim of human trafficking, a slave with no rights. And he’s a Hebrew in the land of Egypt – a foreigner, a stranger, one who doesn’t belong.

Slide17And one who’s easily forgotten. Joseph begs the wine steward to remember him, to be loyal to him. But when the wine steward is restored to his position in pharaoh’s court – just as Joseph said – he forgets to tell pharaoh about Joseph. Joseph gets knocked down, and he’ll spend two more years in prison before he gets up again.

Slide18The wine steward forgets. Joseph is desperate and forgotten. What’s God doing in all of this? At first glance, nothing! Joseph mentions God but we don’t hear God’s voice. But God is present and working for Joseph’s well-being. We can see it in v. 8 as Joseph boldly declares that interpretations belong to God.

Slide19Then Joseph takes a risk on this truth by offering himself as God’s dream interpreter. And guess what? God is faithful. Joseph’s interpretations are right on the money. This proves the intimacy of Joseph’s relationship with God. It also gives Joseph a reputation as an expert dream interpreter with a person who is very close to pharaoh.

What’s God doing? God’s remembering Joseph. In Genesis 39:20-21, just a few verses before our story in Genesis 40, right after Joseph is thrown into prison, we read that “the Lord was with Joseph and remained loyal to him” in prison. God’s loyal, steadfast presence enabled Joseph to be in a position of caretaker where he was given this opportunity to interpret dreams. God is loyal once again by giving Joseph these interpretations. God has not forgotten Joseph.

But Joseph is still rotting in prison! What gives God?! Joseph is doing everything right, but nothing changes. And all because the dang wine steward has a bad memory? Gimme a break God! Haven’t You forgotten Joseph too?

Slide20Let’s slow down. Remember when Joseph pleads for the wine steward’s help? He uses a very important word. Joseph begs the wine steward to “be loyal to me.” It’s the Hebrew word hesed. And, it’s the same word that appeared in Genesis 39:21, the verse we just read, to describe God’s “loyalty” to Joseph. God shows Joseph hesed in the prison and now Joseph asks the wine steward to shown him hesed. Why am I telling you this? Because this word hesed is the key to understanding how God is at work in Joseph’s life and in our own.

Slide21Let’s zoom out for just a bit to talk about hesed. It’s translated in a number of ways in the Old Testament: “mercy,” “kindness,” “steadfast love,” “goodness,” “faithfulness,” and “loyalty.” Basically, it’s God’s unrelenting love for God’s people which brings them back into right relationship. It’s the love that keeps God pursuing after us even as we continually reject God and run the other way. God is not distant from us – God created us because of God’s overflowing hesed for us; God continues to be with us because God is full of hesedfor us!1Hesed is God standing in solidarity with us through all our sin and suffering, refusing to leave us, always pursuing us, and always making a way for us to return home to God’s love. Hesed means that God NEVER forgets us.

So, let’s zoom back in to Joseph. God has shown Joseph hesed by empowering him to interpret dreams. In doing so, Joseph is given a potential way out of prison. BUT… Joseph can’t go anywhere unless the wine steward reciprocates God’s hesed. Without the wine steward’s willingness to identify himself with a Hebrew slave in front of the king of Egypt, Joseph is stuck. God remembers, but the wine steward forgets. God shows hesed; but the wine steward refuses to stand with Joseph. This leads us to hesed’s second dimension.

Slide22It’s not just about God’s relationship with us: it describes the way God intends our relationships to be with others – faithful love, mercy, kindness, solidary. It’s the heart of our community. God’s hesed for us empowers us and is made complete when we reciprocate it through our hesed for others. We see this dimension in none other than Micah 6:8, “[God] has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.”2Do you hear it: “embrace faithful love” or “love mercy”? That’s hesed. It’s inseparable from doing justice and walking humbly with God and others. As God stands with us and for us, we are called to be partners in God’s hesed and to stand with and for others as a community that tangibly, visibly embodies and enacts God’s hesed.

Slide23Now we can answer the question: if God doesn’t forget Joseph, why is he still locked in prison? Because the wine steward didn’t share in God’s hesed. He therefore failed to bring God’s desire for Joseph’s freedom and justice to fruition. The wine steward could’ve participated in God’s hesed by standing with Joseph and giving him an audience with pharaoh. But he forgot. God is full of hesed for Joseph but this hesed must be extended and shared in a mutual relationship between Joseph and the wine steward. It’s incomplete because it’s unreciprocated.

Slide24As we turn now from Joseph’s story back to our own, I want to be sensitive to the fact that some of us here this morning may feel a lot like Joseph: desperate and forgotten. Even if no one here feels that way, we know that our world today is full people who do. We actually don’t even have to think outside our own city limits to find desperate, forgotten people. Others of us may be more like the wine steward. Life is no piece of cake, but we probably wouldn’t describe ourselves as forgotten. And we may even admit how we struggle to remember others. In reality, I think we’re all a mix of both Joseph and the wine steward – both forgotten and forgetting others.

Slide25What is God saying to us today? First and foremost, we are not forgotten; you are not forgotten. No matter what kind of prison our lives have become – nothing separates us from the faithful love of God. Does this mean that the doors to our prisons will suddenly swing open? I don’t think so. What I think it does mean is the same thing it meant for Joseph: God’s hesed is providing a way out for us but we have a role to play too. Like Joseph, we need faith to take a risk on who we know God to be. Joseph knew God as the giver of dream interpretations and he took a concrete step of faith based on that truth. Who is God to you today? Is there a step of faith you can take with God?

But notice also that Joseph would’ve never been in a position to interpret those dreams had he not cared for the wine steward and baker first. He noticed they were upset and asked what was wrong. Could it be that the way out of our prison actually begins with caring for others? How might God be empowering you to care for someone else? Maybe the healing for our forgotteness begins when we remember others?

In any case, what we trust and believe is that God’s hesed– God’s faithful, steadfast remembrance of us – always come first and isn’t dependent on our actions. It’s a gift of grace: God has not forgotten you.

Slide26For the wine stewards, what does it mean for us to remember others, especially those we find it convenient to forget? When the wine steward is restored to his position of authority in pharaoh’s court, he’s given the opportunity to influence pharaoh – the most powerful man in the world. At this point, we might think that Joseph needs the wine steward to be his “voice” before pharaoh. You know a “voice for the voiceless.” We hear that a lot when discussing how to help forgotten people living in desperate situations. But that’s not it. Joseph has a voice! The man interprets dreams! He’s not voiceless. Let him speak for himself! The wine steward didn’t need to be Joseph’s voice. He needed to use his own voice to get Joseph an audience with the pharaoh. See the difference? Why stand in someone else’s place when they can stand for themselves?! Open the door for them and stand beside them! Don’t be their voice… be their audience!

This is what it means for us to remember others: we make space for them beside us. We become an audience, ones who listen, a people who show hospitality, whose hearts are open to the pain and suffering of others, and share that burden with them. This morning, you might just be a “wine steward” to someone else. You may be the person positioned to partner with God’s hesed to bring someone else one step closer to the redemption, healing, and wholeness God desires for them. Who are we forgetting? Who in our lives needs an audience? Who is God calling us to remember?

I want to end by saying that we, as a church, are already doing this. We remember and partner in God’s hesed every time we collect items for the Ardmore Food Pantry as part of our communion celebration. We remember as we serve with organizations like Chore Connection who put us in relationship with the elderly and home-bound, people like our friend Owen. With each game of bingo at PALM and every day of work with Six:Eight Cares, we remember. Every time we gather with our neighbors at Linwood Park, who knows – maybe we’re listening to a Joseph who feels desperate and forgotten? When we take the opportunity to remember, we make space for the kingdom of God to break in; for God’s hesed to be made tangible and visible.

Slide27These intentional practices of remembrance over the past five years have rooted us in this community. We’re tied to this place by the bonds of hesed. Through our roots of remembrance here in Ardmore, God is now preparing a way for us to link ourselves with communities on the other side of the globe. As Jason mentioned this morning, we’re now exploring a partnership with Vineyard churches and ministries in Indonesia – a place that we probably don’t remember very often. It’s the most populous Muslim country in the world, plagued by political and social upheaval, struggling against various forms of poverty; a place where Christian communities face real suffering for their faith. Part of the work we’re being invited into is to listen, to be an audience, to stand with our Christian sisters and brothers, remembering them with arms linked together for the journey into God’s global kingdom.

Even though we forget each other, the God of Joseph has not forgotten us! We’re invited as a faith community to be partners in God’s faithful, saving love, to stand in solidarity with one another and all those who are forgotten so that all people – in Wynnewood, Ardmore, Havertown, and Indonesia! – would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are remembered, that they belong, and that God loves them more than they can know. So now may God’s kingdom come and God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

1 See Psalm 136, Exo. 34:6, and Jer. 9:24 for examples of the centrality of hesed in Old Testament theology.

2 See also Hosea 6:6 and Ruth 1:16-17.

God of Wrath vs Wrath of God

angryGodGod’s wrath and judgement must somehow be reconciled and correlated with God’s concern for justice and righteousness. It appears that the former is produced by human sin – the failure to manifest justice and righteousness (cf. Is 5:1-7; Amos 5:21-24); divine judgment often is presented in direct contrast with and in equal measure to human sin… This means that one must reckon not with a Deus irae (God of wrath) but rather with the ira Dei (the wrath of God). God’s wrath is instrumental, intended to bring about a result: repentance and reform. In linguistic terms, God’s wrath is not stative (such that God is angry, ontologically or dispositionally, especially not always) but rather is transitive (God is angry about something). But when the object of wrath is tended to – the offending sin or circumstance removed – the wrath disappears as well… Divine wrath and judgment are never simplistic but rather are “the outcome of a complex process of divine wrestling, anguish, attempted overtures to the people, calls for repentance, warnings that keep the door open” (P. Miller, “‘Slow to Anger’: The God of the Prophets” in The Way of the Lord: Essays in Old Testament Theology, 276)… the prophetic texts writ large suggest that “the Lord’s bent toward compassion is a part of what it means to be God, not just an option among other possibilities… Reticence to wrath in favor of compassion is what it means to be the Lord” (P. Miller, 276).

B. A. Strawn and B. D. Strawn, “Prophecy and Psychology,” The Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets, 620.

In summary, according to the prophets, God is not wrath in the same way that God is Love. God has wrath – momentarily – but it can always be averted through repentance. Wrath is never God’s last word because God does not simply have love – God is Love.

“For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with deep compassion I will bring you back.
In a surge of anger
I hid my face from you for a moment,
but with everlasting kindness
I will have compassion on you,”
says the Lord your Redeemer.

Isaiah 54:7-8

We are Not Alone: Heschel’s God of Pathos

In his chapter on “The Theology of Pathos,” Abraham Heschel describes God’s “passionate summons” to the world which “basically defines the prophetic consciousness of God.”[1] Heshcel names this “dynamic relation between God and [humanity]” as pathos; it is the prophetic kind of “knowledge of God” attained not “by syllogism, analysis, or induction” but by fellowship with God, “by living together.”[2] God’s pathos is God’s intimate involvement in the history of creation whereby God is actually affected by and responds to the events and happenings of the world.

God freely decides to participate in human history because “the predicament of [humanity] is a predicament of God Who has a stake in the human situation.”[3] The pathos of God changes everything; history can no longer be seen as some autonomous drama moved and shaped by the independent actions of “free” human persons because humanity is not alone. The One in whose image humanity is created has chosen to make it “a consort, a partner, a factor in the life of God.”[4]

God’s pathos, the “living care” of creation, is the fundamental “dynamic modality” of all living things – not alienation from God due to sin or brokenness.[5] God’s pathos reveals how God’s loving desire for just, personal, reciprocal relationships between, among, within, and throughout God’s creation and Godself makes possible a “living encounter between God and [God’s] people.”[6]

As I read this chapter, I felt God tearing away my deeply embedded images of God as the “Wholly Other”: the One who is remote, uninvolved, and unconcerned. I was surprised to discover that my theology still contained Deistic tendencies which could not prepare me to truly know the God Heschel portrays as One who acts so powerfully in human history in order to create intimate relationships of love and justice with and among all people, myself included. As my embedded theology crumbled, I felt the peace of God’s abiding presence and a sense of wonder and awe in a God who can be so ultimate, almighty, and awesome, yet still able to come so close. The pathos of God captured me in a new and more complete way; God is more real now than ever before.


[1] Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets, 289.

[2] Ibid., 288.

[3] Ibid., 291.

[4] Ibid., 292.

[5] Ibid., 289, 296.

[6] Ibid., 296.

hesed

And now they keep on sinning

and make a cast image for themselves,
idols of silver made according to their understanding,
all of them the work of artisans…

Yet I have been the Lord your God
ever since the land of Egypt;
you know no God but me,
and besides me there is no saviour.
It was I who fed you in the wilderness,
in the land of drought.
When I fed them, they were satisfied;
they were satisfied, and their heart was proud;
therefore they forgot me.
So I will become like a lion to them,
like a leopard I will lurk beside the way.
I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs,
and will tear open the covering of their heart;
there I will devour them like a lion,
as a wild animal would mangle them.

I will destroy you, O Israel;   who can help you?

hesed

‘Come, let us return to the Lord;

for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us;
he has struck down, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him. 

Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord;   

his appearing is as sure as the dawn;
he will come to us like the showers,
like the spring rains that water the earth.’

hesed

What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, O Judah?
Your love is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that goes away early.
Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets,

I have killed them by the words of my mouth,

and my judgement goes forth as the light.

For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt-offerings.

hesed

When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
The more I called them,
the more they went from me;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals,
and offering incense to idols.

Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them up in my arms;
but they did not know that I healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness,
with bands of love.
I was to them like those
who lift infants to their cheeks.
I bent down to them and fed them.

They shall return to the land of Egypt,
and Assyria shall be their king,
because they have refused to return to me.
The sword rages in their cities,
it consumes their oracle-priests,
and devours because of their schemes.
My people are bent on turning away from me.
To the Most High they call,
but he does not raise them up at all.

How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?

My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.

I will not execute my fierce anger;

I will not again destroy Ephraim;

for I am God and no mortal,

the Holy One in your midst,

and I will not come in wrath.

They shall go after the Lord,
who roars like a lion;
when he roars,
his children shall come trembling from the west.
They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt,
and like doves from the land of Assyria;
and I will return them to their homes, says the Lord.

Jesus Is My Homeboy: Reflections on Heschel’s “Amos”

Several years ago a hip, new image of Jesus rose to popularity among a certain stream of American Christian sub-culture in which I was familiar. The meme went like this: “Jesus is my homeboy.” It showed up on T-shirts, bumper stickers, and even plastic bobble-head dolls. This Jesus had a big, reassuring smile on his face as he gave his faithful homeboys two thumbs-up. If Jesus was your “homeboy”, you never had to worry, never had to fear, because Jesus would always be there, always just a “prayer” away, and he would always have your back.

This was the image that came to mind as I reflected on the situation in which the voice of the Lord reverberated through the voice of Amos. The people of Israel seem to have taken their chosen status for granted; their holiness had become an end in itself and that end was might, prosperity, and pride. They were God’s people – YHWH was their homeboy. According to Abraham Joshua Heschel, Amos was different. As a shepherd and “dresser of sycamore trees,”[1] Amos was not a member of Israel’s club of wealthy and powerful. YHWH was not his homeboy – YHWH was a roaring lion who demanded justice and righteousness from all nations. Amos knew the Lord more intimately than his people but, unlike his smug, over-confident peers, he was under no allusion of privileged status: “intimacy… never becomes familiarity. God is the Lord, and the prophets are His [sic] servants.”[2]

Amos was an iconoclast. He shattered the sacred traditions of Israel’s identity on the rock of God’s sovereign freedom and justice because they had become an escape from God’s righteous demands, a source of privileged detachment, and the ground of haughty self-reliance. I like this side of Amos; I too want to destroy the idols of popular American Christian subculture.

It is the compassion of Amos that troubles me the most. He announced a message of doom, but he also appealed to God’s mercy and hoped for Israel’s repentance which would make possible their restoration. Heschel concludes his chapter on Amos by describing “the burden of a prophet”: “compassion for man [sic] and sympathy for God.”[3] Too often, I fail to uphold this burden and live in this tension; I too easily turn my back to my “sinful” brothers and sisters and set myself up as God’s “real” homeboy. It is the witness of Amos the shepherd, the one who is familiar with the task of patient, longsuffering, and loving care among his sheep, who calls me to hold prophetic denouncement together with compassionate, pastoral service.


[1] Amos 7:14, RSV.

[2] Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets, 46.

[3] Heschel, 46.

I AM Peace… and Baal is Not

***Click here to download the audio via sixeight.org***

Watch the video first… (war eagle!)

Slide1

Now, I realize we probably don’t have many Auburn fans in the room this morning, but, after watching that video, I have one question for you: do you think going to an Auburn football game – being in the stands, watching this video on a massive HD display, surrounded by 87k fans screaming in unison, flags, banners, cheerleaders, the band, an eagle circling the stadium, maybe fireworks, smoke machines – is this worship? Would you describe going to the Super Bowl to watch your favorite team compete as an experience that’s similar to what we’re doing here this morning in the “worship service”?

Slide2 How about this? Not trying to make any political statements here, but is attending a presidential inauguration an act of worship? They follow a strict ritual, play music, great speeches from world-renowned leaders are heard, all the most important, powerful people are there, and thousands of others brave the rain and cold just to catch a glimpse. Is this worship?

Slide3

 How do you know you’re worshiping? Does it depend on the place? If you’re at church, does that mean you’re worshiping? Can we worship at home? So, there’s a place everyone in this room has been before, but you’ve never gone there to “worship.” I’m going to read something now that describes this particular place, but the description intentionally blurs the location. So, as you listen, close your eyes, see the place in your mind’s eye, and try to figure out where you are:

One might say that this religious building has a winding labyrinth for contemplation, alongside of which are innumerable chapels devoted to various saints. As we wander the labyrinth in contemplation, preparing to enter one of the chapels, we’ll be struck by the rich iconography that lines the walls and interior spaces. Unlike the flattened depictions of saints one might find in stained-glass windows, here is an array of three-dimensional icons adorned in garb… As we pause to reflect on some of the icons on the outside of one of the chapels, we are thereby invited to consider what’s happening within the chapel – invited to enter into the act of worship more properly, invited to taste and see. We are greeted by a welcoming acolyte who offers to shepherd us through the experience, but also has the wisdom to allow us to explore on our own terms… after time spent focused and searching in what the faithful call “the racks,” with our newfound holy object in hand, we proceed to the altar, which is the consummation of worship. While acolytes and other worship assistants have helped us navigate our experience, behind the altar is the priest who presides over the consummating transaction… We don’t leave this transformative experience with just good feelings or pious generalities, but rather with something concrete and tangible, with newly minted relics… And so we make our sacrifice, leave our donation, but in return receive something with solidity wrapped in the colors and symbols of the saints and the season. Released by the priest with a benediction, we make our way out of the chapel… to continue contemplation and be invited into another chapel.[1]

Any guesses? What’s being described here? Where are you “worshiping”? Need some hints? Those garbed, 3D “icons” you contemplated? They’re called manikins. That “chapel”? It was J. Crew. Your “relic”? Skinny jeans. The “priest” was your cashier who received your credit card “sacrifice” at the checkout “altar” where digital signals flowed like pleasing incense through the wires to fill the nostrils of the great “gods” of Visa. You’re at the mall and you’re worshiping. Did you realize it?

Slide4

It’s all worship: football games, presidential inaugurations, shopping. The list of “worshipful” activities and “places of worship” is infinitely long because we’re always worshiping – all day, every day.

Slide5

Why all this talk about worship? Last week we looked at the first episode in the story of Gideon found in the book of Judges. We saw how Israel, God’s chosen people, was in this state of transition, of twilight, an in-between time. They were stuck in this cycle of unfaithfulness to the promise they had made to God and God was raising up judge after judge to save them from their enemies. Gideon was one of these judges – a deliverer – who God was calling to save Israel. God had to take special measure to get through to Gideon and eventually Gideon got the message loud and clear. How did Gideon respond? WORSHIP. He built an altar and named it “The Lord is Peace.” Last week we learned that the first step, the foundational step towards the all-encompassing, comprehensive peace that the Israelites called shalom is to worship the God is who Peace. If we long for peaceful community – well-being, justice, security, wholeness, healing – we begin by worshiping the God-who-is-Peace.

We left Gideon in Judges 6:24, so let’s pick up where we left off and read just a bit more in the story:

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The message I want to bear witness to this morning from the life of Gideon is simple:

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Let’s go back to the text and break this down a little.

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Worshiping the God-who-is-Peace is costly. When Gideon finally realized that he was talking to God, he had to come to terms with the fact that GOD had just commissioned HIM to be a judge, a deliverer of Israel. Now, we may be excited if God called us to do that, right? Don’t we all want that sense of God-given purpose and mission in life? And wouldn’t we love the assurance of this kind of personal encounter? Maybe so. I know I wouldn’t mind. But I’m not so sure Gideon was as excited about his commissioning as you and I might be because, as it turns out, Gideon and his family are… a bit pre-occupied. They’re Israelites but they’re kinda “on a break” from Yahweh, the God of Israel, and have started seeing another god. His name is Baal and he has a cool friend named Asherah. The text is pretty clear: Gideon’s family OWNS the altar to Baal, who is basically the most well-known pagan god in the Old Testament. When Israel rebels from God and turns to idolatry, it seems like they always turn to Baal.

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 So, when Gideon hears this call from Yahweh, the true God of Israel, and then builds this altar and names it “The Lord is Peace,” he’s actually making a pretty significant decision because he’s changing his allegiance away from Baal back to Yahweh, the God of Israel. He recognizes that if Yahweh is the God-who-is-Peace, then every other “god” is a false god of chaos, violence, confusion, destruction, and death.

But, as significant as that decision was for Gideon, it was only the first step. It’s one thing to build an altar to Yahweh, but it looks kinda silly when that altar is actually just down the street from the Baal altar, you know, the one you and your family OWN. The first step of worshiping God leads Gideon to a second step: tearing down the Baal altar. What does this mean for Gideon? It means confronting his father. He not only has to dismantle the Baal altar and chop down the Asherah pole, but he also has to build a new altar to Yahweh on top of the ruins of the Baal altar and then sacrifice his father’s prized bull using the wood from the Asherah pole as fuel for the flames. Destroying the Baal altar is going to have serious consequences: as the text goes on to tell, this is not just a personal family shrine – it’s being used by the whole community. Gideon is deconstructing the community’s source of security, comfort, and hope. But it’s not just the community’s idol, or his family’s idol – it’s his idol too.

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For Gideon, the cost of worshiping the one, true God-who-is-Peace is experienced in a confrontation with false gods that is simultaneously personal and social, public and private.

But Gideon goes through with it; he’s afraid but he does it anyway. As he feared, the townspeople are super-pissed. They want Gideon dead, but he survives and he even gets some unexpected help from his father. What happens next? Well, in brief summary form, Gideon delivers Israel from the Midianites, this people that were oppressing Israel because of their idolatry. So, Gideon worships the true God, tears down the idols, defeats the enemies, and delivers Israel. Sounds good right? What could possibly go wrong?

Let’s skip ahead and pick up the story in Judges 8:22-28. This is just after Gideon has returned from his successful military conquest of the Midianites:

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There’s tons of irony here. One detail about Gideon’s conquest over Midian that I didn’t mention before is that God made a very specific, very intentional effort to ensure that there would be no way the Israelites could miss the fact that it was God who was delivering them – not Gideon. But what do the people tell Gideon? “for YOU have delivered us from out of the hand of Midian.” Not surprisingly, they miss the point.  This episode is already off to a bad start. But Gideon sets ‘em straight: “Nope, there is no king but God. Sorry folks.” Unfortunately, he keeps talking… Earlier we said that our worship of the one, true God-who-is-Peace is costly because it’s continuously challenged by our appetite for easy, cheap, imitation gods who make promises of peace that don’t last; that actually lead us, and all creation, towards death. We talked about the costly part already. Let’s look at part 2: the continuous challenge we face from our appetite for the easy gods, the “Baals,” that lead us toward death.

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Gideon says one thing – “I won’t be your king. Only God is king!” – but then he does another. His actions speak louder than his words. He passes the offering plate and asks for gold and then makes an ephod. Now, what on earth is an ephod? It’s this apron-like garment that was to be worn only by the high priest. It was highly symbolic of God’s presence. It was worn only in a ritual, sacrificial context and it was considered to be one of the holiest objects that the priest wore. Where there’s an ephod, you should find a priest.

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Now, the text doesn’t come out and say why Gideon made the ephod, but it does tell us the result: “all Israel prostituted themselves  [to the ephod]” and “IT became a snare to Gideon and his family.”   Judges chapter 2 uses this same imagery – prostitution and a “snare” – to describe Israel’s cyclical abandonment of God and return to idolatry. The connection is clear and its confirmed by what happens a few verses later: “As soon as Gideon died, the Israelites relapsed and prostituted themselves with the Baals.”[3] When Gideon makes this ephod, it’s like he’s saying, “I won’t be your king but I’m gonna be my own priest.” He refuses to be a leader but then takes a leadership role that brings Israel right back to worshiping false gods.

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Gideon may have pulled Israel out from under the oppressive hand of Midian but he couldn’t break the hold of Baal on their hearts. He couldn’t break Baal’s hold on his own heart.

Idols don’t just go away. You have to dismantle them and then build a new altar to God on top of it. But even then, they return.

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It’s like whack-a-mole… Gideon was, once again, oblivious to his own appetite, and the appetite of his community, for worshiping these cheap, easy, imitation gods that make false promises of peace that really just lead to death.

And, when I say “death,” I really mean that in a literal sense. This week marked the 68th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WWII.

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Nearly 140,000 lives in Hiroshima and another 70,000 in Nagasaki were lost in an instant. A Japanese theologian Kosuke Koyama, wrote that “Baal persists in human history… [history is] the story of the confrontation between Yahweh and Baal.”[4] The destructive power of idolatry, on both sides of the war, was burned into his memory. We’d do well not to forget.

Like Gideon, we are a people who declare that God – the God of Israel, of Jesus Christ – is the one true God-who-is-Peace.

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But our worship of God – our annunciation – rings hollow without corresponding denunciation. When we build an altar to worship God, God calls us to complete our act of worship by tearing down our altars to Baal, by denounce our false gods. This is a painful process. It is costly because we too often build our lives on these easy, false promises. We don’t like tearing down idols; we usually get really upset just by being told that we have idols! But we do.

I began this sermon talking about football, presidential inaugurations, and shopping for a reason. These “rituals” embody our idols: entertainment, national might, and consumerism.

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Richard Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline, calls them money, sex, and power. Brennan Manning, another great author who wrote The Ragamuffin Gospel, describes them as security, pleasure, and power.

These idols, and probably others too, manifest themselves differently in all of our lives. We experience them in different ways. They present unique obstacles to our exclusive worship of the one true God-who-is-Peace. They lead us, by different paths, into brokenness that disrupts our relationships and disorders our community. These false gods are buried deep inside our hearts, competing for our love, enticing us with images of the “good life” that don’t last. They’re hard to detect and even harder to remove; like Gideon, they keep popping up and leading us away from God. Are you aware of your idols? What are the altars in our hearts?

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We’re always worshiping. The question Gideon’s story calls us to answer is “who?” Not just between the hours of 10a and noon on Sunday morning; everyday, all day. If we say “Yahweh, the God of Israel, of Jesus Christ,” then we have one more step to take: tearing down our idols so that, in everything we do, in all our relationships, throughout our community and in the deepest places of our hearts, God is worshiped and peace, the shalom of God’s kingdom, breaks in.

Now, is money, or sex, or power always an idol? No. Is Auburn football inherently idolatrous? Possibly – and Cam Newton is most likely divine. These are our blind spots; the major weaknesses of our day where we are most prone to idolatry. But again, maybe you struggle with a different set of idols. The point is that we all have idols and we have more of them in common than we are sometimes willing to admit.

In spite of our unfaithfulness, we still have hope. The last verse we read says “the land had rest for forty years in the days of Gideon.” Even in spite of Gideon’s flaws, his struggle with his idols, God still used him to deliver Israel and bring rest to the land. One commentator I read sums up the matter well, so I’ll close with this: “The repeated cycle of deliverances in the book of Judges portrays a God whose essential will is to forgive and give life… Such grace is indeed free, but… it is not cheap. It demanded of Israel, and it demands of us, our souls, our lives, our all – in short, it demands that we worship and serve God alone.”[5]


[1] James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009), 21-22.

[2] Judges 6:25-27.

[3] Judges 8:33.

[4] Kosuke Koyama, Mount Fuji and Mount Sinai (1984), 38-39, 215.

[5] J. Clinton McCann, Judges (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 2002), 25.

I AM Peace

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Over the past several weeks we’ve been exploring the lives of some major “peeps” in God’s story: Adam & Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. We’ve seen a lot and hopefully we’ve learned a few things too, but there is still so much to see, so much we’ve had to skip over for another day.

This morning we’re taking a little leap forward in the story; over the Exodus, through the journey in the wilderness, and just past the entrance into the promised land. We come to an in between time, like twilight, a time of transition that looks more like a stalemate, like a truck stuck in the mud, spinning its wheels but not moving forward, no traction, sinking deeper. A time of “is this what it’s supposed to be like God because I thought I heard something about a promised land, milk and honey, wide, spacious, freedom, security? Are we back in Egypt? Did we go the wrong way?” This is the “period of the judges”: after Moses, after Joshua, and now Israel is asking: “Who’s our leader? Where’s God? Are the promises still true?”

Enter the judges: Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah & Barak, Gideon, Tola, Jair, Jepthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, and – last, but certainly not least – Samson. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Today we only have time for one: Gideon. Actually, we only have time for the first episode in Gideon’s story, but we’ll hear a little more about him next week. For now, let’s listen to God’s “recruitment” of Gideon:

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 On Thursday I got a very excited email from pastor Jason. It was a message forwarded from the Vineyard Church USA office with 6:8’s OFFICIAL, signed letter of adoption into the Vineyard Church USA! We’re now “Vineyard” approved and you can even find our church on the Vineyard USA online church locator! While we’ve been a Vineyard church for a while now, it feels good to be official. One of the Vineyard’s core values, and ours as well, is living in light of of God’s Kingdom: “a dynamic reality that is the future reign of God breaking into the present through the life and ministry of Jesus [in the power of the Holy Spirit].”[2]

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We say that the Kingdom is “now-but-not-yet”; it has arrived but it’s still arriving. You might even say it’s an in between time, like twilight, a time of transition from the “now” to the “not yet” that looks more like a stalemate. The “not-yet” of the Kingdom seems to be much louder and more real than the “now.” It’s easier to imagine God’s Kingdom way off in the future, up in the clouds, but right now, in this mess? When we look around at our lives and our world, it seems like we’re in a truck stuck in the mud, spinning its wheels but not moving forward, no traction, sinking deeper.

Watch the news and you’ll probably hear about Syria: 100k dead, 4.2 million internally displaced, 1.7 million refugees. You heard about the royal baby, but probably didn’t hear of the 13 children born that same day, and every day since, to Syrian refugees in a Jordanian camp where over 120k people eke out a life in the desert. The future doesn’t seem much brighter; I saw an article on Friday about the expected 50% increase in global violence due to climate change. It hit home for me because I have friends in Liberia who suffered through 14yrs of civil war where the rising price of rice bred anxiety, fear, and manipulation; leading them to war. When food prices spike due to shortages caused by irregular climates or the need for more “bio-fuel”, i.e. corn ethanol, to “combat” climate change, my friends in Liberia are once again put at risk.

But all of that’s on the other side of the world, right? Surely things are better back home? The AP released a study this week reporting that 4/5 – 80% – of American adults “struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives.”[3] Last week I heard that the Philadelphia public schools re-hired 290 of the nearly 4000 employees they laid off at the beginning of the summer due to hundreds of millions of dollars in budget shortfalls.

And that’s just what makes the news. We all know there’s more. This “not yet” of the Kingdom hits even closer to home; it’s right here in the seats this morning. It’s here because we brought it here, it’s inside us; we can’t avoid it. The turmoil we see outside is just a mirror of the pain, fear, uncertainty, bitterness, and anger that we feel inside. Maybe you feel it, maybe you’re ignoring it, or hiding from it, or just completely oblivious. At some point though we all experience the not-yet: the incompleteness and inadequacy; the lack and the lies. Where are we going? Where is the Promised Land, the Kingdom? Where are we?

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We’ve arrived at “the period of the judges.” Much like us, the nation of Israel is in a tough place. Judges 2 spells out the situation clearly: God delivered Israel from Egypt and gave them the Promised Land, God was faithful to the covenant and expected the same from Israel. Israel was unfaithful, they abandoned God, worshipped the gods of people living in the Promised Land, and so God gave them over to be ruled by these foreigners. When Israel cried out to God, a judge – a deliverer, a savior, a mini-Moses – was raised up and God would be with the judge, who would set the people free and bring peace and rest to the land. Then the judge would die and the people would abandon God once more… and the cycle would begin all over again. Stuck in the mud, wheels spinning.

But each time the cycle repeated, things got a little worse. The first judge, Othniel, turns out ok; the last judge, Samson, is another story. He’s driven by lust and demands to be married to a foreigner, an idol-worshiper. He goes down in a flame of glory fighting a personal battle that does little for the people of Israel. Then the story gets even worse. The last few chapters of Judges end with a civil war between the tribes of Israel; anarchy takes over. The last verse of the book sums it up: “In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.”[4] It sounds eerily similar to Adam and Eve in the garden, with the serpent whispering, “Did God really say… What seems right to you Eve? Adam?”

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This is the story we jump into when we find Gideon hiding in the wine press threshing out wheat in Judges 6. Israel has turned from God once again and has done “what was evil in the sight of the Lord” – idolatry of some sort.[5] As a result, God gives them over to the Midianites who plunder their land. “Thus Israel was greatly impoverished because of Midian” reads verse 6 and so they cry out to God. God hears and sends a prophet to chastise them for their unfaithfulness. In verse 10, God speaks an ominous word through the prophet: “But you [Israel] have not given heed to my voice.” You’re not listening, you’re deaf.

Enter Gideon! Things have gotten so bad that God needs to send a special messenger – an angel – in addition to a prophet just to get through to these people. So the angel appears to Gideon and says “The Lord is with you, you mighty warrior”! Gideon looks up, rolls his eyes, “puh-lease… have you been living in a wine press? Don’t you see what’s happening? And you say God is with us?” Now, when most people in the Bible encounter an angel, they have a different reaction: shock, awe, silence. Gideon, he’s totally oblivious. Just like the prophet said, he’s deaf to God’s voice. He responds in bitterness, arrogance even: “What has God done for us lately? You’re wrong dude – God’s not here. It’s us and the Midianites. We’re on our own.”

Now, I’m pretty sure you can be forgiven for not realizing that you’re speaking to an angel… but look at what happens in verse 14: “Then THE LORD turned to him and said…”[6] This is God speaking directly to Gideon, completely ignoring his “Why is all this happening?”, and telling him “Go! Deliver Israel. I’m sending you. Vamoose!” Surely Gideon catches on, right? Wrong. He just has more questions, more excuses, more doubts. Gideon has ignored God’s voice through the prophet; otherwise he would know why Israel was facing so much distress.  Gideon doesn’t hear God’s voice through the angel either; he can’t imagine how God could be with him. Gideon doesn’t even hear God; he’d rather hide out in a wine press than get involved in some rescue mission with this strange man who just showed up out of the blue.

First, Gideon responds in arrogance and bitterness. Then, he gives excuses and doubts. The fact that God is still in the conversation at this point is testament enough to God’s patience and grace. In verse 16, God responds: “But I will be with you.” It’s a direct quote of Exodus 3:12, when God re-assured Moses at the burning bush. It triggers something in Gideon’s memory, the ice is beginning to melt in his brain. He’s curious now because this person – he still doesn’t realize who he’s talking to – also just assured him of total victory over Midian. He’s interested, so he asks: “How bout you give me a sign to back up this claim you’re making?” He’s timid, cautious, taking it slow, playing it safe. He politely tells God: “Hey bro, wait right here just a sec while I go cook something up for us. Just chill.” The Creator of the universe says, perhaps biting his tongue, “Ok, sure Gideon, I’ll wait.”

Preparing a meal for a stranger was an expected act of hospitality that Gideon follows in hopes that he can maybe get a little more info on the identity of this person who claims that God is with him and that he’ll defeat Midian. Of course, God hasn’t come to chit chat. As ridiculous and slightly humorous the situation may be at this point, it’s no laughing matter to be deaf to God’s voice. Israel, God’s chosen, beloved people are “greatly impoverished” and crying out for relief from the calamity they’ve brought on themselves. God is longing to bring them peace, but Gideon wants to have an interview. When the food is brought out, the angel takes over. No more wasting time. He immediately instructs Gideon to place the food on a rock and pour out the broth. Gideon says, “Well, wait just a minute. I prepared this fine meal for us to enjoy together and don’t you know food is kinda tight right now so why would I just waste it?” Gideon doesn’t say that, although that’s what we would expect from him at this point. He doesn’t question, doesn’t doubt, no excuses – he just follows direction. Then, as we like to say, God SHOWS UP.

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Gideon got the sign he was looking for and a little extra too. All of a sudden the mighty warrior is on his knees, crying out to God: Oh LORD GOD, help me, have mercy, spare my life. God hasn’t come to kill Gideon; He’s come to bring peace: “Peace be to you; do not fear, you shall not die.”[7] When Gideon finally sees, when he finally hears God’s voice, what does he do? He worships: “Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord, and called it, The Lord is peace.” The Lord is peace. Finally, some good news.

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God answers Gideon’s “why?” with “Go!” It’s not that God doesn’t care – why would God still be involved with a guy like Gideon if God didn’t care deeply? God does care about our “why’s”; God hears; God listens. God didn’t answer Gideon’s question, but I think God does something even better: God calls Gideon out of hiding to join God in the work of peace. Gideon wants justice but God calls him to be a judge. Not the answer we expect.

God answers Gideon’s “but how?” with “I AM”! Gideon protests, “How can I save Israel?” God says, “YOU CAN’T! But I can and I will. You’re asking the wrong questions Gideon. This isn’t just about you and your family and your personal peace. It’s about me and my people, my promise, my Kingdom. You’re included but the victory is mine.” Apparently, Gideon knew of how God delivered Israel from Egypt through Moses, but he obviously forgot the song Moses sang after that deliverance: “The Lord is my strength and my might, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.”[8] Gideon wants the credentials, the status, the power but all God can offer is God’s self. Isn’t that enough?

God answers Gideon’s uncertainty and ambivalence with “I’ll wait.” God is willing to wait with us through our bitterness, our arrogance, and our anger. God is willing to bear our insecurity and our doubts, all the times we fail to hear God’s voice, even when we’re talking face to face. God waits because God “cannot help but be gracious.”[9] There’s a time for waiting, but there’s also a time for action.  Gideon wants to interrogate but God interrupts. Is it time for us to be quiet so God can move us towards peace?

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God answers Gideon’s fear with “Peace.” This word that’s translated as “peace” is the Hebrew word shalom. It’s not the kind of I-got-a-peaceful-easy-feeling kind of peace. It’s so much bigger, deeper, and longer lasting than that. Shalom is the overflowing abundance of God’s presence in a community so that the entire community experiences the wholeness, fullness, and satisfaction of a holistic well-being in complete harmony with every created thing. It is what community looks like when God is at the center of every heart, every relationship, and every system. It’s what God desires for all people and all creation from the very center of our broken hearts to the broken schools in Philadelphia, throughout the broken homes in our country, and straight across our aching world groaning in the pains of childbirth for its renewal. Gideon wants this peace and God says “I AM PEACE.” Will we join in Gideon’s worship?

Gideon had to encounter and submit himself to, and worship the God who is Peace before he could join God’s work for Israel’s peace, for his own peace. I think, down deep, we all want this peace, this community of love being worked out in justice, healed hearts, shalom – the “now” of the Kingdom. But we’re all a little like Gideon; hard of hearing, wanting to be cautious and have all our questions answered so we don’t have to take any risks. But God is the same today as God was with Gideon. God can wait with us, can take our questions, our complaints, our anger, and then tell us the same thing Gideon heard: “Shalom to you.” What will we do? We want peace but are we willing to worship the God who is peace with our whole selves, not just this morning, but every day, in every moment?

Now you may say, “Well, God came to Gideon and spoke to him and showed him a miraculous sign. I’d worship God too if God would do that for me! Gideon had it easy.” You’re right. As far as I know, God hasn’t called out fire from any rocks around here… not yet at least. I haven’t heard of any angels coming down lately either. Of course, why would God send an angel when God has already come to us as a living, breathing human being who walked and talked, who died and rose again? Why would God call fire from a rock when God descended like tongues of fire as the Holy Spirit was poured out over all flesh? God has come. God is here.

And, you know, God realizes we’re forgetful, so Jesus gave us a sign, a way to remember what God is up to.

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He took bread, gave thanks, and broke it. He took wine, gave thanks, and poured it. He said, “This is my body. This is my blood. DO THIS IN REMEMBERANCE OF ME.” Latin American theologian Gustavo Gutierrez describes the celebration of communion as “a memorial of Christ which presupposes an ever-renewed acceptance of the meaning of his life – a total giving to others. It is a thanksgiving for the love of God which is revealed in these events.”[10] In this sign, we see, and feel, and taste the truth of Paul’s words in Ephesians:

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You may be asking God “Why?” this morning? Maybe you’re not even on speaking terms. You may be giving God excuses, delay tactics, avoidance measures. You may have all kinds of questions about who God is and who you are and what God is doing in the world and in you. You may just be completely oblivious. I don’t have all the answers for your questions or all the solutions to bring shalom to the world. But, if I’ve learned anything from Gideon this morning, it’s this: the first step, the foundational step towards shalom is to worship the God is who Shalom. I can’t answer you’re why, but I can answer you’re where: right here in front of you in this broken bread and this poured out juice, in the God you meet here, the God who has set this table and welcomed us all; right here in the community that gathers around this table. God has called us beloved children, has offered all of God’s self, can we be quiet and hear God’s voice today? Can we be still and worship the God who is Peace?


[1] Judges 6:11-24, NRSV.

[4] Judges 21:25.

[5] Judges 6:1.

[6] Judges 6:14.

[7] Judges 6:23.

[8] Exodus 15:2.

[9] J. Clinton McCann, Interpretation: Judges (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 2002), 63.

[10] Gustavo Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation, rev. ed. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1988), 148.

[11] Ephesians 2:13-20.