Sunday, June 17, 2018

Honoring Our Fathers

What must it have been like in those days after the Exodus? Or, what about the night of the Exodus? Children, have you ever heard this story about the Exodus and wondered what it must have been like to have been a child getting ready to leave Egypt? Young Zacharias was only 8 years old when the Exodus took place. Everything he knew was Egyptian. He ate Egyptian food. He slept in an Egyptian bed. Even though he was only 8 years old, he worked all day in the hot, Egyptian sun. He was so young, he didn’t really understand all of the things that were happening around him. But the last few days, according to anyone’s estimation, were wild!

Kids, how many of you like frogs? Well, young Zacharias saw more frogs than anyone could possibly imagine! That may sound fun to some of you, but there frogs EVERYWHERE! In the beds. In the kitchen. On their dinner plates!

And then one afternoon, there was a hail storm. Some of you may have seen a hail storm. Most of the hail we see is only about the size of a dime. But imagine hail as big as a softball,  or a basketball!
Zacharias remembered seeing all of these things, and then one night it happened. His mom and dad ran into his room and got him and his brothers and sisters dressed really quickly! They said, “Don’t ask questions...we don’t have time!” Before he knew it, he was out of the house and headed for the desert! Has your mom or dad every woken you up early in the morning to go on a long trip?

Well, that’s what Zacharias’ parents did on the night of the great Exodus. He went to bed a slave. He woke up a member of a mighty and privileged nation! He knew he was privileged, because of what he saw the morning after the great Exodus. The people of Egypt were not too happy about losing all of their slaves. So, they sent their army after Zacharias and his entire family. And that army chased them into the desert, right to the edge of a huge sea. There was nowhere to go!

They couldn’t go back because of the army. They couldn’t go forward because of the water. Zacharias thought he was going to die! But all of the sudden, the water just in front of his feet began to move away from him. And he realized that the water wasn’t just moving away from him in one direction. It was moving away from him on this side and that side. In fact, that water split right down the middle. Zacharias and all of his family walked right across that sea on dry ground! Dry ground! No mud at all!

That was the day Zacharias learned about God. That was the day Zacharias realized that he had someone watching over him. That was the day Zacharias, for the very first time, realized that God was more powerful than anything else.  Well, eight-year-old Zacharias grew up and became a man. But he never forgot that day. A day did not go by when he failed to remember the frogs or the hail or the dry (non-muddy) ground. And when he had children of his own, he told them the story too. Every time he told that story, he said the same thing to his children. “Sons and daughters, this happened not only to me. This happened also to you.” Church, this is our story as well.

READ EXODUS 12:31-42 (CEB)

What a night that must have been! I am particularly struck by the last sentence of this text.
Because the LORD kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honor the LORD for the generations to come.
The reason I am struck by this sentence is that it seems so counterintuitive to the way in which we live our lives. We all have defining stories. As Americans, we have those defining moments in our history, like the American Revolution. As the people of God, we have those defining moments in our history, like the Exodus or the Resurrection. And because we come to a place like this on a weekly basis, we are (in a sense) forced to recall those parts of our story together. But other than those communal remembrances, our society does not do a great job of remembering our past. Or, more specifically, we do not do a great job of remembering those who came before us.

Certainly, the story I told a few moments ago about Zacharias was a fictional one…but only to a point. The text tells us that there were thousands of people who left Egypt. It tells us that those people were commanded to relive those moments on an annual basis. So, every year, when the family gathered at Passover, they would hear the story again. I imagine that Zacharias’ great-grandchildren included the part about their great-grandfather crossing the Red Sea. The people we read about in this book had a way of honoring and celebrating those who came before them.

There are still some civilizations even today that do a good job of honoring those who came before them. Many Oriental cultures show great reverence for grandmothers and grandfathers. In those cultures, when a meal is served, they go about it quite differently than many Americans do. You know what I’m talking about. When the potluck starts here, the children rush to the front of the line. The parents of small children rush to the front to fill the plates for their small children. When you visit the house of a friend in our culture, the children are often served first.

Not so in the East. In China and Japan and Korea, they do things in the opposite way. Children are always served last. The great-grandmother and great-grandfather, they move to the front of the line. There are many things I love about our American, Western culture. But the way in which we fail to revere those who deserve the most honor saddens me. And one of the places where we see this failure is, sadly, in the God’s church.

The fact is, we have many older Christians today in God’s church that feel ignored, unwanted, or forgotten. Now, before you go too far down that road, I need to tell you—this is not a discussion about worship. I know that different generations in God’s church have different preferences in worship. That has always been the case. I imagine that will always be the case.

What I’m talking about is this. There are many people in this room that have spent their lives in God’s church. Some of you helped build this building. Some of you helped establish the Christian Homes and Family Services. Some of you were around with PATH started. To put it plainly, there are many people in this room who have looked after God’s church much longer than I have. I wish we would do a better job of honouring you. Of remembering what you’ve done through the power of God’s Spirit for generations. Of celebrating the ways in which you’ve allowed God to use you for God’s kingdom work.

Today is Father’s Day. A day when we as a culture honor our fathers. A great day. I’m partial to a day like this! But should we not also honor our spiritual Fathers and Mothers? I want to say this morning. Thank you for being a steward of God’s family for so long. Just as young Zacharias’s children and grandchildren told the story of the way he was a part of God’s great Exodus. I pray that your story will be told and retold inside and outside of these walls. My prayer is that we would all be as faithful as you have been.

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