Rev. George Miller
“Standing Before the Feet of Moses”
Feb 13, 2011
The past, the present and the future; what do they all have in common? For one thing, they all come together in the book of Deuteronomy.
In today’s reading, we hear what was believed to be the final words of Moses before he died.
The people had been wandering the dessert for 40 years, facing trials and tribulations, good times and bad. After such a long journey they’re about to cross the Jordan River and enter into the Promised Land.
Before they do, Moses has gathered them in a place between Paran and Tophel, and he gives them this final message.
He recounts the journey they have made together, the ways in which God chose them, took care of and loved them.
Moses reminds them about the laws and commandments that God has given them so they could live, flourish and be blessed.
Moses tells them that they are to make a choice: choose God.
In essence, Deuteronomy is an extended Valentine’s Day card to the people God has loved, continues to love and will love forever more.
And it’s a love story that does not follow the rules. See, in ancient times it was said that the gods only showed divine favor to the leaders of the world. The gods did not care much about ordinary people.
But our God was different. The Israelites believed that God did care about them. They claimed that God had “set his love” upon them, not because of any greatness or merit on their part, but simply out of God’s choice.
Even when they constantly showed themselves to be a rebellious, cantankerous bunch, God still loved them, just as God continues to love us.
This love is a powerful, holy love, a love that produces life and brings blessings that reach out beyond the spans of time.
But it is also a love that God will not force upon the people. As Moses tells the Israelites, God has chosen them, but they are free to choose God or to choose other gods to worship.
They are free to be blessed or to live a life of non-being.
They are free to live as part of a larger community or to live if they are alone.
God will not force their hands, God will not make unfair demands.
Before the feet of Moses the people are asked to make a choice: will God be their Valentine or not? The choice is theirs to make; today.
There’s a sense of timelessness to the book of Deuteronomy. The people are standing between Paran and Tophel, and they are given a choice, but as it turns out, they are not the only ones who are there.
For so are we, and our children, and our children’s children.
Read through Deuteronomy and you’ll get the sense that you too are before the feet of Moses and that Moses is talking right to us.
That’s because Moses is.
This is a sermon craftily created to be heard throughout the ages. It’s a sermon in which certain words appear again and again. Choice is one of them; love is another.
It is the phrase “today” that appears nearly 100 times. For example:
“The Lord our God made a covenant with… all of us here alive today” (5:2-3)
“See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse…” (11:26)
And “I am making this covenant …not only with you who stand with us today…but also with those who are not here today.” (29:14-15)
Thus, before the feet of Moses we are not just hearing a sermon about the ending of one journey, but about the beginning of many others.
We are not only hearing about the past, we are being asked to participate in the future.
And we are being assured that our past failures and present mistakes will not rule our future, because that is how much we are loved.
But we have to choose. Are we going to choose God or are we not?
Are we going to embrace life or are we going to continue living the ways of death?
Moses, being the awesome leader that he is, makes it easy for all of us to make an informed choice. Consider these facts:
Once you were enslaved; God set you free.
When you felt like you were lost, God lead you through the wilderness, making sure you had want for nothing.
God fed you when you were hungry, God fought your fights, and it was God who carried you as a parent carries a child. (1:31)
If that is not love, then what is?
“So choose!” Moses says, speaking to each and every one of us. “Choose God, so that you and your children’s children can have life. Choose life so you can live it!”
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You know, most of us here today have chosen God, or we have a deep desire to choose, otherwise we wouldn’t be here today.
There are so many other things we can be doing; so many other gods we can be worshipping, like golf, shopping or staying in our warm, cozy beds.
But we have chosen to be here, in this place, today. In doing so, we have chosen to be part of this community, to stand before the feet of Moses and to hear his words of exhortation.
But I wonder how many of us this day, or this week, or this month, have really chosen God, and have really chosen life?
How many of us have found ourselves in an argument that in retrospect seems silly? Or are carrying around a grudge that they would rather hold onto then to give an inch?
How many of us have found ourselves caught up in gossip; the whole he said/she said/they all said mentality that can really tear a group apart?
How many have decided that they would rather stay in the wilderness, at Paran and Tophel, then to cross the Jordan River and enter into the Promised Land? (RAISE MY OWN HAND)
How many of us have made a choice that was not the right one to make because we were too obsessed with the present to think about the future? (RAISE MY OWN HAND)
It is amazing that as Christian as we are, as much as we pray and worship and try to do the right things, we still fall down, we still make mistakes, and we still allow our ego-driven selves to get in the way.
We prefer to hold onto our anger, assuming it gives us power while it prevents us from having to address our own flaws and issues.
We find comfort in our illnesses because they bring us the attention we so desperately need, afraid that if we were healthy no one would acknowledge just how wonderfully beautiful we really are.
We embrace our helplessness because it prevents us from having to step out of our comfort zone and try something new, instead of discovering how responsibility can be an amazing gift.
So we linger about, between Paran and Tophel, afraid of what it will mean if we let go of these things and step into the Promised Land that God has prepared for us.
But here is the Good News: God already knows all of this- all that we have done, all that we have felt, all that we’ve experienced. God is not surprised; God knows all about it.
And God still loves and chooses us anyway.
And here is another bit of good news: we are not just standing before the feet of Moses, but we are also standing before the feet of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Less then two months ago we welcomed the light of Christ into our lives, and today and every day we get to do the same thing again.
And here is where it gets even better: before the feet of Moses we get the gift of choice.
BUT before the feet of Jesus we get the gift of…………forgiveness.
Forgiveness: the gift that stems from the very love of God.
Forgiveness: the gift that says “I know you are human, I know you have hurts and I know you make mistakes, and I forgive you.”
Forgiveness: the act that says whatever we have done wrong in the past has been wiped away.
Forgiveness: that no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.
Forgiveness: the most wonderful Valentine which says “Guess what? Today is a whole new day with a new chance to make your choice.”
The forgiveness of God that Jesus demonstrated at the table and on the cross, is the very gift that God has freely given us, designed to bring about blessings and give us new life….
…if we can just learn how to reach out, and to accept that gift;
to share that gift of forgiveness with others when they need it most;
to ask for forgiveness when we have done the hurting.
So, before the feet of Moses and before the feet of Christ we are given a choice, each and every day, each and every hour, each and every minute, to choose God and to choose life.
When we do choose God, we bring healing to our past, hope to our present and our future becomes pregnant with possibilities.
What will each of us choose today?
May God bless you with the making of your choice, may Jesus show you how the choosing is done and may the Holy Spirit guide your feet into your heavenly future.
Amen and amen.