Monday, March 9, 2015

Sermon for March 8, 2015; Exodus 20:1-17

Rev. George Miller
March 8, 2015
Exodus 20:1-17

Last Thursday, during the auditions for Les Miserables, I witnessed a leader being a True Leader.

Jen, the director, stood before a packed room and said “We are casting a play with 29 parts; not 30- 29; which means that 1 ½ of you are going to be disappointed.”

Jen explained how she casts who she thinks is the best person for that role; she does not have favorites; she does not cast families; she has even cut her own son from a show.

Jen admitted how hard the casting process is, especially since she’s known many of the auditioners since they were children. She expressed her love for everyone; she affirmed their value, talent and worth.

Then, she went about setting boundaries:

-If you’re not cast, you have 24 hours to be angry, upset and to cry. Then you are to put on your “big girl pants” and you can contact her about why you weren’t cast

-If you will not take a part unless your child also has a part or visa versa, be honest about it on the form so she knows
-If you put down that you want a lead but you’re willing to be part of the ensemble- mean it.

-If you do not get cast or don’t get your dream role, don’t go to Facebook to vent, because it hurts Jen to read; and know that nothing you post as private is ever private

-Finally, come back and audition for the next show and become part of the crew for this one.

Jen was what today’s youth would call a BOSS: she stepped up, set the rules, claimed her authority and expected everyone to be adults.

By creating clear boundaries Jen did something else-she laid the foundation for the cast and crew of Les Miz to play, have fun, to create, to build, to put on the best dang production they can.

Through proper boundaries, she allowed everyone to BE.

Bravo to Jen and bravo for her reference to Facebook, because as good as it can be in allowing folk to stay in touch, Facebook is perhaps the ultimate violator of boundaries.

Through words and images, both welcome and unsolicited, people now know everything about one another.

We know where you eat, what you do, where you go and who you are with.

Because of Facebook we have access to your friends, your family and your precious, precious children.

We know when you’re home and when you’re not. We know what you like, what you hate, who has a beef with you.

Because of Facebook we create illusions of how perfect or horrible our life is, we celebrate our smallest of achievements, and we covet what our friends, family and complete strangers get to do or have.

With Facebook, we can say anything, about anybody at any time of the day, regardless if it’s true or not; with a swype of the keyboard and the tapping of “send”, it’s out there in the netherworld of the internet in which there are no boundaries.

Yet boundaries are so important. Anyone who works with abused and neglected children know this.

Children in foster care, or who have parents in jail, or who’ve been improperly touched may have been raised in a home without boundaries. Since they have no boundaries, it becomes easier for the cycle of abuse and neglect to happen again and again.

That is why it’s so important that caregivers learn about proper boundaries. That’s why it’s important for teachers, volunteers, churches to know about boundaries.

In a world in which 1 out of 4 girls is abused and 1 out of 6 boys is too, it’s important that adults who work with kids do not expect a child to be touched or hugged or sat upon one’s lap, especially against their will.

For children raised without boundaries, one of the best things you can do is to give them boundaries through rules and expectations.

Bedtime is at 8 pm. Do not leave the fenced in play area. If you don’t complete your homework you can’t go on the field trip.

I once worked at St. Joseph’s Home for Children in Mpls and one thing that surprised me was how many kids jumped at the chance to do chores, especially wiping off the kitchen table after a meal, or pulling back the chairs to sweep the floor.

Why? Because when a child is asked to complete a household task they are being told “You are part of something, you have value, you are trusted, and you are safe.”

Don’t we all want to know that we are of value? Don’t we all, deep down, want the chance to prove that we are capable of good? Don’t we all want to know that we belong? And don’t we all want to feel safe?

That’s what I believe the 10 Commandments are about.

A few weeks ago, I used the expression “everybody dies, but not everybody lives.” Here is a map of how to live and how to live life to the fullest.

A map in which time, words, family, space, relationships, animals and plants are to be treated with value, belonging and safety.

First, some back story. For hundreds of years the Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians who violated every boundary you can think of.

They forced the Hebrews to work long hours and harsh days. They oppressed their value and their voices. They violated their need for rest; they killed their babies and disrespected the family unit.

The Hebrews did as they were told, when they were told, with tasks imposed upon them, and if they did not, the task masters had the right to beat them down.

God sees and hears what is happening to the people and God sets out freeing them.

Under the leadership of Moses, Aaron and Miriam, the abused Hebrews are led out of Egypt and up to the Red Sea waters…and when the people wander to the other side-

…it is like they are born anew.

By crossing the waters, and arriving at the other side, it is as if Mother God has birthed a new group of people.

The Israelites are slaves no more, they are free. They no longer belong to the abuser Egypt, but now they belong to God.

Exodus 15-19 tells how God does what it needed to care for this new “child”-

Water becomes sweet to drink; bread from heaven nourishes their bodies. Trustworthy members are delegated with tasks to watch over the others.

Then when the time is right, the once abused group of people move to the mountain and Moses is summoned to the top.

God is revealed as a leader with boundaries, who will allow this particular cast and crew to play, have fun, to create, build, to put on the best dang production of life that they can.

First, this is done by God establishing who God is- “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

Who is the Great I AM?

The one who saved you, the one who made you free, the one who is God. The BOSS.

Which means who are you?

You are worthy of being redeemed; you are worthy of the freedom to play, create and build, and you are freed of all the stress and burden of thinking you are the Lord.

God, like a parent, like a good play director has made it clear that God sees, hears and knows; that God will feed, quench and lead.

Now that that is established- the boundaries are put in place.

This is so important because as slaves their boundaries had been so severely violated.

Their time, their home, their family were all disrespected, so they need to be given clear, healthy, ethical boundaries if they are to meet their full potential.

These boundaries are not handcuffs to keep them shackled to abusive ways; these boundaries are not jail cell walls to punish.

They are boundaries to keep people safe, happy and able to live together.

One of the boundaries involves time. In the past, their time belonged to the pharaoh; now they learn that time belongs to Papa God.

This notion is so radical- the idea that something as abstract, as invisible as time can be under the care of God.

The notion that time can be a sanctuary; that time can be holy.

That everything and everybody deserves at least one day off, to rest, to recharge and to refocus their attention on what is holy and what is good.

There are boundaries involving home- respect and care for your parents. Doesn’t matter if you are 4 and they are 24 or you are 48 and they are 84.

Do not go into someone’s personal living space and take what doesn’t belong to you. Folk have the right to have what they have, and stealing suggests you don’t trust Momma God to provide.

There are boundaries that involve relationships. First, don’t insult God by turning the infinite into a statue or a thing you can control or handle.

Don’t have intimate, personal relationships with people you know you shouldn’t be having them with. Such crossing of boundaries violates body, mind and soul.

There are boundaries involving words.

Don’t say things that aren’t true about another. Don’t use your freedom of speech to unfairly create distrust or fear. Don’t violate someone’s name and reputation for sport or because you have a personal gripe against them.

Put in today’s terms- don’t turn to text, Twitter or Facebook, to vent, infer or slander.

There are even boundaries involving emotions and the heart- don’t waste energy looking at what people have, getting jealous and thinking if only you had their spouse, you had their car, you had their stuff, that you would be happier or better off.

Why does God give the newly free Hebrews these boundaries; why does God give a whole lot of “thou shall nots”?

Because everybody dies, but not everybody lives, and these boundaries will allow them the best chance they have to live.

In conclusion, these boundaries embrace almost every aspect of life you can think of: God, time, families, work, home, land, belongings, animals, space, love, hate, neighbors, and words.

This isn’t hippie stuff, this isn’t New Age thinking, this isn’t political correctness- it is good old fashioned rational that says “If you want to live long, if you want to prosper, here are the boundaries in which to move.”

These are the foundational ways in which God, our heavenly, eternal director gets to say:

“Welcome to the stage of life, and welcome to redemption. Now that you know the boundaries you are free to play, you are free to have fun, to create, to build.

You are free to live fully before you die.

With these boundaries, you are free to BE. Now let’s have fun!”

Amen and amen.

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