Rise Up

Two words:  More.  Snow.

Oh well.  Here is yesterday’s sermon!

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
February 1, 2015

Psalm 111
Deuteronomy 18:15-20

Rise Up

Is there a prophet in our midst?

In this morning’s reading from the book of Deuteronomy, Moses said to the Hebrews:

The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. (Deuteronomy 18:15)

Okay, so let’s start with a little history lesson. The book of Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Old Testament; it is also the fifth and final book of the Torah or the Pentateuch, which is what biblical scholars call the first five books of the Old Testament – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The word Torah is Hebrew for “instruction” or “teaching” and Pentateuch has the suffix, “penta,” which means five. The Torah or Pentateuch is where Jewish laws and customs can be found. These five books contain a narrative that extends from creation through the death of Moses.

Most of us know the beginning of Moses’ story. He was born to a Levite woman who put him in a basket and sent him down a river. He was rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter, who eventually took him in as her son. As a man, God appeared to Moses in a burning bush; Moses then led his people out of slavery in Egypt and was given the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.

All of this happened in the book of Exodus (the second book of the Bible), but Moses’ narrative is actually much longer. Chronicles of Moses’ life and ministry continues through the next three books of the bible, which is where we come into the story today. We enter scripture today at the end of the Torah or Pentateuch; at the end of the giving of the law, of the narrative of the beginning of creation and of God’s first covenants with us. We come into the story near the end of Moses’ time; he died shortly after this passage, after he gave his final blessing to Israel at the end of the book of Deuteronomy.

So let’s go back to my original question: Is there a prophet in our midst?

Moses knew that his time was coming to an end, but he assured the Hebrew people that they would not be left alone. Moses said to the Hebrews in this passage from Deuteronomy that even in his absence, God would make sure that there was a prophet in their midst.

And, in doing so, I think Moses was also assuring the generations of people that would come after him – those that God would also be in covenant with – that THEY would never be alone.

And that includes us.

This is not just a promise that God made to the Hebrew people thousands of years ago; this is a promise that God also made to us, that God continues to make to us. God promises that we will never be left alone, that there will always be someone to guide us. God promises that he will raise up a prophet in our midst.

I think we can all agree that, over time, God has certainly fulfilled this promise to us. Throughout the years many individuals have had profound and prophetic impacts on our communities and on our world. They have, sometimes against all odds, risen into leadership positions, spoken out again inequalities and prayed for peace while at the same time demanding justice. Time and time again, history has proven to us that Moses’ words were true, that God would always send a prophet into our midst.

But there is a piece of this scripture that I do not want us to overlook.

The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet.

God not only promised that the Hebrew people would not be left alone when Moses was gone, but God also said that their leader would rise up from within.

And God makes that same promise to us today.

As Moses prepared for his earthly life to end, God made a covenant with men and women of every generation that they would never be left without someone to guide them. And God’s plan was not to constantly send some higher being down to earth; God promised to empower the people who were already on earth to do the work that needed to be done.

God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people.

Do you know what this means? This means that there is a prophet in our midst.

And don’t worry; I am not talking about myself (because that would be the worst sermon in the entire world). I am talking about all of you. I am talking about the ability that each and every one of you has within yourself to be a leader in this church, in your families, in this community and in this world. I am talking about the ways that God is calling you – the ways that God created you – to rise up and make a real difference.

Scripture assures us that God will call a prophet into every generation and I do not think it was just referring to people in vocational ministry or even the people who are prophetic in public settings. I think that this scripture was also referring to ordinary people that God is calling to rise up to do extraordinary things.

This scripture is talking about all of us.

This is some powerful stuff.

Of course I am not saying that we are called to be like Moses and lead an entire generation of slaves out of Egypt, through the wilderness and into the Promised Land, but I am saying that Moses was an ordinary man until God appeared to him. It was only after that point that Moses chose to rise up to God’s call and then did extraordinary things, things that not only changed his life, but also changed the lives of others.

And we, too, are called to rise up. We are called to listen to God calling us and then to rise up to that call.

This scripture promises us that in each generation, God calls ordinary people to do extraordinary things and we – we as children of God and we as people of faith – are called by scripture to heed that call.

How will you heed this call?

This morning’s psalm calls us to praise God with our whole heart.

Praise the LORD!
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.

We are called to praise God in our lives. And even more than that, we are called to do this in the company of others.

In a world that is far from perfect, we are called to look around and make visible the invisible signs of God’s grace. We are called to inspire, to comfort, to protect, to encourage and to love others. We are called to show others the ways in which God is working both in our lives and also in their lives. We are called to show tangible proof – even if we have to fight desperately to find it sometimes – of God’s faithfulness in this world. We are called to rise up and be prophets in our time – in ways both big and small.

The end of this passage from Deuteronomy urges us to take this seriously.

Any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a words that I have not commanded the prophet to speak—that prophet shall die. (Deuteronomy 18:20)

I will admit, this is a tad more fire and brimstone than I tend to be comfortable with, but I still think that there is something important for us to think about.

We are called to remember God is all that we say and all that we do. And call me crazy, but I do not think this is all that difficult. I am not talking about getting behind a microphone and preaching to thousands of people every day; I am talking about just giving thanks to God every day, to remember God in all that we say and all that we do. I am talking about not being afraid to talk about the ways that God is working in our lives, to show others how important our faith is to us.

The psalmist tells us to praise God because God is faithful, because God is just, because God is powerful, because God redeems us and because God’s covenant with us is everlasting. We are called to be a living expression of that good news in our lives! I have said it before and I will say it again – we need to share the good news because this is news that is worth sharing.

In a world that is often plagued by terrifying news reports, devastating accidents and a whole mess of other things that we cannot control, we do have the power to proclaim something that is good, something that is faithful and something that is everlasting. We – ordinary people living our ordinary lives – have the power to do something extraordinary. We have the power to live out God’s call for us in our lives just like Moses did and just like Moses promised we would.

So believe this. Believe you are who God says you are. Believe you are who God created you to be. And believe you are who God is calling you to be.

And rise up.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

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