Worship Service, July 26, 2020 “Faith with a Glimpse of the Future”
Join Holy Trinity church members and Pastor Erik
Sunday morning via YouTube
The message for July 26, 2020 by Pastor Erik, “Faith with a Glimpse of the Future” can be heard during HTLC Virtual Worship Service on Sunday. “Click” on the arrow below to view.
“Faith with a Glimpse of the Future” Mount Nebo
Three years ago Holy Trinity sent over ten youth and two adult volunteers to Houston, Texas for the National Youth Gathering. My oldest daughter was just entering high school at the time so she was eligible to go and was excited to join the group. These kinds of trips take preparation and along with the other youth, my daughter committed to participating in order to get ready for the experience. There were many shifts taken at a fundraising table after church services. There were talks given in front of the congregation explaining what the trip was about, what they hoped to get out of the experience, and how the congregation could support them. There were multiple workshop nights as the group learned about the Houston area and the spiritual and Biblical themes of the event.
After all this preparation, you can imagine how excited the group was to actually go on the trip. My daughter was too, but things did not start out well. My daughter is sensitive to motion sickness so the plane ride was hard. The jerky rides in transportation around the city were difficult. In addition, her medication for a condition she has was off at the time, which made her even sicker.
After all those months of learning and fundraising and planning with the group, she had to sit in the hotel lobby and watch as the rest of the team went off for their day of service. She went to the big stadium where the mass gatherings were held so she saw where the group was going, but then she got sick again and didn’t get to go in. It was hard, however, she was still glad she had made the journey with the group and was happy that they had good experiences. Even though she had only gotten a glimpse of the gathering it had still been a worthwhile trip.
Have you ever done the work of preparing for a trip, only to have it cancelled at the last minute? Have you ever worked hard on a project and could almost see it being completed, but then for some reason you were transferred, pulled off the job, told someone else was taking over and you did not get to see it finished? Have you ever been getting ready with a group of people to accomplish some task or have some experience together, only to have them go on without you because circumstances came up that kept you from participating? Was it still worthwhile to have gotten as far as you did?
If something like that has happened to you, then you can imagine what Moses may have been feeling in the first reading we heard today from the Book of Deuteronomy. We have already been with Moses several times this summer on the top of Mount Sinai, but today we travel with him up a different mountain. Today we find him on the top of Mount Nebo, where he has come to the end of his journey with the Israelites.
Moses has worked hard to get to the Promised Land. He has led the people through many hardships in the desert. They have been hit by storms, attacked by deadly snakes, ambushed by hostile tribes, and endured long days of thirst and hunger. Moses has wrestled with keeping faith in God, and he has wrestled with the people’s bad attitudes, complaints and accusations. Despite all the struggle and near-death experiences, however, Moses and the people have finally made it. God has been their guide and seen them through. They are finally on the edge of the Promised Land.
Moses must have been relieved and excited, like everyone else or even more so since he had been the one leading them. Yet, even though Moses gets to see the Promised Land, he does not get to enter it. Even though he can look into where the people of Israel will be going, he does not get to join them.
The Scripture tells us that Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the LORD showed him the whole land. The LORD said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.” Then Moses, the servant of the LORD, died there in the land of Moab.
It seems tragic that Moses would not get to actually enter the place he had been working so hard to get to. It seems unfair that he would not get to join the rest of the people in crossing over into the land they had been dreaming about. It seems harsh that he does not get to fully experience the sense of completion after the long journey he has been on with God and the people. It may not seem fair, but Moses knew this was coming. He knew he wasn’t going to fully finish with the people and yet he had committed to leading them on the journey anyway.
You see, back along the way in the wilderness, Moses had disappointed God. Despite all the times he had listened and debated and ultimately had patience and asked for mercy for the people he was leading, there was one time when he had just had enough. We find this instance in the Bible in the book of Numbers chapter twenty. It was one of those times when the people of Israel were literally dying of thirst. They were hot and dry and they didn’t know where they were going to get water in the barren desert. They plead to Moses who makes a plea to God. God tells Moses he is to command the water to come from the rock with his voice.
But in his anger, Moses loses it on the people. He yells at them and says, “Listen, you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” Then, instead of just using his voice to command water to come out, Moses strikes the rock with his staff twice. Water does come out and the people and the livestock are able to drink, but the Lord says to Moses, “Because you did not trust in me, to show my holiness before the eyes of the Israelites, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”
There it is. The reason that Moses does not get to enter into the Promised Land, and you might have thought, that could have been a reason for Moses to quit. That might have been a reason for Moses to give up the journey, to give up his leadership, to say to God, “Ok, so you want to help these complaining Israelites? I’m just going to leave and join that other tribe over there. But Moses didn’t give up. He stayed committed to the cause. He stayed committed to making the journey with the people even though he knew he would not get to see it to completion. For he knew it would still be worth it to know that the people were going to make it. He may only get a glimpse of the future Israel was going to have, but that would be enough for him to keep the faith and not quit on the journey.
John Lewis was also a man who did not quit on his journey towards justice. The Congressman died last week at age 80, but never gave up, and stayed committed to the cause for civil rights throughout his lifetime. He stayed committed to leading people towards equality and freedom from injustice.
During his lifetime, John Lewis was arrested 45 times for acts of non-violent civil disobedience. He endured being spat upon, being called all manner of names and racial slurs, being shouted at, kicked, beaten and burned with cigarette butts, all for simply doing things like sitting at a lunch counter marked for “Whites Only” or for riding at the front of a bus. At one point John Lewis believed he was going to die when, as he was walking across the Edmund Pettis bridge in Selma Alabama, state troopers beat him so bad his skull was fractured.
But John Lewis survived, and in the midst of the hardship he also witnessed victories.
He saw the Civil Rights Act passed and the Voting Rights Act pass. He became a Congressman, serving in the House of Representatives for over 30 years. He lived to see the first African American become president of the United States. At the same time, these events were still glimpses of the future as America continued along its journey towards a vision of equality. There were still times of wilderness as John Lewis experienced the assassination and death of his friend and colleague, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He witnessed as efforts to promote voter suppression increased over the last few years. He saw parts of the Voting Rights Act weakened. He lived through decades where racial tensions would flare up off and on and discrimination continued to persist, including the killing of George Floyd and the protests of the last couple months.
Still, John Lewis persisted and called others to also persist and not give up. He was often asked to give commencement speeches at graduations and would end by saying, “Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
Not long before he died, John Lewis also commented on the recent tensions in our nation and said, “I heard Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. say on many occasions, ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ I still believe we will get there. We will redeem the soul of America, and in doing so we will inspire people around the world to stand up and speak out.”
John Lewis did not see the dream fully realized, but he had seen change happen. He had seen glimpses of what the Promised Land could look like, and that gave him the strength to not quit on the journey.
In the Gospel reading today, we see that even Jesus himself does not get to see the vision of faith fully realized. As he meets with his disciples upon a mountain in Galilee, the Scripture says that some worshipped him, but some doubted. Jesus will leave before he gets to witness all of his followers fully come to faith. He will not physically be with his disciples as they courageously seek to spread the good news to the ends of the earth. He actually knew all along he was not going to continue with them in the same physical way he had done in his earthly ministry. Yet he didn’t quit the journey because he knew the spirit of his message would continue to live on in them and the Holy Spirit would continue to be with them.
So as we keep on with our pilgrimage on earth let us not quit the journey despite the obstacles or the difficulties we might face. Let us remain committed to the cause of living out God’s love, for although we might not see God’s dream fully realized, we will get glimpses of that promised future which can sustain us along the way. We may not see God’s project of peace come to completion in our lifetime, but we can trust God’s spirit of hope will continue to endure. Amen.
-Pastor Erik Goehner
You may view any previous worship services by visiting the
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church Thousand Oaks YouTube channel.