The Story of God's People

Selected Passages
Ordinary Time
Elizabeth M. Deibert

If someone approached you and said, “I’ve never read the Bible. What’s it all about?” Would you have an answer or would you start to squirm? Some of you know the Bible well, but others know some of the stories in the Bible and are stumped at the question of how to summarized it. You might remember to say it is the story of the relationship between God and the people of God. Some of you might be inclined to say that the Old Testament (sometimes called the Hebrew scriptures ) is about the Israelites and their journey with God. And that the New Testament is about life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and the beginning of the church.

I remember learning at some point along my journey of faith the acronym which I just taught the children and all of you. CCEECC as a way of remember the whole story of the Bible. Other words might be chosen. This is not the only way to tell the whole story, but it is a good one. Creation, Covenant, Exodus, Exile, Christ, Church. So I have selected a group of scriptures which help us to hear the whole story through the lens of these six key words, the fifth one, Christ being the pinnacle of them all for us Christians.

We begin, as God began, with the creation. The universe exists by the power of God’s Word and Spirit. God spoke it into being through the Word, which the Gospel of John tells us Christ Jesus our Lord. God brought order from chaos and created all the beauty of the world around us – water, light, air, trees, birds, fish, animals. We do not need to deny the process of evolution or the existence of dinosaurs. What we do affirm is that God is the Creator, and that we created in God’s image, are given the responsibility of stewarding of the earth, a job we have not taken seriously enough. With each step of creation, God announced that each part was very good. Evil has entered God’s good creation, but we believe that God’s goodness will prevail, so we work to overcome evil and destructiveness in the world and even in ourselves, as we seek to care for and to be grateful for all the good with which God continues to bless us. Hear an excerpt of the Creation story: Creation

Genesis 1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God said, "Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear." And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, "Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it 20 And God said, "Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky 25 God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." 27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." 29 God said, "See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so. 31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.

The Lord chose Abraham and Sarah as bearers of the covenant. Like us, they had done nothing in particular to deserve God’s favor, but God called them, just as God calls us. They trusted God and went to the unknown land of Canaan. God blessed them many descendants and asked them to be a blessing to all the peoples. To be covenant people means we trust God to keep promises made to us and we in turn, do our best to keep our promises to God. Stories of the descendents of Abraham and Sarah show us that God’s people are not always as faithful as they/ as we promise to be. We hurt one another, we turn our backs on God, but God never ultimately turns from us, but keeps leading us forward in God’s sovereign wisdom. Hear the story of the promise God made with Abraham and Sarah: Covenant

Genesis 17 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said to him, "I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. 2 And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous."
3 Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, 4 "As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God." 9 God said to Abraham, "As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations.

Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery and he landed in Egypt, and through a series of miraculous events, he ended up second in command to Pharoah. Because of a famine in the land of Canaan, the brothers were forced to beg for Joseph’s mercy in a wonderful story of surprise and forgiveness. Eventually all twelve tribes of Israel – Joseph and his brothers were in Egypt working for Pharoah, but many years passed and this employment eventually turned ot servitude – harsh servitude. All the little Hebrew boys were getting killed but baby Moses was saved and grew up in the privileged position as adopted son of Pharoah’s daughter.

When Moses grew up, he had to make a choice between his family of origin and his privileged position. He chose his people and God chose him to be the one to lead them to freedom. Hear the story of the Exodus of God’s people, remembering that God is with us as we take brave journeys in trusting and going forth: Exodus

Exodus 3 4 When the LORD saw that Moses he had turned aside to see the burning bush, God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." 5 Then he said, "Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." 6 He said further, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. 7 Then the LORD said, "I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey

After being chased by Pharoah’s army, God’s people reached the other side of the sea and...
Exodus 15 20 Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron's sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. 21 And Miriam sang to them: "Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea
."

Let us remain seated as we recount God’s faithfulness in song:

(WE SING TO YOU, O GOD)

After forty years in the wilderness, with the ten commandments in stone and with Joshua now at the helm in Moses’ place, God’s people finally make it to the Promised Land. They eventually establish themselves a kingdom with good leaders Samuel, Saul, David, and Solomon, who were to reign in justice and peace. When God’s people worshipped false gods, when they put their trust in military power, when they failed to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with their God, the Lord sent prophets to condemn their sin and call them back to obedience. Ultimately those kingdoms fell, as all empires do, and God’s people were taken off into exile where they found it hard to keep their faith. We too have periods of life when we have put our trust in human leaders and in systems which fail us. We’ve had times when we sought our own security with no regard to the cost to others. At such times, God sometimes lets us fail, knowing that from the pit of despair and from the uncertainty of our self-made futures, we often turn back to God, as we should, with humble hearts. Exile is a troubled time of self-examination, of repentance, but ultimately of growth in faith with the steadfast promise that God will surely return us home one day. Hear one of the stories of exile from the prophet who gave us the most vivid image of exile – the valley of dry bones. Exile

Ezekiel 39 25 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for my holy name. 26 They shall forget their shame, and all the treachery they have practiced against me, when they live securely in their land with no one to make them afraid, 27 when I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them from their enemies' lands, and through them have displayed my holiness in the sight of many nations. 28 Then they shall know that I am the LORD their God because I sent them into exile among the nations, and then gathered them into their own land. I will leave none of them behind; 29 and I will never again hide my face from them, when I pour out my spirit upon the house of Israel, says the Lord GOD.

Now before moving into the New Testament, let’s rehearse what we have already covered. First two parts of the story are…..(Creation and Covenant). Second two parts… (Exodus and Exile with the Great Kings in between). Next we shift to the Ch words of the new creation/the new covenant.

And we reach the center of all time, the pinnacle of our Christian faith – the fully divine-fully human person of Jesus who is the Christ, who came to save us, who did what the covenant with Abraham and Sarah was not able to do for all people. Jesus proclaimed the reign of God: preaching good news to the poor, release to the captives, healing the sick, welcoming the children, binding up the broken-hearted, forgiving sinners and eating with outcasts. Unjustly condemned, Christ was crucified, suffering the depths of human pain, giving his life for the sins of the world. God raised Jesus from the dead, and by breaking the power of sin and evil, delivered us from death to life.

It was nearly impossible to choose which passage best summarized the glory of Jesus Christ, so I chose two – one of his infancy and Simeon’s Song, which has been sung in the church for ages. The other a hymn from the early church, recorded in the letter to the Colossians.
Hear these and rejoice: Christ

Luke 2 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 29 "Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel”

Colossians 1 15 Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in Christ all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers-- all things have been created through him and for him. 17 Christ himself is before all things, and in Christ all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

And finally, we come to the church, the people who gather around Word and Sacraments and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We are the church, the people who seek to follow Christ by keeping the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, which he gave us, both of which are in this service today.

The Church, imperfect, but marked by the Holy Spirit and called to witness to God’s goodness, blessed to be a blessing, called to continue the pilgrimage of faith on behalf of all who have gone before us and all who will come after us. Hear now church of the hope of your calling, the riches of God’s glorious inheritance, and the immeasurable greatness of God’s power for us who believe: Church

Ephesians 1 17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20 God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22 And he has put all things under Christ’s feet and has made Christ the head over all things for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of Christ who fills all in all.

And now let us sing of our great foundation in Jesus Christ.

(O CHRIST THE GREAT FOUNDATION)

Join me now in offering a prayer of thanksgiving for those who have journeyed ahead of us, leaving us the amazing witness of this Holy Scripture.

And now please stand with me and sing an adaptation of the Apostles Creed which, like the Nicene Creed, forms a foundation of faith which has sustained Christians for more than 1700 years.