The Inside Out Word
We are in the season of the graduation speeches, when the students receive (supposedly) “words of wisdom” before they are sent off to the next stage of life. Graduation speakers will do some unusual things to get their message across. I had a High School baccalaureate speaker who spilled ink on his tie, and then without minimal action the ink stain was gone. I think that had something to do with forgiveness. At our school, we had this goofy speaker for the eighth grade graduation who used his poor art ability to make his point that in relationship to others” it’s not about you”. Yet, from God’s perspective it’s all about you (hold up poor art work). Today Moses begins his extended graduation address following a good deal of education concerning God’s rescuing action for the Israelites. He is also lets them know what their appropriate response is to this God. That is, to hear and follow him. Put these words, these promises and commandments as frontlets between your eyes, around your wrist, and in front of your houses (A visual is made with God’s Word attached to forehead, wrists, and front door). God is asking to turn the words he gave us in our heart, inside out to the world. Show forth my word in your everyday life, and relate my promises when you sit, wake, lie, and rise.
Sometimes picture our ability to maintain God’s promises in our lives like riding a bike. Once you learn it, it will never go away. While this confidence in God’s promises is quite laudable and true, it overestimates our abilities to remember and trust in the one true God. It doesn’t take into account our natural inclination is to get off the bike of faith, and try some other mode of daily transportation/trust. The issue here isn’t merely about breaking this commandment or that one. Ultimately the issue rests on “Who is your God?” . The temptation then and now was to worship other gods, to give credit to other gods.
This reading, and in particular the first commandment remind us that there really are only two options. One, the true rescuing, caring, deliverance God who ultimately sends us Jesus, verses the gods we make up. The question is who will be your god? For the Israelites it was the golden calf, for us it might be the golden cash. For the Israelites it was the Canaanite gods who supposedly brought rain if you did such and such. For us it may be the god of health, work, power, and even family (all good things, but even good things can become our gods). Luther put it very well “A god is that which you look to for all good”.
How do we stem this natural inclination? Through the words and very real stories of what this God has done in our lives. Early in Deuteronomy he writes “Remember today your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of God, his majesty, and his outstretched arm. Tell them again and again what I did to bring them out of Egypt (Duet. 11:2) In so many words he goes on to say tell them how Pharaoh’s great army was drowned in the sea. Tell how I parted the waters, and let them go through. Tell them how I took care of their lives while they lived in the wilderness. Tell them how I provided for them every day through the manna from above, and how water poured forth in the dessert from the rocks. Tell them that it was not with might and power that they made it to the Promised Land, but it was through my mighty rescuing hand. Tell them also of my judgments, and what the consequences were when they forgot about me.
Moses is saying to them and to us go ahead talk about God in everyday life. Turn what is inside out. . Go ahead parents, grandparents, high school and college age students; don’t be afraid to testify to what God has done in history, and what God is presently doing in your life. How on the cross he has forgiven, and continues to forgive your daily sins. How God daily has provided for you in the midst of tremendous difficulties. How he has been our refuge and strength and ever present help in time of trouble. How the foundations of the gospel and the word, have sustained us through the storms of life so that we can stand with sure footing. This is not bragging about our great faith, but rather how our God cares for us, and how he loves us in spite of ourselves.
Why is this important? Satan and his minions are working to tell us a different story. They want us to place our trust in other so called gods. Our gospel reading even says that there are false prophets who are going to come in sheep’s clothing ultimately giving us something other than Jesus. They are going to emphasize that righteousness or good standing before God, if necessary at all, comes through something else other than faith in Christ. They may tell us that the greatest worship is to love self, and care for self, and while self is a gift it is not to be worshiped. These false prophets are going to try to make the gospel a series of do’s and don’ts. On Saturday Nathan Ellis was baptized and in this baptism God delivers to Nathan the best he has to offers. He wants Nathan to know in a very tangible way that Jesus is a rescuing God who is forgiving of all sin, and who delivers to him the Holy Spirit. As parents, and as a congregation, and as fellow Christians our calling now in the life of Nathan is to remind him over and over again of his God so that when the rains fall, the winds blow, and floods come he will be able to stand. Stand, not because of our actions, but because God’s true Word, his true love that will sustain him through thick and thin. “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved”.
This is important because the false gods, no matter how hard they try, simply cannot deliver what only Jesus can give. They only promise life, meaning, and purpose while Jesus alone delivers life, forgiveness, and salvation. The false gods are never satisfied with us. If our god is money, there is never enough of it. Even if we have a lot of it we are worried whether we will be able to keep it. If our god is health, then what happens when inevitably our health fades away? If our god is work, how much work is enough? All these gods and countless others will bring us to our ruin. Too often, we have walked that ruined road. Yet, in the midst of this ruin, it is Jesus picking us off, dusting us off, and breathing into us new life and getting us on our way once again. Only this time it is he alone that is holding us on the bike. It is this Jesus who has justified us freely by his grace. May this life placed in our hearts move from the inside out. Why? So that in our everyday life our children, grandchildren, friends and neighbors might also know this true God loves them. Amen.