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Let Go, Let God - Sermon for 9/28/14 (Pentecost +16 A)

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Sermon delivered to Hope Lutheran Church-El Sobrante
September 28, 2014 -Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

"Let Go, Let God" - Text from Exodus 14:10-14, 21-29

Greetings to you, my family in Christ, sisters and brothers, saints and sinners, children of God.

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I am proud to say that I have nearly 10 years of recovery from active drug addiction, and I am continuously involved in working the 12 step program that helped me to get clean to begin with those years ago. You see, I want to stay in a place where I don't have to risk myself falling trap into the same abysmal cycle of using, regret, determination, then forgetfulness, and using again. Part of that is making sure I know where my head is at from day to day, and part of that is watching the people that we call newcomers grapple with the same issues that I once dealt with, the obsession and compulsion of the vicious cycle of using day in and day out, over and over again.

Because seeing those people, caring about those people, understanding those people reminds me of the bondage that I had when I was trying to get out of that cycle. The logical leaps and bounds that I used to justify the continual putting hazardous chemicals, be they drugs or alcohol, into my body over and over again while experiencing the very same results each and every time.

Because there were days at a time that just disappeared while I was using. The calling in to work sick or missing important appointments or forgetting to do basic things like take medication or brush my teeth. There were the strains that I put on relationships with family and friends, partners, co-workers and people who might have been something more but wouldn't because of the person I became when I was in that state of mind. And then there was the long recovery periods afterwards, days sometimes, when I wouldn't even feel like getting out of bed. Those times that I made a vow to myself that I would not use again, not put another substance in my body. That I was a man grown and the strength of my will alone would keep me from going down the path once more to the edge of dereliction and degradation. That would work for a few days. But as the depression associated with my physical recovery gave way to day to day life and the semblance of normalcy that I was living, my remembrance of the misery declined. And in order to feel any semblance of joy or happiness, I had to do it vis-a-vis external means, rather than by virtue of living life, I only had one way of really entertaining myself. The compulsion always too overcame the negative memories, and the web of self denial that was wrapped around me was always too much for me to escape the bondage that my addiction to drugs and alcohol and the associated lifestyle had over me.

And it was a bondage that I could not displace myself by my own power from. And it was a bondage that kept me miserable, but also kept me from seeing that I could have a better life, if I just had some faith.

That kind of bondage to addiction is something that easily millions of people experience all across the United States, the dependence on something that is patently harmful to themselves, and yet the denial that they are in any way being harmed by it. People live as slaves to an addiction that tells them that they need each other but ultimately harms them and everyone around them. And it is not so hard to imagine the complacency of the children of Israel when Moses is calling them forth to tell them that there is a new land awaiting, and they instead are fearful, wanting not to follow him into a wilderness of pain and suffering but to stay in a life that at least they know will be waiting for them, the same as yesterday and the day before. Despite the fact that Pharaoh is working them to the bones, despite the fact that they are slaves to the whims of the Egyptian empire.

And here we are at the Red Sea. The crossing of the Red Sea (or Reed Sea by some translations) is an account that I have to wonder if there is anyone here that hasn't heard about. Even if you've never covered this in Bible Study at some point, most of us have seen this in the media in some form or another. People of an older generation, and I am sad to say that I am among them, remember seeing this in the famous Charlton Heston movie, The Ten Commandments. Millennial among us may remember this account from the somewhat more recent Dreamworks animated feature Prince of Egypt. And the rest of you, have no fear, this December will bring yet another account of the Exodus from Egypt, entitled simply Exodus:Gods and Kings.

And we read the story. Pharaoh, having changed his mind about letting the children of Israel free, chases them to the edge of the sea. The people are terrified, and are angry with Moses, accusing him of sending them to their doom in the wilderness.

Then God tells Moses to have the Israelites forge ahead, to go into the parted sea and cross over to the other side, while Pharaoh and his chariots pursue fruitlessly. The Israelites are saved when the waters come crashing down around entire Egyptian army.

It is not only in media that we recall it. All throughout the rest of the first five books of Moses, what we call the Pentateuch, and on into Joshua, Judges, the prophets, and even with references in the new testament, we read how God speaks to his people. "I am the Lord your god, who brought you out of egypt."

The children of Israel are called out specifically, because God is with them throughout this tribulation. And it is also important to note, that even though the children of God have to battle and fight their way later on, here, while escaping from Pharaoh, the Israelites are merely running, escaping, and told to simply move, that God is in charge. They don't have to fight the armies of Egypt, they only have to move forward, to face their fear of the walls of water, to face their fear of the wilderness ahead, and to let God handle the armies of Pharaoh.

And so it was with my drug addiction, that I couldn't escape that bondage of addiction on my own, that I had to finally give in and put my faith in God. To surrender to his will and let him do the fight for me. That meant allowing other people in my life, to guide me and give me strength, and it also meant that I had to go through my fear. I had to give up my comfort and my complacency. I had to make time for the emotional wasteland that I was sure to be going through in order to make it to the other side, to the promised land. And it was not something that happened quickly or overnight. It took time and dedication and pain.

But God was there for me, through the whole process. Just as He is there for so many others, and even as I engage with newcomers in my life and watch them suffer and grow and get better and healthier, so I am encouraged by the love that God has for his people, his children, those that finally put their faith in.

Because although the children of Israel did not turn and fight, they yet took action. God said "I will deal with this, tell the Israelites to march on." Making a decision to move forward, just how it works to escape from the bondage of addiction. God provides, we make the decision to put one foot in front of the other to take the steps to get out of the situation that was harming us and making our lives hard.

But this wonderful event is filled with so much more to heal and help us. Because just as with the waters of the Red Sea, washing away the armies of Pharaoh, so God washes away all our sins with the waters of baptism, how he continues to wash away our sins with the covenant he has promised us in the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The same love that God has for his children, his chosen people of Israel, so that love is brought to us, to rescue us from the bondage of sin that we can be beholden to, through the wondrous gift of his son Jesus Christ.

And just as God has led his people to a land of milk and honey, free from the bondage of the Egyptian overseers, so he leads us all into health and happiness, free from the bondage of our addictions and sins and the thigns that we often embrace that lead us into harm.

God rescues us from the power of sin. God claims us as his chosen people. God grants us new life in his holy waters, making us his new creation, and promises us a place in his heavenly kingdom.

God sets free the captives, releases the slaves and grants us pardon from our sins. We have only to take the steps to move forward, to get out of the way of his miraculous power. We, his people, through the awesome death and resurrection of his son, the redeemer, Jesus Christ, have been invited to receive a place in the presence of his glory in life everlasting.

This, my brothers and sisters, is the good news of a God who stands with his people, rescues us from bondage and helps us through the discomfort and struggles of life, helping us to become the wondrous creation he has meant us to be, to love and serve each other on this world and to live in his glorious in his promised kingdom to come.


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