Why do you cry to me?

“Why do you cry to me?” In Exodus 14:15, the fleeing Israelites find themselves in dire straits – trapped by a sea on one side and the pursuing Egyptian army on the other; they have nowhere to go and bitterly criticize their “liberator” Moses for having led them to their scandalous and inescapable situation.  Moses boldly tells the tremulous people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.  The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be still”  (Exodus 14:13-14).No doubt, Moses believed every word he spoke, and he too intended to sit back and watch what God would do for them.  But the LORD, who has a habit of demanding synergy at the darndest times, “said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward’” (14:15).  The ball was in Moses’ court, not God’s.  It was Moses’ move, not God’s.  God is not going to do for His people what they have to do for themselves.  God warned Noah of the impending flood with which He was going to destroy the earth.  God informs Noah of this cataclysm, but does the LORD build Noah an ark?   NO.  God tells Noah to build the ark.   Salvation is not a spectator sport – you either participate or you lose.To the trapped Israelites, God simply says, “Go forward – move, do something.”  If you want to be saved, get yourselves involved in the process.The members of the OCA, much like the Israelites of Exodus 14 are crying to God for help in dealing with an ongoing scandal and leadership failure.  We are waiting for God to do something to help us.  Perhaps some are just bitterly complaining; others are waiting for God to do His thing.   God’s word is the same to us as to the Israelites – “Move forward!  What are you waiting for –  your complete destruction by the Egyptians?  Why are you just standing there motionless and crying out.  Take action, move forward!”  We need to do some things for our salvation.  And just like God didn’t build Noah’s ark, neither is God going to build our church.  God is not going to do for us what we are capable of and supposed to be doing for ourselves. We have to build the Church in America, just like Noah had to build the ark for his salvation.  We have to move forward in solving our problems and stop thinking that God or someone else is supposed to do our work for us.  God is not our servant to clean up our messes.  We are supposed to be His servants and do His will and establish His Church in America.  The ball is in our courts and we need to build the ark despite of whatever sinfulness we find all around us or even in our midst.The current scandalous mess we of the OCA find ourselves in tempts some, like the Hebrew children, to wish they were back in Egypt, back where there were strong rulers (Pharaoh!), back under the rule of foreigners rather than stuck in the current wilderness of Sin (Exodus 16:1), dying of thirst for the Gospel and for righteousness.  Moses was at wits end, but God told him to strike the rock from which water would pour forth  (Exodus 17:6), and as it turns out that rock was Christ  (1 Corinthians 10:4).   The wilderness sojourn which caused such bitter complaining was necessary for their and our salvation, for them and us to come to Christ, for them and us to learn faithfulness, to trust in the Lord, and to do what is right.  We in the OCA too many be stuck in a Wilderness of Sin, but we also know what is good, right and true, and we are to do these things despite our circumstances.The entire Exodus story has meaning for our current situation.  Exodus is not merely or even mostly ancient history about what God did in the past.  It is a message intended for us today.    Exodus is interpreted by St. Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians as a message to us, not just a record of past history:  “Now these things are warnings for us, not to desire evil as they did… We must not indulge in immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day (that would be the whole OCA!!!!).  We must not put the Lord to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents; nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.  Now these things happened to them as a warning, but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Cor 10:6-11). 

It is we who need to hear their story and to come to the full realization that we like the ancient Israelites have been told by God to move forward.  Again, we can hope like the timid Israelites to return to the past, to return to the old world of Egypt, or we can embrace the autocephaly given to us, traverse the wilderness of Sin and move forward to the kingdom of God.  As St. Paul said so eloquently, “Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let those of us who are mature be thus minded; and if in anything you are otherwise minded, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained” (Philippians 3:13-16).

 “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today, when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, “They always go astray in their hearts; they have not known my ways.” As I swore in my wrath, “They shall never enter my rest.”’  …  Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest remains, let us fear lest any of you be judged to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them; but the message which they heard did not benefit them, because it did not meet with faith in the hearers” (Hebrews 3:7-11, 4:1-2).The dire and scandalous situation of the OCA today is obviously not the first time God’s people have found themselves feeling trapped, or even misled by their leadership.  We have the advantage of knowing the Exodus story which St. Paul says was written for our instruction.  We know how their story turned out BECAUSE they didn’t remain paralyzed in frustration and fear but rather they moved forward in faith and hope, guided by God’s promise (and yes they had to overcome a very persistent reluctance on the part of the majority to do what was before them and who wanted instead to return to what was behind them).  Our biggest fear should not be failed leadership or scandal, but only that we will harden our hearts in disbelief against God because of the problems we face.  Moses in what he believed was faithfulness yelled, “Stand firm!”  God on the other hand, said, “Quit standing there and move forward!”  We have much work to do in the OCA to get to where God is leading us.   

2 thoughts on “Why do you cry to me?

  1. Pingback: The OCA and Spiritual Maturity | Fr. Ted's Blog

  2. Pingback: Sermon Notes 5 May 5, 2013 Vespers of Pascha | Fr. Ted's Blog

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