Scripture: Exodus 3:1-17; Luke 4:14-19; 1 John 4:7-12
There once was a person who fell into a hole. The hole was just deep enough and the walls were just steep enough that they couldn’t get out on their own. Thankfully they heard someone walking by above, it was a doctor. Please help, they shouted, I can’t get out! The doctor looked in, wrote prescription, dropped it in, and went on their way. The person was still trapped in the hole. Someone else was walking by, oh its pastor. Please help, they shouted, I can’t get out! The pastor looked in, knelt beside the hole, prayed and tossed some scripture cards into the hole. The person was still trapped in the hole. A third person? A third person was walking by, and it was a friend, please help, they shouted, I can’t get out! The friend looked in and jumped down into the hole. The person was surprised, incredulous, angry. What are you doing? Now we’re both in this hole! You’re right, the friend said, but I’ve been here before and I know the way out.
When the Israelites were oppressed and enslaved in Egypt, God came to Moses, called to him from a burning bush and 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 and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians and to bring them up out of the land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey.” Indeed, I know their sufferings. And when Moses asks who he would say sent him, God says, “I am who I am…the Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” God is the great I am and all forms that word implies, am is are was were be being been, God is present, has been all the way back to the Israelites ancestors, and always will be. God sees, hears, and knows their suffering, and comes down into their lives as Moses and Aaron, to lead them out of the oppressive hole into life.
After the Exodus, years pass. Situations change. Situations stay the same. People still feel lost, people still feel in pain, unjust systems still create suffering. And God comes down through prophet after prophet after prophet. Until one day, Godself, God comes down. God no longer sends someone to jump down into the hole on God’s behalf or with God’s voice but God comes down, nurtured in the water of a womb, and enters the world amidst mud and hay. And then one day, God-enfleshed quotes from the prophet Isaiah and announces his mission and purpose on earth. “To bring good news to the poor…to proclaim release to the captives…to set free those who are oppressed. To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Good news, release, freedom, liberation.
And this good news of deliverance, was not just for the Israelites back in Moses’ day, it was not just for the people back in Jesus’ day, but is for us, here today. Because deliverance is a part of God’s nature, deliverance, freedom, is a part of who God is, and something God wants for all of us and offers to all of us. Let me say that again. Deliverance is a part of God’s nature, God is a God of freedom and deliverance is something God wants for all of us and offers to all of us.
Am I talking systemic and collective deliverance, deliverance from unjust systems of oppression like Pharoah? Liberation from the systemic issues of racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism? Yes.
Am I talking individual deliverance, from the things that trap and ensnare each of us? Things that might be individual to you or that a lot of people struggle with, addictions, hate, greed, anger, overwhelming grief, all consuming sadness, bitterness? Yes.
We know, some of us all too well, that there are things from which we as individuals and society need deliverance. Those internal and external things, that chained, ensnare, and trap us. And to help give us hope and endurance, we need reminders that deliverance is possible, reminders that God wants liberation and freedom for you. You were made for freedom and abundant life. We need reminders that our God is a God of deliverance. That deliverance may not be easy and will not happen overnight, and involves our participation but it is available to each and every one of us. You can tap into stores of courage and strength you didn’t even know you had to call a therapist, go to a 12 step program for the first time, to start taking medication, or ask for help. You can work with others to write letters, make phone calls, and challenge systems of oppression. You can find freedom, peace, love, liberation, and deliverance.
There once were a lot of people who found themselves in holes. Some of those holes had names. Depression. Anxiety. Fear Loneliness. And some of those people were pushed into their holes. Those holes had names too. Trauma. Bigotry. Hatred. And all of the holes were just deep enough, the walls just steep enough, that none of the people could get out on their own. They shouted and cried out, please help I can’t get out! And folks of good intentions tossed down all sorts of things meant to help. Until one day, each in their own time, the people in the holes felt a tapping on their shoulders. When they turned around they saw, love. Love had come down into the hole with them. “What are you doing here, now you’re trapped too” the people cried out. Love just smiled and said, ”even when you thought you were alone and it felt like you were alone, I was here, trying to get your attention, surrounding you even if you didn’t see me.” Love continued, “and you know what? I know this place. A lot of people fall down here. Things feel rough right now but I have been here before. You are not trapped, we can make our way out together.”
Rev. Stefanie Hayes