Greetings and welcome to Corona Sabbath. This is one of the ways the church is endeavoring to offer spiritual support during these challenging days of COVID-19. We appreciate your feedback and suggestions.
This post focuses on freedom. We listen to the story well known from Sunday School about the Hebrews escaping slavery in Egypt by crossing the Red Sea.
We listen to Exodus 14:19-31.
Earl Waters recording
Then the angel of God, who was leading the Israelites, moved to their rear – the pillar of cloud left the front of their number and took up position behind them, between the Israelites and the Egyptians. All during the night the cloud provided light to one side and darkness to the other side, so that there was no contact between them.
Then Moses stretched his hand over the sea, and Yahweh swept the sea with a strong east wind throughout the night and so turned it into dry land. When the water was thus divided, the Israelites marched into the midst of the sea on dry land, with the water walled up on their right and on their left.
The Egyptians followed in pursuit; all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and charioteers went after them into the midst of the sea. At dawn, Yahweh looked down upon the Egyptian forces from the column of fiery cloud, and threw the army into confusion and panic, clogging their chariot wheels so that they could hardly turn. The Egyptians turned to flee from the Israelites, saying “Their God fights for them against us!”
Then Yahweh told Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, and let the water flow back upon the Egyptians, over their chariots and their charioteers.” So at sunrise, Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and the waters rolled back in. As the Egyptians fled, Yahweh hurled them into its midst. As the water flowed back, covering the chariots and the charioteers – Pharaoh’s whole army, who had followed the Israelites into the sea – not one of them survived. But the Israelites passed through, walking dry-shod in the sea, with the water like a wall, on their right and on their left. Thus Yahweh saved Israel on that day from the power of Egypt. When Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the seashore and beheld the great power that Yahweh had shown against them, the people held Yahweh in awe; and put their faith in Yahweh and in Moses, God’s trusted servant.
Reflection from Rev. Kim Wells
This is one of the most famous scenes from the Bible: Moses parting the Red Sea so that the Israelites can escape from slavery in Egypt. After the river turning to blood, an infestation of frogs, the swarming of gnats, the cloud of flies, the death of the livestock, the devouring locusts, three days of total darkness, and finally the killing of every firstborn in the land of Egypt. Finally, the Israelites escape across the desert and through the Red Sea.
If you want to make a horror movie or tell a post apocalyptic dystopian tale, look no further than the Bible for inspiration!
The Israelites escape the angel of death by putting lamb’s blood around the door frames of their homes. While the Egyptians are mourning their dead, the Israelites make their exit into the wilderness. Only to be pursued by the Egyptian army. They get to the Red Sea and we hear of the parting of the waters that enables their escape.
We know the image from pictures in Bibles, from Church School booklets, and of course, from the movie, ‘The Ten Commandments.’ The parting of the sea and the people crossing over on dry land is one of the most well-known images from the Bible.
It tells of a god committed to freedom. A god who stands up for those being abused and downtrodden. It symbolizes the power of justice. God is on the side of the oppressed. God heard the cries of the Israelites being terrorized by their Egyptian task masters.
But I don’t like this story. Because in the story, God is responsible for seeing to it that the entire Egyptian army is killed. We are told: “. . . the Lord tossed the Egyptians into the sea.” [Exodus 14:27] And then the conclusion, “Israel saw the great work that the Lord did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the Lord and believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.” [Exodus 14:31]
Yes, I understand that the story was designed in a certain way to meet the spiritual needs of the people who wrote it centuries later. In that time and place, the story was needed to fortify the Jewish people in a time of despair. God had rescued them once, God would do it again. It is also a projection of our very human desires for vengeance and retribution. We create God in our image. But, knowing all of this, I still don’t like this story.
In addition, as a Christian, this image of a vengeful God is not consistent with the teachings of Jesus. We do not see Jesus promoting a god of vengeance. I can’t imagine Jesus, remembered for forgiving his killers from the cross, touting a God of retribution and pay back. Jesus seems to have taken the opposite approach – even those who do evil are beloved.
That said, Jesus is known for celebrating the Passover, the commemoration of the escape from Egypt, on the night before he was killed. So he did not renounce his heritage. He accepted this story and its important role in the history of the Jewish people.
But we have no record of Jesus telling people to follow him to freedom with the expectation that God would take out the Romans. Maybe after hundreds of years, it was time to see things in a different way. And Jesus wanted to show us that way.
While I do not like this story and the killing of the Egyptians, just like I don’t like the story of Noah and the killing of not only the humans but of the animals and plants, this story is important. It helps us to see ourselves more clearly. Our desire for vengeance and retribution. It shows us the contrast with the way of Jesus which is about reconciliation and forgiveness not punishment. It shows us our tendency to image God in a way that suits our purposes. It shows how we prefer to hold God responsible, rather than taking responsibility ourselves. God did this. God did that. Give God the glory. Or the blame. But this can be used to diminish human responsibility and accountability.
There is also another consideration that is important in this story. For something new to be born, something has to die. To realize our ideals of justice and freedom, there are things that need to be laid to rest. Drastic change means something new is accepted and former ways are released, or drowned, as the case may be.
In these days we are addressing ourselves to creating an anti racist society. This is a noble, divine goal. But a lot has got to be washed away to achieve this valiant ideal. To make this a free land, a lot of harmful attitudes and assumptions and lies need to be laid to rest. There is a lot of truth to be uncovered and accepted. And this is a painful healing process. But it must be embraced.
Think of a change you would like to see – in your life. In the community. In our country. In the world. Focus on that one change. That moves your heart. Give it some thought. Envision the reality you would like to see. Imagine that world.
To create that reality, to get there, something has to go down, something has to be given up. Destroyed, even.
In this autumn season, in a temperate climate, we think of the trees, giving up all of their leaves, so that they can survive the winter and come back to new life in the spring. The process of death is incorporated into the process of growth.
So, this story of the parting of the Red Sea reminds us that we don’t get to the Promised Land on a tram from the parking lot to the theme park. True transformation can be an arduous, painful, frightening, redeeming, worthwhile, life giving process. Amen.
(Click HERE if you wish to see the post containing the video of this text.)
These weeks when we cannot gather in person for Sunday worship, Lakewood United Church of Christ is providing brief weekly sabbath programs for you to listen to on your own or with others in your social isolation group. They will be posted on Friday so that you can schedule your sabbath time to suit your schedule and your spiritual inclinations. We hope these programs are of spiritual support to you in these difficult times.
The post this week focuses on freedom.
There is a well known scripture lesson about the Hebrews escaping from slavery in Egypt through the Red Sea, an audio reflection from Rev. Kim Wells, and a musical offering from Hilton Jones.
You are invited to find a quiet space, inside or outside. Light a candle. Take a look around you. Breathe. Life-giving breath. Be present.
You may begin with this reading:
There is scarcely any passion without struggle.
–Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, 20th century
When you are ready, start the audio recording below.
As you listen to the music which follows (click on the Kok mish p’chot link below), you are invited to notice the thoughts and feelings and that arise for you.
KOL MISH P’CHOT (audio recording)
composed by Hilton Kean Jones, performed by the University of South Florida Chamber Singers, Robert Summer, director.
After listening to the music, you are invited to offer the following closing –
The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.
–M. Scott Peck, 20th century
Breathe. Breathe again. Be filled. With the desire for freedom. Extinguish your candle and engage whatever may come with a sense of peace and a desire to serve.
The mission of Lakewood United Church of Christ, as part of the Church Universal, is to:
USEFUL LAKEWOOD LINKS DURING THE CORONA CRISIS:
Corona Sabbath 26
What does it take to be free? The story of the parting of the Red Sea invites reflection on freedom as the Egyptian army is swallowed up by the returning waters. Take a look at Exodus 14: 19-31. In this week’s Corona Sabbath, Hilton offers the music and Earl Waters reads the scripture. It will be posted on Friday.
If you missed last week’s Corona Sabbath, the theme was Awe and Wonder. Here’s the link: https://lakewooducc.org/2020/09/04/corona-sabbath-25-wonder-and-awe/
Gratitude from Rev. Wells
Kim would like to thank everyone for their good wishes and prayers related to her heel surgery. The recovery process has become prolonged due to an infection.
It’s Back to School the Tipsy-Turvy 2020 Way!!!
This back to school sign slogan created by Ruth Pettis became the theme of the Sunday and Tuesday LUCC back to school drive-by celebrations for LUCC teachers and students. Dodging the Sunday afternoon rain, thunder and puddles, church members drove across town distributing cards and gift bags packed with school supplies and goodies to students and teachers. The Tuesday drive by was warmed by the sun and the hearts of all who participated. That drive-by ended with Jeff dropping off a back to school gift bag at the church for Gabi. Both drive bys were successful events in extending this LUCC message of love and support: “Your LUCC Family Supports you All the Way!” Thank you to all who participated in the wonderful celebration, especially the students and teachers who shared their smiles and inspiration with all!
View the pictures here: https://lakewooducc.org/2020/09/03/its-back-to-school-the-tipsy-turvy-2020-way/
Church Library Makeover
Claire Stiles and Colleen Coughenour are hard at work cleaning up and reorganizing the church library. There are many wonderful books that are “hiding under a bushel.” When Colleen and Claire are done, the books will be accessible and displayed in an attractive manner. What a beautiful anticipatory gesture of the time when we are all coming to the church again!
Finance Follow Up
Several weeks ago, the Finance Team shared a letter about the current state of the church finances. The information is also available at the church website.
Many thanks to the church family and beyond for your generosity! With your continued faithfulness, the church should be able to stay on steady ground in these uncertain days.
The Education Ministry Team met last week and has made some plans for the Fall. They are reaching out to teachers and students as the school year begins. After Labor Day, a new initiative will begin that will include all of the children and youth of the church family that would like to participate. Grown ups, this will be for you, too! You’ll hear more about it soon!
Charter Sunday Zoom Ahead
Each year in September, there is a celebration of the founding of LUCC in 1967. Look for details about a Zoom later this month commemorating this wonderful church ever seeking to bear witness to the love of God as we know it through the ministry of Jesus. What has LUCC meant to you and your life? Together we’ll give thanks for this wonderful congregation!
Have you completed the Census?
Please participate in the US Census which is mandated by the Constitution. These numbers determine the allocation of many resources that directly impact each of us in the community. Participation in the Census, like voting, is a way of showing love for your neighbor and your community. If you would like assistance in submitting your Census information, please contact the church and someone will help you.
Operation Attack Update
Dear Friends of Operation Attack,
A team of people from Operation Attack, Lake view Presbyterian, and Circle of Faith have determined a way that we can distribute food safely to the community. We are going to have a Food Distribution Drive-Thru on Saturday, September 12, from 9-12 at Lakeview Presbyterian Church. You can become involved in any or all of the following ways:
Donate Cereal, Peanut Butter, Pasta, Pasta Sauce, or canned meat Volunteer for preparation tasks before the Drive-Thru Volunteer on September 12 Donate money Pray for all the people/groups making this event happen
You are welcome to reply to firstname.lastname@example.org with questions and/or information on how you would like to participate in this Drive-Thru.
Thank you for your longtime faithfulness to Operation Attack and the families in our community. Stay Safe and Be Well
Sunday Evening Demonstration for Racial Justice Grows!
The Black Lives Matter and Peace and Justice Demonstration continues on 54th Ave South each Sunday evening. This is an important way to inspire hope in the community and to work to create an anti-racist society.
All are welcome Sunday evenings. Please note that in September the new time is 7:00 – 7:30 p.m. at the church. In case of rain, the demonstration will not be held that week. Know justice, know peace!
Click here to see pictures of the most recent witness. https://lakewooducc.org/2020/08/26/weekly-anti-racism-demonstration-8-23/
The church will not be open from 10:30 to 11:30. The sanctuary will be open again on Sundays when Rev. Wells has recovered from surgery.
Look for a Corona Sabbath post on Friday. Check for it at the website – lakewooducc.org
Also, please subscribe to the website so that you receive regular updates about church life.
Weekly Labyrinth Walks Continue
Each Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. a small group gathers at the outdoor labyrinth for a time of devotion, discussion, and meditative walking of the labyrinth. The theme for the week is taken from the Corona Sabbath of the week before, so it is an opportunity to go deeper in the spiritual exploration of that theme for your life. This devotional gathering is outside and physical distancing is maintained. All are welcome!
If there is rain on Wednesday morning, the gathering will be held on Thursday morning at 9:00.
Spiritual Direction Offered by LUCC Clergy Member.
In these troubled times, it is important to find ways to tend to our spiritual lives. In the Christian tradition, Spiritual Direction is one of the ways of paying attention to the spirit in our lives. A Spiritual Director is someone to talk with about what is going on in our spiritual life and in our relationship with God however we may conceive of God.
Rev. Sally Purvis, Ph.D., a member of LUCC, is a retired clergy person with training and experience in Spiritual Direction. She is offering her services as a Spiritual Director to the community. The sessions would be held on Zoom and there is no fee to be paid. Church leaders are pleased to have the ministry of the church expand in this way.
Spiritual Direction with Sally is open to anyone, not just the congregation. And it is offered to everyone whatever their spiritual or religious background or affiliation or lack thereof. Sessions are generally held once every three weeks. Spiritual Direction is not a mode of therapy. It is a process for understanding and deepening your relationship with God/Spirit in ways that are authentic and life-giving.
Sally was trained by Henri Nouwen, a noted spiritual guide of the 20th century, and did Spiritual Direction as part of her professional ministry before retiring in 2015.
The church is very grateful to Sally for offering this avenue of support to the congregation and the community.
USEFUL LAKEWOOD LINKS DURING THE CORONA CRISIS:
For the above church website links, please note the “Older Posts” button near bottom of each page.
Daily Corona Prayer
If you need help of any kind – something from the store, someone to talk with, support managing during shelter-in-place, parenting concerns – please know that the church is ready and willing to help in any way needed. This situation is trying for everyone. You are not alone. We’ll make it through together. Please contact the church office (email@example.com or 867-7961 or Rev. Kim Wells at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Miss someone from church? Give them a call or send a note. Personal contact is so important when physical contact is limited.
About Hilton’s music. . . If you would enjoy hearing Hilton play more Irish folk songs, you can
listen for free at either https://hiltonjones.bandcamp.com/album/irish-
tunes or https://soundcloud.com/hilton-kean-jones/sets/irish-tunes .
September Birthdays: Kim Wells 9/19, Joanne Reid 9/22, Wilbur Reid 9/22, Donald Ritchie 9/27, and Carolyn Moore 9/30. Someone missing? Contact the church office with birthday information.
Circle of Concern: Carol Shores and family, JoAnn Reid, William Owen, Wilbur Reid, Martha Lamar, Jen Degroot, Carolyn Moore, Ann Quinn, Maggie Brizendine, Dave Radens, Dana Cosper’s cousin, Vern McKinney, and all healthcare workers and essential workers. All those suffering from COVID-19.
Please keep Rev. Wells in your prayers as she continues to recover from surgery.
You are encouraged to pray and express your support to students, teachers, and families as the school year begins. These are very challenging times for all! There is concern for the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of all involved in the educational system. The LUCC faith community has several teachers and families with students and this has been a very difficult time for them all.
Please keep Elinor Ross and family in your prayers. Elinor has moved in with her daughter, Cheryl, and is under Hospice care
Please keep Yvonne Riesen and family in your prayers. Yvonne has moved again to a larger apartment in the assisted living at Westminster Suncoast. Calls and notes are a way to show your concern and support to Yvonne. Call the main desk and they will connect you: 727-867-1131.
Please keep LUCC member, Olivia Gibson, in your prayers. She is a nurse in a COVID-19 unit in a local hospital. We are grateful for her ministry!
Weekly Update: If you are involved with an activity or event that you would like to share with the LUCC family, please send the information to the Church Office by Tuesday since the Update usually is sent out on Wednesday.