Summary: To be effective as peacemakers in a warlike time, we must have a healthy self-doubt, we must understand God’s concern for justice, and we must use what is available to us, no matter how small. Reworking for Montgomery Hills Baptist Church of a message do
There is an old saying here in Washington that nothing ever happens in August. Government people head off on vacation to the beaches, to the mountains, or to beautiful downtown Crawford, so there is nobody to make things happen. So, it is said, nothing ever happens in August.
Of course that idea was damaged in 1914 when an anarchist assassinated an Austrian Archduke and started the first World War. Then there was the build-up in German arms in August of 1939, leading to Hitler’s invasion of Poland on the first of September. Most of all, ingrained in the memories of some of us still living, there were those August days in 1945 when the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were obliterated by American bombs. August is a bitter month, a terrible month. It behooves us to be wary of August and its awesome consequences.
And here we are again, in the August of 2006, with war raging, not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but now between Israel and Hezbollah. Who will deliver us from the guns of August? What can we who follow the Prince of Peace do to create peace? There must be something we can do to participate in the struggle to liberate lives and minds and hearts. How can we be available for peacemaking and liberation?
Once there was a man who thought he was settled and secure, fat and sassy, but who faced a call to liberate a people. That man, impressed that there were those who did not share his safety, felt several things. He felt self-doubt, he felt uncertainty, he felt unreadiness. But that man learned how to be available for liberation.
Moses had lived a rather unusual life. In fact, it was nothing short of a miracle that he was alive at all. Born into a Hebrew family at a time when the powers that be in Egypt were threatened by the strength of their slaves, Moses was scheduled for destruction, along with a host of other young boys. But he was saved. By the grace of God and the ingenuity of his mother, he was given not only his life, but also exceptional privileges, right in Pharaoh’s palace. It looked like Moses was headed for something special.
But then Moses made a mistake. A huge, life-changing blunder. He killed a man. Moses became a fugitive from justice in the far away land of Midian. There he took on a wife, raised some children, and settled down into herding sheep. Moses was achieving the suburban dream! If the promise of his earliest years had been forgotten, then also the mistake of his young adulthood had been covered up. You can imagine Moses just lying low and keeping cool. Like Bill Cosby said when he observed a little old lady standing around looking cool: “That’s how you get to be a little old lady, by standing around looking cool”. That was Moses’ strategy: tend the sheep, raise the children, keep the wife happy, be cool, stay out of trouble. Sound familiar?
But Moses had not reckoned with God. God had other things in mind. God wanted Moses to free His people. God expected Moses to be available for liberation. When God’s call came, Moses was not so sure he really wanted that. Even while the words, “Here I am” were coming out of his mouth, he felt self-doubt – which he expressed with the question, “Who am I?”; he felt uncertainty, which he voiced with, “Who are you?”; and he felt unreadiness, offered as, “What if?”. Remember those three questions and you have the whole message today: “Who am I?”, “Who are You?”, and “What if?”
First, look at Moses’ self-doubt. “Who am I?” he said. “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh to bring my people out of Egypt?” Who wouldn’t be anxious, given the assignment God had in mind? Only the most arrogant think we have what it takes to do everything. But I am prepared to say that doubting ourselves is actually a very valuable part of being available for God’s causes. Moses doubted himself; that’s a good thing. It made him available to be used of God, not for himself, but for God’s purposes.
In my lifetime, I have known a few “no problem” people. Do you know the kind of person I mean? You ask him to do something, and he answers, “No problem.” Can you teach my class for me? “No problem”. Can you repair my broken-down car? “No problem”. Can you leap tall buildings in a single bound? “No problem”! What’s going on here? What is this all about?
There is a kind of insecurity that makes us arrogant and foolish, a kind of deep down fear that doesn’t acknowledge danger. There is a kind of rash insecurity that just cannot admit that life is demanding. In my experience, the folks who always pronounce that there is “no problem” doing something seldom actually get it done. They promise the world, but they deliver nothing. They are so caught up in their own insecurity they cannot tell you they are scared, and so they make fools of themselves trying to look heroic. But you do not want self-serving hero antics on the front line of a battlefield; that’s likely to get everybody hurt. You want people who have a healthy respect for the enemy.