Summary: Change in the congregations of America is difficult and is often resisted. This sermon looks at Moses as a model for transformation and change in a church.
The Story of Moses and the Stool Pigeon
In 1914 a very sad thing happened when Martha died. Martha was the last of passenger pigeons. One hundred years earlier the passenger pigeons covered the landscape. It was not uncommon for flocks of over one hundred thousand to fly together. They nested up north, especially in Michigan. In fact, there are places in Michigan that still bear the names Pigeon Lake and Pigeon River because the passenger pigeon returned there to nest so often.
The Passenger Pigeon was about the size of a chicken. It was a beautiful and friendly bird. It lived in huge numbers and in huge flocks. In many ways it was like humans because it enjoyed the company and companionship of other Passenger Pigeons. Yet by the first part of the 20th century the Passenger Pigeon died out as a species.
Why did it die out so quickly? I’ll answer that question later as well as explain how the term Stool Pigeon comes from the species of Passenger Pigeon.
Listen now to the Word of the Lord from Exodus and from Deuteronomy.
The children of Israel had been slaves for a long time and had somehow they grown used to being slaves. They had food, shelter, and clothes to wear provided by the Egyptians. They ate at food provided for them. They ate freely from the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic grown in Egypt. The eating free sounds good to me. Certainly they worked hard as slaves, but everyone worked hard. Most people thought that slavery really was better than starving to death.
Imagine the shock the children of Israel must have felt the first time they met Moses and heard his message. “God has sent me to lead you out of Egypt, out of your slavery and captivity into the Promised Land.” I imagine people must have thought or said, “Boy is he an arrogant chuckle head and conceited to boot.”
I hear people saying, “We don’t want to leave. We have free food and plenty of it. My parents are buried here as well as my grandparents. My child is buried here. I don’t want to leave. I like it here. I know this place, but I don’t know about this Promised Land.”
Most of us know the story of the Exodus. We have seen Charlton Hesston in The Ten Commandments. We know how hard Moses had to fight Pharaoh to get him to let the Children of Israel go. Finally after 10 horrible plagues, Pharaoh relented and released the Children of Israel.
For years I thought that was the hardest part of Moses’ task. But now I think a different task was equally difficult. I think Moses had a hard task convincing the Children of Israel that they needed to leave Egypt for the unknown of the Promised Land. We have hints at this during the time after they leave Egypt. That’s why I think this was one of the major reasons that they complained so much while they were on their Exodus. They didn’t all buy into this change.
Moses had two huge jobs, convince the Children of Israel to change where they lived and getting Pharaoh to let them go. After doing all this Moses next had to get the Children of Israel safely out of Egypt, across the Red Sea, and into the Promised Land. Moses had a huge job. Sometimes he wasn’t up to it. He failed and it cost him the ability to enter into the Promised Land.
As the Children of Israel neared the Promised Land they sent in spies to check things out. Ten of the spies returned and said that there were giants in the land and there was no way that they could defeat them and take over the land. However, two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb believed they should take possession of the land.
This is how it’s recorded in Scripture, "The land that we went through as spies is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD is pleased with us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only, do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land, for they are no more than bread for us; their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them." Even when Joshua and Caleb reminded the people that the Lord was on their side the people still refused to enter into the Promised Land.
God’s punishment for their lack of trust in his ability to take them safely and victoriously into the Promised Land was to make them wander in the Wilderness for 40 years until everyone who was over the age of 21 at the time the spies went on their mission was dead. Once Moses and Aaron and all the adults were all dead, then and only then, did God allow the Children of Israel to enter into the Land that he had promised them as an inheritance.