Thursday, January 03, 2008

Let My People Go!

"Let My People Go!"
A sermon preached at the Anglican parish of St. Boschlavich at Watership on Down in Falkirk, Ayrshire the first Sunday after advent.
Guest post by Michel Vogel, Ret'd Vicar of St. Boschlavich.
Dear brothers and sisters, many of you may take joy in reading over the story of the Exodus which is now delightfully retold in movies like The Ten Commandments or The Prince of Egypt. It is a story that we are all know and are familiar with. One of the most powerful moments in the Exodus story is when Moses says to Pharoah, "Let my people Go!" (Exod. 5.1). This short statement is both plea and demand. Moses pleads and yet also demands that Pharoah set the Hebrews free from their malevolent oppression. It is rather like going up to Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe and saying, "In God's name stop all of these human rights abused!" To go up to a national ruler, one hardly known for his compassion and benevolence, and to make such a demand takes audacity, courage, bravery, not a little faith, and oodles of testicular fortitude. Moses did it, though not with a little reluctance, and he was remembered in Judaism as the leader of captives, the law-giver, a wise-man, and even as a role model King (see esp. Philo of Alexandria).
The exodus story can be reapplied in a number of ways. It is taken up again in the books of Isaiah and Hosea who predict a new exodus and a new day of liberation for God's exiled people. The Gospels, most notably Mark, take up the exodus theme via Isaiah and declare that this hoped for day of salvation has now come in and through Jesus. Jesus proclaimed that the day of exile was ending and God was again gathering together a renewed Israel, for a renewed covenant, through a new passover sacrifice.
In recent days the Exodus story has been interpreted in a more contemporary fashion in the Anglican communion. For instance, Anglican Priest and Theologian Marilyn McCord Adams interprets the story as the quinessential coming-out party for gays and lesbians wanting to be free from oppression and to embrace their true sexual identity. Her sermons are always interesting and she is a very learned philosopher. While I appreciate the depth of her compassion for societal outcasts, I have to confess that I do not find her application of the story all that compelling. I cannot for the life of me see how one can take the biblical teaching about homosexuality to be anything other than negative and restrictive. A better strategy might be to say that the God of the Old Testament is a wicked demi-god, Paul was a homophobic bigot so who cares what he thinks, the church fathers were just a bunch of backward African hicks (like modern African Anglican leaders) to whom we should only pay lip service too, let's hope that Jesus never actually said alot of the things he is reported to have said about marriage, adultery, celibacy, and divorce, and instead let's just run with the UN Millennium goals and UN charter on Human Rights. Truth be told, I have alot more respect for that upfront repudiaton of the biblical teaching about sexuality than I do of some of the pseudo-exegesis that tries to convince the converted that homosexuality is now officially kosher. Let me qualify that: (1) All human beings regardless of gender or sexual preference bear the image of God and have inherent worth and value; (2) God does not have a special loathing for the sins of homosexuality, in fact, homosexuality is mentioned as one possible sin of many in Paul's vice lists; (3) Violence against homosexuals because they are homosexuals is abhorrent to all - evangelicals, moderates, or liberals; (4) Everybody is invited to my church, gays, lesbians, transgendered persons, Liberal Democrats, and even Celtic Supporters, and come as you are, but no one is allowed to stay as you are, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and we all urgently need the transforming work of the Holy Spirit to conform them to the image of the Son of God.
But let me find another application of the exodus story for our contemporary circumstance and one that includes making use of Moses' phrase, "Let my people Go". Many of our North American cousins in the Dioceses of San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, and Fortworth have decided that they have had enough of the Amercian Episcopal Church (TEC) in both its theological revisionism and in its persecution of orthodox Christians. Of course the powers-that-be of the TEC are not all that keen for them to escape (I mean "leave") and will take rigorous legal action against these dioceses in order to remove their duely elected bishops and to force these dioceses and all of their parishes to remain within the TEC. Call me idealistic if you wish, but I believe in the principle of freedom of association as a basic human right. And if a diocese in its democratic processes chooses to leave an organization due to its theological abberation they should darn well be allowed to do so. Separating from an organization that has ceased to be in any historic sense Christian is of course an even better reason and one can hardly blame these dioceses for wanting to "come out and be separate" (2 Cor. 6.17). I think the Presiding Bishop of the TEC needs to be told, "Let my people go!" Give these people the freedom they want, that they deserve, and need. The orthodox Anglicans are praying for a new exodus, a new found freedom, and a new day of liberation. We should join in prayer with them and pray for our Anglican leaders like Rowan Williams and Peter Akinola too that they will be able to shepherd God's people in this hour of division and disunity.

1 comment:

Doug Chaplin said...

Michael, I find this both extraordinary, and extraordinarily unhelpful. I have replied (trying to be temperate) on my blog.