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21st Sunday After Pentecost - October 22, 2023

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

Have you ever tried to plead your case?

I’m not talking about just a little disagreement now…I’m not talking tick for tack, little petty stuff here. I mean plead…the use of argument, reason, emotional appeal…to plead for the sake of justice – or maybe, even more, for the sake of grace.

You ever done that? Pleaded.

In my early twenties I had a problem with accruing speeding tickets. Also, in my early twenties I had a problem with accruing money. These two problems didn’t go well together. I remember one time…the police officer ripped the ticket from his little black notebook, handed it to me after a brief explanation, and walked away. His patrol car lights still swirling in my rear view mirror…I looked down at the ticket and saw…he wrote the wrong date…the wrong date…he was a day ahead, the date he entered was “tomorrow.” I was ecstatic! Time being of the utmost importance, I immediately drove to the Municipal Court (or wherever it was you paid your tickets), walked up to the lady behind the glass counter, slid the ticket across and said, “I do not think it fair or just that I should pay a violation for a day and a time that has not even happened yet.” In that moment…I felt like Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird – an imaginary jury of peers in my presence and I saying, “Do your duty….do your duty…”

The woman offered me a suspicious look and disappeared behind the big wooden door. She came back in less than three minutes and said, “Judge says nice try. Pay your ticket.”

The pleading didn’t work.

Several years ago…I was sitting in a courtroom. I was there to support a friend, it was a custody hearing. My friend and his wife hoping to be granted the custody of his wife’s little child who he loved as his very own flesh and blood. The child’s biological father, an addict, a wash-out, in-attentive, absent, non-supportive. The courtroom on the side I sat not only had legal representation, but it was also full of family, friends, loved ones…people smiling, patting each other’s backs, hugging, expressions of love and affection. I was sitting there taking all this in and I glanced over to the other side of the courtroom… I saw him. He looked so small; he would have been easy to miss. Sitting there, back hunched, his head hung low, like he was hiding – not a single person next to him, no family, no friends. The child’s father. I imagined behind him this trail of burned bridges and charred homes…I imagined all the times people pleaded with him, but their pleading fell on the deaf ears of addiction. Until…

…no one left to plead.

It hadn’t been too long…it hadn’t been too long since they danced around the golden calf in the wilderness. Moses…up on the mountain receiving the law on tablets of stone. “Where’s Moses?” they asked, “Where’s the one who led us out here?” They complained, they were distraught, they were scared, they wanted a god or gods – Aaron said, “Let me have all the gold you carry with you” and he fashioned for them an idol. Now, isn’t that something. I think it points to something that’s always at work in the world…history has no shortage of scared people, distraught people, complaining people, and an opportunistic leader saying, “Just gimme your gold, and I’ll give you a god.”

Then Moses, angry – disappointed - heartbroken – worn-out Moses, goes to plead with YHWH on behalf of his people for forgetting who they are, forgetting who brought them out of the land of slavery.

Now…here’s something you might find interesting. The way the book of Exodus was put together was through several different sources AND…it is believed by many scholars that there was a compiler (or perhaps compilers) who wove all these different sources together to tell the story of Exodus. And when did they do it? During the Babylonian Exile. That’s not just a boring little fact there – think about it! The Exile: when they had been taken away from their homes, their holy city desecrated, in a foreign land – under the rule of yet another empire… Remember Psalm 137…those haunting words.

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remember our home

…there we hung our harps on the trees and our captors demanded we sing our songs

But how…how can we sing songs of home in a foreign land?

BUT they didn’t forget their songs. Or maybe they learned that’s where they needed to sing them the most. And that’s when and that’s where they do the work of telling the story of their deliverance and the character of the God who delivered them. That’s when they gathered around the story of Exodus and said, “Remember….remember when we were delivered. Remembered how YHWH provided for us. Remember the story of how we danced and bowed down before the golden calf. And Moses still…he still pleaded for us. Remember when he pleaded for us?”

And plead Moses did…after a little exchange I find humorous. God saying, “Moses…these people of yours…” And Moses’ reply, “Whoa…whoa…they’re your people.” Yall have ever have a kid do something wrong and your spouse looks over at you and says, “That’s your child.”

There’s a little bit of that here. And you might be asking…”Moses really argued with God like that? God really argued with Moses like that?” That’s not the point…if you’re looking for historical accuracy, good luck to you. This is mythical history. But don’t hear that word myth and hear “untrue.” No, no…myth is truer than fact…truer than historical accuracy. Myth points us to realities deep and timeless and abiding – in the world, in nature, in the human person, and in God.

Just look at this story….loosely paraphrased.

God said, “Your people, ugh!” Moses said, “Nu uh…your people – remember.”

God said, “So what?” Moses said, “We need you.”

God said, “I’ll send you an angel.” Moses said, “Not good enough. We need you.”

God said, “Fine. I’ll be behind you.” Moses said, “Still won’t do!”

God said, “Well then what will??” Moses said, “Be in the midst of us. Be with us.

Show us your ways. We need your presence.”

God said, “Ok. I will be with you.” Then Moses caught just a glimpse of God’s glory.

Moses pleaded before God for the presence of God in a foreign land…and he got it. God with us.

That’s the story they’re weaving together in Babylon – in another foreign land. That’s the story they’re telling each other.

One of pleading for the presence of God. God with us.

Hundreds of years later, another story will be compiled and told… from the gospel of John –

”And the word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory…full of grace and truth….”

Which is another way of saying, God with us.

Let me ask…do you sense God is with you? Do you sense God’s presence?

If your answer is yes, I’m grateful…truly.

If your answer is no – join the club. Or maybe I should say, welcome to the club.

You don’t have to be alone. You don’t have to sit on your side of the courtroom, back hunched, and head down. You’re not alone.

All of us here, we’re learning to plead…for ourselves, for others…

we’re learning to tell the story and tell it again and again and again

the story of God with us.


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