Monday, November 24, 2008

Sorry it has been so long since I posted. Planting a church is a lot of work and very time consuming. I also don;t have the internet at home yet (we just moved, and believe it or not, it is not available yet. It thought it was 2008, but apparently in parts of Massachusetts it is not). So here is my next chapter to my book. Hope you like it.

Chapter 4


TV has been a mainstay of American culture for 70 plus years now. Almost every home in the US owns one, and many have more. It is such a part of us, that even at live shows there are cameras that project the stars on giant TV’s. We go to sports games and watch all the action on the Jumbotron. Advertising is even giving up traditional billboards in favor of giant TV’s running their visions. In this chapter we are going to look at 5 values of the Après Post that are present in Television. They are sexuality and sensuality, violence and honor, sports, polytheism, and materialism. Some of these thoughts will be revisited in the Cult of Personality, Movies, and Superheroes, but I will try my best not to be too redundant.

We must remember that TV serves two purposes today. First it mirrors culture. People want to see themselves and their values in what they watch. If something doesn’t resonate with us, we don’t continue to watch it. The shows that do best are the ones that “speak” to us. They are the ones that reinforce our own thoughts, values, and desires. But TV also does something else, it drives culture as well. The most culturally powerful people work in entertainment, and as such, they get to choose the agenda. They change the landscape slowly though, so as to still appeal to the masses.

We can see how this has worked by studying briefly the history of acceptable television. There was a time when nudity was nowhere to be found on televison. More than this, everyone was married, there were no one night stands. Casual sex was not even joked about. It was thought inappropriate to show a couple in the same bed, even when that couple had been married for decades. We look back and laugh at old sitcoms with their two twin beds, but forget that even showing the bedroom was risqué. The culture of the 40’s would not have it, and so TV didn’t show it. But slowly the media began to push the boundaries. TV first showed a bedroom, and then this became common. Soon a genie bared her stomach[i] (for shame). After that a man had female roommates[ii]. The youth grew up seeing men and women share a house, and with a little bit of skin. This was the new norm. Slowly, sexual encounters began to be shown. By the 80’s soap operas and their night time equivalents are filming all manner of depravity. Things that couldn’t even be insinuated are now present in all their “glory”. And then cable arrives, and HBO. Nudity and sex were now available. Because it wasn't broadcast, it was accepted (this will be revisited in greater detail on the chapter in movies).

Today HBO originals are aired on a variety of different networks. By pushing the boundaries slowly, TV executives were able to slide their agenda along. They reflected the culture with one hand, and enlarged it with another. People watched because it resonated, and then they assimilated the new values into their world view. Après Post culture began to seep into the contemporary script. And largely we were not aware. I think the Simpsons said it best when in the future, Marge says, “Fox turned into a porno channel so slowly, I didn’t even notice.”[iii] This is what has happened today. The values that were portrayed 50 years ago changed so slowly nobody noticed. The new prophets and priests convinced the world to bow to their gods.

Now that we have explored how this has happened, it begs the question, “What are the new values we are being sold?” As I already said, I believe there are five of them, so let’s look at each one. Sexuality and sensuality are the easiest to see, so we shall start there.

I want to first assert that there is not much difference between the two, which is why I list them together. One always follows the other. Sensuality, in its barest form, is just lust for all the senses. Its power is in sexualizing everything. Strawberries are sensual because we associate them with sex. The sexuality sold to us today is sensual. It strives to enflame the senses. Sex is sold as something elegant and sexy. Not as messy and clumsy (although beautiful and worshipful within marriage). This is part of the lie. If TV were to show sex as it really is, I doubt we would watch. But it is sold as something different. It is poetry and champagne. The two, sexuality and sensuality are the same. I will be using them interchangeably for the remainder of the book.

As we already saw with my previous example, sexuality creeped into television. It was once taboo to even say the word, and now it is almost impossible to not see the act. More than this, the type of sexual relationship changed as well. Once we saw happily married couples. Now we see one night stands. Promiscuity is the rule. Sure, there are still families in the traditional sense, but these are being fazed out. Most shows that are not sitcoms have divorcees, casual hook ups, and live together boyfriends and girlfriends. We see shows like Sex and the City where the women are sexual huntresses, have, multiple partners, and are proud of this, and shows like Swingtown, where key parties are celebrated.

It is near impossible to find shows where partial nudity is not found. We have elevated sex to levels only held in pagan societies. Music videos are glorified orgies, and reality TV is soft-core porn. All women of any worth are perfect. It is hard to find normal looking people anywhere in a staring role. They are all beautiful. Men shave their bodies and have rippling abs, women shave their bodies and have gigantic breasts. Après Post is selling us gods. These beautiful people have sex with very little consequences. It is just what they do. We are told that it is what we should do too. Woman should be 100 pounds, wrinkle free, and leggy, men 200 pounds, pure muscle, and also wrinkle free. Sensuality is held in the highest. If we smell good, look good, have white teeth, appeal to the senses, then we can have lots of sex. Look at commercials for Axe body spray. Perfect Greek gods spray themselves with a can of good smelling liquid, and then have casual sex with other Greek gods.

It is pagan culture that elevates sex and sensuality to such lofty expectations and ideals. Jesus, remember, was an average looking man. It was the Parthenon that had the ideal human forms. I don’t believe anyone would argue with me that TV is sexy. But we have mainly attributed this to Post Modern culture. We see it as an overthrow of the Modern morality. I don’t believe this has been true since the 70’s. In the 60’s there was free sex that I would say was Post Modern, or at least more Post Modern than today (I am unsure if any sexual culture can be anything but pagan). Women were celebrated the way they were. Men could have beards or not. There was a return to the natural. There was no ideal body. In true Post Modern form, you could look like you wanted.

This is not Après Post though. Après Post has absolutes. There are ideals that need to be worshipped. There are expectations we need to live up to. We have a moral duty to be sensual. There are shows like Queer Eye For the Straight Guy, What Not to Wear, etc, that correct the way people look. They stop the individuals from their un-sensuality. They are reinforcing the idea that we all have an obligation to look as sexually appealing as we can. We must be sensual. The Hollywood icons that are paraded before us are our models and gods, and we should try to be as like them as possible. The greatest thing a woman can be is sexy. She knows she is doing good when she has lots of sex. This is the hidden theme in many TV shows today. It is no different for the man.

Après Post is consistent in its morality. Men and women alike are to be sexually promiscuous and good looking. Metro-sexuality, the idea that men should primp and preen as long as women, go to stylist instead of barbers, get pedicures, etc, is all around. Shows on networks like E! and VH1 constantly remind us who the sexiest people are, and who they are sleeping with. There are constant fashion tips on the TV guide network, and even broadcast television got in the game, with shows like Extreme Makeover, and The Swan, a show where ugly people (un-sensual) were given plastic surgery to “fix” them. Sensuality is everywhere on television.

And it is everywhere in our culture because of it. Girls have eating disorders, guys go to gyms and take steroids. Clothes are made that hide little, and what they do hide have words on them to draw our attention to it. The highest ideal is being desired. This is not love. Desire is lust. It is never satisfied. It is selfish. It is pagan. Love looks beyond the skin, desire only wants it. TV has been able for a generation to sell its pagan ideals, and culture has adapted. We will look more in depth at this when we talk about pornography, so I want to stop the discussion here for now.

What is important is that TV both reinforces and drives the culture. If sex and sexuality are major themes in TV shows, then they must also be major ideals in society. I don’t think any would disagree. Keep in mind though, this new sexuality is not a revolution against “repressive” Modernity. It is something more. It is far more insidious. It is not a lack of moral values that is driving American cinematic sexuality anymore, but an embrace of pagan values. This means it can be far longer lasting, and far wider reaching. Its impact will be far greater than that of Post Modern sexuality, which has already been caste aside. Tell teenagers to stop shaving and wearing deodorant because they are “of the man”, and watch the reaction you will get. They won’t do it. They know that they have to try to be like the ideals set before them. They have fully embraced a pagan sexuality that idolizes and idealizes sex. Their sexual orientation may be a choice, but their sexuality isn’t. Their gods look perfect and so must they.

Violence is probably the second most prevalent truth in television today. I will throughout associate violence with honor culture, a pagan virtue that has no place in Christendom. We can all agree that there is violence in almost every non-sitcom TV right now, but that in and off itself doesn’t prove anything, except that there is a lot of violence on TV. So instead of looking at all violence on TV, I want to look at two specific cases that I feel are the most Après Post. These are Reality TV and Ultimate Fighting.

First let us examine Reality TV. We have all seen some of the craziness that Reality TV has produced. As for me, I weekly watch The Soup and Best Week Ever to keep up with pop culture and not have to sit through any of it. These shows give highlights of almost all things relevant to the week. These aren’t my only sources, but they are too good not to use. And what I have learned from watching them and briefly watching a reality show here or there, is that they are all about honor, and honor breeds violence.

Before we look at specific examples of Reality TV violence, it will behoove us to see why honor begets violence. And it is a rather simple explanation. Honor is a selfish virtue. It is about maintaining your good name, your appearance to others. When honor is threatened, we are threatened, and the usual reaction to threat is fight or flight. But if we take flight in an honor culture, we have disgraced ourselves even more. So there is really only once choice when threatened and that is fight. If we don’t then we are giving up our standing forever. People seem to know this instinctually on some level, and this instinct can be honed and refined if the culture is right for it. Honor is the natural cause of selfishness. Again, this has its roots in Post Modernity, but it has grown beyond them. Post Modernity in casting off all truth, also cast off the idea that others should be cared for. When it decided it would not accept some Judeo-Christian morality, like bans on premarital sex, it couldn’t accept any of them, like love as the greatest virtue. What was left was a vacuum, a theme that has, and will continue to emerge throughout or cultural survey. The only thing left was the self. All other truth was caste aside. These are conditions ripe for honor culture.

When people began to look for truths again, as Post Modernity is left in the past, a new value system has to emerge. Having abandoned Judeo-Christian morality, Après Post is left with really only one choice, pagan morality. And pagan morality will place honor at the top of its list of virtues. The others are bravery, strength, and self reliance. The moralities of pagan society elevates things that Christianity sees as vices.

And so we have an honor culture. And the only way to protect one’s honor is to fight if needed, how else can you get an apology? One person wrongs another, and they want the wrong to be righted, but to apologize would show weakness and violate the second man’s honor. Violence is the only solution. And this is exactly the interaction I se on reality TV all the time. Roommates fight because so and so did thus and thus, and won’t apologize. And she won’t apologize because she was wronged first, etc. And so they must fight, or someone must be dishonored. The trashier the show, the more prevalent this is. The “higher class” reality shows on primetime usually have people who can be civilized to some extent, even if their honor is being threatened. However, watch VH1 and it is a completely different story. There are fights all the time; people even get spit on, one of the most dishonoring things one can do to another! And this should be expected if we think about it. The people watching VH1 at 11 pm are much younger than those watching ABC at 8. If this honor culture is beginning with the generation after me, then we should expect to see it in shows that speak to youth culture more.

But it is not only on VH1. It truly is everywhere. There may not be actual fists involved, but I have yet to see a fight on reality TV that didn’t involve honor. It is always about lying to someone, or backstabbing, or making fun of, and these pierce honor’s heart. Being made a fool of is dishonoring, being mocked is dishonoring. And so there must be a defense. Think about dueleing for a moment. Why did people duel? It was because their honor had been violated. Then, as now, the only way to right this was through violence. This has always been the solution for dishonoring somebody. It was the reason the Greeks fought the Trojan War. Violence is always the way to restore ones honor. It says to the community around that you are not a coward and won’t take what is being done lying down. It lets the people watching know that they should not dishonor you or they may be hurt as well. It is the only safeguard against not being dishonored.

Ultimate Fighting display all these traits as well. It appears that some of the fighters are friends before and after the match, and at first this would appear inconsistent with my thesis. How can I be friends with someone who dishonors me? But we will see it actually can fit into this world view. First, I would bet that for as many friends, I can find some life long enemies. Exceptions do not disprove rules. Second, I would also bet that they are not friends in the weeks leading up to the fight, even of they were years earlier.

The entire sport of fighting is predicated upon an honor culture. There is no reason to lift this character trait up as a virtue unless we all needed it and wished we were better at it. And if we ever wanted to be better fighters, it was not to compete, but so we could put people in their place. It is so we could defend our honor. I would bet that that is the reason most of these guys learned how to fight, and then they found out they had a knack for it, and so continued to train. Before big matches we are pumped up for the fight by hearing the opponents talk smack about each other. They are violating each others honor. And we have conversations about what they said. Can you believe he said that? Do you think he will get away with it? These are the conversation I hear about televised fight shows. We understand that honor is on the line. It is part of the culture now. There will be a lot more on this when we look at internet violence and rising gang numbers, both of which point to honor as supreme.

Just like sexuality, this virtue of honor is mirroring culture and driving it. We can see this in the rising popularity of the sport, which means it speaks to something in people, as well as the growing acceptance of it on TV. At first it could only be found on pay-per-view, much like sex. But now it is on at least three cable channels, and one broadcast. It found some acceptance at first, and then was able to push the boundary a little farther, and inch by inch it has seeped into Après Post culture as normal and accepted and valued. It is no coincidence that these men are called modern gladiators. We like Rome are pagan.

The reason the athletes of fight shows can be friends after a fight is because their honor was upheld. Both men fought. Honor doesn’t need to win, necessarily, it needs to show up. By stepping into the ring, and getting and giving punches, both men uphold the Après Post code. We frown upon not accepting fights, not loosing them. The people we loose the most respect for (an honor culture value) are those who run, not those who “take their beating”. Honor values bravery, even if it is stupid. It is cowardice that is the greatest vice. So after a fight, both men having their honored restored, can congratulate each other and regain a friendship.

This honor culture can be seen best in the marriage of Reality TV and sports fighting. There is a television show on Spike TV that is just that. It is a reality show design to find the next Ultimate Fighter. The contestants constantly talk about honor. Their honor, their families honor, their names honor. That is why they fight. The arguments that occur are all about one man disrespecting another. And they are usually solved in the ring. It is where they can restore the honor that their competitor tried to take from them.

Violence is therefore held up as a good. We glorify it in our television because it points to the deeper values that are taking over society. Violence for violence sake though, is still not smiled upon. Violence in Après Post is a means, not an end. That said, we must always be ready to use violence to defend honor if necessary. Our honor is everything. If we loose it, we loose our standing in society. But honor can not be Christian. In Christianity we must loose ourselves. It is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us. Our honor matters not. We are to walk the second mile. This is repulsive to pagan society. You fight before you carry a Roman’s armor. Rome forced their conquered people to carry their things as a way to remind them they were conquered. It was a shot at honor. Rome knew that honor was to be most prized in its society. So it is with us. Après Post is becoming increasingly violent, and this is due to the honor-centric values it holds. Society has always tried to curb violence, and I don’t think we will see a reversal of laws making dueling illegal, but we will begin to see more and more violence on TV and a greater popularity of fighting sports. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see more and more violence in society, even as it is outlawed. The new generation will fight to preserve it honor, and we will see this clearly soon.

Ultimate Fighting is not the only sport that Après Post idolizes though. All sports point to a rise in paganism. I put sports in the chapter on TV since most of us watch them here. TV has allowed us to follow every game, every player, every thing about any given sport. And sports in general are becoming more violent. Almost every season we see entire teams fighting, and get to watch it live. These fights point to the growing groupness of culture. We are either Red Sox or Yankees fans, Lakers or Celtics, Patriots or everyone else.

This is one of the areas that pagan group think has already taken over. Christianity is the absence of group. Rich or poor, slave or free, male of female, we loose part of ourselves in Jesus. We are all Christians. The old patterns of the world are dead to us who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. We crucify our old selves, and with it our old alliances, allegiances, and groups. Paganism reinforces groups. Boundaries are of primary importance. “Who do you worship?” is one of the main questions a pagan has. Today we don’t use the arcane language of worship when we talk about sports, but we worship nonetheless.

If you are a true Red Sox fan you are expected to watch the games, go to them, and buy the apparel. You wear your favorite players jersey, have many hats, maybe even a license plate. You give your time and money to the team, and set its best up as gods. And you by no means ever say anything good about other teams. You hate them vehemently. This is how groups work. It is the only way they can work. We choose our side and pay homage only to it. The association of the layman to his team is so great often they claim credit for victories. He feels like he is really part of the team.

To properly worship we need to make sacrifices. So people buy larger TV sets, season tickets, travel to see away games. The average trip to a baseball game in Boston in over 200 dollars for a family, and this is just for tickets. You are not a good fan unless you also but stuff while you are there. How else do the gods know whom you are loyal to? Not to mention the sacrifice of time and energy. The average baseball game is 2-3 hours, and there is one almost daily. But we can’t watch just the game, we need to watch Sports Center and Baseball Tonight as well. We need to have our fantasy team, and check it continually. We give almost all we have to our group, to our gods, and what is left over goes to other things. We tithe off the top, and give the best to what we worship. Everything else must take a back burner.

The athletes function as gods. I will talk about this more when we look at superheroes, but I want to mention it here. Pagan gods have always operated in this reality and outside it. What I mean is that they are allowed to go against the moral code of society for their own good. They are by nature better than us, and can’t be expected to adhere to the same rules we have to. Cults of personality raise people to godlike stature, and this is as true of athletes as it is of Actors. How often do we hear of athletes breaking the law and getting more lenient sentences? Steroid use, abhorred in Congress, is not as hated by the new man. In his opinion the athlete can do what ever he needs to be the best. He must be allowed to, he is a god. Drunk driving and affairs are seen as norms, and almost necessary. We give the best shots of cortisone so that they can perform despite injury. This is foolishness for the mere mortal. Athletes are paid astronomical sums of money, and we find it to be justified. The gods must live in luxury. They need to be better than us in every way. And TV perpetuates this modern mythology.

Contemporary commercials for Gatorade and other sports drinks lift the athlete even higher. These are the new nectar of the gods, and give them super human ability. We have created whole sciences and economies around athletic performance of the super elite, training them to be even better than they could have dreamed of. We put up posters of them in our rooms so the idol can watch over us. We buy their brand of shoe, wear their name on our backs, and wait for hours in lines only to have them charge us to sign a card. We put balls they have thrown under glass, sell their autograph for thousands of dollars, and collect all the memorabilia we can. We worship them as gods. Again this is not true of just athletes, but we will talk about the other gods on Olympus later.

TV produces one more clearly pagan ideal- polytheism. We have just briefly seen how athletes, as promoted on TV, have become gods, but they are not alone. I will not talk here about celebrities, but rather shows that are out right pagan. Recently we have seen an upsurge in shows about ghosts, aliens, the occult, and heroes. All of these have at their root a pagan understanding of the world. From network televisions dramas about ghost whisperers and mediums, to cables love of haunted houses and alien abductions, we are inundated with a world view that is not Modern, Post Modern, or Christian. Modernity brushes off all paranormal things as false. Christianity castes them aside as evil. Neither one allows or its people to explore them. Post modernity does allow for it, but is skeptical and holds that there is no truth. Après Post culture is none of these things. It is assumed there is an afterlife, that there is truth, and that we can explore it. There is no longer the Christian fear of it, or the modern disbelief.

People are watching these shows because they believe them to be true. Almost weekly on A and E or the Travel Channel there are documentaries about ghosts, demons, and the occult. People go to haunted places and try to help others who are being haunted. We are told of good spirits and bad spirits, good ghosts and bad ghosts. They exorcise them for us, live on our Television. There is a truth in the spiritual world. It is assumed that we know this. The shows don’t try to prove anything, but rather already assume (and know) the people watching believe. And these shows are growing in number and popularity, which means people do believe. They are watching because they care. It touches their world view. It speaks to them. But none of these shows take the Christian view. None of them say that all these things are evil, or that we shouldn’t mess with it. They give ways to control the spirits, to live along side them. It is all very close to true Buddhism more than anything else. Spirits are all around us and we should work with them.

Occasionally there are bad spirits, demons, but these are dealt with by invoking the power of good spirits or gods. I am reminded of the Itinerant Jewish Exorcists in Acts much more than Jesus’ commands to devils. It is so prevalent that even drama now uses spirits as plot developers. A show about a Medium who uses the spirits to solve crimes would never have flown 50 years ago. But there it is, in prime time, and not just one show, but many. The current view of Spirituality is pagan at its core. Society admits now the spiritual, but it is both good and bad. We can interact with it, we can control it. It is not a giant step from here to actual spirit worship and deification of the dead.

And it is not just a rise in shows about the dead that is driving this Après Post world view forward. The are numerous shows about magic and witches. Many of these refer to ancient gods and powers by name. From Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which actually holds on to a semi-Christian world view, believe it or not) to Charmed, to Fear Itself, there is a rise in shows that are outwardly pagan. Again there are even documentaries on channels like Discovery and The History Channel of real life vampires, werewolves, and witches. Witches remember pray to gods and goddesses for power. There is the rising belief that there are many powers out there, and we can commune with them, use them, fight them.

And a common theme in all these shows is that the heroes are usually more than human. In Buffy there is a slayer who has mystical power, Charmed has the “power of three”. The humans are more that human, they are demi-gods. They function in both realties to fight the gods who would bring destruction. This is reminiscent of Hercules, Odysseus, Theseus. No true pagan mythology is complete with out these super humans. And now we even have shows about super humans. Heroes is all about people who are more than people. They have the gifts normally associated with the gods of pagan myth- they can fly, time travel, morph shape, read minds. This show was not created in a vacuum though. As a kid I remember most of my cartoons having such heroes. Gone were cats and mice, now there were He-Man, Transformers, X-Men. All of these shows portrayed a struggle between good and evil of almost equal strength. Sure the good guys won every episode, but evil was never fully defeated. It always came back. The heroes were also divine guardians. They were the ones who knew the truth, and could fight the villains. We mortals stood no chance.

X-Men especially drove this home. The villains were exactly like the heroes. They were all mutants, gods. They were all more than human. Like Heroes, they were given strengths previously given the gods of lore. Some of them even took gods names. I want to stop here. There is an entire chapter dedicated to superheroes and villains, and I don’t want to be to redundant. What is important now is that television is the new medium that is telling these myths. We no longer go to temples to hear their stories; the altar is in our house.

What we are watching is the pagan struggle and world view. We see powers greater than ourselves either tormenting us or fighting for our race. We see super humans and ghosts, psychics and heroes, all interacting on a plane that we are barred from, but exists.

Before I finish this chapter with a quick examination of materialism and television, I want to digress for just a moment. Two paragraphs previous I made the statement that television is our altar, and I want to discuss this. The West has not seen altars and temples in its houses for quite some time. This was not always the case though, nor is it the case in the East. We find altars to gods inside houses today in Buddhist and Hindu cultures. Very often religious ceremonies are performed in the house as a way to both protect from, and obtain blessings from the gods. Shrines to dead ancestors or the house god who looks after and protects the property are common place. Pagan gods demand worship. And they demand the best. The central aspect of the houses is typically the shrine to the family’s gods. This used to be the case of the West as well. Idols were commonly placed in the place of most prestige. Carvings and pictures of Apollo or Odin were kept with the family. We even see this in the ancient paganism that Israel encountered in the Promised Land and before in Egypt. Temples in the house are a mainstay of paganism. What one holds as primary importance is always center to ones world, and this manifests itself in the material by usually being the center of ones belongings. It takes an important position. It has prominence. People can see it when they walk in.

Now think about television. Where is a TV usually located in an average house? How is the furniture arranged? Chances are, if there is only one TV owned, people spend most of their time in that room. If they own more, there is definitely one in the bedroom. The furniture is set so all can look upon it. What used to be 5 inches, now takes up entire walls, making sure everyone sees it. All chairs point to it. The Entertainment center that holds the TV is a shrine to entertainment. The TV has become central to the American house. It has become the Altar. The gods we watch may be different, just as every individual house has its own idol, but idolatry is still the rule. The picture or carving in Hinduism may be different, but the worship is always the same. So too of our television.

All of these reasons, plus many more that I lack the space to discuss here, come together to elevate materialism to another of Après Posts most lofty virtues. It is relatively evident how materialism is now a new virtue, but let’s discuss it anyway. TV sells us an image. As we saw with sexuality, it tells us what our ideals should be. We are told that if we buy the right products, wear the right clothes, we will be desirable. Since desire is something we want, we do as we are told. Sports force us to pick teams and be loyal to them. That means we must buy their products, wear their gear, drink their drinks. And TV itself demands we keep buying it. TV’s break, get outdated. We need to have better cable to get the better channels; we need flatter more defined pictures so we see what the television is showing us more clearly. We need to buy our favorite TV shows on DVD, and then we need a rack to display them. We have to have cool entertainment centers to display our boxed god. And then the rest of our furniture doesn’t match, so we have to buy more of it as well. Style changes ever season, and to keep up, we too must buy new clothes every season. The people we see on TV have nice stuff, and since they are our ideal, we try to emulate them. We are consistently told what it means to be a person of value in our society, and that is someone who is matching, owns nice things, and is in vogue. So from a young age we are fed this materialism.

This materialism is a further rejection of Post Modernity. Modernism was extremely materialistic because it rejected the spiritual. It was grounded in science and proof, and since spiritual things could not be proven, as such, they were rejected. This leaves one real thing to live for, stuff. Post Modern man rejected this. By the sixties spirituality was on the rise, and materialism seemed to be dying. Hippie’s made their own cloths, lived on communes, and vowed never to be like their parents. But as everything Post Modern, they had nothing backing this philosophy. And soon it was the 80’s and everything changed. Après Post was slowly creeping into fashion, although we won’t really see it for another 15-20 years. The children of hippies vowed, too, not to be like their parents, and so embraced materialism. They were still more Post Modern than not though. They embraced it as the best thing in a world of unsure truth. It was something they could grasp and taste and see. In a society were the old class system was destroyed, having more stuff was a way to tell where you stood.

This was not the end though. Après Post will take this and make it a certain truth. The more money you have, the better. Class will again become defined by economic strata. This is not Christian. The worth of someone is never about class in Christianity, but rather inherent in them as God’s creation. Après Post is pagan though. If you are richer, the gods have surely blessed you. To maintain the blessing, you worship them. You sacrifice yourself to them. If the gods tell you to buy new clothes, you do it, and as such can maintain your stature. This will be the truth that the Après Post Man clings to. And television only reinforces this. There are tons of shows about how the wealthy live. MTV’s Cribs, VH1’s the Fabulous Life Of, almost every show on E!. All we see is how the rich and famous get along. How many car they own, how big their house is, how much money they spend on dinner. We are consistently told that we too, should want all this. And so TV culminates in, and sells us materialism.

This chapter has been meant to give a quick overview of culture as seen through, and perpetuated by television. It is in no way complete. I suppose an entire book could be written on this subject alone. What I have been trying to show is that this Post Modern idea that we have taken for granted is dying or dead, depending on where we are looking. The rise of The Après Post is not going to stop. Some of the bigger themes mentioned in this chapter, will be solidified as the full theology of Après Post comes to light. What is to be sure, is that these trends won’t be ending soon. We will see more nudity earlier in the day, more violence, more vengeance, more riots over sports games, more materialism, more altars in our homes.

I want to move on to the next big indicator of culture though, movies. In the next chapter I will look at a few examples and the general genre of Horror. I plan to draw a lot off the conclusion reached here, and won’t re-explain everything. Movies, we will see, are a little farther advanced than TV, because they don’t have to be censored for all ages, like primetime television, they can just be rated. This allowed them to have sex and violence first, and it will also allow them to proclaim their new truths with out as much resistance as TV has. Remember, the people in political power are sometimes behind the cultural curve, and so won’t allow the new thing to enter, like married couples sleeping in the same bed, or sexual depravity of the kinds we find in movies.

[i] I dream of Genie

[ii] 3’s company

[iii] Simpsons episode

Friday, October 3, 2008

Let My People Go

Here is the sermon for this week. It walks through Exodus. Enjoy.

We are out of Genesis this week, and will be continuing our journey through the rest of the Bible. Now unfortunately, I will be referencing parts of Genesis today that we didn’t cover. It is unavoidable when we look at Exodus, I apologize for that. You are just going to have to go back and read the Bible on your own if you don’t believe what I am saying, or you get really into it and want to know more. Many of you are probably familiar with Exodus, at least a little. This is the book that Moses is introduced in, and there have been some pretty famous movies about it. I thought about just showing the movie, but it is wildly inaccurate, and I do get paid to preach, so I thought better of it. Instead there will a sermon today covering the first half of the book, and a sermon next week coving the last half, as well as Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, and the first half of the book of Joshua, maybe. I haven’t written it yet, so it is hard to say.

Before we look at much text, we need to catch up to speed on Hebrew history up until this point. We left off last week knowing that Abraham had a son, Isaac. Well God comes to him many times and also promises him that he will make a covenant as well. And then Isaac has 2 sons, Esau and Jacob. They are twins, but Jacob is the younger, and so we would expect that Esau is going to continue the line for Abraham. But we read that God loved Jacob, and as God continually does, he make his covenant with the one he “is not supposed to”. Jacob is kind of a jerk, his name means deceiver, and like, Abraham, he too has many lessons to learn about trust, lying, marriage, and God. He eventually wrestles God, at which point God touches his leg, and for the rest of his life he has a hobble. Jacob has many sons, one of whom is named Joseph. He has a colorful coat, and a musical named after him. His brothers are all really jealous (of the coat, not the musical, in fact if they had known Andrew Lloyd Weber was going to eventually immortalize their brother in song and dance, I imagine they would have had pity on him, and all of Hebrew history would be different.) Joseph rubs it in their face that he is Jacob’s favorite. Eventually they have enough, and they sell him into slavery.

At this point Joseph is in Egypt, and he is a slave. But he also has a gift from God- he can interpret dreams. This gift eventually gets him to the highest levels of Egyptian courts, sitting at Pharaoh’s side. Also because of his gift he knows a famine is coming, so Egypt prepares itself. A famine does come, Egypt is saved, and so are many others who travel to Egypt to buy food, among these people are Joseph’s family. He saves them, they all reconcile, and the story ends very happily. Joseph says to his brothers, “What you intended for evil, the LORD has used for good.” They apologize, he apologizes, there is crying, it is all very sentimental.

And since Joseph is very wealthy and has a good job, they all settle in Egypt. Which works out well for them for a while. They have good standing with the Egyptians and subsequent kings for saving the kingdom, but then we read in the beginning of Exodus:

6 Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, 7 but the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them.

8 Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. 9 "Look," he said to his people, "the Israelites have become much too numerous for us. 10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country."

11 So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor…

The Israelites become slaves. And things go from bad to worse. Even though they are slaves, they are still increasing in number. Pharaoh decides that this is a great way to have a civil war. To avoid this, he orders that the midwives kill any baby that is a male, so the Hebrews won’t have a fighting force. Now we are told that the midwives were God fearing woman, and they wouldn’t kill babies, so Pharaoh gets mad with them, and asks them why they haven’t been killing the boys as they were instructed. They tell him that the woman give birth before they get there, and so don’t have the ability to kill them as ordered. Pharaoh them tells the entire kingdom to kill any Hebrew babies they see by throwing them in to the Nile.

This is what Moses is born into. His mother hid him for as long as she could, we read 3 months, and then put him in a basket hoping someone would take him in. She doesn’t abandon him though. She waits by the basket. Pharaoh’s daughter sees the child, takes pity on him, and adopts him. But the thing about Egypt in those days is they didn’t have formula, so if you were to raise a child, you needed a wet nurse. Moses mother is right there, and she gets the job, being taken into Pharaoh’s home as well. This is where Moses is raised. He is considered Egyptian royalty, but his mother is there along side him while he is in his youth. She is teaching him about God and his people, and everything else.

And then the following happens. Turn with me to your programs. We read in Exodus 2

11 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. 12 Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, "Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?"

14 The man said, "Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?" Then Moses was afraid and thought, "What I did must have become known."

15 When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well. 16 Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father's flock. 17 Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock.

18 When the girls returned to Reuel their father, he asked them, "Why have you returned so early today?"

19 They answered, "An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds. He even drew water for us and watered the flock."

20 "And where is he?" he asked his daughters. "Why did you leave him? Invite him to have something to eat."

21 Moses agreed to stay with the man, who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. 22 Zipporah gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershom, saying, "I have become an alien in a foreign land."

23 During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. 24 God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. 25 So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.

This is Moses middle years, all in one short paragraph. Let’s look at it in a few chunks. First we have Moses killing an Egyptian. The entire scene is funny, if not for the murder. We read he looked this way and that. I imagine a cartoon guys looking around a corner, this way, and then that way, and then he kills him. Now I want to say that Moses reaction to what he saw was right, but his actions were not. Moses saw injustice and he wanted to do something about it. This is good. We should not be content to let injustice go on. Murder is not good though. There are limits on what we can do to fight injustice.

The next thing we see is Moses also trying to get involved in injustice between his people. Moses is considered by the Jewish religion to be the greatest of all the Prophets. Now prophets in the Bible have many functions. We today often think of Prophets as people who tell the future, and there certainly is some of that in the Old Testament Prophets, but it was not necessarily their only or primary role. One of their main functions was to call people back to God. They often did this by pointing out what was wrong. As we shall see in the sermon in the series on Prophets, very often they just pointed out injustice and sins. They are that friend that always tells the truth and so no one likes them or asks them for advise. I am very often that person. I find it hard to be sympathetic, especially when I see someone’s trouble brought on themselves. I am the guys telling them where they messed up, not taking them out to make the feel better. Be warned if you come to me, though I am better about it now than a few years ago. I am letting you know now. My wife is the compassion person. This is what Moses is doing here. He sees injustice and he has to act. He is a Prophet, but a Prophet in the raw. Later we will see him reacting differently to wrongdoing. He still calls a spade a spade, but he is a little more delicate about it, and he doesn’t kill anyone again in cold blood.

Now the ironic thing about this mans question is that soon God is going to appoint him Judge over all the Hebrews. Anyway, Moses flees, unlike the movie where he is banished, and he ends up running into some woman who are also being wronged. He helps them out, which pays off in the end, because he gets a wife out of it. Guys, the lesson here, help out the women; they may be your wife. While all this is going on in Midian, there is a parallel story still in Egypt. There is a new Pharaoh because the old one died, the murder and Moses has seemed to blow over, and the people are being worked harder than ever. God hears their groans though, listens to their prayers, and he remembers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. If we remember last week, as I read one of the covenants that God made with Abraham, he let him know all this was going to happen. He said that Abraham’s descendants would be in slavery for 400 years, and then God would free them. This has all been foretold.

We pick up the story in Exodus 3

1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up."

4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!"
And Moses said, "Here I am."

5 "Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." 6 Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

7 The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt."

Moses has a nice little life for himself in Midian. He has a wife, a son, a great father in law. A quick aside on the father in law, Jethro. He is pinnacle to Moses story. He is a worshiper of God, and as Moses story continues, he is going to be Moses surrogate and spiritual father. Moses will come to Jethro for advice and aid many times as the story goes on. Moses most likely wouldn’t be the same man without him. As we read the beginning of Moses story we see his sister, mother, adopted mother, but a father figure is missing. There is no guy to show him how to really be a guy. That is until Jethro. We are going to see this be a reoccurring theme through the Bible. There are going to be great men who will stand on the shoulders of other great men who take them under their wings. We will see it with Joshua, the guy to takes over for Moses, with David who has Samuel to help him, with Elijah and Elisha, Paul and Luke, and Timothy. The theme is rampant.

It has also been true in my own life. I was raised by a single mother, and throughout my life God had raised up other Godly men to train me in the ways of being a godly dude. Part of who I am today I owe to Robert, the pastor of MERCYhouse, and he owes it to a guy named Tom who lives in Oklahoma. God has done thins in many people’s lives even here, bringing spiritual advisors and fathers into lives where they were lacking. And he does it for Moses too.

Moses is out taking care of his father’s sheep and he sees a strange sight. He sees a burning bush that won’t go out. So he decides the best thing he can do right now is to check it out. It is a good thing he was not in a horror movie, because he would have been toast. You know, the bush would have grown arms or something and jumped at him and he would burn, and then the camera would zoom to he sky and we would see smoke and hear screams, and then the title would come up and we would know that we are indeed watching a B movie made for the SciFi channel called Burning Man are The Unquenchable Flame. Anyway, he checks it out, and it is God.

And God calls to him, and he answers. This calling is familiar, is it not? We saw it with Abraham. God called, “Abraham, Abraham.” And he answered, “Here I am.” And we see it again, and we will continue to see it. This is the answer of almost everyone who is called by God. “Here I am.” It is short, but it says so much. It is the answer we must give God when he calls us too. It is all he is looking for. This is the answer that gets you on God’s team. Nothing else. There are no other pre-requisites. Just tell him you are there.

After Moses answers, God goes on to tell him His plan. He says I remembered my people. I hear their cries. It is time for my promises to be fulfilled. And he tells Moses he is going to be the agent by which all this is to be fulfilled. Because of time we can’t go very far in depth on these passages, though we will at house church, which, if you are not already in a small group, I would encourage you to be a part of. What I do want to do is tell you a few things about what happens next.

The next thing that happens is Moses asks how he is going to prove this to the Israelites. And God answers that they will come back to this mountain and worship, and that will be the sign. This isn’t a very convincing sign is it? I mean, put yourselves in the Jew’s position. A murderer who is on the run come back to you while you are a slave and tells you he talked with a burning bush which happened to be God on a mountain, and that you should follow him. Your question has to be, “Prove it.” And then the guys says, “Well the proof is that we will worship on the mountain that God talked to me on.” I would be skeptical to say the least. But this is the sign God says he is going to give.

Moses objects again and says who should I say sent me. Remember that in the ancient world if you knew the God’s name, you had power over them, or so they believed. And God answers Moses, I am that I am, or I will be what I will be. He is telling Moses both his name, but also letting him know he doesn’t go in for all that control things. The game is played on his terms.

And then Moses objects again. He says they won’t believe me. God gives him a staff that can turn into a snake and does many other things as well, and also gives him, and then cures him of leprosy. Moses still objects. He says that he can’t speak all that well, and God, getting noticeably more aggravated answers that he knows Moses. He reminds him that he created him, and has been with him since the day he was conceived, and he chose him nonetheless. Moses objects one more time, and God, very angry at this point, tells him to take Aaron, his brother along for the ride, and let him do all the talking. Moses finally agrees and leaves.

He goes and talks to Jethro, who gives him his blessing and Moses and his family head off toward Egypt. And when we see the movie, the next thing that happens is he is in Egypt saying “Get your hands off me you damn dirty ape.” I mean, “Let my people Go.” But in between this, there is a very convoluted and interesting story. We read it in Exodus 3

24 At a lodging place on the way, the LORD met {Moses} and was about to kill him. 25 But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son's foreskin and touched {Moses'} feet with it. "Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me," she said. 26 So the LORD let him alone. (At that time she said "bridegroom of blood," referring to circumcision.)

And the question should be asked, “Whaaaa?” What is going on here. Well, we need to go back to Abraham. Remember that at one of the conversations Abe had with God, God told him that all the men should be circumcised? Well he did. And remember too that Jethro was a follower of God, and would have known this command. Moses also met God on a mountain a few verses before. Yet Moses kid was not circumcised. I believe what is happening is what often happens to many of us. We, after our conversion, think we are all set. That we are favored and liked by God and so don’t need to follow all those pesky rules. This happened to me. My freshman year at Umass I was following God, joined a campus fellowship, started my own Bible study and got a Christian girlfriend. The fellowship decided that I should be in the leadership group because I had lead some people to Christ and was very righteous. As this was happening I decided that it would be okay for me to sleep with my girlfriend because I was needed by God and he would just have to let some things slide.

I think we all do this. Moses did it. God had just told him that he will be the one to lead the Jews to freedom for the Egyptians. I imagine that Moses was thinking pretty highly of himself. And that circumcision law was pesky and for a different age. He was enlightened and knew that it was written over 400 years ago when things were different. He didn’t need to follow it. And what happens. God is about to kill him. God is telling us that although we are called, we are not that special. If he was going to kill Moses, don’t think any of us can get away with deliberately disobeying him. As for me, God released his hand of Grace and my life was like a death for years. There are consequences for not obeying God once we have decided to follow him. We need to keep that in mind. Luckily Moses had a very upstanding righteous wife and she does the right thing. This has also helped me many times over the past few years as well.

And then Moss makes it to Egypt. Many conversations happen, the Pharaoh decides that he is going to work the Hebrews harder as punishment for asking to be free, more conversations happen, and then something called the plagues start. I suppose some of you are familiar with them. We will go through them very quickly and then speak about them. In chronological order they are:

1. River of Blood- Nile, Hapi, god of Nile

2. Frogs- Heket, god of frogs

3. Gnats- Geb- god of the earth

4. Flies- Khepri, god of insects

5. Death of the Livestock- Hathor, goddess of cows, milk and Apis (Menvis) god of bulls

6. Boils- Bast, goddess if health, Thoth god of medicine

7. Hail- Baal, god of weather, Nut, god of the sky, and Set

8. Locusts- Renenutet, goddess of harvest, Anbis, god of crops, Isis protector from locusts

9. Darkness- Re, (Ra, Amen-Ra) god of the sun

10. Death of the Firstborn- Pharaoh reincarnation of Horus

One thing we need to know as we read all these plagues. Every plague is in fact a god of Egypt beginning with the Nile, which was the God Hapi. Hecket the god of frogs, Hathor was god of livestock, the god of hail was Baal, god of harvest Renenutet, god of the Sun, Re, and Pharaoh was the reincarnated Horus, a god unto himself, and the most important god to the Egyptians. As we read the plagues what is going in behind the scenes is God is showing his supremacy over Egypt’s gods. As the people of Egypt prayed to their gods for protection, God was destroying them. He is showing, even in this, His supremacy over all. We are not going to look more in depth at all the plagues at this moment, but we do need to talk about the last one more. All of the other plagues happen in Exodus chapters 8-11. And then there is an entire chapter, 12, dedicated to the last and final plague.

1The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 "This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. 3Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. 4And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. 5Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, 6and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. 7"Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. 10And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD’s Passover. 12For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.

21Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, "Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb. 22Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. 23 For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you. 24You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. 25And when you come to the land that the LORD will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. 26And when your children say to you, 'What do you mean by this service?' 27you shall say, 'It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.'" And the people bowed their heads and worshiped.

the people of Israel went and did so; as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did. 29 At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. 30And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. 31Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, "Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as you have said. 32 Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!"

And the final plague comes. This is so important to both the Jewish and Christian faiths. Up to this point as I already said, God was taking out the Egyptian gods. There was judgment on the land. For many of the plagues, God did not distinguish between Jew and Egyptian. When it come to the livestock and harvest, God does distinguish, but frogs were everywhere. Everyone’s Nile was turned to blood. Everyone felt darkness and had hail. God also deals first with the minor gods and works his way up. We see him beginning at the bottom of the food chain, and only taking on one god at a time. By the end though, he is fighting multiple very powerful gods and rocking the Egyptians world view. The god of frogs was no where near as important as the Sun, since without sun everything would die, but without frogs some kids can’t catch frogs. By the time he gets to the death of the firstborn, he is taking on Pharaoh himself, the greatest god in the land.

Something else in new about this plague. If we were to read the text, which we had to skip because of time, we would see that God just did the other plagues. There was no action needed from the Jews. They just were. Here though, God tells them to do something. They are to sacrifice a Passover Lamb and spread its blood on the doorpost. Only this would save them. If they didn’t have the blood, or they left their house, they too were as good as dead. Also, there is nothing to say that any Egyptian who put blood on their house would not be spared. This plague was different than all the rest. This plague required the people to do something. This plague required a sacrifice. This plague required some obedience. This plague required faith.

And the Hebrews listened to Moses, the obeyed God and they were spared. And God went through Egypt and he killed every firstborn male. Every one. And Pharaoh’s house is hit. And Pharaoh’s kid is killed. And the final god is toppled.

Last week we took communion. Jesus instituted this at what we today call the last supper. It was a Passover meal. Every year, every year, Jews from around the world would, and still do, remember this night. Before 70 AD they would sacrifice a lamb at the temple, just as a lamb was sacrificed to this night. They tell the story of Exodus. How God freed them from slavery. How he beat all the other Gods. How he himself redeemed them. And they would look forward to the day the Messiah would come and free the world. In the Gospel of John we read that Jesus too was sacrificed at Passover, becoming our spotless lamb. It is through his blood that we are allowed to live. It is because he has set his protection about us through the shedding of His blood that we too can enter the Promised Land and be free forever, being slaves no more.

The Exodus story continues. What happens next is that Pharaoh decides to let the Hebrews go finally. And they plunder Egypt and begin the ling walk to the Promised Land. Pharaoh though, has a change of heart, and chases after the Hebrews. The Hebrews see Pharaoh coming, and panic. They cry out to Moses that it would have been better for them to live as slaves than to die in the wilderness. They are afraid of the guy who was just smacked down by God. Like Abraham, we see that after the call, there is an obedience, but an almost immediate lapse of faith. God ask why they are worried. Don’t you remember all those plagues I just did, and then tells Moses to part the Red Sea. He does, the Hebrews walk across, the Egyptians follow, at which point their chariots get caught in the mud, the water comes back in, and they all drown. The Hebrews rejoice, celebrate God, and we should assume that the next thing we see is them in the Promised Land.

First though, they need to make a quick pit stop. Remember the first sign that God told Moses to tell the people, that they would worship him on the mountain that he met Moses on. So that is their first destination. And if you know your Exodus story, you will know it doesn’t go as planned. Moses goes up the mountain, talks with God for quite some time, God giving him His laws ad statutes. While he is up there, the people panic and decide that they should make an Idol to worship, melting all their gold and jewelry to make a Golden Calf. God tells Moses this, sends him back down the mountain, Moses sees it, and gets so mad he destroys the tablets God gave him with the law on it. He then has to re-write all of these by his own hand.

This wasn't the first or last lapse of faith of the Hebrews either. Before this happened they complained that they would stave to death and so God gives them food from heaven. They complain that the have no water, so God tells Moses to hit a rock with his staff, and water comes out. Repeatedly the Hebrews say that it would be better for them to have never been freed and longing for the slavery of Egypt.

And so God makes them wander the desert for 40 years, until all the unbelieving people who worshipped the Calf were dead. He wasn't going to allow any of them to see the land he promised their ancestors and heirs. And so they walk in giant circles all over the wilderness. And even Moses isn’t allowed to enter the Promised Land, for he too doubts God and his plan during this time. They arrive at the doorstep of Canaan and Moses is allowed to see it, and then he dies. He passes off his legacy to his protégé Joshua, and the Jewish story of Redemption continues.

You may ask why I end my sermon here. It would have been very nice to end at the Passover, right. Talk about sacrifice and freedom. End on a high note. Instead we are at a place where all the people (except Joshua and Caleb) who were in the original Exodus are dead, Moses is punished and doesn’t get to live in the place he as brings his people to, and everyone has been screwing up royally. Now, remember I am dramatically oversimplifying the end of Moses life, and next week we will pick up with him alive and well, but I think this is where we need to end tonight. Moses story, Israel’s story ends incomplete, and so must we tonight.

Israel’s story really is ours. We have been freed from slavery, yet form some reason we continue to doubt. I know I do. Over and over God shows himself faithful, giving me water from rocks and bread from heaven, and over and over I cry out that it would have been better for me to stay in slavery. And I think it is all of us too.

How many of us have run back to our old lives when things get tough. When we see danger approaching, Pharaoh’s army on the horizon, how many of us long for our old life back. We remember how good it used to be, how satisfying it was to have food and be in slavery. How predictable it was. How many of us, after accepting the sacrifice of our Passover Lamb wish that we could go back to the way things were. I imagine it is not just me. I know that sometime late at night I think that I didn’t screw my life up that much drinking. That it was really fun. I forget the pain, the self mutilation, the wanting to die. I forget the slavery and remember only Egypt. And so I erect my own god, worship my own Golden Calf, and cry out that it would have been better for me never to have left.

And through it all God is still faithful. He gives bread from heaven, he gives water from rocks. He brings the Hebrews to the Promised Land. He doesn’t abandon them or forsake them. They are still his people. Sure there were consequences, and there are consequences sometimes for us today, but we are still his children. He still has a plan for us. He still was our spotless sacrifice.

If you are here today and you want to be freed from slavery and death, I tell you the sacrifice has been made. As he hung outside the city gates, Jesus became the only sacrifice we need. He died that we might live. He bled his blood so that the wrath of God might be turned away from us. Whether we are Hebrew or Egyptian, grew up in church or have never been before, we can find refuge under his lentil. He did not save only the Jews, but all those who put their faith in His Sacrifice. And the same is true today. Just being a church kid, just coming here doesn’t mean you are safe, you to need the blood. And if you have never heard this before, if you are worshipping other gods, all God asks of you is to believe and enter His house. There are no other pre-requisites. He is the Savior for all.

If you are here today and you have lost faith, you are longing for Egypt, know also, that he is calling you back to himself. His promises are still there for you. He wants you to continue to faith in him. This is not a one time thing. We must continually rely on God not just to free us from slavery, but to bring us to the Promised Land. He who has given you his only son, how will he not give you all things? Cry out to him. He is there. He is still giving you bread from heaven.

The message for tonight is trust in God. Whether it is the first time we are taking the blood and putting it over our doors, or we have been walking in a desert for 40 years, we need to trust in God. God only asks this of us. Last week we saw a man called righteous, Abraham, who slept around, prostituted his wife, and lied more times than we could talk about. Yet God called him, an eh went, and he was called righteous because of this. This week, we see yet another man God should not hang out with walking with him. Moses was a coward, a murderer, and had a terrible temper. He 5 times in the face of the LORD tells him to choose someone else. He 5 time tries to get out of his relationship with God. We see God saving people who don’t want to be saved, who complain about him all the time, who worship false gods right under His nose. And yet we still see God initiating with them. He still provides food and water, even as the wander for 40 years.

God initiated with all these, and he is still initiating today. He is here asking you to have a relationship with him. Asking you to follow him. All he demands, all that is required is that we say “Here I am.” He is calling you, maybe not form the top of a mountain, but he is calling. How will you answer. Remember, we need not be perfect to answer him, only willing.

Let us Pray.