Sunday, January 5, 2014

Out of Egypt, The Installation of Joshua Heimbuck

“Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
“Out of Egypt I have called my Son. “ Hosea said it of Israel and God applied it to his Son, and now it applies to you the body of Christ his son, and Joshua, your pastor.
Out of Egypt I called my Son. Hosea said it of Israel. He has always considered his people to be his children, to be his son. They went to Egypt to escape famine and the hardships of this world at the invitation of Pharaoh. Four hundred years later and they find themselves enslaved to the fleshpots and cucumbers of Egypt, the most highly advanced civilization of its time that still captures the hearts and minds of people contemplating the pyramids, and king Tut’s tomb. It was a sophisticated society of fortune tellers and magic, priests and power, an earthly society blessed with luxury. Sometimes you watch the Ten Commandments just to see Charlton Heston being seduced by the eyes of Anne Baxter in those colorful costumes and you wonder, could it really have been that way? And you contemplate the relics of that society the golden artifacts in museums around the world and you can only think, yes, not only could it have been, but it must have been very much like that. Perhaps not the plot, but the setting that only the golden age of cinema could have pulled off.
Yes, they fled to escape famine, and found themselves enslaved to luxury to flesh pots and cucumbers. Those must have been some cucumbers. I like cucumbers as far as they go, but I can’t say they would be the first thing I miss about slavery after a few months of freedom in the desert on the way to the promised land. Remember, they didn’t have ranch dressing with which to add flavor to the burpy vegetable. But there they are after four hundred years of slavery, when God answers them in their distress and sends them a savior in the name of a man named Moses, freed from slavery and thinking, “perhaps slavery wasn’t all that bad, at least we had cucumbers.” But God doesn’t let them return to the fleshpots and cucumbers, he sustains them on the journey, and brings them to a land flowing with milk and honey. When God calls, he calls and there isn’t any going back. Desire away, but those cucumbers are going to wilt in the sun. God has something greater in store. He calls his Son out of Egypt.
Today our lesson applies this to Jesus. He too fled to Egypt to escape death. There were many who had done so, the Egypt he finds is no less glorious then the one in which Moses has been raised. His Egypt is that of Cleopatra. Life was never the same after seeing that movie in the fifth grade, I was sorely disappointed, though, to see how Liz Taylor aged. Perhaps those cucumbers do actually wilt in the sun. Oh it was still a fascinating place, a playground of the Ptolemies ruling from Alexandria, the richest library in the world, and scholars from as far away as India. Jewish scholars found refuge there, as Philo tried to blend Hebrew religion with Greek Philosophy. Joseph could have made a decent living there, provided Jesus with a great education, but it was not to be. For God called his Son out of Egypt, and as they returned they couldn’t even stay in Bethlehem with family. No Jesus would be raised in the back water town of Nazareth which to this day hardly has anything to offer even the Christian tourist, in the region of Galilee. He would be raised with a backwoods accent in a despised place from which nothing good was expected to come. But come from there it would, because: out of Egypt I have called my son.
Yes, God called his Son out of Egypt to live in Nazareth, a Nazarene in the land of milk and honey. And good would come from there. Teachings the world has never before beheld would come from this backwater, teachings that would change the world forever even as the teacher would himself die to this world and every luxury it offered, die to this world to save this world that he could call each and everyone of us, his children, the new Israel, the body of his Son Jesus Christ, out of Egypt, out of the land of bondage, out of this world where our hands are bound with golden handcuffs, our souls bound to cucumbers that whither in the sun. And this is why we are here today, in this church, installing Joshua Heimbuck as your pastor, because you have been called out of Egypt and into the promised land, and through you, God is calling your friends, your coworkers, your family your community out of Egypt with it’s fleshpots and cucumbers and into the land of milk and honey. Because God is still calling his Son out of Egypt, still leading them through the parched desert of sin and death to his glorious home, and to this end he has called Joshua to be your pastor.
Your pastor, a man called out of Egypt. Or maybe he has been called back to Egypt from the Promised Land, which every Lutheran knows is found among the lakes and woods of Minnesota, to this land of arid desert our neighbors so foolishly refer to as Zion, but Zion has only ever had one temple, while Egypt has its many. Yes, Joshua has been set aside to be your pastor, to be a man calling you out of Egypt, and calling others with the word of God, with the milk and honey that is the forgiveness of sins found in the midst of this world only here in the church, in the proclamation of the gospel, in the waters of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These things are those to which Joshua has been called as a steward of the mysteries of God. To be a steward of these things through which God calls and sustains you and your faith, even as he calls this community out of Egypt. And the Egyptians will not understand it. The Egyptians will despise it. The Egyptians will not understand you. A pastor? They will say? Why would you need one of those? Why should he make a living off of you? Shouldn’t he just get a real job? You know like the job of a Dr. or a Lawyer, those other careers that require 8 years of schooling? And perhaps as you are setting your own budget for the year and contemplating how to support this man and his family financially, you will hear he cucumbers calling, the luxuries of this world that wilt in the sun. It will dawn on you that you could have that summer vacation to the Bahamas, drive a nicer car, live in a bigger house, and your neighbors will wonder why you spend your money on something so intangible as a pastor and the support of a church. But then you know you have been called out of Egypt, and here you do not eat cucumbers, but have the milk and honey of heaven, manna and quail, and it is something the world cannot give you, and is worth so much more, the forgiveness of sins and freedom, freedom from bondage to sin death and the devil, and a life that cannot be sustained on cucumbers and ranch. And God has given you a servant to support because he supports you with the forgiveness of sins.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
(yes, I riffed off of Bo Giertz)

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