this right here, posting this on the internet, is perhaps one of the most frightening things i have ever done. perhaps even more frightening than actually "preaching" this "sermon". i use quotation marks around those words because i read my "sermon" sitting in a stool in front of my class rather than actually preaching it like the rest of the class. it didn't really feel like preaching. it felt more like an out of body experience in which i was observing myself speak too quickly and tap my foot too often.
but my outfit was cute. and i got a good grade. and i didn't throw up.
this sermon was for my homiletics 1 class last semester. i took it, not because it was required, but because the professor coerced me into it. i'm glad i did it. i'm glad i don't have to do it again. i promised my mom (3 months ago) that i'd post it so she could read it. so here you go, mom.
i start to tear up a little when i read this. not because i'm emotionally moved by my own words, (awkward), but because i can't help but remember all the ways Jesus moved to make it possible. i had called it quits on writing this sermon, so frustrated with my lack of ability to actually write a sermon, when suddenly i had paragraph after paragraph of words running through my head. i have a feeling Jesus put them there. God bless Him.
also, my professor and classmates gave me lots of good feedback on ways that i could improve this sermon, but this is the version i presented in class. so it seems right to post this one. this version is also unfortunately full of capitalized letters and grammatically correct sentences, which is a total bummer, but hopefully you (i) will live. there are a couple places where it is really text, as in Scripture, heavy. don't give up. just push through it.
insert awkward transition here.
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(you should know that this is not actually a picture of the red sea, but a picture of the dead sea. i have not visited the red sea, but i have visited the dead sea and since it was in israel, or the promised land as some like to call it, i decided i could use it. just go with it.)
I once read a story about an elderly woman from France who was stuck in her own bathroom for almost a month. Apparently, the lock broke after she shut the door, and she had no other way of getting out. She spent nearly a month living off of water from her sink and banging on the walls for help. When her neighbors finally realized she had been calling out, they called the police, who rescued her immediately. By this time, she was badly malnourished, but fortunately recovered just fine in the hospital.
I wonder, sometimes, if this happens more often than we think it does.
I don’t necessarily think that hoards of people are getting trapped in their bathrooms for weeks on end, but I am pretty certain that there are a whole lot of trapped people wandering around the world. Most probably aren’t physically trapped, but there’s no doubt that they are stuck and they need a way out.
I read another story once about over a million people being stuck in one place together.
Exodus 14:19-31 reads,
Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel's army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long. Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.
The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh's horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. During the last watch of the night the LORD looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion.
He made the wheels of their chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, "Let's get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt." Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen." Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen--the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea.
Not one of them survived.
But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.
That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.
Okay, so to catch us up to this point in the story we have to know where the Israelites came from. They had been in Egypt for 400 years as slaves. There were over a million of them so Pharaoh had gotten nervous, and ordered all the baby boys of the Israelites to be thrown in the Nile. But, one Israelite woman hid her son, and eventually put him in a basket in the Nile River where Pharaoh’s daughter found him. She then raises the baby, Moses, as an Egyptian, he ends up killing someone, finds out he isn’t really Egyptian, and runs away to the dessert. There the Lord calls him from a burning bush to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses puts up a fight, eventually gives in, and treks back to Egypt to talk Pharaoh into letting his free labor force go. Pharaoh says no, then yes, then no, then yes, then no, then yes and eventually let’s them go only after God releases all kinds of horrible plagues on the Egyptian people. Now obviously that’s completely paraphrased and there are a lot of other details that make Moses’ whole story a miraculous one. But even still, here we find the Israelites after they’ve left Egypt and they’re camped around the edge of the Red Sea.
Just a few verses before our passage the Israelites see the Egyptians pursuing them and they’re terrified. They cry out to the Lord saying “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?”
They didn’t trust God.
He had displayed His power with plagues and signs and He had delivered them out of Egypt. But the second opposition came towards them again, they were overwhelmed with fear and didn’t think they could trust Him. God responds to their cries in verse 13 and says, “Do not be afraid! Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and horsemen. The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.”
So Moses does what the Lord instructs him to do and the Red Sea parts in half.
You can’t just see a gigantic body of water split open right in front of your eyes and not immediately recognize the Lord as mighty. You can’t be surrounded by your greatest enemy and be moments away from defeat then have a miraculous way out, on dry ground no less, and still continue to think the Lord isn’t on your side.
The Lord made a way out for them because they were His people. Because He had a promise to fulfill. He promised He would fight for them and He did. They couldn’t offer Him anything and they were about to be destroyed, but He said, “No, you are My chosen people and I’m going to save you and I’m going to show you that I’m for you. And even the Egyptians are going to recognize that I am Lord over all the earth because of the way I am fighting for you.” He was fully aware of every way they were going to betray Him in the future. He knew every idol they would place before Him and every time they would turn their back on Him but He saved them anyway. They were wrapped up in their fear and He stepped in, destroyed the Egyptian army and gave them a reason to put their trust in Him. He displayed His power and His might in a way they would never be able to forget and the Israelites looked back on it for thousands of years. He provided for them in this unforgettable way so that for years and years they could look back on the way the Lord chose them and protected them, and they could take that experience with the Lord and stand on it as a promise that He would do it again. He would provide for them again. He would keep His promises and He would never stop making ways for them.
He parted the Red Sea not because He wanted the Israelites to be victorious,
but, so that they could put their trust in Him,
so that they would chose to follow Him,
so that He could bring them into the Holy Land,
so He could set the stage for Jesus to come in and make another way them,
but not just a way into a Holy Land,
a way into the Holy Place for eternity.
He made a way.
He didn’t do it for them, He did it for Him. He did it so He could be with them in the end. The whole Bible is a story of God making ways for us so He can be with us. Because He loves us and He chose us and He’s still choosing us. He is still making a way for us and He is still wooing us into relationship with Him because He wants to be with us. And He wants to bring us out of the mindset of slavery and into the mindset of chosen children of the most high God.
The Israelites were stuck, and they were afraid. The Lord made a way for them but they had to choose to walk into the freedom He was creating for them. Imagine it for a second; you’re standing on the edge of a sea with a million of your closest friends and over the course of a night the water parts right in half. The scripture says there was a wall of water on their right and on their left, so it’s not just like they’re cutting through the shallow end of a pool, they’re walking through a large body of water and they’re probably afraid. No one walks into something like this without some hesitation. What if the walls of water fell?
God creating a way for them didn’t make them any more free, it gave them options, sure, but until they walked through the sea with the water on their left and on their right, they were still trapped. They had two choices: they could let the fear of walking through a body of water overcome them and let the Egyptians conquer them, or they could choose to walk in the promise that God would fight for them and walk in faith that He had brought them this far and that He was on their side.
For me, my fear? Where do I most easily struggle to trust that the Lord is on my side? It pops up in different ways at different times. Sometimes it’s feeling stuck in a social situation I’m not in control of. Sometimes it’s walking into new situations that I haven’t spent hours and hours researching. Maybe you feel stuck in your relationships. Maybe you feel stuck in your major or your living situation or your family or your job. Maybe you fear taking grain from this Book (the Bible) and making bread from it and feeding it to people and hoping it’s a good meal and that it’s honoring to the integrity of the Word and to the Holiness of Jesus.
But no matter what our fear is, no matter which way we feel stuck, we have a choice to make. We can choose to sit in our fear or we can choose to listen to God when He says,
I made a way for you.
You don’t have to be afraid.
I’m gonna give you the words to say. I’m gonna make the bread for you. I’m gonna get you through this social situation that brings out all sorts of anxiety in you. But you’re gonna have to trust me. You’re gonna have to walk through the sea. You can stay in your fear, and I’m still gonna love you, but I’ve made a way for you. So, follow me. Trust me.”
I don’t know what your Egyptian army is. I don’t know what you feel stuck in. but I do know that the Lord will make a way for you. The Lord will make a way for you that brings Him glory. Because it’s all about Him anyway. It was about Him when the Israelites crossed through on dry ground and it’s about Him when we’re seemingly stuck in our fear now. I don’t know which seas He is going to part or which ground we’re going to have to walk on, but He’s gonna make a way and we’re going to have to say yes to love and no to fear, and we’re going to have to follow Him into the sea. we’re going to have to choose freedom if we want to be free. He already made a way for us, but we’re going to have to choose it. Because He chose us. He chose you.
He split the sea and He tore the veil and He chose you. And He’ll always keep on choosing you.
So choose Him.