Mass Exodus

Sermon from March 3, 2019
Luke 9: 28-43
St. Andrew’s, Bryan, Texas

In 2005, the state of Texas witnessed the biggest evacuation in our history.
In September of 2005, Hurricane Rita was a Category 5 hurricane, bearing down upon the southeast Texas coast.
Given that the deadly Hurricane Katrina disaster had just happened three weeks earlier, with Rita approaching, everyone was expecting the worst.

Along the southeast Texas coast, filled with fear, people locked up their houses, and jumped in their cars, and departed north and west ahead of the hurricane.
The interstates were so clogged that the Texas Department of Transportation opened up the other sides of the freeway, becoming makeshift contraflow lanes.
With cars running out of gas on the highway, and with traffic barely crawling, over 100 people died.
Those people died, not from Hurricane Rita itself.
But they died trying to escape from Rita.

My wife and I were living in Houston at that time.
In fear, my wife pleaded with me to evacuate.
Yet I remained firm in my resolve to stay.
And given the disastrous results of that mass evacuation, it is an argument that I am glad that I won.

Anyway, in the end, more than 3 million people fled from Rita, making it the largest mass evacuation in U.S. history.
This historic departure from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico – was a mass exodus.

rita

In the Bible, in the Old Testament, we learn about the faith story of the mass exodus.
The exodus is the mass evacuation of the Hebrew people, the Israelites, from their bondage in slavery in Egypt.
Their mass departure is led by Moses.
Their water evacuation crosses the Red Sea.
In this exodus, the Israelites pass from bondage into freedom, from slavery into deliverance, from death into life.

Then, in the New Testament of the Bible, we learn about a different exodus, the exodus of Jesus Christ.
In his death and resurrection, Jesus passes from bondage into freedom, from slavery into deliverance, from death into life.

Yet before the exodus story of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we hear this morning a story from the Gospel of Luke.
We call this story:
The Transfiguration of Jesus.

At his Transfiguration, Jesus climbs up the mountain.
While Jesus is praying, the appearance of his face is changed.
And his clothes become dazzling white.
After this transformation, then Elijah appears, the prophet from the Old Testament.
And then Moses appears, the Old Testament leader of the Exodus.

In this Bible story, the writer of the Gospel of Luke gives us a little detail.
The writer of Luke tells us that Moses and Elijah then speak to the transfigured Jesus, speaking to him about his upcoming departure, his departure which will happen in Jerusalem.
And Jesus’ upcoming departure in Jerusalem – is his death and resurrection.
Jesus’ upcoming departure – is his exodus.

In our American history, the largest mass evacuation – was departing from the Gulf waters.
In our faith history, the Hebrew people evacuate through the Red Sea waters.
And the exodus of Jesus Christ passes through baptism waters.

In just a few moments, Cole Cary will experience his own exodus.
Cole will be baptized in water.
In that water, Cole will be crucified and killed with Jesus, and then raised up to a new life.
Cole will be swept up into the current of a mass evacuation, an exodus of deliverance from bondage into freedom, from death into life.

And all of us this morning, whether we are being baptized or confirmed or received –
Or reaffirming the promises of our baptism as a whole congregation,
All of us this morning are remembering our own exodus, when we passed through the waters, from bondage into freedom, from death into life.

However, our exodus through baptism is not just about an entry way into heaven.
Our exodus through baptism is not an escape plan from this world.
No, our exodus is about being set free.
Our exodus is about having our eyes opened, opened to all of God’s people as our sisters and brothers together.

Last week, I received an invitation and a brochure in the mail.
Like many of you, I receive invitations to conferences or workshops regarding my work and vocation.
The brochure that I received in the mail last week is intended for pastors, an invitation to an ecumenical conference for Christian pastors.

And I believe that one of the exodus journeys that God is leading me on lately, is an opening up of my eyes to the culture of white male privilege.
And this exodus journey which I am on is helping me to depart,
Helping me to truly see our culture centered on whiteness and a culture where male leadership is more valued.
Especially in the world of church, because for most of the 2000 years of the Church, clergy leadership has been mainly focused on men, giving men even more privilege and more deference in our society.
I am on this exodus journey, a journey leading me through waters – to a new life of grace for all people.

So last week when I opened up the brochure for this pastor’s conference that I was invited to.
I looked more carefully this time at the lineup for speakers at this pastor’s conference.
I looked more carefully at the photos of each one of the speakers.
And with wider eyes, what I noticed was this:
At this pastor’s conference, there are going to eight male pastors speaking, and zero female pastors speaking.

Jesus is leading me on an exodus, an exodus of awareness and action.
In addition to being more aware, I intend to make a phone call (not an email, but a phone call) this week to an organizer of this pastor’s conference, to share with him what I observe about the lack of all of God’s people being invited to speak and to lead.

For even though I grew up in a lily-white neighborhood and I went to a lily-white high school, I am learning to appreciate the critical participation and inclusion of women and people of color in leadership, and in my personal friendships.

Exodus is about freedom.
And the exodus journey of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – is not just about freedom from the grave so that we can go to heaven.

No, exodus is about freedom, freedom from prejudice and privilege – and then working for justice for all.
Exodus is about seeing the gender and color and difference in people – and then celebrating.
Exodus is about departing from a self-centered world – and then loving all of God’s people, equally.

In this upcoming season of Lent that begins this Wednesday, depart on your own exodus.
For Jesus is freeing you – from bondage and death.
Jesus is opening your eyes – to see all of God’s people as God sees them.
Jesus is evacuating you – from a self-centered life.

Jesus is leading us through the waters,
In a mass exodus.

AMEN.

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