God in the Intermissions
18th Sunday after Pentecost
October 12, 2014
All Saints Episcopal Church, Hilton Head Island
It is easy to keep God in mind during the main acts of life. Births and deaths; baptism and marriage; Christmas and Easter … we remember God in such times. But it is more difficult to keep God in mind during the intermissions of life – those in-between times, life’s pauses.
On the Exodus journey, the people of God kept God in mind at the time of Passover, and when they crossed the Red Sea, and when manna came down from heaven for food – main acts of the story. But it was more difficult for the people to keep God in mind as they waited and waited for Moses to come down from Mt. Sinai – an intermission, between main acts.
This reality – this contrast – recurs at other times in our experience, of course. We are able to keep the main thing the main thing at particular, important moments. But at other times, the main thing can tend to get lost or forgotten.
As a diocese, we celebrated our time of liberation and of new beginning. The rest of the church was at our beck and call, it seemed. God was with us in our excitement and celebration. That was so very clear. But now we find ourselves with the work of rebuilding … the arduous and sometimes boring tasks of organizing and recruiting and raising money. We set out on the journey with much fanfare, but now we must continue to walk the way. Somehow, faithfulness between the main acts does not seem like as much fun.
This is true of people on the Exodus journey, and it is true also of a diocese doing the work of rebuilding. But the message here has even greater application. For instance, it is true as well of a marriage that takes attention and work, year after year. As most married couples know, there are not many anniversaries that are celebrated to the same extent as the wedding. And, of course, anniversaries themselves are main acts that are followed by long intermissions.
So, the people of God waiting for Moses to come down from Mt. Sinai represent all of us at various points on life’s journey. Remember that we read about those people in their boredom – the boredom of intermission between main acts of the story. “When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him, ‘Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him’”(Ex 32:1). Along with Aaron, the people made a golden calf to worship and an altar as well. The people got in trouble with God as a result, and it was only the intervention of Moses that saved them from God’s wrath. It is a hard thing to live through the intermissions of life, between the main acts.
What we are considering this morning involves a tendency which is very typically human. We can point our fingers at those ungrateful people of God in Exodus, but actually, the story involves us all. That is, a major, positive event takes place. We are focused on that thing, with the clarity of a laser beam. God is leading the people as they depart from Egypt, on their way to the Promised Land. Our diocese has claimed its identity as The Episcopal Church in these parts. Our spouse is the one to whom we make vows, freely and joyfully. But after a main act in life, there will come an intermission. Faithfulness and commitment and dedication between main acts does not seem like nearly as much fun.
As you know, St. Paul wrote letters to the churches he visited in his day. And much of the content of those letters involved words of encouragement. He sought the people’s faithfulness, even during times of intermission. Thus, he wrote in today’s passage addressed to the church in Philippi, “Beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil 4:8). Then followed this word about the intermissions of life: “Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me” (4:9) Keep on doing these things, he encourages the Philippians, even – perhaps especially – during the intermissions.
By way of summary, our collect today addresses a similar challenge in life. In it, we said these words: “Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works” (BCP, p183). Thus, we pray for God’s grace, in front of us and behind us. And, we pray that such grace will bring forth good works through us, always … continually, all the time. May it be so in the main acts of our lives. And may it be equally so during the intermissions. Amen.
The Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg
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