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08/27/2017

Exodus 1: 8- 2:10          “Don’t follow the Rules             8/27/2017                              

  Rev. Jerry W. Krueger             

 Boardman United Methodist Church

The sermon title “Don’t follow the Rules” is not permission to speed, to not pay taxes, or slug someone.  Don’t follow the rules is struggling in night wrestling like Jacob did with God along the banks of the Jabbok River. It is the struggle to do the right thing. To speak for the voiceless, to oppose relationships, structures, entities, people that do not align with our Christian beliefs. And it ALWAYS, ALWAYS, comes with a price. 

When we read the Bible we should read with the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other.  Bible learning is not JUST head knowledge. It is applicable to daily modern life.

Sometimes Not Following the Rules means reporting suspected abuse of a child or adult, or animal. Dumping chemical waste into the Mahoning River. Speaking up means as an employee at St. Vincent DePaul food center on Front St; you report unsafe working conditions, rotted floors, improper refrigeration, collapsing ceilings. 

Good cooks, adventurers and inventors don’t always follow rules. Nor do musicians, playwrights or authors.  This is NOT about stifling creativity. This is about for us as Christians, not falling subject to accepting oppression or injustice that quashes another’s rights.

The Exodus text gives us the doer of evil deeds, Pharaoh. Note: an unnamed Pharaoh. A Pharaoh who “does not know Joseph. “ Meaning he is far removed from the one true God, because he claims to be god.

In plain language for us, “not knowing God leads to oppression. Knowing God, leads to salvation. “In Exodus 1:15, Pharaoh tells Hebrew midwives Shiphrah and Puah, kill any Hebrew boys. But they fear God and say to Pharaoh, “The Hebrew women are strong and deliver before we arrive.” So they kill no children on the birthing stool.

Moses mother saves him by setting his basket afloat on the Nile, so Pharaohs daughter and maids will find the baby and care for him Miriam, Moses older sister is nearby, says to the princess, “Let me find a wet nurse for this Hebrew baby?” “Good idea” says Pharaohs daughter. Miriam tells her Mother, “You can nurse Moses and help raise him, and get paid for it.” A double scam on the Egyptians.

This entire text is subversive and daring, and requires of us that we see possibilities that may not currently exist.  It is the women who save Moses through the Lord God’s help.

It’s been 400 years since Jacob was second in command in Egypt. Now the Hebrew’s are a mere sub- culture of “One God” believing slaves.

Nullification of the innocent is the focus here. In ancient days and modern days. This text is not meant to get us up in arms over everything we encounter. Its opportunity as Christians to test our faith, to perform the most difficult of all tasks known to humanity; a mature & complete self-examination of self.

This is a text that readily explains “proper roles for the differing classes.”   Society says, “Be quiet, accept status quo.” But if you are on the short end of the stick? Do you roll over in silence? Rosa Parks did not.  Nor did Caesar Chavez working with farm workers in the fields.

Any of you going to accept NOT getting paid your agreed upon wage or salary? Any of you going to put up with not having your child be allowed to try out for a school activity or sport because they were too tall, short, smart, white, black, And Hispanic?

How many of us would put up with being told “there is nothing we can do,” when you receive poor service at the restaurant or department store? Ever had an incorrect charge on your credit card bill? Did you dispute it, or just let the credit card company keep your money?

I served a predominately African- American church in Columbus, Ohio years ago. And it was a steep learning curve for me as the Anglo pastor, and for the African American congregation too.

In the context of that congregation I heard stories of truth and segregation, challenge and injustice. I heard of subtle ways to hold back a group of people. Higher interest rates for home loans, schools that received upgrades only after the more affluent areas had received their upgrades first. I heard stories of outright racism directed to people who worked hard, studied hard.  So, as the pastor, was I to preach, “Choose to just go along, to get along?”

The Chief Financial Officer for Cardinal Health based in Columbus, Ohio was a member of my congregation. An Ohio State grad, a CPA who was a black women. She was a visionary and dynamic church leader who said in conversation one time, “As a women I find I have to work harder to be heard. Men can be praised for being a tough and demanding boss. If I am tough or demanding, I get saddled with “Well, she is kind of a “B” word. I just want to be heard and accepted for my skills, my gifts, my intellect, ideas and my hard work.”

Does that ring true with any of the women here?

Recalling of suffering is not done in order to elicit pity or guilt from others. Rather, the recalling of injustice is to lead to an identification WITH those who suffer.

I read of Moses and the Hebrews in the Nile River story, and I hear the theme of “God is with us challenging us to speak up, knowing consequences will be aligned against us. Sometimes we are not to follow the rules.” Christ calls us to step forward to do what is right for other humans.

This Moses story tells our story, about a people of hope, about a people who strive to live in the light of God to live for Christ. We who are Christians, live a different life, refusing to be embarrassed by Sunday worship. We refuse to be ashamed of tithing, of serving others, or by examining self, to see the best in others.  We refuse to be quiet, allowing bad behavior to continue. Christ calls us like Homeland Security, “See Something, Say Something,” when things are off kilter in our community, family or society.

So I ask of you, where in your life, have you felt that you were cast out on the water, not knowing where you would wind up? When in your life have you found yourself rescued by God through some event or person, and in hindsight you can look back and say, “Surely, that was God’s saving and grace filled handiwork?”

Today people of God, know that God is our provider, our advocate, our champion.   And God through the power of the Holy Spirit and Jesus the Christ, has called you to Speak, for the ones who have been cast adrift, with no voice, perhaps being crushed by society’s status quo.

Shiphrah and Puah, Hebrew midwives, chose the side of God, and what a difference that made in the lives of others and in the blessing they received from God on high.

Speak the truth! And when necessary, “Don’t follow the rules.” God will walk with you, provide for you, and future generations will be blessed by you, and by God.

In Jesus holy name. Amen.