Sermon 3 December 2017 Anniversary Day Martin Baker
Some background to the reading today: The Hebrew slaves have been set free from their bondage in Egypt, they’ve received God’s commandments at Mount Sinai, and they’ve then spent forty years wandering in the Sinai desert. They are now standing on the borders of Canaan, their promised land. Moses is an old man and is about to die, and he has gathered the people together to give them what you might call his ‘Last Will and Testament’. Deuteronomy is presented to us as a sermon preached by Moses, in which he restates God’s laws to the people and encourages them to remain faithful to their God.
7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, 9 a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper. 10 You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the good land that he has given you.
11 Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today. 12 When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15 who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid wasteland with poisonous[a] snakes and scorpions. He made water flow for you from flint rock, 16 and fed you in the wilderness with manna that your ancestors did not know, to humble you and to test you, and in the end to do you good. 17 Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.
Let us pray
One of the things every one of us here has in common is that we or our ancestors all came from somewhere else. Whether it was last month or a thousand years ago, someone made the decision to leave somewhere and come here.
I know some of you have read Jessie Munro’s great history of this area. And early in the book she speaks of the history of the Tainui canoe anchoring off what we now call Duder Park, way back in the 13th century.
Things must have been tough on that boat. But just think of the navigational skills of those who sailed those ocean-going waka back and forth between here, and I guess the Cook Islands in those first couple of centuries of human contact with New Zealand. I suppose New Zealand marked the final stop on the great pacific migration that started from East Asia a couple of thousand years ago.
My earliest ancestors arrived in Lyttleton on a ship called the Sir Edward Paget that came in 1856. The ship record indicated 5 deaths on board and 4 births. Almost 300 people on a ship that was around 40 meters long which took, then, a quick 4 and a half months to get here. There were 5 toilets on board which mal function early on, leading people below deck walking through sewerage and a couple who could afford their own cabin were assigned a room that measured 5 ft. 2 by 3 ft. 1 about 1.5 meters by 1 meter. The passengers had to find ways of cooking their own food as the boat’s cooks jumped ship somewhere along the way. In fact things were so appalling that the Captain was arrested shortly after his arrival here. He was fined a few ponds and left to sail back to Britain.
Things can’t have been that good where we have come from, whether it was Hawiki or Edinburgh, to leave, maybe forever, what we had known. To face what was going to be a tough journey, arriving at some place which either we really did not actually existed, or had only heard stories and rumours about.
Moses is speaking this morning to those who have left. And to those who have a memory of leaving. Those ancient people, maybe to us as well. Leaving Egypt, even during the hardships during those years in the desert people had wanted to return to the slavery they had left. At least we knew what that was all about they had said. Something happens and we see the bad old days as being the good old days. And this promise of a place. The Lord your God is bringing you into this good land.
Three maybe not so simple points today on this 159th anniversary service.
And I am indebted here to the writing of Peter Gomes one of my Harvard lectures and the minister of Harvard Memorial church which we attended.
Moses led the people out of slavery in Egypt through the desert for all these years, now, failing health some of his last words knowing that he will never enter this good land himself. He says repeatedly do not forget. Remember.
Today is a good day to give thanks but this remembering that Moses was talking about, was not first of all about remembering all our blessings but remembering for a moment all the bad things that have happened. Remember Moses is speaking to the survivors, 40 years in the desert, the ones who have endured – the survivors and their children and grandchildren.
Think of your worst moments, your sorrows, your losses, your sadness and then remember that here you are, able to remember them. You got through the worst day of your life up to this moment, you got through the trial, the loss, you endured the temptation, you survived the bad relationship and, you’re making your way out of the dark and out of the miry clay. Moses is saying Remember who got you through…remember that it was the Lord who got you out of it, got you through it, and was with you in the middle of it.
And the second thing is all about the way we live out that sense of being led and blessed through these times. Gomes said it isn’t just about thanksgiving but thanks living. We have to keep moving, even in the parched times we are blessed people with a vison for now and the future. Thanksgiving and thanks living.
And the third lesson from Moses is based on trust. You are to trust God. Do not make God give you constant proofs of loyalty, power and affection. God is to be trusted in the desert and in the good land, when we win or when we lose, whether we live or whether we die. God is to be trusted for God is trustworthy. You are the proof of that. Remember to remember. A life of gratitude is a work in progress. Trust God.
These ancient stories give us a foundation on which to build our faith. They direct us toward the God who showed his love for us in Jesus. Our hope is in that God—in his love, grace, mercy and power. It’s not in the conditions and circumstances of the present moments—whatever they may be. Our thanksgiving and our thanks living grow from the truth of God’s faithfulness and love
Thomas Norrie the first minister – he endured and persevered.
Our ancestors wherever they have come from. The courage that is the DNA , in the blood and memory of everyone who calls this places home, the courage of our ancestors in faith of leaving precious things behind. Getting through all those things. Holding on to a faith or maybe learning t for the first time or again. Telling that story to children and grandchildren, family and friends.
The trust the hope the vison the people that have supported you. We are here today because of all these things. We have got through whatever deserts we have had to endure.
Lessons for an anniversary day.
So remember to remember. Thanksgiving and thank living and God can be trusted.
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