Sermon of the Week:
You Want us to Go Where?
Week seven of a nine part sermon series:
I Feel Seen: Ancient Stories and Modern Wisdom
Keywords: Moses, Parting of the Red Sea, Lord will Make a Way, Big Wave Surfing. #pcusa
Permission to podcast / stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-733469. All rights reserved.
One of the magazines I read regularly is The Atlantic
and there was an article there on Saturday that took my breath away.
Maggie Mertens published a story called “This Woman Surfed the Biggest Wave of the Year”
and it detailed the new world record in what’s called the “Big Wave Awards”
a major surfing competition that draws athletes from all over the world.[i]
Merten’s article described how, this year,
the Brazilian big-wave surfer Maya Gabeira
conquered a 73 and a half foot wave off the cost of Nazaré, Portugal,
far exceeding her own previous record of a 68 foot wave,
and a full 3 and a half feet bigger than the mens’ XXL Biggest Wave award winner,
Kai Lenny, at 70 feet.
These are not “normal” waves.
This isn’t what you imagine people doing in their free time in coastal California,
where they just drop work for the afternoon,
toss on their wetsuit
and drive down to the beach to catch a few waves, dude.
73 feet is more than 7 stories tall,
powerful and fast,
a force of nature you’d instinctively try to avoid, right,
if you weren’t the kind of adventure athlete that these athletes are.
Before I saw the article yesterday,
I didn’t know that big wave surfing was a thing,
but of course it is.
They have different categories,
Ride of the Year,
even Wipeout of the Year,
but the Biggest Wave Award is the top prize,
and Gabeira took it to new heights this year.
Mertens’ article was primarily about discrepancies in the sport between male and female surfers,
and that’s another sermon for another day,
but what grabbed my attention was the video of Gabiera’s effort.
It was at the top of the article, so you can’t miss it.
One minute she is a speck on the seven-story-tall wall of water
and then it comes crashing down around her
and, if you’re like me, you gasp as you watch it.
You get a sense of how powerful the seas are
and how profoundly terrifying they can be
when there is an actual wall of water coming down on you.
It was so timely, actually,
as I’ve been thinking about this story in the Exodus
the culmination of what is really THE story of the Hebrew Bible.
This reading takes place in the darkest hour,
the turning point in the narrative.
With Pharaoh and the army behind them
and the sea in front of them,
the Israelites seem to have come, at last,
to the place of extinction.
What must that have felt like for the Hebrews?
We’ve done what we could to recreate it.
I remember this story, quite vividly, from my childhood,
mainly because I watched cartoons about it
during Sunday School.
They’re kind of seared into my memory.
There’s Moses bravely looking at the water, lifting high his hands
the winds blowing, the water obeying…
The seas part and there’s what looks like a cavernous trench
just wide enough to accommodate everyone.
They rush through, as do the chasing army..
They make it across, Moses does his thing with his arms again
the waters go back to normal…and its done.
The tone, triumphant.
The carnage in the water, minimized…
I mentioned we were kids, right.
Even though some stories of the Hebrew Bible are not really all that kid friendly
how can you avoid learning about the major stories,
particularly the one that has become THE defining event of our religious ancestors…
so they just elided over that part
and instead there was celebration:
that the violence was no more
that they can finally rest, finally have some peace
finally find freedom, as they turn to a new future….
all of that truly a good thing
even if it comes at an unthinkably high cost.
That was the childhood telling of the story,
for me, at least.
As we were talking about this at Bible Study this week
many people recalled the 1956 movie The Ten Commandments,
which might be the most famous version of it on the big screen.
The Ten Commandments was an epic movie,
more than three and a half hours long.
Do you remember the scenes
as the Israelites leave Egypt?
Joshua, riding on a horse
and gathering the people to get them ready…
the movie has such vivid colors and textures.
In the film, as the Israelites are leaving the pyramids behind them,
they don’t get far until they encounter
the sea in front of them and Pharaoh’s army coming quickly behind.
They have fled slavery of Egypt
and find themselves trapped—
by watery chaos
that blocks the way forward
and a vengeful army
closing in behind them.
In the film the confusion and fear are apparent.
There are animals running around;
women and babies crying,
and men planning mutiny against Moses.
You can also see the dark cloud of God beginning to form on the horizon. [Read more…]