Sermon for January 12: The Lord Is Fighting for Us

The Lord is Fighting for Us
Baptism of the Lord (January 12, 2020)
Exodus 14:5-31, 15:20-21 (with Matthew 3:13-17)

The actions we are doing in the next part of this service (Reaffirmation of Baptism, Ordination and Installation of Deacons and Ruling Elders) carry the message so well that I don’t need to talk much. I implore you to pay close attention to the words and actions of what is to come.

But I wish briefly to emphasize two things in response to the readings. The first thing: how did the Egyptians react to what was happening to them in the Sea? They cried out, “The Lord is fighting for the Israelites!” To be people of God in the world is a constant struggle: you struggle against messages and influences from movies and television and social media and politics. Right now we are struggling to be peaceful and responsible and Christ-like in a polarized and militaristic environment. The Lord is fighting for us. The Israelites were afraid that they would be killed there at the sea, and all Moses’ attempts to reassure them failed. But God told Moses what to do, and he did it, and then the people had to take the risk to step out into the sea. They did it, Egypt close in pursuit. And the Lord saved them.

I am persuaded that if you and I remain true to our confession, if we stay committed to the way of Jesus Christ despite the increasing social pressure to give in to hate and fear, that the Lord fights for us. The Israelites had a concrete, human enemy: the Egyptians were coming to return them to slavery. That is not our issue: Iran is not our enemy; President Trump is not our enemy. Our enemy is rising blood-lust, militarism, and polarization. And our enemies are the voices in our heads: the voice that says that you’re no good, God can’t love you; or that says that you’re so good that you don’t need for God to love you.  Whatever our enemy may be, the Lord is fighting for us. Step out in faith and God will take care of the enemies of God’s people.

And the second thing is to remember that all Israel passed through the sea together. Moses encouraged them, Moses lifted his staff, but Moses did not cross over alone. Our Church’s Book of Common Worship often reminds us that our baptism is an echo of Israel’s crossing the Red Sea; they were saved through the water and so were we. And we all crossed together.

We are all the Church together. Consider the ministries we do that are effective and that have lasted. They were not started by a pastor; were they? The ministries we have that persist and serve well have been started by the Board of Deacons, or a group of women who got together, or a committee of the Session. Research has shown that for something in the Church to succeed and endure, it must come from the people and not from the Minister, but the Minister must be visibly supportive of it. We were all baptized into Christ, we together are the Church of Christ. I’ll continue to raise the staff and lead our prayer and worship, but we are all called to step into the Sea together. So now let us reaffirm our life together in Christ.

Then followed the Service of Reaffirmation of Baptism.

Robert A. Keefer
Presbyterian Church of the Master
Omaha, Nebraska


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