Sermon for the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

Some words you have heard already this morning, from the final words of the Torah:

Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigour had not abated.

Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.

Well, he certainly had an illustrious and interesting career. He was brought up like a little prince in the palace of the Pharaoh

Who had a daughter with a most bewitching smile

Who found the infant Moses in the rushes by the Nile.

She took him home to dear Papa and he believed the tale

Which some consider as probable as Jonah and the whale.

The years then passed until Moses saw a Hebrew slave being cruelly beaten by a bouncer from the local casino and immediately felt such an affinity for the poor man that he decided to come out and claim a Hebrew heritage and set out on a campaign to have the Hebrews people released from their slavery in Egypt. Using the access he had to the Pharaoh he tried to wear him down by singing again and again him the negro spiritual ‘Let my people go’.

As we all know the Hebrew people did gain their freedom and caught the spirit of Moses whose other song was written for him by another Jewish person, Herbert Kretzner, ‘I dreamed a dream one day’.

And the dream was of a land of promise where there would be freedom, peace, justice and plenty- a vision of God’s kingdom come in earth as it is in heaven.

Not that it was an easy journey- it never is. Remember the title of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography is No Easy Walk to Freedom. So often people want the reward without the effort, taking without paying the cost save that of knowing that they will have personal gain.

And in the wilderness, hungry, thirsty and exhausted the people grumbled and complained and even turned aside to find another God. Did I say ‘thirsty’? Moses really had to find something amazing. Your may remember at least part of it but not the climactic moment about

Moses who was the leader of the Israelitic flock

Who used to get spa water just by striking on a rock;

Then one day from the multitude there rose a mighty cheer

For instead of getting water he got Foster’s Lager Beer.

And so the journey, the pilgrimage, the trek went on and they reached their destination, more or less; but Moses died with the goal just ahead of him. Well, he was one hundred and twenty- which is Bible talk for ‘very, very old’, although the biologists tell us that forty per cent of babies born this year will live to a hundred and fifty. Old he may have been, but the writer of Deuteronomy says that ‘his sight was unimpaired and his vigour had not abated’.

Being so fit I don’t know why he died- perhaps he swallowed a tablet of rules and regulations.

But did he die a failure- with the journey incomplete? Of course whenever we read of his being in sight of the Promised Land and then dying we surely think of those tragically prophetic words of Martin Luther King in his final address in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968:

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

Not many hours later he was dead at the hands of assassin- had he failed in not seeing the new day dawn? With Moses leading his people and trying to keep them true to their purpose and then right at the end not arriving at the longed for goal had he failed?

People of religious faith are glimpsers (pardon the horrible word). They are those and we are those who catch the glimpse and that is enough.

How does it happen? You have to answer that for yourself but often it is in the special moment. In a former life I was one of those who set topics for the general essay in the VCE English paper. One topic we set used words of Paul Tournier who wrote that for each of us there are moments of special significance; the topic:  ‘Are there moments in your life which you remember as having special significance?’.

One of the many essays on the topic was a thrill to read and assess and quite unforgettable. The first two sentences the candidate wrote were

‘Are there moments in my life which I remember as having special significance? Too bloody right there are.’

He, and the candidate was male, was pretty well at being 10/10 without writing another word.

And so I ask you- Are there moments in your life which you remember as having special significance; moments of a glimpse of something more?

C.S.Lewis once came out of the wardrobe to say something about this when he wrote:

… in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself, and am never more myself than when I do.

Glimpsing moments, moments of special significance. Moments in which all mortal flesh keeps silence.  But the one who wrote about moments of special significance words went on to say that the remarkable thing is not that these moments don’t happen more often; the remarkable thing is that they happen at all. And one of those moments may happen today in this time with our Lord and each other, and it is the possibility of that which inspires us and will inspire us as we go our several ways (although this dud $5 note is likely to turn up again).

In company with Moses and Martin Luther King, Simon and Jude and all the saints we remember in the coming week, be ready to catch the glimpse and be renewed, strengthened and sustained by it- and don’t obstruct it by swallowing a tablet of rules and regulations.