Deuteronomy 34:1-12, Psalm 90:1-6,13-17, 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8, Matthew 22:34-46. By Barrie Cran, Lay Reader.
Collect: Lord God our redeemer, who heard the cry of your people and sent your servant Moses to lead them out of slavery, free us from the tyranny of sin and death, and by the leading of your Spirit bring us to our promised land; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
How often of you dreamed about something that you really, really want? Have you worked for it, striven for it, given things up for it, done everything you can for it, just to have it snatched from your grasp just as it seems to be in sight? The pain, the anguish, the frustration, the anger even, that we feel when that happens is raw. There have not been that many things I have experienced like that; perhaps I have been lucky or perhaps I just havened dreamed big? But I have had friends who have, for no fault of their own, had their dreams snatched from them. I have seen the disappointment in their eyes, the dropping of their shoulders. In those few times when it has happened to me, I have just had to go for a long walk all alone – just me without any platitudes or kind words, no matter how well meant.
I wonder what was in Moses’ eyes as he stood there and looked over the promised land in the certain knowledge that he would not set foot in it. After all that he had done from the time he was called, very reluctantly, to be the leader of Israel. Through those difficult times with his own people, let alone with Pharaoh. Through standing up for his people when they did wrong. Through the wilderness. Yet through all those things he was not to get the reward, in spite of being in rude health as they may say. Instead he died at the Lord’s command. The end of Moses’ journey is, in our eyes, so near and yet not quite there.
I wonder how many of us felt like that when the numbers started to go the wrong way and restrictions started to return? Perhaps the better story is the return to the wilderness when Joshua and the spies returned from their trip and the leaders were afraid. Either way the promised land has been shown and then taken away, in Moses’ case for ever.
As we go into another period of increased restriction, this time coupled with evenings drawing ever in and weather getting steadily more autumnal, the temptation can be to lose faith in ever getting out of this situation. And it will seem like its going on for ever. I can barely remember what a normal day was like, I can’t really remember what the old routine of a trip home every month with a late night drive back from the airport ready for Monday morning at work. These are all distant memories now in an old world where things seemed so established.
But we should think back to what others have been through and they survived and indeed thrived. And we have a promise that is implicit in Jesus question; a question in two parts. What is the messiah and whose son is the messiah?
While this was a question aimed at those who thought they new better, it is also a question laden with hope for us. We know that the Messiah is the route back to God! We know that the Messiah is David’s son Jesus. Maybe the religious elite of the Jews did not know this, but we do!
And so we must take comfort from that knowledge, we must have faith in that knowledge because it is wonderful news, even in the dark and cold evenings of October when the world around us seems hostile and dangerous. Because knowing the messiah gives us hope beyond today, and tomorrow. It gives us hope for the end of times because we have a loving Messiah, a redeeming Messiah.
So, I take comfort from Moses’ long journey. He struggled, he thought himself unworthy. He pushed back and sometimes gave up, well almost. He even pleaded for himself and his people and led them through dark, dark days of hunger thirst, rebellion and uncertainty. And at the end of times he did not, at least by earthly standards, get the prize of the promised land. That prize was taken by another. Like Paul he suffered greatly for following God’s ways. But like Paul he was a man of God.
My inconveniences and annoyances are as nothing compared with what others have been through, and indeed go through. We have been freed from the tyranny of sin and death by the Messiah and that is such a great thing that it can transcend all our current problems and cares and worries and concerns. Whether they are about our lives, whether they are about our families, whether they are about our work and workmates, our finances. Whether we feel isolate or afraid. Whatever these cares we must remember that there is a promised land, and the Messiah will lead us there, even if we can’t see it at the moment. We may not know the route or the timing but be can have faith that it does exist at the end of days.
So just as Moses sight was unimpaired and his vigour unabated when he saw the promised land so we can also have confidence. Moses didn’t throw a tantrum and shout “darn” (or something similar), Moses had faith and we should have faith that we have the Messiah.
So as things get dark outside, and maybe in our hearts, let that glimmer of faith, let the light of the Messiah shine through and show us that promised land. It is there for us, even if we can’t quite see it at the moment, it won’t be snatched from us at the last minute, we will cross over that river.