The Lord is Great and Awesome by Rev. Leah D. Rosso

Exodus 1; John 21

This week at VBS the kids’ energy has been contagious! Each year we start on Sunday night and the kids who have come before are excited to see how the church will be decorated and who will be in their life group with them, but it is really the adults’ energy that gets the movement started. It is Leslie and her music team who have been practicing for two weeks who begin the energy movement in opening worship and Andy and Snappy the crab who carry the story and each of the team leaders learning the kids’s names and the activity leaders presenting the story, games, science, and crafts with creativity and love that really gets the energy going. But by Wednesday, it’s the kids’ energy that is carrying the adults. The kids internalizing the wave words that indeed God helps and creates and loves and sends us all that continues to touch our hearts so that even by Thursday night when we are all exhausted from the energy of the week and touched by the stories that were shared and connected to each other by God’s Spirit in new ways, the energy that comes from the Spirit of God is still contagious and spreading out into everything we do.

But it’s not just energy that’s contagious— faithfulness is contagious as well. How often have you been somewhere in a group of people and when one person chooses to stand up for what is right and good, others are able to follow? That when one or two people show courage and faithfulness in the face of fear, it emboldens all of us to do the same?

There are many ways in which we can respond to fear in our world— you’ll get to learn a new practice during our prayer time today. Our Biblical story is a prime example of how God’s Spirit began to work in people’s lives and the more people who said yes, the more people were able to say yes.

We read the story of Moses this morning, but there are some verses before he was born that are important to the story. You see, Moses lived in the time of Pharoah. You would think being Pharaoh, the most powerful man in the world at the time, would lend itself to not being afraid. But even Pharaoh was afraid. Pharaoh was afraid of the people who were his slaves. He didn’t understand them. He didn’t see them as kin. He was afraid of losing his power even though they were no threat to him. He lived as part of a system built on fear and so he wasn’t even free. Shiphra and Puah were midwives at that time. They heard Pharoah’s decree that all the Israelite boy children under the age of 1 should be killed and instead of obeying that order, they defied it. They knew Pharaoh was afraid of what he didn’t understand, so they created a story about the strength of the Israelite women— how they gave birth before the midwives could even arrive. Shiphra and Puah were used to men thinking less of them, and they used it to their advantage— saving countless lives because of their courage to stand up to Pharoah. They remembered that the Lord is great and awesome.

Moses’ Mom was courageous too. The bravery of Shiphrah and Puah was contagious and so Moses’ Mom hid Moses as long as she possibly could, and then placed him in a basket and sent him down the Nile. She had a plan. She sent Moses’ sister to follow him on shore and when Pharoah’s own daughter and servants found Moses, Moses’ sister ran up to ask if they needed someone to nurse him. Even Pharoah’s own daughter refused to live in this system of fear, chose instead to be courageous and save baby Moses from his fate. And so Moses’ sister brought Moses’ own mother to nurse him and care for him, teaching him that the Lord is great and awesome. You see when one or two people say yes to God, it opens the door for them all to say yes. They begin to remember that the Lord is great and awesome.

Jesus knew this as well. He didn’t just focus on his 12 disciples— his church— as the place where leaders were made. He encountered people all around him— people no one else thought twice about. He knew that we all have power to make change. He knew we all have God’s Spirit within us. And so even those who others thought were on the outside, on the margins, were not worthy of his time, Jesus took time to see them for who they were; to see the pain inside of them; to see the power inside of them; and to say yes to God’s invitation for him to interact with them, which allowed them to say yes to God. And then, at the end of the Gospel of John, he invites Peter to do the same- to remember that the Lord is great and awesome.

Peter, do you love me? Yes Lord, I love you. Feed my sheep.
Peter, do you love me? Yes Lord, you know that I love you. Feed my sheep.
Peter, do you love me? Yes Lord, I love you. Feed my sheep.

This isn’t a moment of shame for Peter. Jesus knows that while he denied knowing him three times, it will take at least three times of saying yes to God for him to commit his life again so that he can forgive himself. Jesus knows that each time Peter says yes to God, great things can happen and others can say yes as well. Jesus reminds Peter that the Lord is great and awesome.

You and I can do that today. We can say yes to God in each moment to tell the truth, to speak out against injustice, to work to end oppression, to welcome our neighbor, to proclaim loudly, humbly, and with joy— remember that the Lord is great and awesome!

How different our world will look in the places where each of us goes when we remember that in places and moments of fear, we can remember that the Lord is great and awesome. We can remember to say yes to God and let our fears take a back seat. We don’t have to respond to fear as Pharaoh did— puffing himself up by hurting others; or as Peter originally did— denying not only Jesus but who he was as Jesus’ disciple. Instead, we can remember that the Lord our God is great and awesome and draw upon the Spirit’s power within us to say yes!