Rev. Rosemary Webb
25th October 2015
The Exodus

The Old Testament reading is the story of the Israelites leaving Egypt after over four hundred years. As their numbers multiplied the Egyptians began to resent their presence so Pharaoh decided they must leave, they were refugees.

But it began to seem that the Israelites were facing what seemed to be an impossible task. With the Egyptians in hot pursuit and the Red Sea in front of them, they had very little hope of escape. They were trapped and their response to the situation was that of fear, they could see Pharaoh approaching. They were terrified and they did the only thing they could think of doing, and the only thing that even today millions of people can think to do and that is they cried out to God.

They could turn back they knew that Pharaoh was looking for them, after all life in Egypt hadn’t been that bad had it? Like many before and since, they were tempted to run away from the new challenge facing them. They had fled Egypt to avoid persecution and when they looked back, the fear of what might happen meant they only remembered what had been good.

Then they had to blame someone so they blamed Moses, what was he thinking of bring them to this situation – ‘did you bring us here because there were no graves in Egypt, if we die in the desert we will not need a grave. It wasn’t that bad being a slave. Real fear is a dreadful thing. It nearly stopped the Israelis in their tracks, they had stopped thinking clearly, their minds were paralysed with fear. We see that same fear daily on our televisions

They were desperate, life was hard they seemed to be getting nowhere,(now the powerful Egyptian army was after them because Pharaoh had decided it had been a mistake to drive them out, it was useful to have slaves) and they were basically trapped in by mountains and the Sea

But Moses told them to have faith to trust in God, to stand firm and they would be saved. Then God told them to go forward, he would guide them, but they had to trust him. In the end they reached the Red Sea and it is written that God told Moses to lift his stick and the waters would divide and as we know the Israelites were able to cross the sea on foot, but when the Egyptians arrived on horseback they sank into the sea and they all drowned.

You have probably heard that it is disputed by theologians and historians alike that the waters actually divided, but surely what is important is that Moses was able to lead his people across the water to safety, that they were now on the way to the promised land, they knew God was with them. The Old Testament may not always be totally accurate but what is true is that God saved his people when all seemed impossible, they were going back to their home.

Today the Middle East is again full of millions of people fleeing persecution and tyranny, if the Israelites had carried on walking further north they would have reached Aleppo all those areas we see on our television screens. Yes, this area of the Middle East has many times been the scene of unbelievable cruelty and violence and today is no exception.

Our overseas mission this year is supporting Medecins sans Frontiers. In 2014 as well as being active in war torn areas and areas of natural disaster they were on the scene from the beginning of the Ebola crisis which claimed about 8,000 lives including thirteen MSF employees.

But thinking back to the reading from Exodus Syria borders northern Israel and Iraq borders Syria two areas constantly in the news and where MSF have a high profile. I am going to quote from their 2014 report on their work in the Middle East, and with refugees – we need to remember that the last six months have seen a huge increase in the refugee problem.

Their report read -Three years of extremely violent warfare has ripped Syria apart, families that can are fleeing from violence, and the whole country is in a state of medical crisis.

Since 2012 MSF have been providing health care in parts of northern Syria where it was possible to set up makeshift hospitals and clinics often in basements and private houses. But however valued their work is the staff are always at risk. Early in 2014 five staff were taken by ISIS from where they were working, thankfully they were released but not before three were in captivity until April and the other two until May. Neither ISIS nor the government in Syria will guarantee them safety.

The report carries on – So in 2014 there were more than two million Syrian refugees registered in countries neighbouring Syria, but the number could, in fact, be much higher, and MSF has also been working with refugees in Greece, Bulgaria, Italy, Serbia and Egypt and with the vast increase in numbers the need is growing.

But Syria and Iraq are not the only conflict areas, recently MSF lost 22 members of staff in Afghanistan when their hospital was bombed. In the Central African republic three staff members were among 22 people killed during an armed robbery in the grounds of their hospital. In South Sudan patients were shot in their beds and an entire hospital was completely destroyed. But MSF carry on with their work.

MSF also provides care in the Gaza strip, the occupied Palestinian Territories, Bahrain, Tunisia, and Dijbouti. Wherever there is need you will find MSF, they are always quick to respond to the cry for help. They ask no questions they go.

In the Gospel reading Bartimaeus had heard about Jesus and on hearing it was Jesus was coming, he cried out for help his call getting louder and louder. The disciples may have tried to quieten him, but as we know Jesus heard his cries and responded for Bartimaeus fully understood the power of God’s message, he had faith and was made whole.

I believe that in this sermon I have touched on three miracles, no I may not believe that the Red Sea suddenly had a path across it, but I do believe God guided the Israelites to the part which was marshy land not water, enabling them to get to the other side. Jesus’ healing of Bartimaeus was obviously a miracle

And the third – that God gives people the strength to be willing to put their lives in danger so that they may show love, bring healing, hope and comfort to people they do not know in their time of anguish. That I believe is also a miracle. The Old Testament writer may have felt that to be a miracle it must be ‘out of this world’ but I believe we see miracles daily in the bravery on those who are prepared to perform operations, deliver babies, prescribe medicine while there are bullets, bombs whistling overhead.

Let us give thanks for all MSF does and support them the best we can by supporting our Christmas Fair. 25% of the proceeds will go to MSF and 25% to Canine Partners, our local charity for this year (one of their dogs joined us at this service in July), the other 50% going towards our work here at St Matthews. The sight of MSF hospital brings relief to many in their hours of great suffering, let us do what we can to ensure their work continues and grows.

Heavenly Father we give you thanks for your love and the daily miracles you perform in our troubled world.

The Exodus & Mark 10:46 – end