Deuteronomy 34:1-12

A few weeks ago I said that I identify with Moses.  That like Moses I tried making excuses when God called me.  I mentioned that I had a stole made which was presented to me at my ordination that had an image of the burning bush on it.  Well here at the end of Moses life I also feel a connection with Moses.  Here before Moses dies he is shown the promised land.  He sees the promise but does not get to step into it, he does not get to live in it.  

Ministers in the Uniting Church, and many other denominations, live for a time with a group of people before moving to another placement.  As leaders we help people to identify what God is calling them to and encourage them to follow but we do not always get to taste the fruits that are produced. As I reflect on this I think that this is not just true of ministers.  Although ministers do experience this more than people who stay in the same congregation for many years and grow deep roots, none of us see everything to completion.  We all need to come to terms with not experiencing the final product.

In what different ways in your life have you had to come to terms with this?

I have found this prayer which was written by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests, helpful. It is also known as the Oscar Romero Prayer as they beautifully summarise his philosophy, but it was never spoken by him.  

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime
only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise
that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying
that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No programme
accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives
includes everything.

That is what we are about.
We plant a seed that will one day grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations
that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects
far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything,
and there is a sense of liberation
in realising that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning,
a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace
to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.

Moses has been obedient and has had faith for so long that it must have been a profound gift to have his hopes and convictions confirmed by what he did see even though he did not personally enter. This vision is a gift to Moses.  Both times the verb “see” is used, it is causative, with God as the subject, that is through God’s actions Moses can see.  Though we may need to open up our own eyes and look for what God is doing and where God is, we also may need to ask God to show us — to reveal to us — where God is at work.

Have you spent time in prayer asking God to reveal where God is leading?

If not, maybe you could start asking God to reveal this.  Be open to the crazy of as Mike Frost puts it the “weird” thing that God is up to.

If you have been praying have you been given any visions?  If so, what are they?

The announcement of Moses’ death comes abruptly after God reminds Moses that he will not enter the land he is seeing. We might wonder if Moses only glimpsed the land for a moment before he died.   We also may wonder about Moses’ feelings at his death: was he happy to depart in peace trusting in the vision that he was given and the people that would follow? Or, was he frustrated to only see it, and not experience it?

The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years.  Moses like the rest of the first generation did not get to step foot into the promised land.  Although that generation dies out the promise continues in the next generation.  We have seen this promise continue through generations already, beginning with Abraham then continuing through Isaac and Jacob. 

Have you ever struggled to hand the reins over to the younger generation?

Are there things that helped you to let go?

What positive experience have you seen of handing the baton over to the younger generation to continue to race?

The refrain of this passage affirms that long-awaited promises are fulfilled, and the response to that ought to be hope and joy.

                                                Rev Tammy Hollands