Psalm 90:1-6; 13-17 & Deuteronomy 34:1-7 & Hebrews 11:1-3; 23-27
May the words of my mouth speak of your heart for us.
I’m calling this message – God’s Great Change Agent – a Spirit Filled Person.
Our first two readings today are from the lectionary for this week and both involve Moses. Psalm 90 is reputedly the only one of the 150 psalms that was written by Moses and thus potentially it is the oldest of the psalms.
Deuteronomy 34 sees Moses as the subject of the waiting and describes his final moments in this temporal world.
I’ve always struggled with this reading. Moses was always the reluctant leader, who chose to leave a life of privilege, who was disgraced and mistreated (as we read in Hebrews). He had to carry a race of grumbling, truculent people, unbelieving people (some of whom were members of his own family) and labour in the desert for forty years, while one by one they perished or turned away from God or both.
Yes, he made some mistakes, which God reminds him of along the way, but he remained a faithful servant. Now here, on Mount Nebo, he is told by God that his time is up, and that while he can look in to the Promised Land – he will not be allowed to enter it. He is to be superseded by the younger upstart Joshua, whom he has mentored. Joshua is to fulfil or, at least, to continue the mission of God.
For Moses it seems that the plan and the task, or at least, the reward, is incomplete.
When we look at Psalm 90, we might assume that the aged Moses is reflecting on the life of a man. For while the author acknowledges that God is everlasting, the same yesterday, today and forever, he and we are like the new grass in the mornings of our lives, but dry and withered up by the evenings of our life.
But then, at the end of the Psalm, the author speaks of gladness and joy, even in affliction.
Why? Because the psalm has a future focus. Verse 16 – May you (God’s) deeds be shown (not only) to your servants, your splendour to their children’ and in verse 17 – ‘yes establish the work of your hands.’
Here is an element of here and now and not yet. Moses encapsulates, in this psalm, the realities of life – birth and death, strength and weakness, new and old, purity and decay. But he also looks forward with trust, hope and faith for the promise of God to bring all things to a state of newness, birth, strength and purity.
As God’s change agent, Moses – as we read in the Book of Hebrews – was acting in faith, for what was to come in the Promised Land. He and we, have a part, but may never see the outcome in our time. We are simply the servants of whom Paul spoke about in 1 Corinthians 3 – ‘Each one of us does the work the Lord gave him to do. I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plant, but it was God who made the plant grow.”
We all do our bit – sometimes it is in the form of offering someone a high tea and a chat. Sometimes it is in the form of gifting a rose.
But like the rose, it has to form, be a bud that always has the potential to be a beautiful flower, sometimes with a wonderful fragrance. The bud itself is filled with promise and we put trust and hope in the flowering.
And like the rain, it will come eventually. Often the flowering occurs when we least expect it – or when we don’t have the opportunity to see it to full fruition.
That is, like Moses, our place in God’s scheme means that sometimes we will see the full unfolding of our work and sometimes we won’t. For we are but the gardeners – with our gifts and skills and labours and with the presence of the Spirit upon our lives.
Yet, God is the creator and the architect, the surveyor, the planner, the builder and God is the one whose arms enfold us at the end of the day.
Shortly, we will dedicate a gift to this congregation, and to those who come after us. A gift from Mrs. Pearl Trapp, a fellow gardener who travelled with us for 95 years. Pearl followed faithfully in the footsteps of her ancestors and the first Evangelists of the Illawarra – the Vidlers.
Pearl also may not have seen in her lifetime, the fulfilment of all her hope in Christ, but she lived by the promise of what is still to come.
She was truly one of God’s change agents – a spirit-filled gardener for God. Her petals are not fully opened in the Garden of Life in the New Jerusalem.