Pastor Sherry’s Message for 8/30/2020
Scriptures: Ex 3:1-15; Ps 105:23-26; Ro 12:9-21; Matt 16:21-28
Recently I came across 2 examples of our current “cancel culture” at work. With the “cancel culture,” you are only as good as your social media account messages are PC. Step out of line and your reputation is destroyed, while your future is threatened.
The first concerned a Jordanian-American named Natasha Tynes. Tynes had researched and written about threats to free speech and a free press in Egypt and then had faced persecution in Egypt for it. Back in the states again, she was riding the DC-area subway, the Metro, when she saw a transit worker eating in the train. There are signs posted everywhere prohibiting this behavior, so Natasha confronted the worker and pointed out that she was violating the rules. The worker rudely blew her off! Natasha said she frequently rides the subway hungry and so was frustrated that a person with the power to fine her for eating was herself violating the rules. As a result, Natasha wrote a letter of complaint to the transit authorities, asking that they take some disciplinary action.
She probably should have left the matter there, but she also “tweet-shamed” her by calling the woman out on line, including a picture of her eating on the train. Some 45 minutes later, Natasha rethought what she had done and deleted her tweet. She also apologized on line for her actions, admitting she had responded out of a “short-lived expression of frustration.” In addition, she wrote the transit authority to ask them to overlook her complaint. But the Twitter Mob turned on her, calling her “Metro-Molly.” Ms. Tyne’s publisher learned of this “temptest in a teapot” and decided not to print her latest book. They claimed she had done “something truly horrible” and excused their decision to renege on their contract because Natasha “had threatened the transit worker’s health and safety. What?
The second incident concerned that vocal young man from the Parkland high school shooting, Kyle Kashuv. We saw him interviewed on TV a number of times. He received several offers of scholarships to college and turned them all down to attend Harvard. Later, word got back to Harvard, via some of his classmates that Kashuv–a Jewish conservative–had made anti-semetic and racist comments in a private online chat back when he was 16 years old. The young man apologized publically. He even wrote a Harvard dean to admit his responsibility and to ask for forgiveness.
David French of the National Review reported that Kashuv did “everything we want a young man to do when he’s done something wrong.” Nevertheless, Harvard believed his email remarks from several years younger were too egregious to forgive, and rescinded his admission.
Recently, Kellyanne Conway resigned as advisor to the President when her 15 year old daughter “tweet-shamed” her and her husband on line. I am not trying to draw in politics here. Rather, I am making the point that people feel all too free to call one another out on line. This teen has hurt her parents very publically by defaming their reputations. I wonder how she will feel about this when she is 25 or 35, or a parent herself. Sadly, this child has not learned to live out Paul’s admonitions from Romans 12: V.14àBless those who [you believe] persecute you; bless and do not curse; v.16àLive in harmony with one another; and v.17+àDo not repay [even perceived] evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
This is where we are now. A mistake, a lapse in judgment, can cost you everything today. Thank God our Lord does not operate by cancel culture rules! Let’s look at two He could have chosen to cancel, but didn’t, in today’s scripture passages:
First, we have Moses (Ex 3:1-15). Last week, we saw this Hebrew slave kid rescued from the Nile, to be raised in Pharaoh’s own household.
By this week, he has advanced to the age of 40, and realized God has tapped him to champion his people, the Jews. Without waiting on God’s direction, however, he kills an Egyptian overseer for beating a Hebrew slave. His own people, seeing him dressed as an Egyptian, fail to trust him, fearing he is an Egyptian murderer. Furthermore, Pharaoh hears of the incident and wants to arrest him. So Moses flees Egypt into the desert. By attempting to do what he thought he should do, He finds himself driven away.
He reaches Midian and rescues the 7 daughters of Reuel who were also doing what they were supposed to do—watering their sheep. Moses observed some rowdy male shepherds attempting to push them aside to water their animals first. Moses rescues the ladies and sends the ruffians packing. Subsequently, he marries the eldest, Zipporah; soon has a son, Gershom (whose name means “sojourner” or “alien”—kinda suggests how Moses feels about living in Midian); and tends sheep, for another 40 years. Like King David, later, he is going to be called from tending a flock of animals to shepherding God’s people.
In today’s passage, he encounters God (the preincarnate Christ) in aburning bush that does not burn up. He is told to take his shoes off becausehe is in the presence of God, which makes the ground they are on holyindeed. God calls him by name twice (make no mistake, our God knows our names!). God also reveals who He is: The God of the Hebrew patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God shares that His name is, I am who I am; or, as some translations say, I will be who I will be. In other words, as the passage states, He is the God who sees, thinks, hears, knows,remembers, and intervenes for His people.
God also reaffirms Moses’ call to deliver the Hebrew slaves from Egyptian bondage. Notice, God has not canceled him due to having murdered an Egyptian. Instead God has hidden him out, in the back of the beyond for 40 years, so that the Pharaoh who sought to arrest him has had time to die and be replaced. Additionally, those Israelite slaves who witnessed the murder have also passed on. God has made sure it is safe for Moses to return to Egypt. And Moses has learned to wait on God.
Our Psalm mentions how God sent Moses, His servant, to set His people free.
Now, let’s jump to our Gospel lesson from Matt 16:21-28. Last week, we read how Peter confessed what the Holy Spirit had revealed to him: that Jesus was/is the Messiah. This week, Jesus begins to educate the Twelve regarding what God’s Messiah will do. Despite their personal beliefs and expectations of Messiah, Jesus says He will die on a Roman cross, condemned by His own; He will die to redeem those very folks and all the rest of us too. Like Moses before Him, Jesus is a shepherd, our shepherd and a deliverer, our deliverer. Understandably, Rocky (Peter) is horrified! Like Moses, he gets ahead of himself. Rather than taking in what Jesus is saying, he tries to talk Him out of it. YIKES, Peter! We don’t get to tell God what to do. Jesus has just praised Rocky, but now he really tears into him—
He calls His dear friend Satan! He rightly accuses him of interfering with God’s plan. Whether he or we like it or not, God’s plan appears to require that we (v.24) deny [ourselves, our self-will], take up [our] Cross and follow [Jesus]. Like so many of us, Peter hears from God but he is also motivated by selfish self-interest and perhaps beguiled by the evil one.
We know the outcome of both stories: Moses leads the people out of Egypt—even though they wander in the desert for 40 years. And Peter becomes a dynamic, faith-filled leader of the new Christian Church. God had grace, mercy, and forgiveness for them both!
What would have happened to Moses or to Peter—Rocky–if our Lord operated by the rules of cancel culture? Cancel culture assumes—impossibly—that you can never make a mistake. No grace or mercy is allowed for immaturity, anger, impetuousness. Cancel Culture believes, Once a sinner, always a sinner. You cannot even apologize and be forgiven. As we have seen in the examples of Natasha, Kyle, and the Conways, judgment is swift and forgiveness is withheld! Furthermore, cancel culture ruins the person’s future—despite a very productive present–based on one lapse in judgment or a perceived wrong response.
Aren’t we glad our God does not operate that way? Our God is characterized by love, grace, and mercy. He keeps His promises and He forgives our sins. He reinstates us. He uses us once we realize we cannot work out His program in our own strength. Instead, we operate in His strength, surrendered to His will. Thanks be to God that He has such patience, such forgiveness, such mercy for us.
This week, I challenge you to pray for Natasha Tynes and Kyle Kashuv, and any other victims of the media mob and the cancel culture. Pray for peace and reconciliation between the senior Conways and their 15 year old daughter. Let’s also be aware of God’s mercy. And let’s be grateful that there is no cancel culture with our Lord!
c 2020 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams