Trinity evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa
1Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, 2all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, 3the Negeb, and the Plain, that is, the Valley of Jericho the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. 4And the Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” 5So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord, 6and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but no one knows the place of his burial to this day. 7Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated. 8And the people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days. Then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended. 9And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses. 10And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, 12and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. Deuteronomy 34:1-12 (ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.” Recently we’ve begun to view some emergency workers, like firemen and paramedics, as heroes. At first, I was going to start this sermon by saying, “Everyone needs a hero.” But, as I was doing some research I found out the really, here in America, we don’t have any heroes any more. James Patterson and Peter Kim say in their book The Day America Told the Truth that 70 percent of Americans have no living heroes. So, that kind of killed my first premise. It’s sad, in a way, because one of the important things about heroes is the desire to be like them. The desire to do what they do and do it well. Call it inspiration, or leadership.
On the other hand, maybe it’s not that we don’t need heroes, maybe we just don’t have them. Well, the bible is full of heroes. If you’re looking for a hero maybe, you could go there. Just look at Samson, who was so strong he brought down a whole building with his bare hands. Or Isaiah who preached, and preached, and preached, even though almost everyone ignored everything he said. Job who endured more suffering in his single life than most collections of a hundred people. Or St. Paul, who went from God’s enemy to His greatest preacher, and endured beatings and imprisonment for bringing God’s message.
What makes a hero a hero? Is it merely a matter of timing, a matter of 5 minutes as Emerson says? How do these heroes of the bible become such strong heroes? And since we do have so many, and heroes are to be emulated, how is it that we do that?
Well, let’s consider a biblical example. Really the first and arguably one of the most important biblical heroes is Moses. That’s what our text is about: And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses…
Moses was a hero. Maybe we don’t think of that at first but certainly the people of Israel always viewed him that way. And for good reason, just look at his list of qualifications. He knew God face to face. He talked directly to God, spoke his mind and even changed God’s mind about punishing the people. He had God’s trust, too. God spoke to him directly and clearly. And he actually saw God’s glory. Now that’s heroic, considering every one else in the world would have dropped down dead on the spot. Now on top of all of that there was 11none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, 12and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. That’s clearly hero status.
But there’s another side to this hero, too. First, remember his beginning, that crying baby floating helplessly in a raft / bassinet. And he was nursed by a hired hand. That’s a very unsure beginning for a hero. And look at this passage that is written in Numbers 12:3: 3Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3, ESV) And in case you are wondering what the word “meek” means Webster says it means “soft”; “deficient in spirit and courage : submissive” and “not violent or strong : moderate” And in the end, God didn’t even let him into the land he promised the people because Moses had gotten angry and sinned against God. That doesn’t sound much like a hero, does it?
Actually, it looks like Moses was a pretty ordinary man. Actually that first quote by Emerson, “A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer,” might seem to fit Moses pretty well. Really, in Moses’ case, the difference isn’t time but the difference is God. God is the one who enabled this ordinary man named Moses to do such great things. God chose him, selected him out for God’s own purposes. And don’t forget the sin. Moses was a sinful man just like you and me. His sin prevented him from entering the Promised Land. Moses was both an ordinary man and also a sinful man. And yet, God used him in big ways, to accomplish what God wanted done. God’s power and purpose made Moses a hero of faith.
Are you and I “hero material?” Well, just like Moses we are pretty ordinary people. Some of us are meek, quiet and reserved. Some of us are bold and assertive. But we are all human beings with varied gifts and varied strengths and varied weaknesses. And most important to remember, we have all sinned against God in many ways (and often!). I’m sure you’ve heard the prayer:
Dear Lord, So Far Today God, I've Done Alright. I Haven't Gossiped, Lost My Temper, Been Greedy, Grumpy, Nasty, Selfish Or Over-Indulged. I'm Very Thankful For That, But In A Few Minutes I'm Going To Get Out Of Bed, And Then I Really going to Need Your Help. Amen.
We laugh because it’s true. But really we even sin in our sleep, we can’t help it because sin is a part of our nature. The question for us today is, “if we are so ordinary and so sinful can God use us like He used Moses?” and the rational answer is “No! of course not!” Who among us sitting here could ever possibly live up to a hero like Moses? But the real answer has nothing to do with logic or rational thought. The real point is not who we are but who God is. The real point is not our abilities, but God’s power. God is the one who rises up people to do His will. He chooses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. But even when we are raised up we still miss the mark that He requires, we still fall far short of His expectations.
There is someone we are told about in the bible who is a real hero. Jesus did what no human being could ever do. He lived up to God’s every expectation perfectly. So perfectly, in fact, that because of His perfect life, you and I are forgiven of our imperfections. Because He took our sin to the cross and was punished there for us, and He is even a hero over death. He beat it by rising again. It is the life, death and resurrection of our Hero, Jesus that gives us life and salvation! In Jesus, we actually see God face to face, just like Moses did. We see Him right here in His Word and in His very presence in Body and Blood in Holy Communion. In Christ we can bear God’s presence, He is with us in this place just as He promised to be whenever we gather in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In Jesus Christ we, even though we live in sin every day, even though we regularly miss the mark, we are brought to God in clean and transfigured robes of perfection. It’s not our perfection but the perfection of Jesus, given to us in Baptism.
So, to that list of Heroes of Faith that I made earlier, you know, David, Samson, Job, Isaiah, you may as well add your name to that list. Because you and I are heroes of the faith. Hey, it’s not because of our own strength or power, it’s not because of anything in here. It’s because of the Real Hero. It’s because of Jesus who stood on the mountain shining like the sun and took His road to the cross to remove our sin. He was transfigured in glory, and leaves that mountain to complete His work for us. When we fall, He picks us up. When our strength fades, He gives His to us. When we fail, He forgives and embraces us.
That means that no matter what, in everything you do, you can be a hero. But you’re a hero not because you’ve got the strength to do it but because Jesus has chosen you and works in you in the things you do every day.
Heroes of the Faith are heroes because of Jesus has done His work and gives us His power through the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.