Pastoral Letter

Dear Friends

One of my favourite Bible characters is Moses. For those brought up on Bible stories, his is familiar. After setting the scene in the first chapter, the birth of Moses is recorded in the 2nd chapter of Exodus (2nd book in the Bible). The main thrust of his story and the early story of God’s people continues throughout that book and he is a key player in the next three books. His death is recorded in book five, Deuteronomy.
Rising from dire circumstances he was adopted by one of the Pharaoh’s daughters and lived a privileged life. However, aware of his roots as a ‘Hebrew’ he was conflicted by their treatment as slaves. This led to a personal rebellion that resulted in his exile. Later chosen by God he was instrumental in the Hebrew’s rescue from Egypt and continued as their leader until his death. It is a story worth reading. What he did and what he wrote down, in terms of God’s revelation, was fundamental in an important stage of the emergence of God’s chosen people, later called Israel. He was a great man and his actions and willingness to listen to God are still relevant today both in our Christian faith and our society.

In his life Moses did, said and was many significant things, depending on your perspective. What is striking for me, though, are not his many achievements or the effect his life had on others, rather, something much more important. Exodus 33 verse 11 records something both surprising and warming - especially if your picture of God is rather stern. It says, “The Lord God would speak to Moses face to face as a man speaks to his friend.” I and many others would argue that this is the single most important statement about Moses because this ‘friendship’ was the root of everything that happened next. It is, and always has been God’s strongest desire to be the friend of every person since the beginning of time. Moses was able to be used because he was receptive to that reality and lived in it with every fibre of his being.

I suspect that if Moses were to have had the kind of funeral that we have today and we were to compose his eulogy, his instructions would have been simple. “Don't tell people what I have achieved; tell them of the greatness of God. If you must say anything of me, say this, ‘Moses was a friend of God’”.

I remember one of my past Bishops saying to me, “I don’t care what it is that you do but I do care what you are”. We live in a world where identity is often defined primarily in terms of what we do and what we have achieved. Sadly, who we are is often lost and yet it is who we are that is of primary importance. That is why I encourage people to emphasise this aspect at a person’s funeral at the expense of the achievements. My own father was a very learned man with many degrees and achievements to his name. We did not even mention them in his eulogy. We spoke of the way he loved and the way he was loved by many people. We noted too that he was a friend of God. I pray the same can be said of me.

Now, is that a bold or an arrogant thing to say? Not at all. I am only responding to what Jesus himself said in the final hours he had with his disciples (those who were receptive to him) before his arrest. Recorded in John 15 v 14, he said, “You are my friends if you do what I command (namely, “love one another as I have loved you” (15: 12).Serving God and loving as he commands makes us both a friend of Jesus and God and that is all God wants for us. Following Jesus puts us in the path of God’s friendship and blessing.

The peace of the Lord be with you all.

Stephen

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