August 30: The Baptism of Mabel Foster and The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

August 29, 2015

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. –Hebrews 11:23-28

Seminary is a unique time in the lives of most married couples. It creates a kind of connection with the other students there that is different from many educational settings. Unless a church is paying for you to attend, it can be rather expensive since some of the better seminaries are private and don’t get government or denominational money. The result of all this is that by the end of seminary, most couples don’t have any money and aren’t graduating into jobs that pay much. There’s the financial pressure of trying to time the end of a property lease along with a move, and a host of other difficulties that occur especially around graduation.

We had some friends who were called to a small church in the deep South. That wasn’t terribly far from Orlando, and they didn’t have many possessions, so they thought they’d move themselves pulling a trailer without a top behind their car. It literally looked like the Beverly Hillbillies leaving Tennessee for southern California, with all their things piled high and held together with makeshift ropes and bungee cords with hooks.

Sometime later we ended up together at an event, and everyone told their stories about moving to their first church. This couple with the piled-high trailer said that they didn’t think to check any weather forecasts before leaving in the hustle and bustle of packing, and found along the way that a massive tropical storm had come inland from the north Florida coast. There they were at night in some tiny south Georgia town speeding along with all their worldly possessions exposed, trying to beat the storm to shelter. In their haste they said they went fast around a corner in that little town and heard something fall off the trailer and hit the street, but because of the impending storm, they didn’t even stop. Since I know hymns fairly well, I just blurted out, “Now that’s what I call letting goods and kindred go!” (from Luther’s A Mighty Fortress). We all had a memorable laugh.

History has documented a number of people who famously traded wealth (goods and kindred) for the sake of a life of faith in Jesus Christ. Many have been inspired by the story of St. Francis of Assisi who came from a wealthy family. He was seized by a passion for God and a love for the poor, so he tossed his wealth all away, literally, in the case of his expensive clothes, leaving naked from his father’s angry rebuke. Francis donned a simple robe and devoted himself to a life of preaching and prayer.

There is an even more famous person who traded having his best life now for his better life to come: Moses. The passage above reminds us that even before he was of age, a crisis of faith arose for him, and his parents chose to hide him instead of abort him. The King’s edict was that the parents could save their lives by aborting their male sons. But they weren’t afraid and kept him alive. Probably the most striking verse in this passage is v. 26, He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.

It’s striking because it shows an implicit loyalty to the Messiah by Moses’ looking ahead in the long purposes of God to that day when the true King (not Pharaoh!) would come. This is the King through whom believing Jews and believing Gentiles would finally be set free from all slavery. And that King is Jesus Christ, who shed all his great wealth and position to enter our fallen world that we may be free from sin and worldly riches. Though we may endure reproach because of it now, we will enjoy all the wealth of the universe in the treasures of the New Earth. And that’s the gospel!

Come hear it preached and enacted in baptism and the Lord’s Supper this Sunday!

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