For Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011: Year A, Proper 19

The Reading            Exodus 14:19-31

The readings from Exodus over the last few weeks have been building to the climax that today’s reading gives us: the Lord acting powerfully and unexpectedly through nature and Moses to save Israel from the Egyptian army. This is a God of miracle and authority, and the people see and are awestruck. Listen for these themes in the psalm.


The Epistle            Romans 14:1-12

The first reading today showed us Egyptian troops following orders to pursue the fleeing Israelites—and dying wretchedly for their obedience. We cheer the victory, but it raises an ethical question: do God’s people have the right to celebrate the downfall of others? Paul’s letter to the Romans suggests that really being God’s people means doing differently.



Further notes

One gets a certain thrill from the reading from Exodus: we’re rooting for Israel, the offended-against, to come out on top against the mighty and nasty Egyptian empire. God coming through in spectacular fashion by turning the tide on itself is an occasion that Moses celebrates in Exodus 15.

But is it an occasion to rejoice?

What of the Egyptian households in Exodus 11 and 12 that trustingly lent jewelry and clothing, not knowing that their Israelite neighbors were about to flee with the goods? What of the Egyptian junior officers and NCOs and common soldiers, following orders because that is a soldier’s duty, dying by their thousands when the waters surged back into place? What of the Egyptian families bereaved on the Passover night by the loss of all their firstborn?

Paul’s epistle and the Gospel take a different tack.  Paul tells us not to pass judgment on anyone whom God has welcomed. In the Gospel Jesus commands us to give the mercy we have received (and reminds us that we can’t duck by claiming we haven’t received mercy)

None of this sounds much like it being acceptable to rejoice over an enemy’s downfall.

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