CROP Walk Sunday
17 Oct 2016
“Aaron and Hur held up [Moses’] hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the sun set.” (Exodus 17:12) In the name …
Today Bill shared with us a story of ancient Israel. It comes from the Book of Exodus, the story of Israel’s journey from Egyptian slavery to the Promised Land. The people were in a constant migration for 40 years, and during those long decades of homelessness they faced numerous obstacles and enemies, one of the fiercest of whom was Amalek. According to tradition, as long as Moses kept his arms raised God allowed the army of Israel to prevail over their enemy, but when he tired and lowered his arms, then Amalek would succeed. As the day and battle wore on, Moses could no longer keep his arms outstretched. This is when Aaron and Hur helped to support Moses by holding up his arms. The priests of God supporting the leader of God’s people. I know that this allowed Israel to defeat and kill their enemy, but let’s just concentrate on the message that sometimes we may need the help of others to do what we have to do, and even more specifically, sometimes we need the help of religion to do what we have to do. If the hero of the Exodus, if the man revered as the holiest prophet and giver of the Law, if Moses had to accept the help of others, even as he was fulfilling the will of God, then the message is clear that to give assistance is holy, and equally clear is that to accept such assistance is holy.
This is a timely message and a fortunate coincidence that the church asks us to read this passage on the same day that we are for the first time hosting the Franklin County CROP Hunger Walk. These events began in either 1969 or 1970. They began a bit informally and then caught on so the actual date of the first walk is contested, but nevertheless, they have been around for nearly half a century. The Walk here in Franklin County is observing its 30th anniversary this year. We are one of about 11 hundred Walks across the United States, our 200 some odd participants help to make up the 114,000 people nationwide who will participate this year, and we hope to raise at least $30,000 which will be combined with other Walks for a total of over $11 million that will help fight hunger worldwide and right in our own backyards.
The CROP Hunger Walks are sponsored by Church World Service. This Christian ministry was born in 1946 in the aftermath of World War II. Seventeen denominations came together at that time to form an agency, in their own words, “to do in partnership what none of us could hope to do as well alone.” In other words, they came together to support each other just like the picture on your song sheet of Aaron and Hur helping Moses to keep his arms outstretched. Even with the best of intentions, even while doing the will of God, we sometimes need help. We sometimes can do so much more together than we could ever hope to do alone. It is a blessing to be able to help each other and likewise it is a blessing to accept that help.
Those original 17 denominations have expanded to 37, and our church denomination is one of them. Church World Service defines its purpose according to the traditional works of mercy. In the book of the Prophet Isaiah, God tells His prophet about the distinction between false and true worship, and it is a message that we need to always keep in front of us. (Isa 58) God’s worship is not limited to the liturgical, says the prophet Isaiah. It reaches out into real world choices and real world actions. Those choices and actions involve feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick, comforting the aged and sheltering the homeless. And this is what Church World Service has defined as their mission, and the CROP Walks help to fund this work, this worship. We are honouring and praising God by being here this morning and participating in the liturgy, and we continue our worship of God this afternoon in all that we do to support each other as churches in partnership through Church World Service and to support those in desperate need by whatever we do today to reach our goal of $30,000.
What I’m trying to say is that our participation in the CROP Walk and all the other things we do like it are not only the incidentals of being church, they are essential to our being church. The chance to host this event is a learning opportunity to teach this message and that is why I had hoped that every one of our School of Christian students would have had the chance to participate today. They may at some point forget Isaiah 58 as the citation for works of mercy, but I don’t think they would ever forget this afternoon’s lesson.
We also need to consider that our worship, whether it be liturgical or charitable, is a continuing process. It is not an isolated event here or there. God could have defeated Amalek in a miraculous instant, but it was a long fought battle instead. And just a quick jump to this morning’s Gospel parable. It is one of Jesus’ stranger stories. Usually in such a story the judge would represent God, but this judge is unjust. He only grants the widow’s petition because she was so persistently annoying. And after sharing the example of being annoyingly persistent, the moral of the story, says Jesus, is “Will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who pray to him day and night?” (Lk 18:7) This is a story that will stick in people’s memory because it is so strange. This is a story that just like Moses being helped to keep his arms outstretched again emphasizes persistence, but hopefully not annoying persistence. Christian morality is for the long-term. Its rewards are not often immediate. It even calls upon us to come together and help each other when it becomes too difficult to do alone. This is why Christian faith has always been a shared faith, and this is why church, as the people assembled together by God’s call, is so essential. Let us pray that we are both able to support others and that we learn to also accept the support of others. For this we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randy Calvo