“Happy New Year”

“Happy New Year”

Pentecost 18 (NL3) John B. Valentine
Exodus 12:1-13 October 4, 2020


The official term for it is “Hard Reset”.

And ... trust me ... “hard reset”s are numbered among those things of which it can probably be rightly said that “no explanation is necessary” or “no explanation is possible” ... or maybe just “any explanation is infuriating”.

You see ....

A “hard reset” is phrase mostly bandied about by the Geniuses at the Apple Bar over in Walnut Creek ... and the computer repair specialists from the Geek Squad ... and those so-called ‘experts’ on the other end of the line when you call “Tech Support”.

A “hard reset” means ending all current software operations in the system and re-initializing the core hardware components of the device.

A “hard reset” means turning a piece of electronic equipment completely off ... and letting it rest ... and then hoping against hope that when you turn it back on ... everything will work just fine.

A “hard reset” is actually a pretty effective thing to do when your iPhone or your Comcast box isn’t behaving the way it’s supposed to ... but ... in my experience ... a “hard reset” is what the computer help-desk people ask you to do when THEY have no clue how to fix the problem you‘ve spent forty-five minutes on hold waiting to ask them in the first place!

And you DON’T want to get me going on the number of hours I’ve spent in recent days listening to bad hold music while trying to get through to the ‘Help Desk’.

But ... in any event ... a “hard reset” is the technological equivalent of a “do over” ... wherein you start from scratch in hopes that things might turn out right this time.

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I actually got to thinking about ‘hard resets’ as I read through the text of this week’s Bible story ... because in a certain way ... that story started out with a “hard reset”.

Really ... this morning’s Bible story ... as recorded in Exodus chapter 12 ... has the Israelites on the precipice of a huge life transition.

For the last who-know-how-many-years ... God’s people have been living in the land of Egypt ...

During which time they’ve gone from being visitors to the Pharaoh ... to being guests of the Pharaoh ... to being ‘guest-workers’ of the Pharaoh ... and then to just being slaves.

But God is about to change all that!

At this point ... here in chapter 12 ...

• God has already called Moses into service as the one “to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey” ...

• And Moses has gone before the Pharaoh and said “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, "Let my people go” ...

• And the Pharaoh has said “Fat chance!” ...

• And there’s been that horrible series of calamities ... whereby God attempts to coerce the Pharaoh into letting God’s people go ...

• a river of blood ...
• an infestation of frogs ...
• swarms of gnats and flies ...
• plagues on cattle and people ...
• storm clouds ... grasshopper clouds ... dust clouds ... etc.

It’s the Egyptian version of 2020!

And then ... as we approach Exodus 12 ... God says ...

“I will bring one more plague upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt ... a plague such that ... afterwards ... he will let you go from here ... indeed, when he lets you go, he will drive you away.”

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But I want you to pay close attention to just HOW Exodus chapter 12 starts.

Before the instructions about how to gather the community ...

Before the description about how one ought slaughter the lamb ...

Before the detailing of what to eat and how to eat it ...

There comes this line: “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: ‘This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you.’“

Now I would NEVER hope to equate God with the folks at the other end of the Tech Support lines I’ve called in recent days ...

But somehow I sense that the FIRST thing God asks Moses and Aaron to do in conjunction with the Passover is to hit a “hard reset” of their calendars.

To ‘shut it all down’ ... and pause ... and then start it up again.

And not just ‘start it up again’ just like it was ....

But ‘start it up again’ in a whole new way.

“Throw out the old calendar” ... God seems to be saying. “For something is about to happen by which you will mark time from here on out.”

“For THIS is the event that will mark you lives ... and change your lives ... forever.”

“For this thing I am about to do it’s a ‘hard reset’ ... not only of your calendars and your history ... but of your very identity.”

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I mean ... think about some of the ways that calendars have had ‘hard resets’ through human history.

On our nation’s calendar ... July the 4th in the year 1776 holds a certain significance ... does it not?

And every time another Fourth of July rolls around ... we pause to remember that it has been what ... two-hundred-and-forty-four years ... since Thomas Jefferson and John Adams and John Hancock all put their John Hancocks on the Declaration of Independence.

Because ... in a certain way ... there was this radical shift that took place that day that reset the very identity of those who ... until that day ... had been colonists of the Crown.

The Fourth of July in the year 1776 represented a ‘hard-reset’ ... as it were ... in the minds of those signatories to that document ... that they had in fact entered into a new identity ... and they marked their days accordingly.

Or consider the date of June 19th in the year 1865.

The Emancipation Proclamation had already been enacted ... the Civil War had already been ended ... and approximately four million African-American slaves had been granted the freedom which so many other Americans assumed was their God-given right.

But nobody bothered to tell the slaves in the distant reaches of Texas and Oklahoma that the war was over ... and that their emancipation had been made real ... until that “Juneteenth” day as they took to calling it.

Juneteenth 1865 represented a ‘hard-reset’ in the minds of those African-Americans who heard that day that they were numbered among the free ... that they’d entered into a new identity ... and they marked their days accordingly.

Or consider this ... maybe a little bit closer to home for some of you.

Believe it or not ... I am NOT in the Bay Area this weekend. By the time this video goes ‘live’ on Facebook and the church webpage ... I’ll be down in San Luis Obispo ... officiating at and celebrating the wedding of this delightful young woman who is our niece and my god-daughter.

And it will be the fervent hope and prayer of this uncle ... and everyone who is gathered for that wedding ... that that event represents a ‘hard-reset’ ...

And that for the rest of her and her now-husband Luke’s lives ... it will be known as that day when they entered into a new identity ... and that they will mark their days accordingly. Even as I know that many of you have marked your own lives by that day you spoke your own wedding vows.

You see ...

In this story ... in these moments ... God’s people have their identity reset.

“Throw out that old calendar” ... God seems to be saying ... ”For you no longer slaves to Pharaoh ... but servants of the living God.”

“Throw out that old calendar” ... God seems to be saying ... ”For you no longer ‘no people’ ... but you are now my people.”

“Throw out that old calendar” ... God seems to be saying ... ”For you no longer exiles from your homeland ... but pilgrims heading home.”

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Speaking of “throwing out that old calendar” ... it seems to me that the ancients had a much better way of understanding time than we do.

For they talked about it in two ways ... “chronos” and “kairos” ... “times” and “seasons”.

“Chronos” time ... chronological time ... we’re all familiar with.

It’s that tick-tick-tick on the clock .... whereby seconds lead to minutes ... and minutes lead to hours ... and hours lead to days.

“Chronos” time is a commodity to be spent ... to be saved or to be wasted.

And “chronos” time is what we’re talking about when we say things like “Time stops for no one” and “Time is money.”

But our problem is that “Chronos “ time is constantly ticking ... and you can’t slow it or stop it ... and once it’s lost you can’t get it back.

“Chronos” is quantity-time ... commodity-time ... plain and simple.

But over against “Chronos” ... they also talked about “Kairos” ... seasonal time as it were.

“Kairos” isn’t quantity time ... it’s “quality” time.

“Kairos” isn’t measured by ticks on clocks as much as it is by leaves on trees.

“Kairos” the sort of time that Orson Wells was talking about in that famous series of commercials he did years ago asserting that “It took Beethoven four years to write his Fifth Symphony. Some things can't be rushed: good music, and good wine. We will sell no wine before its time."

“Kairos” is what the writer of Ecclesiastes was talking about when he wrote: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.”

“Kairos” is concerned about the right time ... the appropriate time ... “God’s time” as it were.

For whereas Chronos’ answer to the question “What time is it?” is very precise ... as in “It’s 9:52am" ...

Kairos’ answer to that same question might be “It’s time to rest” ... or “It’s time to forgive” ... or “It’s time to think a little more of others and a little less of me.”

For if Chronos is concerned about measuring time ...

Kairos is concerned with attending to its significance.

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You see ... at the beginning of Exodus 12 ...

Moses and Aaron get this clear direction to throw out the old calendar and break out a new one.

And I can’t help but think that that new calendar talk is an invitation for us to be less concerned about Chronos and more concerned about Kairos ...

To be less concerned about quantity and more concerned about quality ...

To be less concerned about our priorities and agendas and schedules and the like ... and more concerned about God’s.

For God’s calendar always begins with a hard reset and a new identity ...

That we are God’s children ... that we are pilgrims on a journey ... that we are servants of the living God.

Happy New Year!

“Happy New Year” was a sermon preached by Pastor John Valentine in conjunction with our worship video for the weekend of October 4, 2020.  It is grounded in the text of Exodus 12:1-13 – the story of the Passover meal which saved God’s people from a deadly plague – wherein it is written:

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household.

If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats.

You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.

They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn.

This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

If you’d like to learn more about “Chronos” and “Kairos” time, join our Adult Ed. discussion on Zoom on Tuesday, October 6, at 7pm.    Our Zoom Meeting ID # is 882 9062 7131.

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