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"Tony Robinson is one of the most active church leaders in the United States, greatly in demand as he teaches congregations and denominations about church life. His work has a deep theological underpinning, which many congregational-development gurus don't have."

Fleming Rutledge
author of The Gospel and the New York Times and And God Spoke to Abraham: Preaching from the Old Testament

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Way Too Much Winter

I worshipped yesterday at First Parish Church in Dover, New Hamphire, where my friend Mike Bennett is the pastor. First Parish Dover was founded in 1633, which means a 500th anniversary is not too far off. Isn’t that amazing?

At First Parish, they have been using my bible study on Exodus, so -- on a snowy Sunday -- Mike asked me to do a dialogue sermon with him on Exodus.

On arrival the night before I had been stunned by the accumulated snow of this winter of winters here in New England. Drifts and piles alongside roads and in yards of 6 to 10 feet. Snow, snow everywhere.

“What’s the importance of Exodus to us, Christians in the 21st century?” Mike asked me. The snow outside provided a ready metaphor.

“You know, don’t you, how oppressive this winter has become? How there is so much snow that you feel you are under some kind of weight?”

That I suggested is the situation of the Hebrews in bondage in Egypt. And it is the situation of humanity -- our situation under the weight of the oppressive powers of Sin and Death. They weigh upon us, distorting our lives and relationships, disfiguring our politics and society.

“Imagine,” I said to the congregation, “that spring never comes. The winter just keeps on going with snow piled up, roofs groaning, icey streets and long dark nights.” The congregation groaned.

The gospel text, read earlier, Mark 1: 9 - 15, recounted the arrival on the scene of Jesus, announcing the end of winter and the nearness of spring -- to carry forward this metaphor. The time when the ice final thaws and breaks, when plants and flowers appear on the earth, and life begins.

We live, more than we admit, under the heavy weight of Sin and Death (death not as biological reality but spiritual death). We stand in need of liberation, as Israel did. We have a liberator, Jesus Christ.

In contemporary culture those who understand the weight of oppressive power, of being “caught,” may be those with an experience of addiction, which is rampant among us. God can free us of such oppressive powers, then and now.

 

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