But He Was Awesome

On November 16, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

But He Was Awesome Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Oct. 29, 2017 Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen. In our reading from Deuteronomy this morning we see that Moses is […]

But He Was Awesome
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Oct. 29, 2017

Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

In our reading from Deuteronomy this morning we see that Moses is 120 years old when he dies, but the writer says that Moses was still vigorous right until the end, and that he even maintained good vision throughout his life. Moses was at the end of his life in Deuteronomy 34, but he was awesome!

Moses has led his people for decades toward a land of promise, an experience of hope, a place of opportunity. They will finally reach it because even though Moses won’t make it, he never quit. He never set foot in the land of promise, but he was awesome.

Moses was buried in a valley and no one knew where, but still he is remembered. His grave was lost, but he was awesome.

And after people grieve Moses’ death, they continue their journey; they keep moving toward the goal. Moses is gone, but his awesomeness continues to inspire.

Moses made mistakes, had a violent temper, had lapses in moral judgment, but he was awesome. Imperfect as he sometimes was, he still stood up to empire, braved the wilderness to help his people be free, led a sometimes ungrateful and uncooperative community, lived a long life, and got his people almost to their goal. He was flawed, but he was awesome!

When Moses was born he was part of an oppressed minority, but he went from refugee to prince to outlaw to shepherd to liberator. His life had many twists and turns, but he was awesome.

Moses faced his challenges and stood against injustice and he dedicated his life to serving God and others. His life wasn’t easy, but he was awesome.

Today’s passage from Deuteronomy is a sort of eulogy, remember someone fondly. When someone dies, we read nice things about them in an obituary: She was a devoted spouse, a loving sister, a passionate golfer, and a faithful choir member or deacon. She was awesome.

And at the funeral or memorial service, people will recall how funny or kind or creative or hard working the deceased was. The mourners remember, focus on, and celebrate what was good, decent, beautiful, or laudable about the person. Of course the dearly departed screwed up a time or two, but that’s not what we choose to focus on in those moments. We choose to remember the best. She may not have been perfect, but in so many ways, she was awesome.

That’s the gift we have been given and the gift we can give ourselves and others. But why wait until it’s time to write an obituary or give a eulogy? We can focus on what is good right now. We can focus on what is possible, in this moment. We can focus on what fuels us and fills us with hope. We get to embrace our successes more than reliving our failures, we get to celebrate what we’ve learned more than fretting over what we’ve lost, we get to remember all the things we did right instead of wallowing in all the things we got wrong. We get to choose where we place our focus. And remember: where attention goes, energy flows. We focus on the good because that’s the direction we want to go…toward the good.

The writer of Deuteronomy could have remembered Moses by saying, “He lost his temper and killed an Egyptian and thereafter went into hiding.” Or the writer could have pointed out, “Moses gave us a list of do’s and don’ts that told us not to kill or steal, but when we left Egypt he had us steal everything we could carry and when we made an idol in the wilderness he killed thousands of us in a fit of rage.”

But what does the writer say? “Moses was 120 when he died, and he could still see well and he seemed to have plenty of pep.” The writer chose to lift up what was awesome about Moses, as if to say, we all screw up, but the part of us that is really real is absolutely awesome, and that is something we will never lose nor tarnish.

We don’t always act like it, but we are awesome. Moses was a bonehead sometimes, but at his core he was awesome, and at least a few times, he let that awesomeness shine through. That’s what the writer chose to focus on…we can always focus on the best rather than imagining or rehashing the worst.

We all have ups and downs, highs and lows, successes and failures, times of ease and times of struggle. But those are experiences, circumstances, situations, moments of time…they are not what we are. What we are is awesome…even when we forget that, even when we don’t act like it, even when we can’t find much evidence to support it, even when we can’t figure out which one is shinola, we can know and choose to believe and affirm that we are awesome; we are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.

Will we have bad luck? Maybe, sometimes. Will we make mistakes? I promise we will. But, we are awesome.

Don’t wait until the funeral. Tell someone today that they are awesome. They may really need to hear it. And if no one tells you, tell yourself. Say to yourself, “I am awesome.” That’s not arrogant. That’s not silly. That’s not bragging. That is just giving yourself a pep talk: My value doesn’t depend on performance or bank accounts or other people’s opinion of me…I am a child of an awesome God and that makes awesomeness my inheritance…I’m claiming it today!

Affirm your sacred value routinely, and especially in times of uncertainty. When the fit hits the shan, that is the precise moment to declare, “This crap happened, but I am awesome.” Even if we helped create the mess, or stepped in it and spread it all over the place…mistakes and failures are part of the journey, but nevertheless, I am awesome, you are awesome, we are awesome.

I mentioned funerals earlier. I want to share with you a story I often tell at funerals. It’s my favorite Moses story. It’s apocryphal, not found in scripture, but I find it powerful…

Moses, as we read in Deuteronomy 34, is 120 years old and it’s time for him to die. The Angel of Death comes for him. The angel says, “Moses, you’ve had a good long run, you’ve done some good stuff, but now it’s time to leave this earth plane.” Moses laughed out loud. The angel was perplexed. No one laughs in an angelic face! Moses told the angel, “I stood up to Pharaoh. I wandered around in a waste land for 4 decades. I drank from rocks and ate stuff off the ground we didn’t even know what to call. We were attacked by poisonous snakes once. At 80 I carried heavy stone tables down a mountain, and broke them and had to go back up the mountain to get new ones. Did I mention I was 80?! And, I don’t get to make it into the promised land after all that. So, no, I’m not going with God’s angelic flunky. If God wants me, tell God to come get me.”

The angel flew back to God, a little embarrassed. The angel said, “Moses won’t die. He says if you want him you have to go get him.” And God laughed. And the angel was starting to get hocked off at being laughed at so much.

God said, “Fair enough. I’m glad Moses realizes his true worth. I’ll go get him.”
And God went to Moses, and took him on a high mountain, and showed him the promised land and told him his people would make it there soon. And then God said, “Are you ready now?” And Moses said, “I am ready.”

God had Moses lie down on the ground. God then hovered over Moses and pressed the divine lips to Moses’ lips, and Moses exhaled his last breath into God as God kissed Moses into eternity. As Fannie James said in our second reading today, “a very great God indeed.”

I believe, God loves us all and kisses us all, without exception, into and throughout eternity. Why not? We are made in the image of an awesome God, so we must be awesome, too. And this is the good news.

I’ve made mistakes – but I am awesome.
There are ups and downs, but come what may, I am awesome.
I face the difficult and give thanks for the good, because I am awesome.
I choose to focus on and celebrate my awesomeness today.
And so it is.


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