The Promised Land


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The Promised Land
Deuteronomy 34:1-12
34:1 Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the LORD showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan,
34:2 all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea,
34:3 the Negeb, and the Plain -- that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees -- as far as Zoar.
34:4 The LORD said to him, "This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, 'I will give it to your descendants'; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there."
34:5 Then Moses, the servant of the LORD, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord's command.
34:6 He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day.
34:7 Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated.
34:8 The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended.
34:9 Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the LORD had commanded Moses.
34:10 Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face.
34:11 He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the LORD sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land,
34:12 and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.


1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
2:1 You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain,
2:2 but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition.
2:3 For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery,
2:4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts.
2:5 As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed;
2:6 nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others,
2:7 though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children.
2:8 So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.


I first stepped in front of a classroom as a teacher in the fall of 1983. I was twenty years old and was teaching a class in Intermediate Algebra. We taught the classes in sections of 40 and gave a common final in the Seretean Center Concert Hall. I still remember several of my students from that class. One of them brought a Pepsi, a packet of cheese and crackers, and a banana to the final. He made exactly the score he needed on the final to make a D on the exam and that’s exactly what he wanted to make.
I don’t remember his name, so I’ll never know what he turned out to be. Even at the tender age of twenty I think I could’ve guessed that young man was never going to be a nuclear engineer, but I got a feeling from him that he was going to be happy. He was friendly with me even though he wasn’t doing all that well in my course. He was calm in the face of overwhelming odds.
I would guess he’s either selling used cars or is in the Oklahoma Legislature.
That is the fate of the teacher. We never know what happens to the seeds we plant. We can look and guess.
It’s not just teachers, though. We all are planting seeds all the time, seeds that will not sprout, grow, and come to fruit until sometime in the future.
This, of course, is the tie-in to our Old Testament reading. Moses had led the Children of Israel out of the land of Egypt. He parted the Red Sea. He led them in the desert for forty years until all of the whining complainers died. What a beautiful vision—all of the whining complainers dying. [Sorry Warren.]
God took him up to the mountain top and showed him the whole Promised Land all laid-out before him. Moses could see the north end and the south end and the east end and the west end. It was there right before his eyes—but he couldn’t go in.
He lived what would be a miraculous lifespan to us today, 120 years, but he couldn’t live long enough to enter into the Promised Land.
That is the nature of human existence. We cannot live into all of our ramifications. We cannot gather all of our crops.
Indeed, wouldn’t it be a poor life if you died without any of your effect yet to be felt.
I am going to say this even though it might not be diplomatic. Some of you out there are pretty old. You’ve gotten to that age that when they read it in an obituary they say at least they had a good run. (I remember being in my twenties and saying that about someone who was in his mid-forties. I will 46 in less than a week. I was a twit.)
In any case, there are those of you out there that are of a certain age, but if you were taken from us tomorrow, your effect would still be felt on us for years.
You will not get to gather all of the crops you’ve planted you will not get to see the Promised Land.
Now our New Testament Reading was from First Thessalonians. The Apostle Paul is dealing with the church there. The church in those days was so different than it is now. There were small little communities here and there, and Paul was planting churches in one town in and cleaning up messes in churches other towns.
The churches had some fine people in them, but everyone in them was doing everything for the first time, and there were so many problems. There were people who just didn’t get it. And Paul, I am convinced, had the vision. He could see the north and the south of it, and the east and the west of it, but he died before the church was more than just a relatively few congregations containing a relatively few people. He never entered the Promised Land.
And John Wesley, never more than a priest in the Church of England. He spent the bulk of his life working with the poor and the downtrodden in England.
During the revolutionary war, he was solidly on the side of the British. He never wanted the colonies to gain their independence. Yet when we did, he thought we needed someone over here to give the sacraments, so he ordained a bishop and sent him over to ordain priests.
Those of you who are familiar with church history and procedures are free to curl you lip at that, but that’s the way it happened.
In any case, John Wesley didn’t live to see what happened. He didn’t enter the Promised Land.
Now here we are. The future is laid out before us like a scroll on which nothing has been written. We are here in Pittsburg, Kansas. There are children who’ve never heard the story of Jesus. There were folks who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Moses, standing there on the top of Mount Nebo saw those people; Paul saw them; John Wesley saw them; and here we are with them. We can help those with us, and we can have an effect on the future.
We won’t get to gather all the crops we plant. We won’t get to enter the Promised Land.
But that is the nature of the thing.