“Courage To Ask And Believe!”

Sep 26, 2021

The Scripture

Numbers 27

27 The daughters of Zelophehad son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Makir, the son of Manasseh, belonged to the clans of Manasseh son of Joseph. The names of the daughters were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah. They came forward and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders and the whole assembly at the entrance to the tent of meeting and said, “Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among Korah’s followers, who banded together against the Lord, but he died for his own sin and left no sons. Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father’s relatives.”

So Moses brought their case before the Lord, and the Lord said to him, “What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and give their father’s inheritance to them.

“Say to the Israelites, ‘If a man dies and leaves no son, give his inheritance to his daughter. If he has no daughter, give his inheritance to his brothers. 10 If he has no brothers, give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. 11 If his father had no brothers, give his inheritance to the nearest relative in his clan, that he may possess it. This is to have the force of law for the Israelites, as the Lord commanded Moses.’”

12 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go up this mountain in the Abarim Range and see the land I have given the Israelites. 13 After you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was, 14 for when the community rebelled at the waters in the Desert of Zin, both of you disobeyed my command to honor me as holy before their eyes.” (These were the waters of Meribah Kadesh, in the Desert of Zin.)

15 Moses said to the Lord, 16 “May the Lord, the God who gives breath to all living things, appoint someone over this community 17 to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”

18 So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit of leadership,and lay your hand on him. 19 Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence. 20 Give him some of your authority so the whole Israelite community will obey him. 21 He is to stand before Eleazar the priest, who will obtain decisions for him by inquiring of the Urim before the Lord. At his command he and the entire community of the Israelites will go out, and at his command they will come in.”

22 Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua and had him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole assembly. 23 Then he laid his hands on him and commissioned him, as the Lord instructed through Moses.


The Sermon

As we continue looking at Faces of Our Faith, this morning we go to a book of the bible that I have never preached from; it is the book of Numbers. Now in just looking at the name of this book what do you think it is about? Numbers?  Why yes! I t is an account the census of the Israelites. If you ever read through Numbers, you will find many lists of names that belong to certain tribes. This census taking was important as it was the deciding factor in how much land each family would be allocated through the number of individuals.  This book covers the years the Israelites were wandering in the desert to reaching the destination at the border of Canaan. The central focus of this passage is the five daughters of Zelophehad.  Have you ever heard of them?  I can tell you I have never heard of them before I read this passage.  Again, as in last week, we will see acts of courage that changed the lives of many, many women who followed.

This past week I attended via zoom the Presbytery of Chicago Assembly meeting.  We meet four times a year to do the business of the church, but we also worship together and have the privilege of overseeing the progress of those individuals who are under care.  One of the most fulfilling things we are honored to do is to examine candidates who have finished most of the work to become a pastor.  They come before us seeking our approval to be ordained into the Ordered Ministry of Minister of the Word and Sacrament.  In other words, once we vote affirming their sense of call, they can be ordained.  It’s the last step of a very, very long process.  I will never forget the day I stood up before the assembly being asked similar questions.

Before us this time was Hyeyoung Lee.  She is currently serving as a Mission co-worker working in Seoul, Korea.  We were questioning her at 5:00 pm our time which was 7:00 am her time. The first part of the examination begins with the candidate sharing a bit about themselves, the journey that has led to this day, and personally they talk about their own sense of call into ordained ministry.  So Hyeyoung talked about these things.  It has been a long, long journey for her, many events, many voices helping her to be confident that she was right to stand before us to ask us to ordain her.  That’s not some small thing you know, a lot of internal work has to be done to believe that God is calling you and that you really are able to serve in this way.

So here she is seeking approval to be ordained!  Hyeyoung shared with all of us that she went to seminary 10 years ago and felt all along that she was to serve as a lay person.  Why would she think this?  Go to seminary and not finish the process to be ordained? The answer became clear as she continued with her story, you see in Korea women do not serve in ordained positions.  Hyeyoung was following the historical viewpoint of her culture. She experienced only male pastors in her church,and had no one to tell her otherwise.  But then something happened.  She started to hear other voices telling her that maybe she was called into ordained ministry.  Other voices that supported the ordination of women.  Maybe, just maybe God was moving her to step into something she had never considered before.  Hyeyoung moved forward in faith, she studied and took the ordination examinations (mind you 10 years have passed since seminary!), she passed the exams, and now in her work as a mission co-worker, she feels without a doubt that God is indeed calling her, a woman, to ordained ministry!

Hyeyoung had the courage to ask and believe in her heart that a woman could serve as an ordained pastor, but it took time and patience for her to live into this place of high calling

Her story reminds me of this passage we just read in Numbers, the story of the daughters of Zelophehad.  History has told these women that only the men can own the land. History has told them that if there wasn’t a male brother to take ownership of the land then it must go to the next of kin who is a male. Who were they to think otherwise?  Who were they to think that they deserved to receive the land that was owed to their father? Who were they…they were children of God, part of God’s family, part of the Israelite tribes who had traveled in the desert along with all the others. Most likely these women were born in the desert, all they knew was the never ending journey toward the promised land. They had learned something when living among the grains of sand surrounding them. They learned that God was present, God was in charge, and God was freeing them for a better life.  They knew God was a fair God, who sees everything and knows the truth found in the hearts of all people.

The daughters of Zelophehad had the courage to ask…they asked Moses if the land could be theirs.  And equally important they believed the land should be theirs. How many times to we shrink back and fail to act because history tells us it can’t happen or won’t happen. How many times do we fail to believe that we can do something that has never been done before?

The daughters of Zelophehad and Hyeyoung Lee are examples of women who broke through the limiting barrier of the past and set a new course forward not only for themselves, but for the many women who are still to come.  These women are Faces of our Faith which tell us we can break through barriers too. We can do what history has told us we can’t do.  And all of this is possible because we believe in a God who creates a new history for us each and every day. God sees the potential, God knows the gifts we have and God supports us as we venture into new territory. Thank you, daughters, of Zelophehad and Hyeyoung Lee, thank you for showing us what is possible and for being for us Faces of Our Faith. Amen