Sermon: Moses the Ethiopian

The podcast can be found here.

StMosestheBlackI wouldn’t even consider doing it today, but back in his prime, if someone told me that I was going to have to step into the boxing ring with Mike Tyson, I would have submitted my obituary to the newspaper and made all the necessary prearrangements with the funeral home.  I would not have survived unless I could have somehow outrun him.  I remember going to some friends house who had done a pay-for-view of one of Tyson’s fights.  I don’t know how many seconds it lasted, but it was over before I even got in from the kitchen.  He was a beast when it came to boxing and apparently not such a great person out of the ring, having spent three years in jail for rape.  A seemingly massive brutal angry man.

John Saraceno interviewed Tyson for the USAToday Newspaper in 2005.  Saraceno writes, “Almost 39, he is anything but at peace. Confused and humiliated after a decadent lifestyle left him with broken relationships, shattered finances, and a reputation in ruin, the fighter cannot hide his insecurities, stacked as high as his legendary knockouts….

“’I’ll never be happy,’ he says. ‘I believe I’ll die alone. I would want it that way. I’ve been a loner all my life with my secrets and my pain. I’m really lost, but I’m trying to find myself. I’m really a sad, pathetic case.’” (Source)

If you understand that ruthless, but dejected temperament, then you could also very easily be describing Moses the Black or Mose the Ethiopian, one of the Desert Fathers who lived during the 4th century in the the deserts of northern Egypt.

Moses began his life as a slave, became a murder, an outlaw, and the leader of a vicious gang of some seventy other outlaws, however, after many years, he began to have a change of heart.  

It is reported that he would look up at the sun and say, “O Sun!! if you are God, let me know it.” Then he would say, “And you O God whom I do not know, let me know you.” On one occasion, he had a response.  A voice said to him, “The monks of Wadi El-Natroun [of northern Egypt] know the real God. Go to them and they will tell you.”   

He went, but because the monks knew of him and his reputation, they were at first terrified, but soon allowed him access to the teachings of the church.  He became one of them, along with several of his former gang, but his battle with his demons continued and were equal to the battles he had fought in real life.  In the end, he had seventy-five followers who, like him, bravely did battle against the devil.

One day it was reported to him that some of the same outlaws that he had run with were coming and that he would surely be killed.  His followers urged him to flee with them, but he responded, “For many years now, I have awaited the time when the words which my Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, should be fulfilled: ‘All who take up the sword, shall perish by the sword.’” (Matthew 26:52)  He died that day, a brutal sinner, redeemed by a loving God.

The good thief that had been crucified along with Jesus said to the other, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.”  Moses the Ethiopian would have agreed fully with this statement, even so, he found true hope in what was said next between Jesus and that good thief.  “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

The Kingdom of God was open to Moses the Black and remains so to all, even the hardest and most brutal, who will bend the knee to the King of Kings and seek to follow Him.

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