Readings — Exodus 3:1-15; Psalm 105:1-6,23-26,45c; Romans 12:9-12; Matthew 16:21-18
To be a person of faith in our times is to be a person of courage. To be a person of faith is to keep our eyes, our ears, our hearts, and our minds open to the presence of God, and to act in partnership with God. Bill Lewellis wrote in the words we find in our bulletin every Sunday that it is in the “thin places” where we encounter God’s invitation to serve.
Think of Moses out minding the sheep of his father-in-law, Reuel. Moses was raised by the pharaoh’s daughter in the royal household, so how did he get there in the wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula minding sheep? Back in Egypt, he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, and in a fit of rage, murdered the Egyptian. He then had to flee into the Sinai wilderness to save his own life. At an oasis, he assisted seven Midianite sisters in watering their father’s flocks. They invited him to their home, he was invited to join their family, and one of the seven, Ziporah, became his wife. It was within the household that Moses was then given the care of the flocks.
While minding the flock, Moses spotted a bush that was burning, yet was not being consumed. Moses “turned aside to see”, and discovered that the God of Abraham, Issac, Jacob, and his father was in that wilderness place, at the foot of Mt. Horeb. That place was holy ground and Moses did not know it and was instructed out of the flame to take off his sandals. In the middle of nowhere, he found he was on holy ground and there he listened to an angel’s voice. Moses was attentive, he turned aside, and he opened his eyes, his ears, his heart, and his mind to the voice of God.
In our Exodus reading for today, God got the attention of Moses to invite him to return to Egypt and to lead the oppressed Hebrew people to freedom. And Moses balked! “Who am I that I should go to Pharoah? Who am I that I would lead these people to freedom?” Interestingly, God did not directly answer his question. God responded with “I will be with you”. Again, Moses balked. If people asked what is the name of the God who sent you…the answer recorded has puzzled scholars for centuries with the name too sacred to be spoken, “I am who I am”.
One thought is that this was an invitation of God to discover the nature of God through engaging in mission together, through working in partnership, beginning with Moses returning to Egypt to lead the Hebrews to freedom. A bit later Moses balked again stating that he was not a good public speaker. God responded that Aaron would accompany him and speak for him.
Finally, Moses returned to Egypt, and addressed the Pharoah, requesting their freedom. To convince the Pharoah there were a series of plagues. Following each one the Pharoah would grant their freedom, only to reverse his decision once the plague was ended. They were as follows–
the Nile River turning into blood, the plague of frogs, the plague of gnats, the plague of flies, the death of all horses, donkeys, camels, herds and flocks, the plague of skin boils, the plague of thunder, lightning and hail, the plague of locusts, complete darkness, and finally the death of all the first-born sons of Egypt.
After the tenth plague, the death of the first-born sons, the Pharoah let them leave. It was just before their departure that the first Passover was celebrated, and they crossed over the sea on dry land. Yet once again Pharoah changed his mind and pursued the Hebrews with his chariots and horsemen, and we know the result. The waters returned to the sea and drowned the pursuing troops.
As promised Moses led the Hebrews to freedom, and God was with Moses. It all began with Moses turning aside to see the bush that was burning but was not consumed.
I believe each one of us has had burning bush moments in our lives when we had the opportunity to turn aside and experience the voice of God speaking to us about serving in our times. I believe each one of us has been guided by God to join in God’s will for this planet Earth. St. Paul in his letter to the church in Rome noted a few ways God had invited them to be courageous and to join in the mission.
Let love be genuine. Hold fast to what is good. Love one another with mutual affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Rejoice in hope. Be patient in suffering. Persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints. Extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you. Overcome evil with good.
We each have been gifted and invited to be courageous and to use our gifts to serve beyond ourselves. None of us have been called to be Moses, we have been called to courageously be our best selves, to be _______________ and _______________ and _______________ and _______________.
And God’s promise is the same to us as it was to Moses.
I will be with you.
I will be with you.
I will be with you.