Texts: Exodus 3:1-15; Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45b; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28
Theme: The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob still calls people today, still hears the cries of the oppressed, and still comes down to bring liberty to the captive. And ordinary people are called to become part of God’s mission in the world.
Again this week’s reflections focus on the Exodus text. The Exodus passage is a portion of the famous Moses and the Burning Bush story which includes the name of God. There is so much here that the preacher needs to exercise discipline or the sermon will suffer from loss of focus.
One possible way to go is to walk in Moses’ shoes asking our listeners when they have experienced similar things.
- God catches Moses attention with the burning bush. Moses was not paying special attention to God; Moses was simply being a shepherd. In what ways has God caught our attention in the middle of our doing ordinary things? What things is God using in our culture to catch people’s attention? Can we help people start to see those moments?
- Moses is drawn to stand on holy ground in his investigating the thing drew his attention. His investigation brings him into conversation with God. In what ways has our investigation of some aspect of God drawn us into closer connection with God, drawn us to stand on holy ground? How do we react when people (who are not church goers) around us start telling us their spiritual stories, do we see them as moments to encourage friends and acquaintances to deeper investigation of God?
- Standing on holy ground is not just about Moses having a “God and me” moment, in the interaction God gives Moses a task, a calling, that leads Moses out of his comfort zone into becoming an agent of God’s reign. When has worship, interaction with God, become more than just a “Jesus and me” moment, becoming instead a moment when we were called outside of ourselves to serve God’s mission in the world?
- Moses has questions and excuses about why he can’t answer the call. To which God replies that Moses has been sent and that God is with Moses. When in our lives have we made excuses about why we can’t take up the call God issues? What is it that prevents us from just saying “Yes” and trusting that God has sent us and that God is with us?
It is worth reminding our listeners that Moses was 80 years old, had no job experience beyond being a shepherd, and was a poor public speaker. But none of those things disqualified him in God’s mind from being a person who could fulfill the call of God.
A second direction would be to explore the question of the name of God. Some of the quotes below help here. As Brevard Childs notes, Moses demand for the name of God is puzzling — God said at the very beginning “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” That certainly sounds like a name and at the end of the passage God repeats that name. So why the demand for a name? Could it be that Moses anticipates the people saying, “That God with that name — was the God of the past, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and that God says nothing to us now. What can that old God do?”
If such an interpretation is correct — then when God says, “I am who I am.” God is claiming to be eternal present, claiming to be the God not just of the past but also of the present and of whatever the future might bring.
Such a statement raises questions: is that true now? is God present today bring freedom from slavery (vs. 8)? does God still listen hearing the cries of people and responding (vs. 7)? has God come down to be among humans (vs. 8)? Not just in the past, not just with the old stories, but now.
Depending on the congregation’s practices this could become an opportunity for people to tell their stories — to give testimony. Or the preacher could tell stories of God at work now.
Moses experienced God and this passage becomes a powerful opportunity to tell people that God is still experienced.
“There was nothing exceptional about Moses in the days before God called him. He had had a wonderful education in Egypt; but the writers of the Bible do not depict him as having been particularly pious; he had become a shepherd, just like any number of other shepherds…
One day, without any idea of what was to happen to him…” Gerhard von Rad
Regarding the question about the name of God:
“One thing is clear — they are not interested in the Name simply as a word; if they say that they want to know the Name, this means in fact that they want to know something of the nature and of the being of God. A God who has no name is, in point of fact, no better than an unknown God.” Gerhard von Rad
“Moses’ call recounts the deep disruptive seizure of a man for whom neither previous faith nor personal endowment played a role in preparing him for his vocation.” Brevard Childs
Regarding the question about the names of God:
“Vriezen has clearly shown that the formula is not simply an expression of indefiniteness, but emphasizes the actuality of God: ‘“I am who I am” means: “I am there, wherever it may be…I am there!”’” Brevard Childs
“Revelation is not information about God and his nature, but an invitation to trust in the one whose self-disclosure is a foretaste of the promised inheritance. The future for the community of faith is not an unknown leap into the dark, because the Coming One accompanies the faithful toward that end.” Brevard Childs
A woman came to my study one day, could I talk? I said “sure, what is on your mind.” She said, “I want to know if I am crazy.” She went on, “As you know life is difficult for my family and I right now, and I was up at 3 in the morning standing in the living room looking out the front window, worrying. As I was looking out the window, Jesus walked up the front walkway, came in the front door and walked over to me in the living room. He came me a hug and then turned and left out the back door.” Looking intently at me she asked, “Am I crazy?”
I told her she was not crazy, that she should rejoice that Jesus had come to her and offered her comfort.
God is not just the God of the past, God is the God of the present and will be the God of the future.
“The God of Abraham praise”
“Holy Ground” Geron Davis
“Deep in the shadows of the past” (Wren)
“Our God, you called to Moses to set your people free” (Gillette)
“When Israel was in Egypt’s land”
God of fire,
You are a force beyond human understanding,
with the power to sear through the veins of creation with passion and vigour,
or to extinguish life in consuming flame.
Your presence is dangerous for there is no predicting where you might burn,
and yet comforting for the light and warmth offer an invitation to draw closer.
out of the flames of your creation,
your voice calls, marking us as your own.
Yet there are times when we choose to ignore your voice,
and listen instead to our own needs and desires
and those that challenge our faith from within the world.
Forgive us for those times;
when we have ignored the needs of others;
when we have failed to place our feet upon your path;
when we allow the earthly voice to distract us from your call.
in your forgiveness you offer again your invitation
to know your love, to be loved,
and to respond to your call.
In hearing your voice
may we find our place within your creation.
—written by Rev. MaryAnn R. Rennie (minister of Corstorphine: St. Anne’s Parish Church in Edinburgh)