More Than a Bush

Today's Biblical story about God appearing to Moses in the burning bush is probably one of the most well known stories of our faith. When we read about Moses we can't help but think of Charlton Heston in the movie The Ten Commandments or perhaps the more recent movie The Prince of Egypt. It's a fascinating story that's peculiar, miraculous, gripping, and also difficult to explain.

But for me the most fascinating thing about this story is that this peculiar, miraculous, and hard to explain event happens to a very ordinary person in a very ordinary place. And in many ways, this story also reminds me of my own story as it relates to my call to ministry.

To ordinary Moses, the voice of God comes, speaks, and calls out. Let's listen again to the story of Moses and lets see what points of interest we find that might help us shed light on our own life's stories. The story begins with Moses tending his father-in-law's heard in Horeb. The name Horeb means "wasteland," a lonely desolate place. Just the sort of place you would find a man on the run from the law.

You see if you read in the book of Exodus just prior to our selected scripture for today you know that Moses had struck and killed an Egyptian taskmaster who was beating a helpless Hebrew slave. He had no choice but to run out to Midian to hide.

So there we find Moses alone in a desolate wasteland of a place. He's not in a temple or church, where one might expect to be met by God. In fact, Moses isn't looking for or even expecting a meeting with God. After all Moses isn't a priest or prophet he's just an ordinary person like you and me.

The first point we can take from today's scripture reading is that sometimes God comes to us when and where we might least expect it. I'm sure there are people hear today, right here in our congregation, who could tell a story of what it's like to be on the run, hiding out, crouching in some lonely place, a place sought because it's isolated. This place could be a physical place or perhaps a mental, emotional, or spiritual place. And yet, that so called lonely place was the very place where God found you, caught you, and called out to you.

Up on Mt. Horeb, or perhaps better known to you as Mt. Sinai, a bush bursts into flames, but it's not consumed. Then in the midst of the flame there is a voice. How would you have responded to such an unexpected site? Well upon hearing the voice, Moses turns toward the flame, fascinated, curious at what he sees there.

You know God created us to be curious creatures. Anytime something intrudes into our lives, something we haven't encountered before, something that stretches us beyond our definition of normal, we instinctively want to know more about it. And Moses was no different. He wanted to know more about this voice and the inflamed bush, which invaded his lonely place.

The second point we can glean from today's reading is just as God chose an ordinary bush in the desert as a means of self-revelation to Moses, so God seems to choose ordinary, everyday objects and experiences in the world to get our attention, to call us, to speak to us, to say to us in a very intimate and special moment "I AM WHO I AM."

For Moses it was the burning bush, for Abraham it was a smoking fire pot and torch, for Jacob it was a wrestling match. When the slaves were freed from Egypt God appeared and led them by using pillars of clouds and fire. For me it was a simple misplaced shell on a beach. For others it's a special smell, a certain bird, or a meaningful song. The point is God uses the ordinary things of life to share the extraordinary things of his kingdom. In a few moments we will participate together in the Lord's Supper. We will share the ordinary elements of bread and juice, and through this experience we can encounter the extraordinary grace of God working within us, bringing to life and strengthening our faith in him.

Now Christ will not be physically present, but during this Holy meal something divinely mysterious happens. Spiritually Christ comes into our midst to work within us to make us whole.

As you leave worship today I encourage you to pay closer attention to those ordinary people, ordinary places, and ordinary things of life like a colorful sunset, the face of a child, or the warm embrace of someone you love. Any of which might be that bush that bursts into flame that becomes the very voice of God calling you by name. Enjoy the moment, enjoy the experience, and turn toward the flame and see. [PAUSE]

Once seeing and hearing, Moses is now filled with fear, afraid to look at God, yet he stays and speaks face-to-face with God Almighty. God has spoken to him, called him by name. God has come forth to reveal himself in a spectacular, attention-grabbing manner in the bush that is inflamed but not consumed.

So God commands Moses to take off his shoes as an act of reverence, which conveys Moses unworthiness before God. The ground on which he stands is Holy. It's holy because an exchange has taken place there between God and humanity, incarnation, God with us, God calling a human being to divine service.

Yes God is our friend, but he is also our sovereign Lord and should be treated with respect and reverence. And it is there on that Holy Ground; God Almighty reached down and grabbed one ordinary human life for extraordinary purposes. The third point we take from today's reading is that Moses made excuses because he felt inadequate for the job God asked him to do. It was natural for him to feel that way; he was inadequate all by himself.

But God wasn't asking Moses to work alone. He offered other resources to help, for example, God offered himself, his brother Aaron, and God gave Moses the ability to perform miracles. God often calls us to tasks that seem too difficult, but he doesn't ask us to do them alone, because we too are inadequate.

God offers us his resources, just as he did to Moses. We shouldn't hide behind our inadequacies, or those things we perceive are inadequacies, as Moses did, but rather we need to look beyond ourselves to the great resources available to us. Then we can allow God to use our unique contributions to make a difference in his kingdom.

Perhaps you can relate to Moses when he speaks of feeling inadequate. I know I can, when I think back to God calling me into the ministry. I didn't feel I had the skills or abilities to serve in such a capacity, but God did provide the needed resources. All of you, my family, and my colleagues. I can't begin to list all the things you have done to make the task God called me to do possible.

The fourth and final point from today's scripture is to realize that all I have described this morning has been at God's initiative. The entire encounter with Moses was God's idea, not Moses. Moses didn't seek God out; he wasn't seeking a closer relationship with God. Moses wasn't out to get some special task from God. The call to Moses, the very choice of Moses becoming the great messenger of God to Pharaoh, all of this was God's idea.

God heard the cries of an oppressed people, and is now on the move, beginning to overturn present power arrangements, preparing to make a world-changing move against Pharaoh. And guess who is going to help God? God will use the gifts and abilities Moses has, along with some of Moses weaknesses and use them for good in the world.

God uses us in the same way he used ordinary Moses. God will use our gifts and abilities and our weaknesses to make our world a better place, if we let him. Sometimes I wonder how many times I have conscientiously or unconscientiously turned away from God, not allowing him to use me to make a difference. Perhaps you have wondered the same thing as well.

So as Moses encounters Pharaoh, Pharaoh wants to know who in the world sent somebody like Moses to come, and harass, and to command him? Moses responds honestly, "This is all the Lord's directing and doing." Once again God used the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary. I share this message with you this morning because I wonder if Moses story is your story. Some of you have had God come to you in your Horeb, in that place you thought was lonely and isolated.

God came to you when and where you least expected. God came to you, called for you and dared you to enter into a dialogue with the divine. You weren't looking for God. But to your surprise God was looking for you. God chose an ordinary, everyday experience or person to speak your name, to call you forth, to enlist you in his service.

Perhaps God's call came through a friend, a spouse, or perhaps a quiet moment when you thought you were all alone. Perhaps God reached out to you as you were reaching out to someone in need. You heard your name called. And you, like Moses, had to say, "I may not be the best person in the world for the job, but I think I am the person you are calling to do the job." And you know all this was God's idea not yours.

Then later, when someone asked you "What is a person like you doing in a place like this?" all you could answer was, "God called my name." And if by chance this story doesn't fit you, this story of Moses doesn't relate to some experience you've had in your life, just wait, it will.

Thanks be to God for seeking us out, the ordinary of this world, to be his hands and feet to accomplish the extraordinary.

Read other messages by Pastor Wade