Broad Brook Congregational Church
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
Exodus 3: 1-15
Hear I Am
Back in Egypt things are not going well for God’s people. The Israelites are an oppressed lot. The Egyptians are hard-nosed taskmasters. In fact Moses had fled Egypt because he had murdered on of the taskmasters.
In Midian, things are going pretty well for Moses. He is married; has a family; and a job tending his father-in-laws flock. Moses has gone beyond the wilderness to Mt. Horeb (also known as Mt Sinai), the mountain of God. The environment is hot, the air thick, heat rising in shimmering waves—a place where mirages were common. One day while tending the sheep, Moses spies a bush on fire, not just a bush but also an angel within this burning bush. Neither the bush nor the angel is being consumed by the flames. He rubs his eyes and the image remains. Moses is intrigued by the amazing thing but also a bit fearful. Slowly he inches forward for a closer look, when out of the flames comes a voice calling Moses! Moses! The Bible says nothing about Moses reaction to this phenomenon. But my imagination sees Moses stopping dead in his tracks, perhaps even jumping back, clutching his chest in fright, eyes wide and when he tries to speak no sound comes from his constricted throat. The Bible simply claims Moses said, “Here I am.” I believe Moses said that but not until his racing heart slowed somewhat and his brain tried to process exactly what was happening.
So far it is not clear that Moses knew to whom the voice belonged. Yes the Bible says it was the voice of God but did Moses know that? God does not identify who is speaking until later. Next Moses is told to “Come no closer!” He is also asked to remove his sandals because he is standing on holy ground. Moses understands this as an invitation of hospitality but he is still shaken by this voice issuing commands. Moses is obedient and dutifully removes his sandals.
I will digress from my story for a moment. The soles of our shoes insulate us from feeling the earth beneath our feet. In removing our shoes it can be very meaningful for our souls to connect with the earth by: splashing in puddles, walking in lush green grass, feeling the warmth of summer sand, wadding in babbling brooks, letting the ocean’s waves swirl at your ankles and feel the sand erode from under your feet as the wave recedes, and even feeling mud as it squishes between your toes.
At this point God is saying: “You are on sacred soil, Moses, but I want you to feel comfortable in my presence because I have something important to tell you. So I invite you to take your shoes off and connect with the sacredness of this place, this encounter.” Back to our story.
God has asked Moses to keep his distance. Furthermore, God adds, “Oh, by the way let me introduce myself incase you haven’t guessed. ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Now Moses has the where-with-all to hide his face for he fears looking at God. Again my imagination takes over and has Moses thinking, “Okay, this is a real encounter with God. I am not going crazy. The heat has not fried my brain. I better listen to what God is saying.”
Well God is saying to Moses that the cries of the Israelites has been heard and I have a plan. We already know God has a plan because last week we learned that Moses was saved for a reason. Now Moses will learn his call; what God want to do with and through him. God is going to deliver the people out of Egypt and into a land of promise; a land where they will be free. “I am going to send you Moses back to Egypt. You will go to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”
Moses begins his first but certainly not his last argument with God. “God who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” I find this question very reassuring on two levels. First I love it that Moses talks back to God. It gives us permission to do the same. Haven’t we all, at one time or another, argued with God? Second, it shows that God loves even the small scared beings that we are and that we have a place in God’s plan. God will do what God wants to do with and through us even though we think we are not capable of carrying out our call. Why can we ordinary beings do extraordinary things? Why, because God is with us along our journey. God promises Moses: “I will be with you.” While we might think we are anonymous and uncalled, I promise you this: God knows us by name and calls us. How have you been called by God? If you have a job, whether you for are paid it or not, God has called you to be the best you can be at whatever it is you do; the best organist you can be, the best airplane mechanic you can be, the best teacher or librarian you can be, the best office manager or medical care giver you can be, the best homemaker you can be, the best volunteer for the church suppers or craft fairs that you can be. God calls us to for large and small purposes and to be the best that we can be in whatever endeavor God call us to do. It is not only in our professional or vocational lives that God calls us. God has also called you to help others, those who are suffering. God is not hidden in the burning bush. God hears the cries of the suffering today and God hears them with the ears of God’s heart. It is the heart of God that holds the cries of those suffering from: addiction, illness, unemployment, oppression, war, prejudice, and marginalization. God is hidden within the suffering of God’s people. God calls us to hear those cries also, hear them with the ears of our hearts.
God called Moses to liberate the Israelites and accepting that call changed Moses life forever. Accepting God’s call for us changes our lives. Never mind asking God “Why me, Lord?” Say as Moses did “Here I am.”