Moses BurningBushReflection Series on a semi-continuous reading of Hebrew Scriptures: Exodus 3:1-15 on August 30, 2020 for St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Richardson, Texas

There are so many sermons I want to preach on Moses and the burning bush, it is impossible to choose just one. So, fasten your seatbelts, take the guardrails off your heart, and get ready for a highspeed ride down this mountain of revelation and spiritual transformation. There are reflection questions included, when you can ponder as you take take time for a scenic turn out—which I encourage you to do throughout this week.

Spiritual lesson #1: Has it ever crossed your mind that you are too bad, and your past too checkered, and your character too flawed for God to use you for a good purpose? Remember that Moses was a murderer—a murderer! He was raised in Pharaoh’s house in Egypt, but he became so angry at the treatment of his own people as slaves, he killed one of the taskmaster’s and then buried the body to the hide the evidence. When he was going to be found out, he did not stand up and take his punishment—he ran away and avoided the law instead. If God can use Moses, God can use you. Thinking you are beyond God’s reach, God’s forgiveness, God’s embrace, is an inverted form of pride. Let it go. It takes real humility to accept God meeting us as our worst selves.

• Are you ready with Moses to meet God with your worst self?
• What guilt are you hanging on to? What purpose does it serve?
• What identity do you have to release when you let go of this guilt?
• What new person can you become when this guilt is gone?

Spiritual lesson #2: Are you waiting for God to show up when you can go on a retreat, develop a new prayer routine, or climb to a mountaintop? Try looking in your daily life. Moses was doing what he did every single day. He got married, he worked for his father-in-law, and he was out keeping the sheep. It was an ordinary day, like every other ordinary day. Nothing new here. God shows up when we are going about our daily business, doing what we are supposed to do. Moses was living his every day, keeping the sheep, just like the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks in Bethlehem, just like the fishermen, Peter and Andrew on the shore, and the woman drawing water at the well. Jesuit priest Fr. James Martin experienced God calling him while watching PBS television. God is already present in our everyday, so why not be open to the sacred and holy that is right there in front of us? It may not be a supernatural experience like a burning bush, but it may be holy just the same. A sticky kiss from a child, the gift of a homemade meal, an unexpected card or a phone call, a friend who understands, a belly laugh, a hummingbird outside our window. Sometimes our encounter with God may be a big moment of truth that frees us from pretending and allows us to breathe or clarifies our purpose. Moses invites us to be on the lookout for the times and places in our ordinary days where our extraordinary God shows up in “God sightings,” big and small. Remember that every day you live, you are standing on holy ground.

• Is it hard for you to see your daily life as a place of God’s presence and revelation? If so, why?
• Has worshiping at home with videos helped you see your home and daily life as a place where God is present?
• What people in your daily life show you unconditional love, acceptance and forgiveness?
• Where do you see God’s presence in creation?
• Ask God to make himself known to you in your daily work or activities –be specific about those places that feel apart from God (homework? business deals? relationships? monotonous household tasks? dealing with pandemic limitations? cranky people?)

Spiritual lesson #3: Most people I talk with have a level of exhaustion from living in this pandemic they have never experienced before, myself included. Constant adaptation, new decisions to be made, re-inventing how to do everything, creating new habits, all the while grieving what we have lost while being under chronic stress without an end date in site. Did you notice that the bush that Moses saw was blazing, but not consumed by the fire? Fire takes a lot of fuel, a lot of energy to keep it going. If you have ever been charged with keeping a bonfire, a campfire or even your own fireplace burning for any length of time, you know it takes a lot of wood. But the bush is not burned up, because God’s provision is endless. Moses will not have to rely on himself for wisdom, energy or the resources to fulfill his calling to liberate his people from the Egyptians, because God’s energy, provision, and resources are endless. God is the source of all he needs, and God is the source of all the energy and provision we need.

• What does the promise of God’s endless provision mean to you in this time of pandemic?
• How is God the source of all you need now?
• How do you spiritually re-fuel when you are depleted? Are you getting adequate rest or do you overwork because you feel so much depends you? Can you try resting and ask God to fill the gaps?
• Have you asked God for the energy, wisdom and strength that you need for each day, for your work, or to care for your family?

Spiritual lesson #4: When God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush, he reminded Moses whose God he was: "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." Papyrus was expensive—why did they write it this way—why not save space and say, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob instead of the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? Because God had an individual and specific relationship with each one of them, and now he was going to find out who the God of Moses was and what kind of relationship theirs would be. It turns out it’s worth spending the extra papyrus so that we know the same is true for us.
We hear this in the faith stories members have shared over the summer—all different experiences of God reflecting an individual relationship with the Creator of the universe. We have heard of the God of Rick, who offers peace and companionship in danger, the God of Frieda, who offers guidance and wisdom in spiritual practices, the God of Rita who answers specific prayers in a conversational relationship, the God of Carol who offers provision, comfort, and angels in grief and hardship. So who is the God of Tom? And the God of Barbara? And the God of Kate? And the God of Brent? God is available for an individual relationship with you that may similar to others, but has it’s own particular characteristics to you.

• What does the promise of God’s endless provision mean to you in this time of pandemic?
• How is God the source of all you need now?
• How do you spiritually re-fuel when you are depleted? Are you getting adequate rest or do you overwork because you feel so much depends you? Can you try resting and ask God to fill the gaps?
• Have you asked God for the energy, wisdom and strength that you need for each day, for your work, or to care for your family?

Spiritual lesson #5: Moses still wants to know the name of the God that is sending him back to Egypt to free the Israelites. In the Jewish tradition, this name is so sacred, they do not speak it in Hebrew. There is not a good or exact translation in English, but I AM WHO I AM or I AM THAT I AM are common translations: God is existence itself—God is our very life and breath—and that apart from God, nothing can exist. God is in all things. Another way to translate this gets us back to the bush that burns but is not consumed: “I AM the one who causes things to pass.” I AM the one who makes things happen. God delivered on his promises and in his relationships with Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah and Rachel, and he will make good on his promise to be with Moses in Egypt. This God hears the suffering of his people and responds to their cries because the God of existence suffers with them. The author of creation, the breath of life, and the One who causes things to pass with a provision that never ends, will be with Moses as well. That is who Moses has a relationship with now—the same God who caused all things to pass for his ancestors, will come to pass again. God does not have a name Moses can command, but a relationship Moses must trust will make things happen.

• What does it mean for you that every breath you take is God’s presence? Does this help shape your daily spiritual life? Does it make it easier to take a 5-minute deep breath break during the day to ask for God’s provision, strength and guidance?
• What if you truly believed that all you really needed would come to pass through God’s hand, even through pain?
• Can you ask God for this kind of deep trust that Moses needed to step forward—not the name of a God we can command, but a relationship we can trust to make happen what God has promised?

Spiritual lesson #6: Of course, Moses argues with God because he is inadequately skilled. He has a stutter; he doesn’t speak well, he cannot speak in front of crowds. Someone else is more talented, more faithful, has greater skills, better experience, fewer faults, and on and on. We have all thought it and said it and believed it at one time or another if not right now. The truth is that God does not call the qualified, God qualifies the called. God qualified Moses for the calling he gave him. God calls every one of you, and qualifies your for that calling, regardless of your skills, talents or even training, to fulfill your purpose in God’s plan, however small or large. In fact, serving in our inadequacy is often the best faith-builder because then we know for sure that our success comes from God’s faithfulness.

• Where do you feel inadequate serve God? Pray about this concern and ask God to help you let go of this fear. How is God using you anyway?
• How might you allow yourself to grow with such a ministry or service “experiment” where its “success” depends on reliance on God’s provision?
• Who are spiritual friends or companions you can share spiritual experiments with at home, work or church?
• How has God used you to help others in the past based on your experience (e.g. provision through hardship) rather than your skills?
• What is it that you like doing that brings you great joy? Often our place of service and calling is where our joy meets the world’s need—where do these two things intersect for you?

God also gave Moses Aaron as a partner and companion—God does not leave us to build the reign of love and liberation alone. This is part of the joy of experimenting with new forms, methods and ideas for ministry and outreach right now—we do it together, and we can only succeed through the power of God! We learn new ways of being the church through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit and we do it as the body of Christ together! It’s so freeing not to worry about failure, to know that everything is an opportunity for learning, that we are not alone, and success is up to God!

This concludes our ride down Moses’ mountain of spiritual transformation. You can unbuckle your seatbelts and stretch your legs during the hymn, Creed and prayers, but please remain nearby for the celebration of Holy Communion coming up soon! I hope you will re-visit our trip by downloading the reflection questions posted in Description below the YouTube link as you continue your own transformational spiritual journey begun with Moses and the burning bush.

 Image: Moses and the Burning Bush,13th century icon by George  Rossidis

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