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Moses and the Burning Bush


Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, "I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up." When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." Then he said, "Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." He said further, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. Then the Lord said, "I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt." But Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" He said, "I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain." But Moses said to God, "If I come to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." He said further, "Thus you shall say to the Israelites, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" God also said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the Israelites, 'The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you': This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations."

EXODUS 3:1-15

Sermon (by The Rev. Dr. Maryann Amor)

Earlier this year I was at home in BC visiting my family and I decided that I would take my nieces, aged 3 and 4 at the time for a walk from their house to my mum’s house to pick something up. The walk is typically about 20 minutes long, so I figured no problem, let’s go. And as I held their hands and we started out on our walk, I quickly realized that this was not going to be the kind of walk I was used to, because every two minutes a little voice would say, ‘Aunty Maryann look a flower, can you pick it for me? Aunty Maryann, stop a leaf can you reach up and get it for me. Aunty Maryann a bug. Aunty Maryann look an airplane. Aunty Maryann I found a feather.” So a 20 minute walk took about an hour and by the end I was exhausted.

Little kids have this amazing ability to see things that, as adults, we rarely see. Kids find in the world so much colour, wonder, joy, and life that they can’t help but turn to have a look, often going as close as they can to investigate, pick it up, touch it, and, in some cases, take it home with them so they can show other people what they have seen. Kids see so much in the world that we, as adults, often just stomp all over. For some reason, as all of us age and as life gets in the way, as we get busier and busier, so the world around us becomes a boring shade of grey and we lose the ability to see wonder, to be curious, to find where God is present in our world.

Today in our first reading we hear the familiar story of Moses encountering God in the burning bush. Moses is out with his father in law’s flock of sheep, living his daily, normal life, he is focussed on caring for the sheep and making sure none of them fall into danger. But that day is different…on that day Moses sees something incredible, as our reading describes, “Moses looked, and he saw a bush that was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’ When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush.”

In this narrative Moses is characterized as attentive to the world around him. Who knows how many people might have walked past that burning bush before him, not even realizing that it was anything special…but Moses sees. Never before when he has been out with the sheep has he ever seen a bush burning like this, it is new and amazing, and he is so taken aback, he is so in awe, that he can’t help but investigate. Moses is curious, wondering how what he sees is even possible…for a bush to blaze and not be consumed, it makes no sense. And it is when Moses turns towards what he sees, when he embraces his childlike curiosity, going closer to have a look, that every single thing in his life changes…God’s voice calls out to him and, as we read throughout what follows in the book of Exodus, this is just the beginning of the transformation Moses will experience, from shepherd to leader, from nobody to somebody.

Too often Moses isn’t positively viewed, because we focus on the episode later in Exodus where he doesn’t eagerly embrace God’s call, making excuses and claiming that he can’t speak properly and, therefore, can’t go to Pharaoh. But today, he is truly our life’s example. Because Moses shows us how we too must keep our eyes open to see, we must be attentive to what is happening around us, because it is through our life, through the world in which live, that God reaches out to us and calls us. Our world is filled with holiness, and we are called to see it and move towards it, because when we do our lives, like Moses’ life, will be transformed.

One scholar writes, “In this one shining moment, Moses exemplifies for us the possibilities of new directions and new seasons in our life with God. Curiosity, attentiveness, wonder, the willingness to turn aside and to enter into new adventures in answer to God’s call—these are qualities important not just for the young, but for disciples of every age.”

Each of us are loved by God and called to be a part of God’s mission on earth, each of us are blessed and gifted, and God calls us. Like Moses, we need to be willing to put aside all that distracts us, to take time, and to look for those places where God breaks into our world. Often it is not as glorious as a burning bush, it could be a simple encouragement from a friend, it could even have been something I might have seen on my walk with my nieces, if I hadn’t have been in such a hurry. God reaches out to us, God sends us burning bush moments, all we have to do is see them, turn towards them, and be open to God’s call to us.

As we move towards fall and the resumption of our busy lives, we all enter into a time when there is more to distract us…celebrations like Thanksgiving and Christmas, studies, meetings, increased work…we will become more focused on ourselves and our lives and it will be difficult to see where God might be. So today, as we pray over the items we have brought to worship, I hope that whenever you look at what you brought today you might remember this sermon. And remember that God calls us to be like my nieces, to be like Moses, and to see. To turn away from those things that distract us and to embrace curiosity and wonder, to open our eyes to where God is appearing in our lives, breaking into our busy-ness whether at school, at work, at events. Because it is when we are able to see God, when we encounter the burning bushes in our lives, that we might hear God calling out to us…calling us to embrace a path that could lead to incredible transformation of our lives. AMEN.

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