Yr A ~ Pentecost 13 ~ Exodus 3:1-15
It begins with an invitation, which opens up a revelation, which inspires a mission. Moses lived that rhythm out in one of the most powerful and well-known stories in religious history – the story of the burning bush. Hopefully through our pondering and praying this morning we’ll catch a glimpse of that rhythm and leave this place ready to notice our own burning bushes – because, and this should come as no surprise, they’re everywhere! But first, Moses.
3:1 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.
Where does this story take place? Near a mountain that would be embraced as being very holy – but more importantly that mountain was “beyond the wilderness”. Remember, every time you hear about wilderness in the bible it’s a sign that a transformation is coming. The wilderness is a place away from the hubbub of our daily lives where the distractions are few and the possibility of noticing God’s Presence is dramatically heightened. So Moses was in the right spot!
3:2 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.
A fiery bush that was not consumed or devoured by the flames, and a messenger of God somehow present in the middle of it.
Not your everyday occurrence! (or is it?!?!?!)
So Moses was tending his sheep in this liminal, transformational space, and a fiery bush appears. He now has two choices, but choose he must. Read it carefully:
3:3 Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.”
He must turn aside to see it.
He has to change his direction, leave the path he was on, purposely take another path in order to experience it more fully. Just noticing wasn’t enough.
He could’ve noticed, thought to himself, “That’s curious,” and kept right on going.
But he didn’t. He noticed, and he turned aside and made the effort to draw nearer.
The burning bush was an invitation. Rabbi Lawrence Kushner says the burning bush was actually a test – a test to see if Moses was paying attention and would really see what was going on around him. Moses could’ve ignored the invitation – he could’ve RSVP’d “no” – but instead he did something rare and wonderful. He turned aside from his current path and changed the direction of his life – physically and spiritually.
And when we accept God’s invitation we put ourselves in position to receive God’s revelation.
3:4 When the LORD saw that Moses had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.”
The Presence of God was there all along but that Presence didn’t speak until it was clear that Moses too was present!
3:5-6 Then God said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
God 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 (awed) to look at God.
When we answer God’s invitation we can receive God’s self-revelation. And what a revelation it is!
The language is important here. Saying that God is revealed is distinctly different than saying God appeared, or even worse, God came down! The subtle meaning of ‘revealed’ suggests that the thing was there all along, right in front of our eyes, but something was preventing us from really seeing.
The space that we thought was ordinary becomes extraordinary – it is holy ground.
The same ground that Moses was standing on obliviously 5 minutes before was suddenly, indescribably holy ground now.
The ground didn’t change – Moses’ perception did! And as he became aware he realized how awesome God’s Presence was and Moses was awed.
And the taking off your shoes thing? Maybe that’s nothing more than a tangible indication that you’re going to linger. You know the saying, “Take off your shoes and stay awhile!”
So we’ve had invitation and revelation. Now we’re in the right head space and heart space and spirit space to receive the mission. read on