Sermon Ideas 4U - Archived Sermons -- AFTER Advent 2002
This page is in honour of the 'pesky, perpetual, predictable and persistent return of the Sabbath'!!!!!!!!!!!!!
August 24, 2014 -- Season of Pentecost 2014 -
Exodus 3: 1-15
Matthew 16: 21-28
If Moses had lived in the 20th century, and did not herd sheep in the wilderness, I wonder how his story would have been written? How would God have appeared to him? What if this new Moses had a regular job; was a man with a family for example, and just a regular “Joe” or “Jane”? What if?
Well, in the 1977 movie, Oh, God, God, played by a cigar smoking Nathan Birnbaum, otherwise known as George Burns, came to Jerry Landers, a young and earnest manager at a small grocery store. Landers, played by John Denver, first receives a typed invitation requesting his presence at an “interview with God”. Landers dismisses it as a hoax! I seem to remember that God eventually appears in person while Landers was in the shower. God’s call to this young man is to spread the message that God really and truly does exist and has spoken to Landers. God wants to be taken seriously and Landers’ is the reluctant messenger.
A group of theologians think that Landers is faking it and lock Landers in a hotel room with questions for God, written in Aramaic! Eventually, God does appear to answer them and eventually comes to court to prove his existence. If memory serves me correctly he disappears during a speech and as he walks across the courtroom his invisible feet still make impressions in the courtroom carpet.
While a little “off-beat” some churches have used this movie as a discussion starter for teens who would not normally be discussing theology. While some of the “one liners” are more profound than others, many can be used to get people talking about very important matters.
But what about the real Moses; lets get back to him; you know Moses.
Moses! Son of Hebrew slaves but adopted by a princess and raised in the Royal Court.
Moses! Schooled in both the Hebrew culture and language and the culture and language of Egypt.
Moses! Who identified so much with his birth family that he killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave and hid the body.
Moses! A murderer in exile turned sheep herder who encounters a burning bush, and has a conversation with God.
He becomes Moses, the questioner. He asks God, “What is is your name?”
In a world accustomed to many gods this is not as dumb a question as we might think at first. Remember this is BEFORE the idea of ONE God was really developed. You may have noted that his father-in-law was the “Priest of Midian, but of his religion we know little or nothing.
“Who are you?” “Give me a name!” Any god worth following has to have a name! Think about it; how do you call on a god, who has no name: “Hey you there, how about some rain down here! Nope! That’s not for the God Moses encounters.
The answer is actually not a noun, it is a verb. Notice this: God is not any old verb at all, but the most important verb any language has, “to be” and it is the first person singular form: I AM! “So, Moses, When they ask you tell them that ‘I am’ has sent you. It may make for confusing grammar, but the book of Exodus is telling us that this God’s name, this God’s character, is BEING itself. God IS. God WAS, God will be!
To know someone’s name is to have a certain amount of control over that person and it is also to have some insight into who that person is, and is not! This God will not be controlled or defined. This God is existence itself! This God is not to be measured against anything else; everything else is measured in comparison to this God!
In addition to taking off his shoes, a sign of respect and reverence, Moses hides his face because he is afraid to look at God. This fear is a mixture of what we would term fear and a profound sense of one’s unworthiness when confronted with the utter holiness of God. We can’t fully describe God, we can’t name God and control God, we can only stand in awe of God’s living being.
This God is a God who hears and answers.
This God calls ordinary people, fallible people to do the work of justice and freeing the oppressed.
This God equips those who are so called to give them what they need for the task ahead.
This God promises freedom to those who are enslaved. This God promises justice to a people who have been wronged and presented from fulfilling their God’s given potential.
So here we have Moses, now a family man, safe and sound in Midian, being called to “go home again”. While there has been yet another change of Pharaoh in Egypt Moses cannot be that anxious to return, when he had left with a price on his head!
Yet other stories tell us that Moses is a person with a concern for the other. He was not someone who could walk by a situation and say, “it’s not my problem!” Like that long ago event that led to his exile, Moses had to get involved; the burning bush was the push he needed.
Until it hits home some people are unconcerned for the plight of others. The ALS ice-bucket challenge may be one exception, but it’s a couple of minutes of extreme discomfort and $10 - its really not going out of your way to do something hard!
To follow this call would take Moses the rest of his life and change his life completely. Moses could not ignore the plight of his own people once it had been presented to him. He was, after all, a person of faith. He learned of the call of Abraham and Sarah at his mother’s breast. It was, in his blood and in the air he breathed, even in the palace and even in Midian. So he had to go. Despite what he said to the bush, he could not say no!
So this is where I tell you what this passage is saying to each one of us.
One of the things that I firmly believe is that our faith calls us to see all of life in relation to our faith commitment. There is nothing that is not relevant - well perhaps the decision between Rice Crispies and Corn Flakes may be!
I love “take Off Your Shoes”, a hymn by Jim Manley which puts Moses’ call into more modern language and concerns - I won’t sing it (don’t worry). Here’s one verse. -14-
Well, the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof from the waters beneath to the heav’ens above, so take, take, take off your shoes, you’re standing on my holy ground, you’re standing on my holy ground. On the eighth day of creation, well, the Lord looked around at the power stations, freeways and the junk on the ground, the factories with their waste-dumps and their chimneys so high, you couldn’t see the sun for all the smog in the sky. Well, kids, you really filled the earth and then you subdued it, but there’s nothing in my book that says you’ve got to pollute it. So, Take, take off your shoes… Take, take off your shoes, you’re standing on holy ground; take, take off your shoes, you’re standing on holy ground.
Each one of us has been called, is being called, and will be called. Each one of us is called to have a part in proclaiming God’s love for all of creation. Each of us has a part in proclaiming the good news that God wishes joy, peace and justice for all of God’s people. It is not God’s will that one group oppress another, or profit at the expense of another.
As Christians we are called to community, to mutual support, to the topsy turvy world of Kingdom values. Sometimes it’s hard to wrap our heads around but we are called to follow and live the Good News the God of heaven and earth, the God of past, present and future embraces us, calls us and asks us to participate in a mission for the healing of all of creation. As the United Church of Christ in the US reminds its members, “God is still speaking”.
What are we going to say? “Here I am! Don’t send me.” Or are we going to join that long line of prophets and ordinary folks who say, “Here I am. Send me”? Its up to us.
1995- 2014 The Rev. Beth W. Johnston.
For some good stuff go to:
The United Church has a great online bookstore and here is the link. If you live in Canada they will even send you a book display for your event and people who dont get to see that many books at once can have a ball!