Similar questions may have been asked to the idea proposed here of a co-senior pastor model of leadership. But thank goodness for a process bathed in prayer, led by people committed to discerning the way forward for this congregation. Ben and I are humbled by your overwhelming support and we’re excited about the future that is unfolding by God’s grace.
Interesting that one week after you extend a call to us, we hear a story from scripture about someone else’s call–Moses. Couldn’t have planned that if we tried!
Last week we heard about how Moses had disappeared on the mountain to be in conversation with the Lord. The people grew restless. They started to look for different answers to their insecurity and anxiety about being stuck in the wilderness. They forgot who and whose they were. They created a golden calf to worship as god—surely something they could see and touch, something physically present would provide the security they longed for—except that theory proved false. What was true? That they failed to remember God’s faithfulness—God had delivered them from slavery, freed them from oppression and promised to be with them and to never let them go.
This week we turn to an earlier part of the same story and encounter Moses in the wilderness before God’s great rescue mission occurs.
As an infant, Moses had escaped the Pharaoh’s edict to kill all Hebrew newborn boys. He was raised as a member of the ruling family of Egypt. But growing up he couldn’t ignore the suffering of the Hebrew people. His compassion got him into trouble. He killed an Egyptian who was beating one of the Hebrew people. Word got out and Moses was afraid for his life. So he fled Egypt and settled in Midian.
Time passes. Moses is married now with a boy of his own. He’s a shepherd. And the context for today’s story is an ordinary day and an ordinary place where Moses is living an ordinary life—family man, working hard, taking care of the sheep. Then something extraordinary happens.
An angel shows up in the flame of fire out of a bush. The bush is blazing but not consumed. Moses can’t help but notice. That’s when he hears his name “Moses! Moses!” And that’s when everything changes.
As far as we can tell from the story, Moses hadn’t been looking for God. He wasn’t searching for something new to do or a different challenge to mix things up. We have no proof that he lived with any notion that he was born for something big. In fact, quite the opposite when God calls Moses, Moses is convinced God’s tapped the wrong guy.
Moses gives 5 really solid reasons for why God should choose someone else—he’s not smart enough, respected enough, worthy enough. Reasons I’ve resorted to now and then—How about you? But God will not be convinced. He has chosen Moses—just as he is. God doesn’t speak to Moses’ shortcomings or inadequacies. Instead God assures Moses that he will be with him and that that is enough.
Turns out this whole rescue mission of saving the people of Israel has little to do with Moses. This isn’t about him. It’s about God—who sees the pain of his people; who hears their cries, knows their suffering and makes a plan. God chooses to come down, to be with them and to rescue them. God chooses Moses to be part of this divine plan.
Moses pushes back. In his debate with God, Moses tries to make this encounter with God about him. A move we like to make too. Martin Luther, founder of our tradition, wrote extensively about this. In fact, he relayed to a friend: “Regarding [the plan] to collect my writings in volumes, I am quite cool and not at all eager about it….I acknowledge none of them to be really a book of mine, except perhaps the one On the Bondage of the Will” In this treatise Luther formulates an argument for the reality that we are at war for control of our own lives. We like to decide for ourselves. We want to call the shots. We forget that in matters of faith it isn’t about us. Faith is about who God is.
Moses asks the question out loud: “who are you?”. And God answers: “I am who I am”. Some theologians suggest that the better translation is “I will be who I will be”. A bit ambiguous. But God doesn’t give specifics. God does give Moses a history lesson to remind Moses that God is faithful: look to the God of your ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That is who I am says God. Trust that I will be who I will be.
Regarding our identity as children of God, Professor Timothy Wengert writes: “the point is not how well we are doing for God but what God has promised us. This means that in the face of our doubts and unbelief the question to ask is not “how could I be doing better?” but rather, “what is God’s promise to me today”.
What is God’s promise to you today?
In the book of Lamentations we read: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning”. This is God’s promise to you! God is faithful; God is merciful; God is present for you!
Like Moses God has chosen you to be part of the divine plan. God sees the pain of his people; hears their cries, knows their suffering and has a plan. It’s a plan revealed most clearly in Jesus Christ who came into this world to be with us, to rescue us, and to draw all people to God through him. It’s a plan initiated by God, a plan that includes you—not because of anything you have done, not because of any amazing qualities you possess. God’s plan includes you because God has chosen you—just as you are, warts & insecurities, anxieties, doubts, misgivings and all. Regardless of the strength of your will, there’s no way to change God’s mind about you.
God chooses you and God’s promise to you is that God shows up– where you least expect, on ordinary days, in ordinary places, when you’re going about ordinary things. God shows up. Let that promise take hold of you as you leave this place today and then when interruptions come—and don’t we know that they do—not just in our personal lives, but it for our country too—and in all 4 corners of the world too—when those interruptions come—let us move from a place of discouragement and fear and anxiety to a place of openness and vulnerability. In that place, may you be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit who call you to participate in God’s mission to heal the world. Amen.