Saturday, February 27, 2016

Hebrew Testament Text for Sunday 28 February 2016

Exodus 3:1-15        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.”

Reflection        What does the tale of Moses talking to a burning bush have to do with us today? That depends entirely on how we choose to engage it. If we read these lines of scripture briskly noting, ‘I’ve heard this story a million times,” we can walk right past the burning bush. It will have little effect. There is every reason to believe that Moses could have done just that. In fact, there is a bush that grows is Northern Africa and Southern Asia named Dictamnus. It is commonly called ‘the Burning Bush.’ The Dictamnus plant produces volatile oils that cover the entire plant. In very hot weather the bush sometimes spontaneously combusts and burns in a flash. 

Being a shepherd on the desert it is likely Moses had some knowledge if not experience of ‘the burning bush’ and could easily have decided to stay focused on his business of shepherding and continue on his way. No story. But when Moses saw the burning bush he paused to ponder, to inquire. “I must turn aside and look at this great sight…”  He was receptive to the cloud of unknowing, the incomprehensible mystery before him. Moses’ heart and mind were open to look with wonder. He was willing to set aside what he knew (what he was doing) in order to engage what he did not know.

As we pass by this mythic tale, shall we pause? Might there be an invitation to look at whatever is before us and wonder how the eternal flame of God might be speaking to us? Are we willing to “turn aside” from the ordinary course of our life and “see” something extraordinary? Are we willing to engage something we can neither understand nor control? Are we willing to step out of our comfortable ruts and admit God’s Presence? Are we willing to let the course of  our life be changed? Are we willing to do what is humanly impossible, make a difference in peoples lives, perhaps even leading a whole nation of oppressed people to freedom? 

Before he knew what God would ask him to do Moses responded to God’s call saying, “Here I am Lord.” Moses stepped onto holy ground, into holy relationship. And by the grace of God with him the simple shepherd did what was impossible, led the oppressed Hebrews to freedom.  

Are we willing to listen to the cries of people suffering in our midst? The aged, disabled, infirm, addicted, imprisoned, homeless? The impoverished, the foreigner, the refugee? African Americans, Native Americans, South Americans? Are we willing to answer God’s call to deliver all of God’s people to a “land of milk and honey?” If there is a burning bush standing in our way, perhaps it is time to pause and ponder it. 

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