June 28, 2015: It doesn’t get any holier than this.

Posted on : Jun 25th, 2015 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

The third chapter of the book of Exodus has within it one of the most familiar stories of the entire Old Testament – the story of Moses and the burning bush. This story has been read and heard to the delight of many. But why?

Simply put, “it’s good drama!” fire, a bush that is aflame (burning) but not being consumed (burned up), and Moses having an almost face-to-face conversation with God, “the Holy One.” Doesn’t get much better than that.

But…. and here is the big “BUT,” in spite of all the intrigue, drama, and mystery we place on this story, the fact that the bush is burning but not consumed is not what is so amazing in this story. You see, in the ancient world there were many burning bush-type experiences. Gods appeared to people in many ways and at many times: the heavens declared the glory of God, lighting, earthquakes, horrific storms at sea – there were many, many ways that the gods of many religions revealed themselves to their people. So the significance of this story, in and of itself, isn’t about burning bushes. It’s about God.

What does this story reveal to us about God?

First of all, at this time in history – not too unlike many people’s image of God today – God and gods are almost always pictured as “old men/male deities,” that hurl power around in both useful and abusive (punishing) ways. They are so “high above” human beings, that a personal relationship is virtually impossible. In Israel’s story, their image of God was that God was so powerful and “holy” that not only could you not touch God (literally and metaphorically), you also could not even “see” (look at) God and live. It was believed that if you “saw” God, you would drop dead.

For those who still hold such images of God today, read on.

In this story God reveals God’s self to Moses in a much different way. It begins with God redefining holiness. God calls to Moses from the burning bush, calling him by name: “Moses, Moses!” Moses answers God, “I am here!” God says, 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 and mother, the God of Sarah and Abraham, the God of Rebecca and Isaac, and the God of Leah and Rachel and Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Point one: The God of the Israelites defines holiness not as something above our reach but in the very ordinary – the ground we walk on. In other words, “the here and now” of our life, the everydayness of our life, that which grounds our being.”

Then God continues God’s conversation with Moses, and says, “I have seen the affliction of my people in Egypt; I have heard their cries under those who oppress them; I have felt their sufferings. Now I have come down (there is that image of God being in the heavens above) to rescue them from the land of Egypt, out of their place of suffering, and bring them to a place that is wide and fertile, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

Just look at the action words that God says:

I have seen your affliction

I have heard your cries

I have come to rescue you

I will bring you to a new place where you can not only “be,” but be satisfied.

Where is God found in our lives today? Is God an idea? A concept? Or a reality? Do you/we have a personal or distant relationship with God? Do we believe God sees our pain, hears our cries and comes to us, to bring us to a new place where we can not only “be,” but be satisfied? And, do we encounter the “Still Speaking” God in the everyday ordinary-ness of our lives?

The God that is revealed to Moses – and to us – through this story in scripture is much different than the God that many of us hold. My belief is, this God that calls out to Moses, is more like the God that most of us want to be in relationship with than the one we’re presently dating.

More on Sunday.

Blessings,

Dan

 

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Exodus 3

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 God 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 God saw that Moses had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And Moses said, ‘Here I am.’ Then God 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 and mother, the God of Sarah and Abraham, the God of Rebecca and Isaac, and the God of Leah and Rachel and Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then God 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?’ God 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 this God’s 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 Holy One, 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 for ever,
and this my title for all generations.”

Go and assemble the elders of Israel, and say to them, “The Holy One, the God of your ancestors, the God of Sarah and Abraham, the God of Rebecca and Isaac, and the God of Leah and Rachel and Jacob has appeared to me, saying: ‘I have given heed to you and to what has been done to you in Egypt. I declare that I will bring you up out of the misery of Egypt, to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ They will listen to your voice; and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, “The Holy One, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; let us now go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, so that we may sacrifice to our God.” I know, however, that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all my wonders that I will perform in it; after that Pharaoh will let you go. I will bring this people into such favor with the Egyptians that, when you go, you will not go empty-handed; each woman shall ask her neighbor and any woman living in the neighbor’s house for jewelry of silver and of gold, and clothing, and you shall put them on your sons and on your daughters; and so you shall plunder the Egyptians.’

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