2017-09-10 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
“I will be WHAT I will be”
In these first weeks of September, we are going to be journeying through the story of Exodus. Exodus means “the way out”… and in the first testament it’s the story of Moses leading the dramatic and daring escape (greek: the road out) from the tyranny of Egyptian rule to a place of freedom.
Today we hear one of the top 10 stories of the Bible…the burning bush and Moses… the one who “turned his head aside” and in a split second…his life was turned upside-down. He would never be the same again…
Perhaps you’ve heard of that children’s story “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” – Alexander has a horrible day and longs to move to Australia.
Today we encounter Moses and his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad life.
Sure Moses lucked out by being found by Pharoah’s daughter as a baby in a floating basket but as he grew older, his luck seemed to run out. In his younger adult years he murdered an Egyptian and fled for his life to the land of Midian (300 miles east)…there he married and began a family, but his life was always on the edge…always looking over his shoulder wondering if his murderous past would catch up to him…
On this day, he’s tending his father-in-laws flock of sheep. Minding his own business. Lost in thought and staring across the valley from the top of a mountain nicknamed
The sun is blazing, but in the periphery of his sight line, Moses sees an usual flash and spark.
What? A fire, here on God’s mountain?…I’m doomed!
But then…he catches himself and mumbles softly…
“I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up!”
The blazing bush is not consumed…it blazes and blazes…and the sound that comes forth is not crackles and pops…but the voice of the LORD!
Moses borrows a page from Father Abraham’s playbook…
“Here I am!”
The bush cries out:
“Come no closer! Remove your sandals, this is Holy ground.
I AM…the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
Moses hits the deck…he grovels on the ground…afraid to look at God.
Then the Lord says:
“I have heard Israel’s groaning, I have heard their cries…I remember my covenant…
I have observed the misery of my people… I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians…
Moses! I will send YOU to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”
BUT Moses says to God,
“WHO AM I? Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
The LORD says,
“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 pushes back a 2nd time,
“If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors sent me’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?
The LORD says,
“Say…. I AM WHO I AM…
and furthermore… “I AM has sent me to you”
PLUS…you shall say,
“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,
This is my title for all generations.”
Moses. The murderer. The fugitive. The dog gone rascal. The coward? Mr. “Yeah, but?”
Taking his marching orders from God like a cat taking cod liver oil.
The pushback doesn’t stop here!
God keeps on asking…and calling…and declaring…
And Moses keeps on squirming, debating, balking.
Ex. 4:2 “But suppose they do not believe me or listen to me?”
4:10 “My Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past or even now…I am slow of speech and slow of tongue!”
4:13 “Oh my Lord…please send someone else!”
God eventually gets mad at Moses…but even then, in the end, God provides Moses grace.
And a call.
Plus a calling card with YHWH’s name printed bright and bold. “I will be what I will be.”
God even provides companionship…Moses brother Aaron is pressed into service and suddenly, Moses and Aaron are the dynamic duo of God’s rescue plan for salvation.
So where does this intersect with our lives today…on this back to church, new season of the journey, “what are we going to do with our lives”… Sunday in September?
We tell, and re-tell and re-visit these stories of our faith because they remind us anew of our call and vocation as the people of God on this planet.
This is the stuff that we were made and destined for!
And in the lazy, sun-filled, festival-faring days of summer we perhaps gets lulled into thinking that it’s all about me…. And all about that next purchase, that next promotion, that next pop, that next cheeseburger with extra onion, pickles and a spoonful of homemade potato salad on the side.
Not that it’s all bad! But if it’s the end game versus following Jesus for the good of the world…these stories remind (re-awaken?) us of/to our call…our gospel work in the world.
How will we continue to listen to our first testament stories this Fall… stories of promise and blessing…but stories that beckon us to live as people of blessing…that we might join God in God’s good, life-giving, justice-loving, freedom-seeking work in the world.
And we might come up with several excuses of why we can’t do it…
First off, alongside Moses, we won’t be able to imagine that God could / would actually use us. We are probably not murderers on the run….but we have figured out lots of other ways to discount ourselves from the love and call of God.
And then if we do tilt/turn our heads…and choose to pay attention to God showing up in the burning bush, or in the voice of a friend or stranger in need…or during a Sunday worship service…we’ll come up with some good excuses… “What would I say?” “Who me?” “What if they don’t take me seriously?” “Actually, I’ve never been good with speaking in public.”
But God…our Lord, will assure us.
First God will love us. God’s Love endures forever!
Then, God will remember us.
AND….God will recall his promises to us and for us.
But then he’ll act!
God will burn with passion…and enlighten our paths and blaze a way forward for us.
And God will remind us that we are not alone.
God says to us: “I will be what I will be.”
I will be IS with you.
I am who I am.
The one who abides with us, send us…into places of peace, risk, fortune and failure.
That’s good news for Christians finding their way into another season of September.
One of our September Season prayers, we’ve heard in the Psalm of Moses (Ps. 90) –
Have compassion on your servants!
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us,
and as many years as we have seen evil.
16 Let your work be manifest to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and prosper for us the work of our hands—
O prosper the work of our hands!
–“I must turn aside and look…”
–“Here I am…”
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” (Merton, Catholic theologian, monk, mystic, 1915-1968)