2017-10-22 – Amanda Strain – First Baptist Church Edmonton
2017-10-15 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
Moses’ Divine Intervention
Tap, tap, tap…Aaron has waited patiently for his brother…
Eight to ten days…that was ok…18-20…barely ok…
28-30…the rabble rousers are getting restless…
And at day 39 something broke inside of him…
Ah!…and here they are…like clockwork…for the past 7 mornings…7 am…
Outside of the tent, the same refrain:
“Aaron! You up yet? Aaron!
Come on out! Answer us!
Make a god for us, Aaron.
One who shall go before us!
‘This Moses’…murderer turned kingpin…always getting the invite to the top of the mountain…on retreat… we do not know what has become of him!”
Aaron finally gives in…
“Give me your gold, you stole it from the Egyptians anyways…it’s not yours…take off the gold rings and jewellery…from your wives, your sons and daughters.”
Aaron rallies some of his finest craftsmen friends and they make a golden calf…and present it to the people at evening worship.
The Israelites respond with great enthusiasm:
“This is our God! Who brought us up out of the land of Egypt!”
Aaron beams with pride (it ain’t all bad being #1 leader instead of the younger brother side-kick) …maybe this isn’t going to be so hard after all!
“Yes, and tomorrow there will be a special festival day to…the LORD, bring your finest offerings and sacrifices of well-being…we will eat, drink and be merry!”
[scene swipe to the top of Mount Sinai…it’s dark and the wind is howling]
Moses wakes up from a deep slumber…
“Yes, Here I am…”
“Go down to YOUR people! They act perversely…they’re quick to turn aside from my commands…they’ve made for themselves an image of a calf, worshipping and sacrificing before it saying ‘This is the god who brought us up out of the land of Egypt…
Oooooh, stiff-necked, rebellious people…leave me now, so that my wrath might burn against them and consume them…I’ll start again, & when you return – – you will be the NEW Abraham, and of you I will make a great nation.”
But Moses implores the Lord his God:
“No LORD! NO! Why does your wrath burn hot against YOUR people, who YOU brought up out of the land of Egypt? (What will the neighbours say?) Turn from your fierce wrath!
CHANGE YOUR MIND!
Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants,
how you swore to them by your own self…
You promised! You promised Abraham, you promised Isaac, you promised Israel…
By your own name you promised!”
And the LORD changed his mind…the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.
You just gotta love a LORD who changes his mind, right?
–stories like these mess with us don’t they? Perhaps they mess with the theological boundaries we have for God…perhaps they mess with some of the worship hymns/choruses that are forever planted in our hearts/minds …
(ie. Faithful one, so UNCHANGING…ageless one, you’re my rock of peace)
(Immortal invisible… “we blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree, and wither and perish but NAUGHT changeth thee”)
We do love a Lord who changeth his mind sometime, right?
Well, if not…I want to proclaim to you good news!
God changes his mind!
And let me offer a few comments on why this is good news…
First some theological thoughts:
Peter Enns (OT Scholar & author) makes the comment that a “mind-changing God” is a God who hears our prayers…we are to be encouraged that when we plead and pray to God we know he is listening, that what we say matters. This is an essential component of being in relationship with God.
The OT scholar Walter Brueggemann, proposes that God’s “mind-changing” character is an opportunity for us, like Moses, to be divine interventionists!
“Moses’ effective intervention is an exercise of human agency that makes a decisive difference in worldy affairs.”
Philip Yancey: “This is indeed a mystery…but truth be told, we want some of both:
a dependable God we can count on & yet an attentive God whom we can affect.”
“Israel’s future rests in God, yet God honours human prayer as a genuine contribution to the shape of the future. Most remarkably, God forgives this people and renews the covenant. Such divine responses are grounded in the nature of Israel’s God:
gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” (Brueggemann)
And let me also offer some Biblical thoughts…
–Exodus 32 is not the only place for our “mind-changing” God to show up…
think of the Jonah story…God getting all ramped up and ready to smite Ninevah…but God saw their deeds…and relented!
–Or in the prophetic book of Hosea, God reflects on his relationship with Israel and cries out: “How can I give you up Israel? How can I hand you over? …. My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender….I will not execute my fierce anger.”
–Or how about Jesus!? When the son of God meets the canannite woman, he’s a wee bit obstinate in the beginning of their conversation when he says that his good news proclamation is only for the “lost sheep of the house of Israel”… but she begs him for mercy…and he changes his mind! He says to her: “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” (Matt. 15)
And so…how shall we live this week as the New People of God…in 2017…as part of this local “people of God” movement who have been granted love and latitude by our “mind-changing Lord”?
First off, we might say: “Phew!” and “Thank you Jesus!”
For “while we were still sinners, God proves his love for us…and Christ dies for us….so we boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now recived reconciliation” (Romans 5).
As a people who have been recipents of God’s “mind changing ways”…we are called to to be like our God…to enter into the world of risk and rebellion as “daring human agents who act differently and so transform the world.”
And this call to the “God-bearing life” demands that we let go of the idols that cry out to us.
We say “no” to the idols of independence, health, family, wealth, power, control, ease, entertainment, consumerism…any of those things that give us the false assurance that our lives will be perpetually happy…that our life-bubbles will be anxiety free…
We (especially those of us who gather in places like this week after week) even say “no” to the idol of religion…this belief that if we participate in religious practice enough it will lead us to a place of safety and security.
And we say “yes” to the God who continues to change his mind about us, no matter how far we’ve run after our idolatrous ways,
our God is gracious to us, lavishing upon us love, mercy, kindness and compassion…
so that we might share God’s mind and loving ways…
We let go of our idols; we create space to say “yes” to God…
Barbara Brown Taylor notes that when we let go of the idols that we KNOW will sustain us,
we make space to receive the “as-yet-unknown things that God has in store for us.”
And so we are invited to come out, to let go, to open up…not to forsake the things we love and want for our lives, but to forsake them as idols…
Holding them lightly, without clinging, and to be willing to give them up when it becomes clear that they are taking up too much room.
And then, we are invited to prepare the way for something new and unknown in our lives, brought to us in person by the living God.
So…what will it be for us in these days?
What might new life mean for you?
What idol has to go first?
What is taking up too much space?
NOTE: This is not a “try harder” wagging finger shame-based challenge.
This is, as it always is with God, an invitation of companionship…to be in relationship with our living God…a relationship where together, we look and listen…
For God’s voice, God’s mercy, God’s providence, God’s way forward/way out…
Right here in the midst of us…
(We pray with the Psalmist)
Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all day long.
Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for your goodness’ sake, O Lord…remember me.
2017-10-08 – Dawn Stiles-Oldring – First Baptist Church Edmonton
2017-10-01 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
“Quarreling with The Lord”
“ERRRRggggh! They’re driving me crazy!
Threatening to kill me with stones? Huh?
You’re already killing me with your gripes and groans.
The rocks you hurl at me are nothing compared to your hardened hearts.
Arrrgh! Of course I brought you out here to kill you…
LORD! Are you hearing this?
What shall I do with this people?
The Staff? Yes, I’ve still got it. It’s got some blood stains on in from that Nile River “incident” but no worse for wear.
Meet you at Horeb? Deity Mountain again? Yes, burning bush avenue…I know it well.
Strike a what? Oh, a rock!?!
YOU WILL BE WHAT YOU WILL BE….yes, I hear you.
And water will come out of the rock…so that this people may drink.
And so Moses did strike that rock at Horeb.
And the water did flow.
Moses called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the LORD, saying,
“Is the LORD among us or not?”
And for 40 years in all their wilderness wanderings, Israel would continue to ask that question in various forms and with various problems and pitfalls…& every once in awhile in the story, as the Israelites would tell it 400 years later while in Babylon captivity,
God would get smokin’ mad!
In fact, when we read of another version of this story in the book of Numbers, chapter 16, 20, God gets so mad that the ground opens up near Horeb and swallows up 300 Israelites. And then God gets so mad at Moses for how hard he strikes the rock that he breaks his heart with the news that, in actuality, Moses will die before he sees this people make it to the promised land! Holy heartbreak! This is a crazy story!
But it’s a real story isn’t it?
And that’s what we should love(?) about and find comfort in as we tell and re-tell these stories of the origins of our faith…and the people of God…who pass the baton to us 3000 years later.
And the story we tell today, ends with one of the biggie questions of the whole First testament…and one that echoes through the 2nd testament…and lingers on with the new, post-Jesus-people of God centuries later…
“Is the LORD among us or not?
We pick on the Israelites don’t we? Sometimes we’ve told these stories as an opportunity to jab at Israel. A bunch of complainers and whiners.
But…really…how long could you and I last without water in the deserts east of Egypt?
8 hours? 10 hours?
And what would we be like as we looked to our leaders for help?
Would we quietly pray for them (Oh, I’m sure they’re doing their best…).
Or would some of us be rallying the masses, preparing to undermine or overtake them?
So let’s bring this a little closer to our time…and our lives.
What are the circumstances that have us anxious…or anguished…or angry?
Who are our “if only” people? If only ______ would get plucked out of power, my city,
my world, my life, my job, my family….would be a better place.
And in our own ways we live out the question…
“Is the Lord among us or not?”
And the lessons that we’ve learned and gleaned over the past weeks in Exodus is that
yes, the LORD is among us.
At the red sea, God provides an amazing way out when there seemed to be no way.
In the early wilderness journey, the LORD provides quails in the evening and manna in the morning…and this providence (2 quarts of Manna/day) would go on for 14,600 days.
And today, Moses strikes a rock…and water gushes forth.
“Is the LORD among us or not?”
These stories remind us of God’s faithfulness, fidelity and generosity.
These stories are other worldly…but they are the stories that are meant to shape our imaginations…our identity…and our destinies.
When these stories were cobbled together and collected by the Israelites 400 years later in the midst of Babylon captivity and suffering, these stories would give them life, hope and
And so we are called to live into the world of these stories today…
In the midst of our own struggles, suffering, oppressions, and overwhelming circumstances…
And we, too, might test the LORD.
“Are you among us or not?”
But we know the answer. And sometimes asking the testing question just helps us to get it out there…lament wasn’t bad for Israel…and it ain’t bad for us either…
And after the testing and quarreling…we humbly attempt to live out the answers that have been told to us in these ancient stories…
And since we’ve been carrying the Psalms hand-in-hand with the Exodus story these past weeks, let’s look at one more psalm for the road…Psalm 81.
Psalm 81 is sometimes titled “God’s Appeal to Stubborn Israel.”
Psalm 81 recalls the Exodus…and the mess of Exodus…but in the end, keeps on peddling the faithfulness and fidelity of God.
How will we know the LORD is among us or not?
We’ll keep on telling the story…and we’ll keep on praying the prayer book of Israel…
[I invite you to look at 2 versions of Psalm 81 included in your bulletin]
I hear a voice I had not known:
“I relieved your shoulder of the burden;
your hands were freed from the basket.
In distress you called, and I rescued you;
I answered you in the secret place of thunder;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah
Hear, O my people, while I admonish you;
O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
There shall be no strange god among you;
you shall not bow down to a foreign god.
I am the Lord your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.
Who among you will listen to the voice
of the Beloved?
How many will open their heart?
All you too stubborn to hear,
who follow your own counsel,
will know fear and loneliness.
“Oh that my people would listen,
that, as friends, you would
walk in my ways!
Your fears would soon flee and
your hearts would overflow.
You, who turn your backs on Love,
will know only momentary pleasure,
your reward will soon be spent.
I would satisfy your hunger,
and, with streams of Living Water,
you would live in the joy
of heaven on earth!”
Is the LORD among us… or not?
We gather in this place…we look ahead to our time at the Lord’s table…
We look to each other as sojourners/companions on the “way” of faith…
And we say…“Yes! God is here. Jesus, the bread of life is here!
Jesus, the one who pours out his life for us and the healing of the world is here!
Jesus, standing before us through miracle and mystery, saying:
“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.”
“…Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty.”
And so together, we can proclaim…
“Yes! The LORD is among us!”
Thanks be to God…
Who is forever passing all the tests we lay before him,
who is forever patient with all the ways we complain and quarrel.
2017-09-24 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
“See the Glory of the Frost”
Some sources say it takes 30 days to break a habit…and Israel seems to be right on the mark…30 days into their desert wanderings and they’ve totally got over the providence of YHWH. “Being saved at the Red Sea is so ‘30-days ago’…surely the LORD is due to release another mind-jarring miracle amongst us, hmm?”
Moses and Aaron are doing their best to keep the crowds on course… “C’mon y’all…just another 40-km-day of getting sand-blasted and baked in the gruelling desert sun… it’s gonna be great!”
Moses: “Right…I know we’ve run out of bread…and meat…but it…it get’s better…really, it gets better…right, Lord?”
And so begins the great grumble of 1250 BCE…
“Aaron, Moses…yes, we’re talking to you…
If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in Egypt!
There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted…
But YOU….YOU two…have brought us out into this wilderness to starve us all to death!”
Oh the joy and privilege of leadership!
The story doesn’t tell us what Moses said to the grumblers…it seems he ran to the LORD for an answer…and the LORD of Israel did not rain down lightning bolts of judgment…the LORD promises a rain of…bread!?!
Moses and Aaron say to the Israelites:
“This evening you shall know it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall SEE THE GLORY of the LORD,
because he has heard your COMPLAINING against the LORD.”
Moses can’t help but add…
“What are we? What are we? That you complain against us?
Your complaining is not against us…but against the LORD!”
….That evening quail came and covered the camp,
and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.
When the dew lifted there on the surface of the wilderness
Was a fine flaky substance,
As fine as frost on the ground.
When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?”
Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.”
* * * * * * *
And so the lesson of today’s story is that with great grumbling comes great generosity from the hands & heart of God.
In YHWH’s economy of grace, Israel’s groans and grumbles unleash God’s generous bounty of “frost-carbs!”
For 14,600 days (40 years in the wilderness), every woman, man & child would have free access to 2 quarts of manna per day…and 4 quarts on Saturday to ensure a Sabbath rest!
…with great grumbling comes great generosity!?!
Yes…it’s too good to be true.
Because God is so good and so true.
God promised to Moses during the burning bush encounter…God told an 80 year old man to set the captives free…saying “I will be WHAT I will be”…. “I AM is with you.”
And maybe it was in these early days of faith and obedience that Moses formed the prayer of Psalm 90…
Lord, you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.
2 Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
3 You turn us back to dust,
and say, “Turn back, you mortals.”
4 For a thousand years in your sight
are like yesterday when it is past,
or like a watch in the night.
5 You sweep them away; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning;
6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.
…Have compassion on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love… (vv.13-14).
* * * * *
And it seems that God was really good at mornings…
40 years of manna in the wilderness.
40 years of providence…practical, physical care.
40 years of “giving us this day, our daily bread.”
We tell and re-tell these stories of the Exodus because they remind (inform) us of our identity and our destiny.
They tell us who we are…and whose we are.
And we don’t tell these stories of God’s everlasting love and faithfulness because we think we were good enough, or religious enough, or obedient enough…to earn God’s favour.
Good news preachers and sojourners tell these stories to remind us that God is God!
And God, in the end (and it seems even in the middle), God gets what God wants.
And God wants the whole world!
God wants to save, redeem and deliver.
Even when we find ourselves dead set against him…cursing God’s name and cursing God’s messengers and leaders…God says: “I AM the LORD your God.”
>> So…how shall we live as the redeemed of the LORD this week?
I found this prayer, that I hope will help shape our hearts and imaginations…
PATIENT GOD…while you got your people out of Egypt, it was a little tougher to get Egypt out of your people, who were willing to trade their freedom for a square meal.
But if I scratch beneath my own surface, I find a tendency to gripe and whine against your goodness. Liberate me from my very small self and bring me into the spacious freedom of your will. Amen.
“We Have Come to Join in Worship” (v.2)
See them gather all around you,
Those he bought at such a cost;
See the weary, see the hurting,
See the lonely, see the lost.
Be his hand, and touch the needy;
Be his gospel, let it sound!
Be his body, and sweet manna
Will be showered all around.
POINTS TO PONDER:
–Reflect on the journey inward…eat the bread of Christ, Christ is in us! He feeds us!
–Listen for how God might be preparing the way for the journey outward
–“Liberate me…Lord, liberate us!”
–Pray…for creative + risk-taking ministry of the church in the community
— Be God’s hands…good news….body…and sweet manna will be showered all around
God of glory and grace,
Fill us again with your presence,
Sustain us, assure us,
You are, “I AM”…
Speak to us of our identity and destiny because of your promise to be with us and for us…
You are the bread of life,
Feed us, nurture us and continue to provide for us.
Give us this day, our daily bread,
2017-09-17 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
RESCUE AT THE SEA…SEE THE DELIVERANCE!
There’s so much to this story…and of course we don’t have time to cover it all, but today, I’m suggesting we NOT take the role of Moses, but instead, let’s come alongside the “gnatter-ers”… the inner circle of 15 or 20 who really trusted Moses (vice-versa) and had that “inner-circlelingering-talks-in-the tent” relationship with him…
what was Red Sea Rescue day like for them?
Moses inner circle posse are feeling parched, exhausted and grimy just like the other 50,000 (?) refugees travelling the dusty terrain to the edge of the sea.
Messengers had sent word that Pharoah’s army was in hot pursuit…but today they saw the sight that would break their hearts and their spirits.
The dust and clamour of 600 chariots, armed with the finest of weapons…
ready to kill and collect their Israelite runaways.
In great fear the fugitives cry up to the Lord and ahead to Moses…
“Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?”
One of the inner circle co-horts is close enough to Moses to grab him by the collar and mutter in his ear:
“What have you done to us…bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the very thing we told you?
“We told you to leave us alone…to serve the Egyptians! It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness!”
Moses replies with equal intensity:
“Don’t be afraid! Stand firm!
SEE THE DELIVERANCE that the Lord will accomplish for you today!
The Egyptians you see today? You shall never see again!
The Lord will fight for you!
And you….you only have to SHUT…UP!” [this is not your reader’s digest, warm thoughts on how to win friends with winsomeness stuff].
Moses’ anger continues to burn with his comrades…
With the hurricane winds howling behind their backs they move.
The angel of God is also on the move…pulling up the rear alongside the pillar of cloud…
They come to the edge of the waters and Moses stretches his hand out over the sea…
The LORD drives the sea back for hours on end in the midst of chaos and darkness, the seabed is dry enough for the people of God to scurry forward to freedom…it’s an amazing sight…10 story high walls of water to their right and to their left…
At dawn as Israel is reaching the other side, the LORD in the pillar of fire and the cloud throws the Egyptian army into panic…chariot wheels are clogged, some wheels are so belaboured with gunk/debris that they fall off the axle…
“RETREAT!!!” cries one of the squadron leaders.
His hardened heart has a revelation… “the LORD is fighting for Israel… FLEE! RETREAT, retreat, retreat!”
Moses again hears the voice of the LORD…he raises his hand and the waves come crashing down upon the Egyptian army.
The waters cover the chariots and the chariot drivers…not one of them remain.
THUS THE LORD…saved Israel that day…
AND ISRAEL SAW the Egyptians dead on the seashore.
ISRAEL SAW the great work that the LORD did against the Egyptians.
AND ISRAEL BELIEVED…in the LORD and his servant Moses.
* * * * * * *
There are some Bible commentators who call this the most significant story of the whole first testament!
And I can see that…you can even feel it!
Israel’s defining story…the story of their exodus (great escape) from the tyranny of Egyptian rule. Sure, troubles would lay ahead with new foes and new foibles, but Israel would never, ever find themselves under the thumb of Egyptian rule again.
And yet, in the midst of this story we’re left with this grisly image…
“Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.”
With great deliverance, comes great cost. There’s so many victims in this story…so much violence and loss…the cost of human life…and tragic casualties in the midst of the maniacal power of a delusion-filled oppressor…Pharoah.
In the end, this is not a story of good guys VS bad guys.
This is a story of God the protagonist of the story defeating the powers of evil and tyranny.
How then…shall we live?
As those who place ourselves alongside Moses in the inner circle posse… where do we go from here?
“Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.”
As grisly as this image is, Moses companions saw, in plain view, the end of their slavery. The end of their oppression. The end of their tyranny.
And don’t you imagine they wept…tears of relief…but tears that also released the pain and fear and anxiety that had plagued them and their people for 400 years.
Mercy. Grace. Freedom.
And now…3500 years later, what does this mean for us?
The new people of God…in 2017?
Re-telling this story is NOT an “abc’s, how to manual” for how to be moral citizens and superheroes…
Re-telling this story is a way of planting seeds of hope…and a way of reminding ourselves of our identity and destiny and the people of God.
“Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come, ‘tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home…”
Re-telling this story is an opportunity for us to recognize that we, too, have a role in God’s work in the world.
Let’s frame our refection with a Question:
“If God is the protagonist of the story…and if ultimately God will win… how might we discern and then join in the ongoing story of God’s deliverance and new creation for our neighbour, our community, our world?”
We continue to live in a time/era where God is making all things new (Rev. 21:5).
The enemies of God are being subdued upon the sea shore and we are being summoned to continue to be a people who champion life, justice and freedom…
So today…we come alongside the exhausted, sweaty-faced comrades of Moses…
And our hearts are encouraged…for we know and believe that the Lord of the exodus is providing a way for us today…
Last week, we were encouraged to carry Psalm 90 with us (Psalm of Moses)…
This week, let’s add Psalm 66 to mix!
A Psalm of praise and thanksgiving…and song where we remind ourselves not to be enemies of God…not to be doubters, complainers and rebels, but instead to pronounce and proclaim the profound performance of the protagonist God of ours…
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.
4 All the earth worships you;
they sing praises to you,
sing praises to your name.”Selah
5 Come and see what God has done:
he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.
6 He turned the sea into dry land;
they passed through the river on foot.
There we rejoiced in him,
7 who rules by his might forever,
whose eyes keep watch on the nations—
let the rebellious not exalt themselves.Selah
8 Bless our God, O peoples,
let the sound of his praise be heard,
9 who has kept us among the living,
and has not let our feet slip.
Blessed be God,
because he has not rejected my prayer
or removed his steadfast love from me.
God…continue to lead the way for us…coming alongside us and empowering us with your courage and wisdom…
May we join your ongoing story of deliverance…
And might we close our mouths…and open up our hearts
To see the new ways of life and freedom that you are providing.
God of mercy…lead on!
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)
2017-09-03 – Rev. Jeremy Keay – First Baptist Church Edmonton
2017-08-27 – Dr. Randal Rauser – First Baptist Church Edmonton