God calls Moses

Last week we I wrote about the story of Jacob wrestling with God and being reunited with his brother Esau. Jacob had twelve sons and you might remember their story from Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat. In this part of the Biblical story we hear how Jacob’s son Joseph was the favorite. His brothers were jealous so the beat him up and sold him into slavery in Egypt. Joseph is able to interpret the pharaoh’s dream and lead the people of Egypt through a famine. Joseph becomes very powerful in Egypt and his family come to Egypt looking for food. The family is reunited and relocates to Egypt. Joseph’s family flourishes and multiplies. Several centuries pass and the story about Joseph and his family is lost to the Egyptian kings. That living memory disappears and no-one remembers how the Israelites came to be in Egypt.

And this is where our story picks up today. The Egyptian pharaoh recognized the numbers of Hebrew people living in the land and felt threatened so devised a plan to kill all the baby boys. Some midwives resisted the pharaoh’s edict and refused to kill the babies. Moses’ mother put him in a basket and hid it in the river to keep him safe. Moses is found by an Egyptian princess who adopts him and Moses is raised as a member of the royal family. As a young adult Moses knows that something isn’t right with the way the Hebrew people are being treated and in his anger at the injustice Moses kills one of the overseers. He flees for his life into the wilderness. He marries a Hebrew woman and creates a life with her family as a shepherd of his father-in-law’s flocks.

Imagine the experience for Moses. Imagine him seeing a bush burning but not burning up and hearing voices out of the bush. And this is not just any voice but God’s voice. This is the voice of a God that Moses had thought abandoned his people to slavery. This is the voice of a God that Moses had perhaps thought was complete fiction. And here is this non-existent God declaring to be the God of Moses’ long forgotten ancestors. You can imagine Moses’ skepticism.

And this God that might not exist tells Moses that the people have been suffering. This God has actually been paying attention and simply waiting for the right leader to come along and lead the people to freedom. And that leader is Moses.

God is telling Moses to do something crazy like go to Pharaoh—who has already put a price on Moses’ head. And Moses’ response to this crazy request is “who will listen to me anyway?” God is insistent that Moses is the one. Moses needs more clarification. He needs to know exactly who is making this request and so he asks “Who are you?” The response comes back. “I am who I am.” It isn’t exactly a clear response. It doesn’t really answer the question.

Who is this God that called to Moses? Who is this God that calls to each of us? This God will not be defined. This is a God of our ancestors in faith. This is a God who has been active throughout history. We might look around and wonder, like Moses, where God has disappeared to when see violence and tragedy in the world. We might wonder whether God is dead.

Like Moses we need moments of mystery that capture our attention. Moses couldn’t explain what he experienced but it was enough for him to know that the God of his ancestors was very much alive and real and had been paying attention. And not only that—this God that he had only just met was sending him off on a mission. It wasn’t an easy mission. There was no invitation to try some in easy first just to get some experience. Nope. God started with a big task that would last Moses a lifetime.

If we read a bit further in the story we hear how Moses continued to resist the call that God was giving him. Moses only ends up embarking on this outrageous journey because God is giving him some signs to perform that will give his story of God sending him some credibility and because his brother-in-law gets to come along as the spokesperson.

I love this story because it has some parallels with how I ended up in ministry. When I was a teenager we had a minister who was very justice oriented. She wanted the world to be a better place than it often is. She connected the justice that she wanted to see in the world with her faith and with God’s desire for love and compassion and healing in the world. This perspective influenced my own view of the world. Like Moses I am often angry at the injustice I seen the world. As a younger person I felt helpless to change anything or influence the world in any significant way. I just went on about life.

When I was in my late twenties, several things happened about the same time. I got a phone call from a friend who was chairing the Youth and Young Adult committee for Alberta and Northwest Conference. She suggested that I take over as chair and proceeded to list all the reasons why I would be good at it. I wasn’t sure she was talking about me. I certainly didn’t see those qualities in myself. I turned her down. A few weeks later I got a call from another friend. The gist was that she also had been approached to chair and had turned our mutual friend down. This mutual friend was persistent and suggested that we co-chair. Neither of us thought we had the skills for this work. As we talked we realized that what I couldn’t do was within her skill set and what she couldn’t do fell within my skill set and comfort zone. We still resisted taking on this work but after prayerful consideration realized that, perhaps, God was speaking through our friend and that we needed to respond. We chaired together for three years. During this time I discovered skills and passion for ministry. I continue to return again and again to that earlier call that requires me to work for justice in the world. That earlier call from my teen years is very much tied to he ministry that I do among you. Sometimes the work is hard and exhausting. Sometimes it does indeed feel like God has gone away and I question why I do what I do. And then I have a moment where something surprises me—like Moses seeing the burning bush—and I remember the God that simply exists in mystery. The “I am.” That God didn’t send Moses off all alone on the rescue mission. God sent Moses with all the tools and people he needed in order for the rescue mission to succeed.

As I talk with people in the congregation I serve, I get a sense that others experience a similar call to love and serve others, to seek justice and resist evil. I am witnessing this call being lived out on a daily basis as people bring food and warm clothing, as they visit people who are lonely or in hospital and food is shared. This is too much for one or two people to do alone. I am reminded daily that I don’t do this work alone. I am witness daily the covenant that was created when we began this ministry together. It is not my call alone but our call to serve the world together.

Each fall we take a few weeks to focus on stewardship. We do this—not because there is a financial crisis—but to remind ourselves who we are called to be and to reflect on how all of our gifts might best be used to serve God in the world. During this time you are invited to reflect on the type of faith community you want to be and what resources are needed to live into the call God has for us. These resources include our time and energy, our gifts and skills and passion, our physical and financial resources. We are often much more comfortable in talking about our time, our gifts and skills and less comfortable in talking about our financial support for the church.

As a way of breaking this silence, over the next five weeks we are inviting five different households talk about how and why they give to St. Andrew’s. There are many different perspectives and many different comfort levels in talking about finances. These stories are in no way intended to shame or embarrass anyone but will hopefully help to create a spiritual framework that allows us to reflect more deeply on how and why we support this congregation. Each household is invited to talk about and reflect on the choices we make in our gifts to the church.