Burning Bushes

Sermon Aug 30

Burning bushes

Matthew 16:21-28

Exodus 3:1-12

The trouble with being a Christian is that we have no excuse to sit back waiting for someone else to do everything. Just when we think, oh, I’m too old, or too scared, we see great examples from scripture of how ordinary people are called into the wonderful but let’s face it not easy life of being a disciple.

First, let’s look at Moses. The story of the Burning Bush is a Sunday school classic, and it certainly makes a great image. What do we know about Moses? First, he was not a perfect person. He left Egypt in a hurry after killing someone! This is quite extreme, but God used him anyway. Second, he was not a young man. When he left Egypt he was already 40, and spent another forty years working with his father-in-law and keeping his head down. This makes him 80! That’s great for us, because quite a few of us are around that age. That’s two potential difficulties shot down.

What else do we know about Moses? He was observant and curious. His noticing of things is why he killed the Egyptian in the first place. He saw an injustice and blundered in to try and right it. Now, out in the wilderness where he had been looking for the sheep for years, he saw something new! Imagine if you are one of the farmers on Country Calendar, and you are mustering your sheep from a block which you know like the back of your hand, and which you could probably ride blindfold, when suddenly you notice smoke! Fire – wonder how that started? You would think, and go closer to see if it needs putting out. But this bush is doing something weird – it’s not being burnt up! Time for a puzzled, closer look.

Well, God really knew how to get Moses’ attention.

Have you had burning bush moments in your life? Times when something so odd happened that it really caught your attention? When you had to stop everything, put aside all your pre-conceived ideas and just open yourself to wonder?

Perhaps in our busy lives we have not had time to stop and notice. That’s one of the, albeit few, blessings of the time of lockdown- it gave us a chance to stop what we were doing and just open ourselves up to what God was doing around us.

Maybe this is another blessing of getting older too, of retiring from the hustle and bustle of going out to work, the days of getting children fed and off to school are long in the past, and you have time to contemplate.

Now, let’s see what happened next with Moses and the bush.

Suddenly a voice came out of it, as if it wasn’t odd enough already! God talks to Moses! Moses hid his face. I bet he did, he was probably shaking in his bare feet.

God tells Moses what he has to do, and what I love about the dialogues that we hear between Moses and God is that they talk together, back and forth, like friends, not like a mighty God booming from the sky, and a quivering wreck stammering back in fear. Some fire and brimstone preachers of the past, and of our local street corner, would paint a picture of God that is scary and unapproachable, but right from the early books of the Bible, we see a God we can talk to, who will answer our questions. Don’t be afraid to talk to God about anything at all!

God has a task for Moses, but Moses wants to know how he will be able to manage it. I’ll be with you, God says. Then again we have the phrase, ‘but Moses said to God.’

I think this phrase comes quite a few times!

Ok then says Moses, but he again needs clarification. Who shall I say is calling? Or, what shall I tell them your name is?

The name that God gives Moses is I AM, in English. It’s based on the verb ‘to be’ in Hebrew. It’s really a sort of way of God saying, I am existence, I am the beginning of everything, – just as it is spelled out in the beginning of John’s Gospel.

God is telling Moses that the sheer power of existence will go with him into Egypt to liberate the people!

Moses had no further objections – how could he, knowing that God would go with him?

When God calls us forward to do something, we too can walk out in confidence, knowing that God who made the universe and beyond is with us.

Come forward a few centuries, and let’s see what happens when Jesus tells the

disciples what’s in store for their future too.

Instead of coming with a mighty army to defeat the rulers, Jesus tells the disciples that he will go to Jerusalem to suffer, and even to die! Peter doesn’t seem to hear the next bit, to be raised again, and he objects greatly to the picture Jesus paints! Jesus rebukes him strongly, Get thee behind me Satan! ouch!

Remember, Jesus has recently told Peter that he is the rock on which God will build the church. The rock is looking a bit crumbly now!

Jesus talks of a world tuned upside down – deny yourselves, follow me.

We live in a society where the wealthy own more and more of the resources, and there seems to be a drive to get richer, to get more stuff, get more well-known.

Jesus is showing us that his way is different, it is upside down from that. To follow Christ we are all called to put aside those worldly ambitions, and humble ourselves.

I look around here and I see a group of people who do just that. I want to encourage you that you are following Christ when you care for others, when you help the foodbank, when you have a kind word for someone you meet.

You may not be able to march in the streets for social justice, or to lead groups of people out of slavery, but you can still further the kingdom of God in everything you do, knowing that the power of God, of the very foundation of our being is with you. That is why prayer never has a use by date, or a best before, or a retirement age. Keep on being the warriors in prayer that you are, and you find your life.

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