Just Five Little Words

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Hebrew Scriptures         Exodus 3:1-15

One: 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 the Lord 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,

Men:        “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.”

One:        When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush,

Women:  “Moses, Moses!”

One:         And Moses said,

Men:        “Here I am.”

One:         Then God said,

Women:  “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground. I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”  And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. 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.”

One:         But Moses said to God,

Men:        “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

One:         God said,

Women:  “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.”

One:        But Moses said to God,

Men:        “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 his name?’ what shall I       say to them?”

One:         God said to Moses,

Women:  “I AM WHO I AM. Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘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, and this my title for all generations.”

 

Sermon                  Just Five Little Words

What if Moses said “no”?

He could have.

I’ve often wondered about that . . .

because if I was in Moses’ shoes . . . or sandals . . .

I would have told the great Yahweh . . .

God Almighty . . . “No”?

I’m not going back to Egypt. Find someone else!’

But then I wonder . . . what would it take for me

to answer God with a “yes”?

What would it take for me to say . . . “Send me Lord.”

Think about it for a minute.

I don’t think Moses really knew who he was . . .

or who he belonged to.

His mother was a poor Hebrew slave . . .

he was plucked out of the water in a basket

and raised by royal Egyptians . . .

he killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave .

. . so he became an escaped felon

with an active warrant out on him for murder . . .

he was an undocumented immigrant to Midian

where he married a local woman whose father

was quite prosperous . . .

and he became a simple shepherd

and began to raise his family.

Honestly . . . I think he was satisfied to do that

until the day he died.

But one day . . . while tending his flock . . .

God fires up a bush and tells Moses to go back

to Egypt and bring out all the Hebrew people

and take them to a place already filled up

with all kinds of other people

who probably won’t be too happy

that he’s moving into their neighborhood.

 

Now the truth is . . . Moses really didn’t want to do

what God was asking him to do.

As a matter of fact, in the next chapter of Exodus . . .

Moses makes up all kinds of excuses

why God has chosen the wrong guy for this job.

I’ve always believed that Moses wanted to say “no”.

But somehow God pulled out all the stops

and eventually talked him into it.

Now honestly . . . I would have come up

with a hundred more excuses than Moses did

as I slowly backed away from God

and started running back to the wife and kids.

As a matter of fact . . . I would have told God . . .

“Why don’t you just go and do it yourself . . .

why do you need me?

You go and get the Hebrew people . . . after all . . .

you’re God.”

 

Did you ever wonder about that?

Why the heck does God even need us?

Why can’t God just swoop in like Superman

and take care of all the problems in this world.

God could blow all that water out of Texas

with one big breath.

God could grab every missile and bomb in the world

and throw them all into deep space

and tell us to get along with each other and behave.

God could cure all the deadly diseases and viruses

that plague humankind so we could live

long and healthy lives.

God could end the droughts that destroy crops

and create famines worldwide.

God could even get rid of mosquitoes.

I mean . . . why does God need us to do anything

when our Creator has all the power in the universe

to fix what’s wrong?

 

But then . . . I suppose if that was the case . . .

and God just took care of everything . . .

fixed every problem we encountered

from personal relationship issues to nuclear war . .

.to all those diseases . . .

why would God even need us in the first place?

What would be the point of creation?

What would be the point of our lives?

The truth is . . . it’s always going to remain

a great mystery . . . trying to justify

an all-loving God with an all-powerful God . . .

trying to answer that question we’ve often wrestled with.

. . if God is all-powerful and all-loving . . .

why do bad things even happen to good people?

 

Yet somewhere . . . in the deep dark recesses

of that mystery . . .  is one truth I firmly cling to.

For whatever reason . . .

in this great wide cosmos of creation . . .

God needs you and God needs me . . .

to join with our creator in bringing healing

and wholeness back into a very broken world. Somehow . . . for whatever reason . . .

God has chosen not to do it by God’s self.

From the very the dawn of creation . . .

our Creator knew that we . . . humankind . . .

would have to participate with God . . .

in redeeming creation.

I guess you can say . . . since we broke it . . .

we could at least help to fix it.

So maybe there . . . on the edge

of the Midian wilderness . . . a fella named Moses . .

. came to understand that.

And he told God “yes”.

 

Now if God had just told Moses to go and do

this great thing . . . this monumental project . . .

all by himself by sharing with him

the secret plans on how to do it . . .

and telling him exactly what to say . . .

and even giving him the GPS coordinates

for the next 40 years of wandering in the wilderness

. . . I don’t think Moses would have agreed.

No . . . only one thing helped Moses to accept

the challenge God put before him . . .

just one thing . . . actually five little words . . .

the most important five little words we can ever hear . . .

“I will be with you”.

“I will be with you”.

Moses knew he couldn’t do this on his own.

He needed God to be with him.

And so it is with us.

Because the next time you’re standing

in front of burning bush . . .

wondering if you’re willing to follow

where God is calling you to go . . .

I want you to remember the same thing . . .

God will be with you.

You can’t do it alone . . . but you can do it with God.

 

Now let’s be honest . . . I doubt you’re ever going

to find yourself in a desert pasture

tending a flock like Moses.

But I can guarantee you that there’s a burning bush

out there waiting on you.

I don’t know how God will do it

and I don’t know what God will say to you . . .

but I do know God’s gonna call you.

You can take that to the bank.

Because God still hears the cries of the people . . .

your brothers and sisters . . . your neighbors . .

. throughout this city . . . this state . . .

this country . . . this world . . . calling out.

And God has not forgotten them . . .

just like God did not forgot the Hebrews slaves in Egypt.

God’s going to set a bush on fire one day

right smack dab in front of you . . .

and God’s going to call you to care for

the homeless in our community . . .

or to sit with a lonely elderly woman close to death . . .

or to fix a pan of lasagna for struggling families

at Hagar’s House . . .

to pick up a hammer and a nail and build someone

their first home . . . to mentor a young student . . .

to serve as an elder committed to following Christ

in this church and the world . . .

to pray diligently for peace in a very broken world . . .

to visit the homebound and the hospitalized . . .

to welcome strangers in our midst . . .

particularly by journeying with refugees

or undocumented immigrants . . .

or even to invite a friend to experience

the compassion and love of this church family

and to know the love of Jesus Christ . . .

or maybe . . . just maybe . . . you’re going to be called

to do a Moses thing . . .

and it will scare you to death . . .

you won’t feel qualified . . . you’ll feel like running away .

. . but God’s not going to let go of you

once God has chosen you . . .

but all you’ll have to do is to remember . . .

remember those five little words . . .

“I will be with you.”

 

You see, I believe God sets bushes blazing

seven days a week . . .

in all those ordinary places of our lives . . .

when we least expect it . . . by calling us . . .

to open our eyes and ears to the needs

of a desperate world.

And though God may not be calling you

to travel to Egypt and take on a pharaoh . . .

God still needs each one of us to do our part

in healing a broken world . . .

in building the Kingdom of God . . .

so that one day . . . earth and heaven will touch . . .

as we pray . . . on earth . . . as it is in heaven.

 

And who knows . . . maybe you’ll be like

that young seminarian a few years ago

who was wondering what God wanted him to do . . . he wrote these words . . .

“Let me meet you on the mountain, Lord, Just once.

You wouldn’t have to burn a whole bush.

Just a few smoking branches

and I would surely be …your Moses.” (Norman Shirk)

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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