Text: Exodus 3: 1-15
I realized, as this story of Moses and the Burning Bush came around again, that I’ve grown accustomed to hearing it as an isolated incident, where Moses one day is going about his business and out of the blue there’s this encounter with the Holy. And out of that, the rest is history … as though that event was the beginning.
But this time round, likely because the earlier part of Moses’ story is still fresh in mind, I’m seeing that not only is the scene with the burning bush not the beginning at all… but that there’s a whole other dimension to this story that reveals the wonder and mystery of God’s way with us.
If you were part of our gathering last Sunday you may recall we lingered awhile with the story of Moses’ birth in Egypt at the time of Pharaoh’s policy of infanticide. And how through the actions of very particular people, the life of this vulnerable little baby was protected. More than simply protected, he was provided for in remarkable ways. In fact, it’s a staggering story of grace upon grace. We left off last week at the point where Moses was brought to Pharaoh’s daughter, the one who found him as a baby in the river, and who financed his early years, unbeknown to her, in the care of his own mother, and then claimed him as her own son when he came to live with her in
a house of privilege. That’s where we left the story last Sunday.
Between then and where we meet Moses in today’s part of the story, a lot has happened. You remember the ruthless treatment, the forced labour of the Hebrew people? That continued. We never explicitly hear what it was like for Moses living in the palace … though we can imagine the complexities. What we are told is that one day Moses ventured out from the palace among the labourers, and spotted an Egyptian brutally thrashing one of Moses’ kinsmen. He murders him, Moses does, and buries him, thinking no one noticed. But then the very next day, it’s his own people who cause him to fear. He was only trying to break up a fight between two of them, when he hears what they think of him ... “Who made you ruler and judge over us? You going to kill me like you killed that Egyptian?”
He’s no longer safe there … not with his own people and not with the Egyptians. Afraid for his life, he runs.
Moses ends up in Midian … leaving everything behind-- his privilege, his people, his history. Midian -- that place of no connections, a fresh start. It’s never fully a fresh start, though is it?
We might see with new eyes, learn new ways … but along with us comes our essential self … who we are, what we’ve been about.
We see a glimpse of that in Moses one day at a well when he comes to the defence of a group of women who are being mistreated. There’s something in him that responds to bullying, that won’t ignore abuse. As the story unfolds, he ends up marrying one of these women. It’s her father’s sheep Moses is tending that day when he’s out in the wilderness alone. Or, as we discover, not alone.
Like maybe he’s never really been alone.
The thing that has struck me this time about this story is the way God’s grace circles back around for Moses. The grace that was so part of his life at the beginning, catches up with him again, finds him in this lonely out of the way place, where Moses is intent on building a new future for himself. For all that he imagined himself striking out on his own, Grace has followed him. And where before, that Grace made a way for him, delivered him, this time Grace seeks him out for a larger purpose than his own life. This time Grace meets him with a summons: “come, I will send you to Pharaoh, to bring my people out of Egypt.” There in that place where Moses fled, to make a life for himself, Grace tracks him down, drawing him into this holy work of redeeming and restoring lives.
Moses who knows first hand the miracle of being delivered is called into the task of delivering others.
Moses who knows the inner workings of the palace, is called to deal face to face with Pharaoh.
Moses who has a heart for suffering people is called to help relieve the suffering of others.
It doesn’t seem random at all, does it, that Moses with his experience and passion, is the one called to this work. Like there’s this intimate knowing of us in such a way that we are not called away from who we are but more deeply into who we are.
Notice too that the fact that Moses committed murder along way,
it doesn’t disqualify him … it doesn’t cut him off from God’s grace. Nor does it bar him from being an agent of God’s grace.
I wonder what you know of this endlessly eager reaching out of God to you in your own life … where you sense you are being led, even summoned to be about something because of who you are … out of God’s intimate knowing of you … maybe even a knowing of you that’s deeper than you know yourself.
I wonder what stories can be told from right here among us this morning, of the unexpected ways Grace has circled round for us and called us to be agents of God’s love, in ways or at a time that we
might never have designed for ourselves?
I wonder who among us would dare to speak of, to bear witness to how grace is at work in your life? …… it needn’t be an earth-shattering story …and it needn’t be told with eloquence … in fact these are often the stories for which it’s hard to find the words to express. So I want to encourage you not to let that stop you.
How is Grace at work in your life?