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The Burning Bushes Through Which God Calls to Us

Filed under: Pastor Jeff's Sermons — Pastor Jeff at 8:26 pm on Monday, September 4, 2017

A sermon preached on September 3rd, 2017 based upon Exodus 3:1-15.

In middle age, Moses as he goes about his routine preoccupations of his daily life, shepherding his father-in-law’s sheep, encounters in a burning bush the living God whose name is “I am who I am” or “I will be who I will be” conveys the truth that this God will not be our private possession.  Rather this God lays a claim and call upon the life of Moses, and if we too pay attention to the burning bushes that appear in our lives, will lay a claim and call upon our lives as well.

The one characteristic that is revealed about this mysterious God is compassion, that indeed this God hears the cries of the suffering of those he has given life to, and calls us to act in compassion to relieve that suffering.

Indeed, this God continues to appear to us in burning bushes of a multitude of forms if we are paying attention.

There was a burning bush that appeared this week in the midst of the suffering caused by Hurricane Harvey.  It is striking that a horrifying act of nature, as it brings forth so much destruction and suffering, at the same time calls forth the very best of people.   We have glimpsed the very image and likeness of God in all the stories of neighbors helping neighbors in Houston, acting courageously and selflessly to share what they have – and the stirring of hearts throughout the land asking, “How can I help?”

One such story — pretty small really.  Having heard that there was a single person left homeless at her local gas station in need of help, she went there and ended up bringing eleven people she had never met before as well as six dogs and a cat back to her home to live with her for a time.

Hurricane homeI am struck by the fact that it was only two weeks ago that the news with which we were consumed coming out of Charlottesville was that of division and racial hatred.  Now with the burning bush that has been the suffering wrought by Hurricane Harvey, all those divisions and bigotry seems so small, so petty.  In Houston we saw the distinctions between Black and White, between rich and poor, between Democrats and Republicans largely disappear as people had their lives stripped down to the bare essentials.  We realize that we really are all in this boat together.

Hurricane boat

Burning bushes though come in a host of other forms as well.  One such burning bush is the tragic story of Mallory Grossman, the 12 years old from just up the road in Rockaway who took her own life at the end school year last June following a year of bullying from classmates both at school and online.

Mallorgy Grossman

In the past ten years the rate of suicides in children ages 10 to 14 has nearly tripled.  In the burning bush that was Mallory’s suffering and death we are all called as a new school year begins this week to treat one another with tenderness and kindness, with a new awareness that the worst wounds are often the ones on the inside – the wounds we don’t see.

Last week in our Gospel lesson, Peter answered Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” with the answer, “You are the messiah, the son of the Living God” – not Caesar, but Jesus of Nazareth.  In the continuance of that story Jesus proceeds to tell his disciples that as the Lord’s anointed one he must go to Jerusalem to enter fully into the suffering of this world, to the point of death on a cross, confronting the cruelty of this world.  In response Peter tells him it need not be so, to which Jesus cries out. “Get behind me, Satan!”
Jesus, hanging on the cross, dying for every single one of us, is the ultimate burning bush, calling us from the preoccupations of our daily lives that we may embody the compassion that is at the heart of God.
In a few minutes we will share again the sacrament that reminds us of the death Jesus died for us.  The bread that is his broken body, and the cup that is his blood shed for us, we God calls to us once again.
If you are like me, if you are like Peter, if you are like Moses, your first response to the call and claim that Jesus would place upon our lives is to turn away — to say it is beyond us to do the great work of compassion to which God is calling us.  But as the call comes to us, we are given the same assurance that was given to Moses, and that is that God will be with us.  We are not alone.  Don’t be afraid.

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