Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Monday, May 7, 2012

God is bigger

The story of Moses and God meeting at the burning bush is, to me, amazing.  It is amazing mostly because of the way God was present for Moses.  And for the way in which Moses couldn’t see past his own nose.  And in the end seemed to think what God was asking of him was all about him.

Think about this… Moses has been wandering around the Sinai herding sheep for a long time.   Anyone want to guess how long?  Jewish tradition says 40 years.  Biblically it was long enough that the original Pharoh who”knew not Joseph” has died.  So Moses is wandering around and suddenly, the burning bush.  Or rather, a bush out of which fire came (it was not consumed)

What happens here is that God broke into Moses’ mundane existence with something more, something amazing.  Something that announced the presence of the divine in an unmistakable way…

And this amazingly, for the moment obvious God, calls Moses by name, and gives him a job.  The job of bringing the Hebrews out of Egypt and leading them to “a land flowing with milk and honey.”

And Moses says!  “Yes, right on God!  Here I am!”  Right?
Wrong.  Instead Moses says “Who am I that I should go”

And God says, (being a rather patient God), “Look Moses, I will be with you.  I am here!  I am present.  You see my reality and my power.  And I will be with you.” 
And Moses says, “OK God, I get it now, let’s go!”  Right?
Wrong.  Instead he says… But God,
they will challenge me,
they will question me,
they will won’t know who it is who has sent me.

Moses, instead of just going with God, keeps asking for more.
Next Moses asks God for a name. 
Names are power. “Hey you” is not as powerful as…. Scott!  Jan!  Dan!  Etc.
If God doesn’t have a name… how can Moses call on God?

So Moses wants a name.
Bottom line, Moses wants a handle on God

That's what's going on here. Moses is trying to wile the name out of this divine being because to know God’s name is to have a certain power over it. Which is what makes God's answer so perfect: "I AM WHO I AM!"   Not exactly what Moses was expecting.  And as middle eastern God names go, not very exotic… Ishtar is a lot more fun!

But the fact is, God gives Moses a name, a name that is still powerful, even if more a description than a name. 

So we have the bush, and we have the name.
And we have the call…..
So now, finally, Moses is ready to go, right?
No!  Moses keeps hesitating

So God, with amazing patience keeps giving him more to go on… it is an amazing story.
In verse 16 God reminds Moses that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  God reminds Moses that he not just any God, but the God who has worked in the lives of this people over and over and over again.  This is a known God.  This God has worked in history.  This God has led, and rescued the people.  This God has proven trust worthy.  Still not enough for Moses

So God does some magic.  God turns Moses staff into a serpent, not enough.
God turns Moses hand into a leprous one, and then makes it well again, not enough.

Still Moses challenges the call.  Excuse after excuse.  They won’t believe me.
I’m not a good speaker.

Eventually even God gets mad.  And eventually God has to go with a compromise, and add in Aaron, Moses’ brother as a spokesperson.

Of course we know how the story ends.  Moses does go.  God is with him.  And God’s work gets done…

But what happened here?
What happened is that Moses kept looking at himself.
He looked at himself, and measured what could be done by the measure of what he perceived to be his own skills, gifts, strengths.
Suppose they won’t listen to me
I’m not good at speaking
Send someone else!

Here he was…. In front of the burning bush, talking to God, and seeing miracles!
And he was totally stuck. 

I said a while back that the power of these stories lies in part in the fact that they are also our stories.
And this story is no exception
We do this, don’t we….?  We can put ourselves in this story.

God has work in mind for us.  God calls us to be a part of his healing ministry in this world
God calls us to be part of bringing the kingdom into reality, NOW

And what do we do? 
Well I know what I do.  All too often I look at myself, and I think…. Not much I can do.
Any of you feel that way?

How many of us, when being tugged by God into doing something
Use ourselves as the measure of what can happen?

But the message of this story is that we are not the measure of what can happen.
Think about Moses.  God had been using Moses’ history to prepare him
Time as a prince, then time as a Bedouin.  God had been giving Moses the tools

And then God gave him more.  That staff, that as the Exodus unfolded would part seas and bring forth water.  God gave Moses yet another tool, his brother Aaron.  But the biggest thing was God’s presence.
That powerful presence that we see in the plagues, and in the pillar of fire that leads the people of Israel through the desert.  Moses was not the measure of what could happen, because Moses was not alone, God was there, and active!!!

And in the end God was able to work through Moses, in spite of his limitations, AND, importantly,  in spite of his reluctance.  God’s pretty amazing.

And the reality is that God wasn’t asking Moses to do much of anything
Just asking Moses to point to the God who was there….Just asking Moses to let the power of the Almighty flow through him.

When God calls us to ministry… it is not really about us.   It is about the God who is with us.

So when I look at this story, I try to put myself in Moses’ sandals
I try to stand on that holy ground
And hear God call to me
God’s plan for me…..

As I stand there I might well be a little intimidated at the idea that my work,
Here in the church, and with the people I counsel, might be holy work
I might wonder, I often do wonder if I am enough

But when I wonder, God simply reminds me, through this story
That it is not all about me.  And when God calls you, it is not all about you.

My job, your job, all our jobs, is simply to point to the God who is there
Simply to be people through whom the power of God flows
That is not so hard is it?

But we don’t think this way.  For example, I hear people talk about taking God, or Jesus to, like China.  Or “to’ people who don’t have him.  When I hear that my thought is this… carrying God can be exhausting - God is really heavy…

Do you see the implication in that language, that I am going to take God someplace..??
If we think it is about us in that way, we have it all wrong
We are simply asked to be in the world
And in that world to
Let God be in us
And we are to point to that God
And let God be manifested through us…

Rob Bell tells of story of being in Rwanda…
He was with a woman named Pauline, who works among people affected with HIV
She was on a visit to a friend who only had hours to live, and agreed to let Rob go along.

“Eventually” Rob writes, “we ended up in a dirt floored one room shack about 6X6 feet.  A woman was lying under so many blankets that all we could see was her mouth and eyes.  Her name was Jaqueline.  Pauline had become her friend and had been visiting her consistently.  As I knelt down beside her on the floor I watched Pauline standing in the corner, weeping.  Her friend was going to die soon.  What overwhelmed me wasn’t the death or despair or poverty.  What overwhelmed me was the compassion.  In this dark place Pauline’s love and compassion were simply………..bigger.  The God in her was simply, bigger.

When we take God into the dark places
God is simply bigger
When we take God into the world
God, and God’s love is simply bigger than whatever forces we face
Whatever task we face.

That is the point of the story
Moses was not big enough, but God was

We are not big enough, but God is

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