Proper 17 Year A, September 3, 2017, Moses and the Burning Bush

Reverend Deacon Katherine G. Dougherty
Sermon Text: 

Proper 17 – Sept 3, 2017

Exodus 3:1-15

Moses and the Burning Bush

“I come to you in the name of one holy and living God.”

          Throughout my discernment process and my years in seminary, people asked me how I knew that God was calling me to this type of ministry.  Some were sure that I had known for a long time or that realizing God was calling me into ordained ministry would have been a very exciting experience.  I’d love to tell you that both of those are true and in some ways they were, but in all honesty, I initially came on this journey kicking and screaming. 

         Don’t get me wrong…my faith and relationship with God have always been very important to me.  I was that kid who hit the church door at a full out sprint.  I was so excited to see everyone, to go to Sunday School and hear some incredible story, to sing out loud and hear our voices echo off the stone walls, and to watch the beauty of our worship service.  Throughout my life I felt drawn to faith communities and to the service of others.  I loved the beauty of our worship and looked forward to sharing God’s love with others. When my rector came to me in 2001 and said he felt God was calling me to ordained ministry, it rocked my world.  Who was I to be called to this type of ministry?  Who was I to preach the message of God?  I was happy to help however the church needed me, but I was sure God wouldn’t call me in this way.  I had a list in my head of all the reasons I wouldn’t make a very good priest, and I was pretty sure they were true. 

         My journey from that moment to this has been both humbling and life changing.  It has taken my willingness to let go of control, to stand in front of people and be vulnerable, to trust that God is here in our midst and has equipped me with whatever skills or help I need, and the acceptance of God’s unconditional love into my heart so that I could walk with others and help them to grow closer to God.   Though I was unsure in the beginning, I am so thankful that God called me to this work and to this journey.

          In our reading today, we find Moses struggling with God’s call for him.  Up to this point, Moses had lived a rather unusual life.  He was born to a Hebrew woman who gave him up and set him afloat in a basket for his own protection.  He was found by the Pharaoh’s daughter and raised as her own.  As he grew up, he became increasingly disturbed by the Egyptian’s treatment of the Hebrews.  One day when he witnessed an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, Moses intervened and killed the Egyptian.  This was not a pre-mediated or politically motivated response.  As far as we know, Moses was not protesting the Pharaoh or the social issues of the time. And shortly after this event, Moses apparently fled and found a new tribe, became part of a new family.

         This is where we pick him up, as he’s caring for his family’s flock.  And on that mountaintop as he stood upon holy ground, Moses felt something stir within him. Even though he was probably trying to live a life of blending in, he deviated from that path to go where God seemed to be calling him.  As we hear in our reading, Moses was reluctant, to say the least, and feared that he was inadequate for this call, completely unprepared, and doubtful that anyone would listen to him.  Why would God call him?

          Brene Brown is a modern day researcher and storyteller.  Some of you may know her name.  She has written many books, led TED talks on a variety of topics, has been interviewed numerous times, and describes her faith as, “the organizing principle of her life.”  If you haven’t heard of her – Google her sometime and watch an interview or a TED talk.  She’s a great speaker, very funny, and very wise. 

         A while ago, I saw a brief interview with her as she was asked about a study she did on people who lived, “whole-heartedly”.  She defined whole-hearted as,

         “…living…our lives from a place of worthiness. It means

         cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up

         in the morning and think, “No matter what gets done and how

         much is left undone, I am enough.” It’s going to bed at night

         thinking, “Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes

         afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am worthy

         of love and belonging.”[1]

         In the interview, she spoke of a common belief that all the whole-hearted people in her study held.  It was this belief that we are deeply connected to each other by something beyond ourselves.  This belief wasn’t dependent upon a religion or a particular culture, but on something much bigger.  And it was this belief that allowed them to fully lean into the unknown. They were able to lean into that which we cannot see and… know…that they would come out on the other side of it okay. 

         Personally for Brene Brown – that is who she calls God.  She emphasized that leaning into what you cannot see is not easy!    As a researcher, she also acknowledged the difficulty some may have with that idea.  In her study she found though, that by living in that tension between what is measurable and what is not measurable…..between what is knowing and what is mystery is what’s beautiful about life.

         Moses probably considered himself an ordinary man.  On that day that God came to him, he was simply tending his father-in-law’s flock, a common day task in that time.  He was probably not expecting his life to take a dramatic turn.  In the exchange between God and Moses, we hear Moses saying, “Who am I to go and do this work?  And why should any of them listen to me?”  His questions were valid and heart-felt.  God was asking him to lean into the unknown…to trust in this call to action.

         Leaning into what we cannot see is hard, and Moses knew that.  I’m guessing at times, we’ve all known that feeling of the unknown.  We’ve all experienced that moment of uncertainty and hoped who we were or the skills we brought were enough, but when we rely on God, we are always enough.

Let me say that again…when we walk with God…when we do this work with God…when we rely on God…we are always enough!

         It can be scary to lean into that place of unknowing.  I don’t know about you, but most of the time, I’d really like a map to know where I’m going.  But what I’ve found, as I’ve traveled this road with God so far…is that maps and plans are great, but I feel closest to God…and…am most changed by God’s incredible grace…when I pray for God’s help and trust that God is there.

         God calls all of us.  No, we probably won’t have a burning bush speak to us, but God still needs us.  God still deeply desires to be in relationship with each one of us.  God loves for us to reach back and accept God’s love...and to share that love with the world.  

         I can’t imagine what was going through Moses’ mind as he heard this call from God, but I do know that God equipped Moses with everything he needed to answer the call and never left his side.  We too…are each being called by God and have wonderful gifts to share with the world! 

         May we each, like Moses, find the courage to lean into the unknown and trust that God is right there beside us, equipping us for the journey.

[1] Brené Brown, Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, xix.


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