Exodus 2:23-3:15, Common English Bible
Moses was taking care of the flock for his father-in-law Jethro, Midian’s priest. He led his flock out to the edge of the desert, and he came to God’s mountain called Horeb. The LORD’s messenger appeared to him in a flame of fire in the middle of a bush. Moses saw that the bush was in flames, but it didn’t burn up. Then Moses said to himself, Let me check out this amazing sight and find out why the bush isn’t burning up.
When the LORD saw that he was coming to look, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!”
Moses said, “I’m here.”
Then the LORD said, “Don’t come any closer! Take off your sandals, because you are standing on holy ground.” He continued, “I am the God of your father, Abraham’s God, Isaac’s God, and Jacob’s God.” Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God.
Then the LORD said, “I’ve clearly seen my people oppressed in Egypt. I’ve heard their cry of injustice because of their slave masters. I know about their pain. I’ve come down to rescue them from the Egyptians in order to take them out of that land and bring them to a good and broad land, a land that’s full of milk and honey, a place where the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites all live. Now the Israelites’ cries of injustice have reached me. I’ve seen just how much the Egyptians have oppressed them. So get going. I’m sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”
But Moses said to God, “Who am I to go to Pharaoh and to bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
God said, “I’ll be with you. And this will show you that I’m the one who sent you. After you bring the people out of Egypt, you will come back here and worship God on this mountain.”
God said to Moses, “I Am Who I Am. So say to the Israelites, ‘I Am has sent me to you.’” God continued, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors, Abraham’s God, Isaac’s God, and Jacob’s God, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever; this is how all generations will remember me.
How wonderful that we should dive into the Exodus narrative these last two weeks of Lent. That great event of freedom and deliverance ... and worship.
That word 'exodus' is used in the New Testament. Did you know that? In only 3 places and only once in a way not directly connected to the story we've just begun to read about.
It shows up in Luke 9:31 - in Luke's version of the same Transfiguration scene we read yesterday in Mark. The heavenly visitors are said to have, "appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure (GK=exhodus) which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem..." The coming events in Jerusalem will tell this central story in an entirely new way - Jesus himself will be the 'exodus' for us all.
Here, in today's reading, we are introduced to the whole concept of 'departure,' at its very beginning. We are told that God has listened to the cries of his people for help, for deliverance, for freedom.
And God has a plan to bring them exactly that.
And to do it, God enlists the help of an aging shepherd wandering with his sheep in the back of beyond.
Sometimes I think God is really, really strange. He chooses the most unlikely people, the most unexpected means of problem-solving. And so, in typical God-fashion, MOSES is selected. You remember Moses, right?
Moses - the Hebrew baby in the bulrushes.
Moses - the adopted grandson of the Pharoah.
Moses - the man who doesn't know where he belongs - Egyptian or Hebrew? Hebrew or Egyptian?
Moses - the one who flees for his life after 'choosing sides' with an act of violence and murder.
Moses - the 40 year wanderer, lost in the shadows, content to stay there forever.
Yup, that's the one. Captured by a bush that burns without being consumed, warned about holy ground, given a task that must have seemed next to impossible.
Are you kidding me? Just waltz up to Pharoah, who wanted to HANG me the last time I lived nearby, and say to him - Hey there, Pharoah, mind if I borrow my people for a while? No way, Jose!
This is, of course, a loose translation.
But the conversation that follows is fascinating on multiple levels. First of all, this is a little tete-a-tete between an old man in the desert, looking after sheep - and Almighty God, Creator of the universe and everything in it. That in and of itself is surprising.
Then there's the giving of the Name at the end of this chunk. The Name - that fluid, non-defining definition - reminding us that God will not be put into a box of our making but will always and only reveal Godself in bite-sized pieces.
But what's really most interesting to me today comes just before that revelatory piece, in this part of the conversation:
God says, "Get going!"
Moses says, "Who, ME?"
And then God makes this declaration: "I will go with you. And here's how you'll know it's me. Once you're out - you'll all come right back to this here mountain - the one where you and I are conversing - and you all will worship me."
Talk about a circular argument. Literally.
But here's what I take from it - let me know what else you find as you reflect on this powerful and unusual interchange:
God is to be known first and foremost in worship.
God remembers that we need rescuing.
God will use anyone and everyone to make that rescue possible.
If we choose to step onto holy ground, perhaps we should be ready for...
just about anything.
Most especially, ready...
for a challenge,
for an unexpected journey,
for an invitation to whole-life worship,
for our own opportunity for exodus.
You-Who-Are-What-You-Are, I have to admit that this whole story scares me. I want to be willing to take off my shoes and face into the mysteries of life, like burning bushes that are not consumed, like calls to move on out, like invitations to find rescue and deliverance. But I get so used to the way things are. I resist risk, I fear change. Help me to answer when you ask, to take you at your word, to trust that you go with me, wherever you may ask me to go. Embolden me, Lord God. Make me hungry for the fire that does not consume!