Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pentecost 11A

Don’t you wish it were that easy? Wouldn’t it be nice to have such clarity? Wouldn’t you want to have such a moment of certainty that you knew - for sure - what God wanted for you and your life?

Hearing directly from God is something I think we all yearn for. We long for certainty in a world of doubt. We try to hear God’s clear voice in our noisy and chaotic lives. And so we might look at this burning bush episode with envy.

For those of you who don’t know the story, or haven’t seen the movie or the cartoon, there is Moses, having just murdered some poor soul in Egypt, escaping to Goshen, finding a wife, having kids, and getting into the farming business with his father-in-law Jethro.

And that’s when Moses sees this burning bush, but does not become consumed by the flames. So he has to check this out because his eyes seem to be lying to him.

And that’s when Moses meets his God. And tells Moses that the cries of the oppressed Hebrew slaves in Egypt. And so God is sending Moses back to Egypt to rescue the thousands, if not millions, of slaves under pharaoh’s rule.

That’s quite the task. And Moses wonders if he’s up to the job.

Why did God choose Moses for this adventure?

Was it because Moses grew up in the imperial household, and knew all the power players?

Was it because Moses assembled a killer resume while in Egypt, building huge cities for his pharaoh, and God saw in him a natural leader who could speak with conviction and strength?

Was it because Moses knew that his one-time brother intimately, the one who now occupied the throne, and so Moses could exploit Rameses weaknesses to achieve freedom for their people?

That would make strategic sense given that pharaoh’s army was the strongest in the world, and his reach could summon a force greater than the mind could grasp. If God’s people were to be freed from this tyrant, they needed a leader equal to the task. And Moses looked like that leader.

At least on paper. His record of accomplishments was impressive. He had a first class education. He knew the Egyptian mind, and could speak the language. He was immersed in Egyptian culture and knew their stories. He looked like the obvious choice.

But if you read between the lines on his resume, you’d see a different Moses. A Moses who was conflicted. He was a man caught between two worlds. The Egyptian world he was adopted into. And the Hebrew world he born into, and later embraced.

He was caught between wanting to follow God’s will into Egypt to rescue his people, and living the comfortable life he had built with his wife and family in Goshen.

He was caught between want to do the work that God put in front of him, and knowing that he was wanted for murder back in Egypt, and would probably be tried and executed upon stepping on Egyptian soil.

For Moses, his path was anything but clear.

So maybe that burning bush episode is anything but something to envy. That encounter probably sent a shiver of fear down Moses’ vertebrae. His life as he knew it was over. He couldn’t pretend he didn’t hear from God on that mountain. And he couldn’t erase from his mind the fact that God asked him for the impossible.

I’ve always had trouble with the way they show this story in the movie. Charlton Heston’s Moses seems so earnest, so sure of his path, so spiritually elevated, that he doesn’t experience the conflict of his impossible situation. His character is so far removed from most of what we see and hear and feel about God, that I find it hard to relate to him.

That’s why I think the movies have it wrong. The movies make it look like Moses was chosen because he is such a strong leader and faithful servant of God who, may ask the occasional question, but nonetheless knows clearly that he’ll do whatever God asks him to do.

That’s why the movie gets it wrong. I think God chose Moses, not for his strength, but for his weakness. God wasn’t interested in Moses’ resume, God didn’t care about his knowledge of palace politics, God ignored Moses’ culture, education, and breeding.

God chose Moses because Moses was a stuttering, fearful, murderer. The only power that God would equip Moses with was God’s power. God stripped Moses of everything Moses had, and asked Moses to walk into enemy territory unarmed, but with one simple, four word message, “Let my people go.”

It takes a while, and a lot of pain and suffering on both sides, but pharaoh finally gives in. God’s people are free. Not because of Moses’ brilliant tactics, but because of the simple power of God’s message. “Let my people go.”

Of course we could say that Moses also had visible signs and wonders, and even the power over life and death, at his disposal. But we remember that Moses was only a vessel, or a mouthpiece. Moses could claim no credit for what God achieved. Only God could claim credit for this liberation.

So maybe that’s the good news after all. Since we’re not in charge of results, we can live in the freedom of knowing that our failures don’t meaning anything in God’s scheme. In fact, God uses your failures to create miracles. God uses your weaknesses to bring strength. You uses your hard fought battles to win God’s war.

It is in your falling that you rise.

And Doug and Lorraine, you continue in Moses’ footsteps. You will walk into the imperial halls of suffering and grief, armed with nothing but the word and promises of God. You will enter the fortress of despair and depression as mouthpieces of God’s liberating healing. You will confront the empire of pain and death with words of God’s freedom.

Doug and Lorraine, it’s your scars, not your strengths, that qualify you for this ministry. It’s your wounds, not your wins, that allow you to walk into peoples’ hurting lives.

Just like Moses, who could have traded on his inside knowledge of palace politics, who could have devised a plan of action based on his experience in pharaoh's house, realized that such a plan wasn’t God’s way of bringing healing.

Instead, Moses found out that God can use the stuttering tongue of a murderer to achieve freedom for God’s people. God stripped Moses of all his worldly power, and placed in his mouth words of liberation.

And that’s the same for all if you. It’s not the battles that you won that give you wisdom, but the battles that you’ve lost, and take a part of you down with it.

It’s not your achievements that qualify you for ministry in God’s church, but the wounds and scars that your wear so openly.

It’s not the easy successes or simple wins that put you on the front lines of God’s healing work, but the failures and the fights that authorize you to speak God’s words of freedom to those who are trapped in their own personal bondage.

Your most powerful work rises out of your pain. God looks down into the deepest, darkest, parts of your lives, the parts you’d rather keep hidden, the parts of your that you’re ashamed of, the parts of you that keep you from growing fully into who God wants you to be, and says, “Yes. This is something I cam work with. This is someone who knows what life is like. This is someone who came back from the battle and lived to tell about it.”

If God can use a murdering stutterer to speak an entire nation into freedom, God can and will use YOU.

It may not be the burning bush you see, but God calls you to be a healing presence in the world. And God only uses those scarred and bruised by life, to bring life and salvation to the world.

May this be so among us. Amen.


Blogger Stephen Baird said...

God bless you in your efforts for Christ. All of the photos on my blog are free for your use for ministry, praise and worship of our King!
Nikonsniper Steve

1:38 PM  

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