“I Will Be With You”

Meditation on Exodus 3:1-15

The Presbyterian Church, 142 N. 4th St., Coshocton, OH

Pastor Karen Crawford

Aug. 30, 2020

Moses and the Burning Bush

    


I Will Be With You

     The sky was growing dark and thunderstorms were threatening on Friday afternoon when I visited Windsorwood Place, an assisted living community here in Coshocton. Because of the coronavirus, this was the first time I had been to Windsorwood since last February, perhaps, when I led worship with Communion with about 25 residents and some of our members.

      On Friday, I was happy to finally be able to see two of our parishioners at this senior living community who have been physically separated from their church and families for months. I had to arrange the visit ahead of time with Windsorwood staff. And I wasn’t able to go inside the building, as not even family members are allowed to enter the building. But Jan and Velma could come out on the porch to visit with me. Before I was allowed to sit with them, I had to answer health questions, have my temperature taken, and sign in on a clipboard.

      Then we settled on the porch together, wearing our masks and staying 6 feet apart—I in a rocker, Velma on a bench, and Jan on a folding chair.

     The trucks rumbled by and the sky grew dark and the wind began to blow. But we continued to talk and laugh for about 45 minutes—catching up where we had left off before the pandemic had separated us. We talked about our families—children and grandchildren and siblings.

     They thanked me for sending them newsletters and copies of my messages each week. They especially enjoy reading the stories that members share in our Member Spotlight feature, stories that include times of suffering, sadness, and challenges along their journeys of faith.

      Then, Velma shared a memory with us going back to WWII—when her brother, Cletus, was killed serving our country. And though it was long ago, the memory brought fresh tears—in Velma’s eyes, Jan’s and mine.

     I could sense the healing presence of the Lord our God, breaking into what started as an ordinary day, an ordinary visit, an ordinary conversation. Or was it?

    That moment of grief was intimate and sacred. Though we sat on outdoor furniture, wearing masks, and social distancing, in that moment, we were standing on holy ground.

    As I walked back to my car, raindrops splashed down and I felt renewed joy in my call to ministry. I didn’t hear an audible voice. But I knew God was calling my name.

     “Here I am,” I said.

     “I will be with you,” answered the Lord.

***

     I don’t know if Moses felt joy that day, when he was standing on holy ground in Exodus chapter 3. He certainly wasn’t anxious to say yes to God’s call on his life. But then, neither are we when we first hear God’s voice. None of us feel ready. None of us feel like we are good enough.

     He had come with his father-in-law Jethro’s flock to Mount Horeb, the mountain of God, but he wasn’t looking for God. God was looking for him. And this is how he interrupted Moses’ ordinary life, ordinary day. He sends a sign—a bush that burns, but is not consumed by flame. Then an angel of the Lord calls out from the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And Moses, answers the voice, “Here I am.”

       He may not have known that he was in the presence of the Lord if the angel had not said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ And, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’”

    Moses hid his face, after that, for he was afraid to look at God.

    Acts chapter 7 tells us that 40 years had passed since Moses fled from Egypt when he was 40 years old. He comes as a refugee to Midian, named for one of the sons of Abraham with his wife, Keturah, after Sarah died. While we don’t know exactly where Midian was, it may have been on the northwest Arabian Peninsula, on the east shore of the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea. This would have been a journey for Moses of more than 100 miles. This is a strange twist in the story, for it was Midianites who sold Moses’ ancestor Joseph into slavery in Egypt to Potiphar, captain of the Pharaoh’s guard.

Moses flees from Egypt to Midian

     As Moses watches the fire in the bush and hears God’s voice, I wonder if he is remembering the faith in which he was raised and his miraculous survival as a Hebrew baby. His mother had placed him in a basket in the reeds of the Nile, disobeying the command that all Hebrew infant boys must be killed. Pharaoh’s own daughter discovers the Hebrew baby and adopts him as her own. But when he is grown, he witnesses the cruel treatment of his people and kills an Egyptian he has seen beating a Hebrew slave, one of his kin. Moses thinks no one has seen him and buries him in the sand. But others HAD seen him, and soon his secret is known to Pharaoh, who wants Moses killed.

      After fleeing to Midian, Moses meets the daughters of the priest, Jethro, at a well. He comes to their defense when they try to draw water for their father’s flocks and are driven away by shepherds. Moses waters their flocks, is invited into Jethro’s home, and is given the priest’s daughter, Zipporah, in marriage. Moses and Zipporah have two children and Moses begins his new life, seeking to leave the past in the past.

     Think about it. Moses is 80 years old when his peaceful life is interrupted by the burning bush! This is the first time he has heard the Lord speaking to him; the first time he hears the Lord calling his name! Moses responds reluctantly, fearfully. “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

    The Lord answers by saying who God is. “I am who I am,” he says.

   And, “I will be with you.”

     Our Lord knows our names, as well. And when he calls to us, it’s to guide, empower, and encourage us to do the work the God has for us to do. Each of us has a unique situation and role in God’s plan for salvation, just as Moses had a special role for the salvation of the Israelites.

   And when we are afraid, wondering, as Moses asked, how we can possibly do the things that God is calling us to do, we have to remember that what matters isn’t who WE are. What matters is who GOD is. “I am who I am.” What matters is that we are walking with Him each day.

    Remember that whenever you answer the call, “Here I am.”

    God says, “I will be with you.”

    If we want to know the work God has for us to do, we have to open our hearts to hear God’s Word and be ready. For if we allow it and embrace it, God’s Word will work in our hearts and minds and direct and, at times, redirect, our lives.

     Romans 12 tells us how God wants us to live in these dark days, when the nation is angry, fearful, and divided, as we draw nearer to a presidential election, and struggle with a pandemic.

     Listen to what the Spirit is saying to the church!

Let us pray.

Holy One, thank you for sending your Son to come to us, right where we are, to become one of us, and show us the way. Thank you for speaking to us in your Word and for your mighty Spirit that guides and empowers us to serve you. Stir us to see the signs of your presence in our world, like when Moses saw the burning bush. Help us, Lord, to sense when we are on holy ground. And to respond, “Here I am,” when you call. Teach us to love as you love, as you urge us in Romans 12. To hate evil. To hold fast to what is good, especially in these difficult days. Give us the desire to outdo one another in showing honor and be humble, not haughty, considering others as better than ourselves. Let us rejoice in hope and persevere in prayer, rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Stir us to generosity for the saints and to extend hospitality to strangers. Help us to bless those who persecute us. And as much as it depends on us, grant us wisdom, patience, and strength to live peaceably with all. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Published by karenpts

I am the pastor of The Presbyterian Church in Coshocton, Ohio since January 2019. Come and visit! God's love is here for you!

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