Sunday, 29 September 2013

The Great I Am

In the ongoing saga of God’s people we’ve pressed fast forward several hundred years. Let me tell you the best TV dramas can’t hold a candle to our Holy Scripture! Here’s what you missed. Jacob married both Rachel and Leah, escaped from under the thumb of his corrupt father-in-law Laban who made him work for seven long years to marry each of his daughters, set up house and home in the promised land, his sons had a family feud, plotted the death of their brother Joseph their father Jacob’s favourite son. The brothers decided instead of killing Joseph to sell him into slavery in Egypt where he finds favour with the King by interpreting his dreams and sparing the people of Egypt from famine. Joseph eventually gets reunited with his brothers and father when they come to Egypt to escape famine. 
For generations God’s people stayed in Egypt until we hit todays reading. The people were groaning under the weight of slavery because there arose a Pharaoh who no longer remembered what Joseph did for them. It was a terrible time and they cried to God for help. For the people of God it was like God had forgotten about them because they suffered so long and God seemed like God was silent. Our reading says, “God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.” (Exodus 2:24 – 25) But it is not like God forgot in the same way you forget a set of keys or forget to buy milk on the way home. God is not like that. 
One commentator said that when the bible says, “God remembered” it is like a director saying, “Action!”  What does God do? God called Moses. Remember him, the one who is rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter from river. Moses was tending his father-in-law’s sheep when he comes across a bush that burns without being consumed. A sign that perhaps this isn’t going to be an ordinary day. Standing on this holy ground, God calls Moses and asks him to take off his shoes. Then God says, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; …and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of the land to a good and broad land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:7 – 8) 
And then God asks Moses to go to Pharaoh and lead the people out of Egypt. Moses gives every possible reason why he can’t do it. 
“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11)
“If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘what is his name?’ what shall I say to them? (Exodus 3:13)
“But suppose they do not believe me or listen to me, but say, “The Lord did not appear to you.” (Exodus 4:1)
“O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” (Exodus 4:10)
“O my Lord, please send someone else.” (Exodus 4:13)
Moses is just like us isn’t he? Sometimes we hear the voice of God calling, nudging, inspiring us to do something and we put God on hold, we ignore the feeling, we don’t answer, we doubt our ability or we just plain don’t want to do it and say as Moses did, “O my Lord, please send someone else.” And we can’t blame Moses either.  God wants him to do nothing less than go and talk to Pharaoh, liberate the people of Israel and lead them to a promised land which by the way is already occupied by other peoples. Nothing to it right?  I understand why Moses said, “O my Lord, please send someone else.” I’m sure I’ve said it to God a time or two when I feel God that God is calling me to something too difficult or too challenging. 
Here is the thing about God – the beautiful and amazing thing about God. God is always with us. No exceptions. Every objection, every excuse offered by Moses is met by some version of the promise that God is with us helping us do all that God asks. The fourth century theologian Augustine is said to have written the phrase, “Without God I can’t and without me God won’t.” That was certainly true with Moses and it is still true today. I know that just Miriam, daughter of Paul and Carol, wife of Scott, mother of Will and Carrie who was so shy she refused to talk to people and once hid in the closet for hours because she was too afraid to go downstairs and to talk with guests my parents had invited over, would not could not stand here each week and do what I do. But Miriam who finally had to admit, had to accept that God called her to do this work can. 
God calls us to be God’s love at work in the world. There may be questions, we may doubt our abilities but God is with us each step of the way. That is the promise that God gave to Moses and it is the promise that God gives to us. And when we, like Moses, wonder who it is that calls, we get the same answer as Moses did, God says, “I am who I am.” (Exodus 3:14) Biblical scholars can’t even really translate the word used here for God – it is as though God cannot be contained or defined by language. Yet, it says all we need to know about God whose name is as mysterious as the God who loves us and calls us into being. 
The “great I AM” who called Moses takes on human flesh in Jesus. In our gospel reading today Jesus says, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8: 58) Jesus says, “I am the light of the world; I am the true vine; I am the good shepherd; I am the way, the truth and the life.” Jesus, the great I am in human flesh shows us the way of love and he invites us to follow in that same way. 
Moses stood on holy ground, and found every reason in the world not do as God asked but with God’s help, by God’s grace Moses lead the people out of slavery and toward that promised land of milk and honey. Moses never set foot in that land of promise but he still went on the journey that God called him to. The same is true for us in our Baptism. God calls us to into a lifelong journey with God’s transforming love as our guide. We, like Moses, don’t know if or when we will reach our destination but we trust in God’s promise to be with us. The great I Am is always there calling our names, inviting us, nudging us to be God’s hands and feet at work in the world. Amen. 

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