First Lesson: Exodus 3:1-15
Second Lesson Exodus 8:1-15
Children’s story: Exodus 2:1-10
Sunday, August 23, 2015
So Moses is standing beside a fiery bush in the desert and he’s having a conversation with God.
God comes to Moses, out of the blue, as he is tending sheep in the middle of the desert deep in the Sinai Peninsula. And God says: “I am your God. I am the God of your ancestors Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and I am your God also. And I have a job for you, Moses. I see that the people I love are slaves in Egypt, far away from the land I gave them. They are beaten and oppressed and harshly treated and I want you to do something about that. I want you to be their liberator and help them escape from Egypt.” Said God to Moses.
And Moses said to God. “I don’t know you. I don’t know your name. I’ve never heard of you. And I don’t know these people you are talking about and they have never heard of you either. I am very happy here with a nice wife and a couple of kids and a good father-in-law who employs me very well, and I like my life here just as it is. No thank you very much to your little plan.”
But God persisted. And God laid out a plan about how Moses would go to the king Pharaoh of Egypt and ask him to release the slaves.
Now let me insert this: The very smart people who usually know these things don’t seem to know exactly who this king Pharaoh is. I wonder if he was Moses’ adopted grandfather. The father of the princess who raised him in the palace. Or maybe his adopted uncle – the brother of the princess who raised him in the palace.
And Moses replied: “I have never heard of you, and my grandfather the king of Egypt has never heard of you. These slaves you are talking about never heard about you. And you want me to go to that king and convince him to let all his slaves go free? I can tell you right now that he’s not going to like that idea. What kind of a crazy plan is that? AND you might remember that I left Egypt in a very big hurry under unhappy circumstances. There is a price on my head there. I was lucky to get away from there with my life. I am glad to be gone from that palace and that grandfather and I am glad to be gone from those people and that country and I have no interest in going back and saying anything to any of them.”
And besides,” said Moses, “I am not a public speaker. I do not make eloquent speeches at the palace or anywhere else. I am a simple shepherd. No thank you very much to your crazy plan.”
But God persisted. God said, “Here’s the plan. I know that you don’t know my name or who I am. I know that those slave people I love don’t know me. I know that the king of Egypt doesn’t know me. But I am going to show them all who I am. Starting with you. I am going to tell you all and show you all who I am, and eventually, the king will let the people go. Eventually.”
So that was the beginning of some major show and tell displays on the part of God. You might remember this. Sticks turned into snakes, water turned into blood, ordinary dust became tiny little biting gnats, swarming flies came from nowhere, animals dying of a deadly disease. One magnificent display of power after another. All so that Moses could see who God was, and the king could see who God was, and the slave people would begin to know who their God was.
And in our story for today, there are frogs everywhere. Frogs in all the rivers, and frogs hopping around in peoples’ beds, and frogs in the kitchen and frogs in the bowls and cups and frogs jumping out of the ovens and frogs under your feet wherever anybody tried to walk. It got peoples’ attention for sure, and it was yet another display of the power of God.
And eventually, after a whole lot of mighty displays of God’s power, eventually the king of Egypt realized he was no match for God, and eventually that whole slave nation escaped from Egypt. They put on their sandals and picked up their bundles of all their possessions and their bread that hadn’t had time to rise. They took up their walking sticks and they escaped into the middle of the dessert in the middle of the night. With Moses as their somewhat reluctant leader.
So the question for us is this: how do we know God? How does God speak to us? What sort of show and tell does God offer us? And what does God ask of us?
I don’t suppose that any of us have seen sticks turned into snakes or our water turned to blood, or frogs in our beds quite the way God did that in Egypt. But we have other ways of knowing and showing who God is. And often, I have noticed, God comes to us in utter silence. No loud noises, no displays of frogs or blood or great displays.
God comes to us when we are silent, and receptive and waiting. And we can almost hear the voice of God to us in our ears. If only we can manage to sit still long enough and be quiet long enough to listen.
It is my habit to sit with God at 5 o’clock in the morning at my dining room table in my lovely condo. Depending on the time of year, I watch the day arrive and I sit in front of God with my Bible. I pray the scripture. I pray the day of ahead of me. I pray for my family by name, each of them. I lay out in front of God what I’m thinking and what I’m concerned about and the questions I have no answers for. On Friday last week I sat like that with God. And a very clear word came to me – an entire sentence, in English – a very clear direction for me. I knew it then and I know it now to be the voice of God to me. In my own dining room at 5 o’clock in the morning. Maybe you have had the same experience.
And may I tell you about our Session? As you know, they have met several times recently to pray and ponder the Expectations for your next pastor. You got them in the mail this week. This past Monday we met to come to consensus on that for the final time. Eight pretty ordinary elders and one pretty ordinary pastor, sitting around the table, pondering the person who will be your next pastor. We prayed for God’s presence with us. Then everybody spoke. Everybody was heard in an atmosphere of mutual respect around that table. Suggestions were made and ideas were proposed and re-worked and some of them were discarded and others of them were accepted. Sometimes several people spoke, sometimes there was silence. And after two and a half hours of that, those eight ordinary elders came to consensus and went home. And I said to myself as I often say during and after session meetings, “The Spirit of God was there with us, powerfully.”
So maybe in these next weeks and months you will spend time with God also. Maybe you will hear God speaking to you. Maybe you’ll deepen your prayer life and listen for what God may be saying to you. Or maybe you’ll fall into the habit of talking the day over with God and letting God guide your days. Maybe your life is very hard right now and maybe you’ll cry in front of God and wail at God over all of that. Maybe your life is very good now, and maybe you’ll be so full of gratitude that you can’t contain it all, and you’ll offer that to God. Maybe you’ll commit to some regular Bible study. Maybe you’ll sit with others and learn from others and share your life with others. And pray with others.
Now that may be a little scary for some of you. It IS a little scary to stand in front of a fiery bush in the presence of God. But maybe you’ll commit to do that. As a way of knowing God. As way of experiencing God. As a way of beginning to know who God is and how God is.
And you’ll be surprised with blessings.