Me, You and God
Based on Exodus 3:10-15
This is the day that the LORD has made – let us all rejoice and be glad in it! It is a good and joyful thing to be here in this place with all of you. I want to thank you for the many ways that you have welcomed me and my family and made us feel at home. You all have provided a lovely and comfortable parsonage, and we are in the process of settling in there. You are welcome to stop by any time and I will be making my way around to see all of you as well. In this way we will begin to grow in our love for God and for each other. With those thoughts in mind, let us center ourselves to hear the word proclaimed. To do that, I invite you to join me in a time of prayer…
If you follow the Revised Common Lectionary, you know that the Exodus text that was read this morning is not the recommended Hebrew Bible reading for today. However, as I prayed and discerned about what it was that God wanted me to share with you, I was drawn to the interaction between God and Moses as a way of introducing myself and situating my story with your stories and within God’s overarching narrative in our lives. Here we find Moses in the wilderness of Midian on God’s holy mountain, searching for a lost sheep (he had gone from being a Prince in Egypt to a shepherd for his father-in-law, Jethro). While he was searching for the sheep, he turned aside to see a bush that was burning, but not consumed by the flames. What happens next is the focus of our time together today.
Moses approaches the bush and God calls out his name. After telling Moses that he is on holy ground, God introduces God’s self – by telling Moses that the voice comes from the God of Moses’ ancestors. This voice goes on to tell Moses that the Hebrew people’s lament has been heard and God is going to do something about it. This is where we pick up our scripture for this morning. In the tenth verse, God says, “…So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt….” (NRSV) Can you imagine the look on Moses’ face when the reality of that sentence hit him? You may remember that Moses is wanted for murder back in Egypt (the reason that he is in Midian in the first place) and that he had made a good life with Jethro’s daughter. The last thing he was contemplating when he got up that morning was that the God of all creation, who he didn’t know, would call him to be the savior of a people that he really didn’t know as well.
My call story, which is may be a lot like yours, is not nearly so dramatic. My call from God evolved over the last 20 years…from the time that I joined my home congregation of Mount Olivet in Arlington. God created in me a disquiet with my previous call, which was to work in intensive care units as a pharmacist. I had done this for about 10 years and was becoming burned out, by all the suffering and death – without an idea of what to do about it. God spoke to me through involvement and affirmation in my church, through colleagues, an Associate Pastor, the Stephen Ministry program, multiple church leadership positions, involvement in worship, and much prayer and discernment. It became clear that God was calling me out of my comfortable life as a pharmacist and lay leader to do more for the suffering of God’s people, especially those who do not know God or those who have become lost sheep. So, five years ago last month, I went to my Pastor and told him that I was going to seminary and that I wanted to be an Ordained Elder in The United Methodist Church. Like Moses, I wasn’t looking for another vocation…I thought that I was doing ok as a pharmacist – but God knew better and ultimately sent me to be with you all here in the Madison Charge.
Why you? Only God knows the answer to that question. After all there are almost 1100 churches in the Virginia Annual Conference, spread out over 16 Districts. A better question might be, why not you?! After all your churches are more than 130 years old, and they have endured their mountain top and their valley times. They have continued to exist because they were planted and cultivated by committed believers who felt called by God to be a beacon of light in the darkness of this part of God’s world. In fact, your collective vision statements declare boldly from your bulletins each week that you exist to tell the gospel; to be in service to the Church, the community and the world; to encourage growth in friendship, faith, prayer and fellowship; to love and serve neighbors and provide a place of sanctuary for the lost and needy. Our mission is equally clear that we together are “To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world”. Thus, we are brought together to use our God given gifts and call from God as a way to address the issues that challenge our neighbors and our world today.
We are in a time where, as it says in Exodus 1:8, “…Now a new King arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph….” (NRSV) We live in a time that has about 80 percent of all Christian churches worshipping less than 150 people each week. The largest demographic in the world (and in our country) is “nones” followed closely by “spiritual but not religious”. We are oppressed by the Pharaohs of wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony – which lead to inertia, despair, addiction, fragmentation of communities, and the elevation of self as god. Indeed, we live in a time where leadership in the Church and in the world have forgotten to look to God for direction. It leads to non-believers asking those few of us who still believe, “Where is your God?!” It is for such a time as this that God has brought us together.
Now is the time when we need to boldly proclaim the good news to those who haven’t heard it or cannot bring themselves to believe it. To shine a light into the darkness – not just any light, however, but the light of Jesus that we know cannot be overcome. To go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and to proclaim that the kingdom of God is within each of them. To heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons and cure the lepers. To be sent out again by Jesus to a world not unlike first century Palestine, where the people had forgotten who God is and how God has been faithful to all God’s promises. A God who hears our cry of lament, as God heard the Israelites in their bondage in Egypt, and calls us into our collective action. Brothers and sisters, God calls us again to be faithful, to acknowledge all that God has done and will continue to do. We come together this day to share in the Sacrament of Communion to “…be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood….” We partake of this holy mystery so that we might be united through the power of the Holy Spirit to be in ministry to all the world. God has brought together me and you so that we might spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to a world that is so in need of good news. On this first Sunday in July of 2017, our faithful God calls to us again, the same God who called to Moses from the bush. It is up to us, each and all to answer, “Here I am”. Thanks be to God, AMEN!