Vicar's Sermon - 31st August 2014
So come, said the Almighty to Moses, ‘I will send you’.
Do you know about 'story arcs'? Have you heard of them? As a dedicated follower of Dr Who I wonder what the overarching story will be that will accompany the new Doctor through this current series. In the background of Dr Who there is forever his battle with the Daleks but in recent series we have also seen him up against the Master. Remember a few years back the Bad Wolf motif that ran through each Saturday’s episodes and had David Tenant wracking his brains to work out what it signified?
Perhaps you are not into Doctor Who...maybe your days of hiding behind the soaf are long past. Maybe your thing is the ‘soaps’. Soap writers are well versed in dragging out a story arc for weeks: the new character brought into the story (Paige, in the case of neighbours) who we have found is the long lost daughter of a romance 20 years ago between Brad and Lauren. We know the truth but they don’t. Each episode shows us something more about Paige. Each episode reveals something more to her about her parents. Does she want to make herself known, will they love her or reject her, how will her half brothers and sisters regard her and what about the wicked Grandma who told Lauren all those years ago that her baby had died but secretly gave Paige up for adoption? The story arc builds and builds until it finds some resolution, only for this resolution to give new energy and impetus to the tale so that it can move off in a different direction. (and for what it’s worth...Maybe it’s just me but I’m sure Naomi will come good in the end!)
In the great story arc that shapes our scriptures where are we today with Moses’ meeting with God at the burning bush...which admittedly sounds like a business meal at a pub...but you know what I mean. Well, where is the story going? God is trying to create a world where people enjoy His presence and reveal His likeness, where they work with him in a new creation. His first attempt fell (literally) at the first hurdle: Adam and Eve showing that they wanted to the centre of their own lives, not wanting their life to revolve around God. They wanted to live for themselves, not for Him.
So God has a plan. It involves a person, then a family, then a tribe – the Israelites- who willingly walk with Him. Acknowledging Him, God promises them their own land and within this ‘Promised Land’ they will serve God, living life as it is meant to be lived. This small land and its people will act as an example to others – in time all nations will see God’s presence revealed here and come to worship Him. This is the plan, this is the story arc within which Moses encounter takes place.
So we are picking up the story today ‘mid series’. We are like those who have dropped out of watching Neighbours for a while and are picking up on a mid week episode...where are we, what has happened?
God’s people are not in the Promised Land, they are in Egypt, God’s people are not enjoying being His people...they are slaves. They are in the wrong place doing the wrong things and something needs to happen for them to be rescued and for the plan to get back on track. So God says to Moses ‘I will send you...’
‘Why hasn’t God done something before now’ you might ask? His people are in a mess. They have been in need of help for a long time. Couldn’t God have moved the script on a bit, increased the pace? Part of me wishes that he could have done this. Part of me wishes He would do this now...heavens there are more than enough places in the world where He could act. But as Christians we have learned that God does not do this...He doesn’t step in to our mess from beyond, rather He works out His purposes from within. This is what the Christmas story is about isn’t it? God revealing Himself in a child born to an ordinary family in an out of the way place...but a child who will change the world. And this is what is taking place in our reading with Moses down at the old burning bush. In many ways, God’s hands are tied. He wants to bring healing to those who suffer. He wants to bring peace to thise who are surrounded by war. He wants to bring food to the hungry and water to the thirty and freedom to the captives and sight to the blind...God wants to do this but he must wait. He must wait until there is someone who will act in His name. He must wait until there is someone who in faith will speak in His name and lead his people to freedom. And God has waited...and waited as Moses has grown older. He has seen the child in the Moses basket being brought up out of the water by Pharaoh’s daughter. God has seen this child torn between his upbringing in the Egyptian court and his loyalty to his Hebrew heritage. He has seen Moses try to rescue his people in his own strength and give up. He has allowed Moses time to recover from his disappointment, to find a new life as a shepherd, to get married and have a family, to heal his own soul. But now God sees that the time is right...now there is someone whose every experience makes them the right person to work with God to rescue His people.
Moses can say ‘No’. Indeed, he tries to say ‘no’. But it is certainly my own experience that it is only as we say ‘yes’ to God that we find a sense of fulfilment in life ourselves. ‘His service’, as an old prayer says ‘is perfect freedom.’
So where are we now in the story. I’m no Moses. Nor are you. The story has moved on. With Christ’s coming, a new story arc has begun. God no longer relies on one nation to represent him to the world but looks to a new family, (the Christian family) made up of people from every nation under heaven to be His people. God no longer looks to His will being performed in just one small country (Israel) but has expanded his vision so that now we look for ‘the whole earth to be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea’. But God’s hands are tied. God needs people to respond to His call before He can work. People like you. People like me.
People who perhaps have just the vaguest sense of God’s presence (like Moses on the Mountain). People who have caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of their eye that needs investigating. People who are prepared to look deeper into the mystery that life offers them...who will turn aside and see with new eyes, who will listen to the voice of God. People who will be prepared to stand on Holy ground (as we do today) and worship, who will be pulled out of their own lives to find a new focus, a new centre around which their life will revolve. People who will come to God with all their life experience, good and ill, and allow it to be used to make a difference.
You are these people and you now have a job to do. It is for us to go from this place into a new week knowing that God goes with us. It is for us to go from this place knowing that God has already seen the things that worry and burden and harm those amongst whom we live. Like Moses we go from here as those who have met with God and who know His name. Christians, like Moses, have an answer for those who ask ‘who has sent you’ – our answer though fills out that given by Moses. Our answer is ‘Jesus Christ’. His is the authority under which we act. His is the call we answer and the commission to which we respond. God is waiting...waiting for His people to respond to His call.
‘So now’ says God, ‘I will send you...’ Hear the words we will say again at the end of the a service:
‘Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. ‘In the name of Christ. Amen’.