Moses at the Burning BushExodus 3:1-6 (NRSV)
Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
I wonder, what does it mean to have faith? Does it mean attending church on a regular basis, memorizing scripture or traditional prayers, knowing the answers to Bible trivia, or the beliefs and tenets of a certain denomination or faith tradition? Does having faith mean volunteering your time on church boards, committees, and ministries, or feeding the hungry and reaching out to the least and the lost? Well, it could, but you can do all of those things by just following the crowd and have no faith at all.
Though the knowledge of scripture and faith stories and regular spiritual practices like prayer and worship and mission and even stewardship help us and support us on our faith journey, they don’t actually require us to have any faith at all. You see, faith requires us to look beyond ourselves to believe in something bigger than we can ever imagine, something that we cannot see or prove. And that can be more than a little scary sometimes.
Throughout time, God has called many, many faithful people. And the truth is, some of the nicest, kindest, and hardest working folks when called by God were unable to follow because they worried about the things they had. They were concerned about what others might think, and they were unable to let go of their need for control.
Friends, it happens to us all the time. We work hard to be where we are and to have the things we have. And we don’t always have faith enough to let go of all of that, believing that God is going to bring us somewhere even better. Not only does that happen to individuals, but it also happens to us in the church. We stand firm in our traditions and the way that we have always done things, and sometimes, in our desire for comfort and control, we stop listening to God’s call, especially when God calls us to make changes.
Well in today’s scripture reading, we heard an amazing story of faith. I have always loved the story of Moses because, though Moses faced a lot of difficulty in his life and he did great things, he was just a regular guy. I mean, he was the greatest Jewish prophet of all time! He is credited for writing the Pentateuch, or the first five books of the Old Testament. And he spoke to God, and God spoke to Moses like they were best friends. But even through all of that, Moses remained humble.
Now you may or may not know this, but all his life, Moses struggled with a speech impediment and because of it, he tended to keep to himself. Now wouldn’t you think that if God was looking for someone to be the voice of God for the people of Israel, God would pick someone with a strong voice and gift for public speaking? Well, as we heard in today’s story, God chose Moses.
Actually, today’s story of the burning bush was God’s first call to Moses. Can you even begin to imagine how Moses must have felt? Here he was just minding his own business, out in the wilderness, tending to his father-in-law’s sheep when suddenly, he sees a bush on fire, and yet the bush itself was not burning. And if that’s not enough, then as he approaches the bush, he hears the voice of God call him by name! “Moses, Moses!”
Folks, if you were Moses in that situation, wouldn’t you be a little nervous? Or afraid? Or possibly even terrified? It is often in situations of unexpected fear and surprise that the world seems to spin a little faster or even turn upside down, and we quickly become unsure of ourselves. But when God called Moses, Moses answered without delay, “Here I Am, Lord!”
Now as we discussed in our Household Huddle this morning, Moses spoke Hebrew, so the response he would have given was “Hineni!” Because “Hineni” in Hebrew means “Here I Am.” But actually, “Hineni” means more than that. You see, “Hineni” is not a word that is used lightly. It can only be said with a strong faith, and it was only used by prophets and people that had a strong faith in God and who open themselves to whatever God was calling them to do, whatever the cost or whatever the consequence.
It’s like Moses understood from the very beginning what God was asking him to do, and he replied, “Here I am Lord, use me, send me.” The truth is when we open ourselves and say “Hineni” to God, God says “Hineni” right back to us. Because if God calls us to do something, God sticks with us the entire way, giving us not what we think we want but what we truly need for the journey.
Friends, for me, as a Christian, choosing to say “Hineni”, living a life of faith, and choosing to follow Jesus is a day-to-day, minute-to-minute choice. It’s not enough to stand up and announce one day that you have chosen Jesus as your personal Savior, because words are empty and really, they mean nothing. To truly live a life of faith and to honestly follow Jesus, it’s not enough to just think about it or talk about it; you have to do it.
It’s where the rubber hits the road, my friends, and it’s not easy. It’s making decisions every minute of every day to listen for God’s call in your life and to humbly put yourself aside, serving others, not because you’ll get a reward or so that people will say nice things about you but because that is what truly living a life of faith and being a follower of Jesus is all about.
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you go out into your week ahead, think about your faith and what it means to you. Is your faith simply a list of activities that you do, or is it a part of who you truly are? Then imagine that you hear the voice of God calling you. Would you say, “Let me think about it, I’ll get back to you,” or without reservations would you say, “Hineni, here I am Lord!”? The choice is yours. I hope you follow your heart, stand firm in your faith, and choose carefully.
My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen!