May the Words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight Oh God our rock and our redeemer.
The story we read from Exodus is a very familiar one about the call of Moses to the service of God. As Christians we too are called to be followers of Christ and we are also called to service of God so there may be lessons that we can learn today from an event that happened so many thousands of years ago.
At the beginning of Chapter three we find Moses tending sheep on Mount Horeb for his father-in-law Jethro. As we know Moses had grown up as the adopted son of the Egyptian Pharaoh’s daughter in the Egyptian court. Despite this he still identified with the Israelite slaves as “his people,” and in an impulsive act of retribution for the Israelites oppression, he had killed an Egyptian. Fleeing for his life, Moses made a new life in Midian, married, raised a family and become a shepherd. And it was whilst he was working as a shepherd that Moses saw the sight that surprised him, the burning bush. Now a bush spontaneously catching fire would not have been a strange sight in that area but one that kept burning and burning and did not turn black and eventually burn away was indeed unusual. So Moses approached the bush to find out what was going and it was then that God called to him from within the bush.
God had a plan for Moses, he had been saved from slaughter brought up in the Egyptian court and even though he killed an Egyptian God knew that Moses was the right man for the job. He may have thought that he had put Egypt and the plight of the Israelites behind him but God had other ideas.
And so it is with us God calls us in his time, when he knows it is the right time. He knows what we have done and where we have been and even though we may not feel that it is the right time for us God chooses us at the correct time for him. There is a line in the Hymn Lord in the fullness of my might which says , ‘O choose me in my golden time’ and the implication is that God should choose us when we are young and fit, well God chooses us in HIS golden time, the time that is right for his purposes.
So the startled Moses approached the bush and God tells him to stop, to go no further and to take off his shoes. And God speaks to Moses from out of the burning bush. God begins to give Moses a summary of what he God has been doing he tells Moses that he has seen the misery of the Israelites, that he has come down to rescue them, that he is going to bring them out of Egypt to another land a wonderful land. And then he says ‘So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.’
We can imagine that Moses was a bit taken a back, maybe even a lot taken aback. He was going with the flow listening to God telling him all about what God was doing and was going to do and he might well have expected God to carry on and say that God was also going to go to Pharaoh and rescue the Israelites. But then suddenly it’s Moses who is going to be doing the rescuing.
Moses is amazed and horrified “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” he says, in other words ‘why me?’ And I think many of us can sympathise with that question. Like Moses we know that things need to be done in the world, we are sympathetic to the need but we think that someone else, someone better qualified than us should be doing it whatever it is. I can’t do this says Moses and God responds ‘I will be with you.’ God saw the oppression, he heard the cries of the slaves and he God is going to rescue them and take them to the Promised Land. God is going to do it but he is going to use Moses. God did not need Moses in order to achieve his purposes, God does not need us and yet he chooses to include us in his plans.
When we are called to do God’s will we do it not in our own strength but in God’s strength. God said to Moses I will be with you and he promised him a sign of his faithfulness. When we are called by God we are enabled by God. I have a favourite quotation from Martin Luther King that you may have heard before but it bears repeating. When the road ahead seemed too tough for King he prayed to God for help and God gave him the same answer he gave to Moses, God said I will never leave you alone, no never alone. True for Moses, true for Martin Luther King and true for us now. This promise gives us confidence that whatever the difficulties whatever the trials God will be there with us. It says that God will even carry us when we cannot manage on our own as it said in our reading from Footsteps in the Sand.
At the beginning of the service we committed ourselves to being peacemakers here in Scotland. The weeks up to the referendum have seen views from both sides of the debate put across forcefully; there have been strong views on either side. There have been arguments and I believe two women nearly came to blows in the Lamlash Coop!
But now is the time for reconciliation and that won’t come easily to many people and I believe that the Church of Scotland and individual Christians can be key to the process of peacemaking. Whilst we see the need for reconciliation many of us may find it hard to speak out but Jesus said ‘blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called Children of God and it is in Gods strength that we are called to speak out for peace and reconciliation in our land of Scotland.
This Old Testament story about the call of Moses still speaks to us and to our world and its situations today. But no matter how wonderful Moses call was it was only the beginning. Gods promise to Moses to be with him is fulfilled in us to a degree that neither Moses nor any of the Old Testament saints ever envisaged. We here today can say that through Christ we don’t just have God with us we have the spirit of Christ himself dwelling in us. God is not just with us but through Christ he is in us and we are in him. God promised Moses a sign of his faithfulness and through the death and resurrection of Jesus we have been given the ultimate sign of God’s constant love and care for us.
Through Jesus we are enabled to have a close and personal relationship with the almighty. Yes we should feel awe and wonder and respect for our creator but just as God told Moses his name because Moses was special to God, Jesus has given us a new name for God because since Jesus we have a new and special relationship with God. Jesus has told us that we can call God Father. God is our loving heavenly father; he calls us to salvation and to service, he gives us his strength for the work he wants us to do, he is always with us and in us. Moses only got to see the Promised Land from afar, but through God’s grace we live in Scotland a land flowing with milk and honey and it is our challenge through God’s strength to love it and protect it for generations to come .