I used my earlier Exodus sermon as a starting point for speaking in chapel at Rochester College. I was able to re-imagine God’s Word in Exodus 3 and 4 on behalf of my audience of college students. I kept the introduction the same but changed the focus for my audience:
I want you to imagine, for a moment, what it was like in back in ancient times. Back in the days before kids punched one another digitally on a Wii. Back in ancient times before kids hunted down and killed soldiers on an Xbox 360. Back before kids gathered around Nintendo Gamecube to imagine themselves as Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat on NBALive. Back in the real ancient days even before PacMan or Atari. Back in the ancient days . . . . . say about 1975, how did a girl like me, growing up on a farm in LaCrosse, Arkansas, population 42, pass the time, without the benefit of screen time?
Life was quiet. And in times of quiet, you find so many things to be curious about. So curious about the terrapins on the pond bank, that you might sit still for a whole hour, waiting for them to come out of the water so you could see their strange reptile-heads. So curious about the cow graveyard in the backfield that you might defy your Daddy’s rules and sneak a peak at skulls and bones. So curious when the first black gum tree turns bright red in the fall, you might walk half a mile to check and make sure it’s not some strange bush on fire.
So curious that you might step back from that flaming red tree and wonder to herself – does God still call people today, people like me, like he called Moses at the burning bush?
Life on that farm was quiet. Quiet with a capital Q. From our perspectives today, we might say it was boring with a capital B. There was a rhythm of work and rest. It was hard work, but it was also real rest. There was time for listening to God because our ears weren’t so full of noise. Our lives weren’t so frantic.
I think that perhaps what we’ve forgotten in our noisy-busy world today is that when you are quiet, you find time to do what Moses did in our text –To hear the call to join God’s work in this world.
There’s a lot we don’t know about God’s call on our lives and how it works. It’s certainly mysterious. That call for our lives may not come through a burning bush, but I’ve seen evidence that God still calls people. It may not be a high profile calling like the one Moses received, but I know people who exude the call of God.
Chris chose a text from Isaiah to guide us this year. It begins like this – Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth.
Is it possible that our lives are so hectic today that we rush by the equivalents of a burning bush – God calling our names? Could we be so focused on screen time that we miss God time and people time? Are we such frantic consumers, working to buy things, working to get ahead, working to pay the bills that we have not heard, we have not understood the Lord, the everlasting God, the creator of heaven and earth?
As I think about it more, I think the mundane cycle of life Moses experienced in Midian must have been a welcome experience for him, something he appreciated. Because before living in Midian, he had lived in Egypt, a busy, industrial machine of a country where slaves frantically built cities for Pharaoh, a man who was deluded into thinking he was god.From the day Moses was born, he lived in a world dominated by oppression and slavery. As Pharaoh’s adopted grandson, he was free from slavery, safe from oppression, as long as he closed his eyes to violent brutality when his Hebrew brothers and sisters were beaten, as long as he closed his ears to the cries of Hebrew mothers whose baby boys were drowned in the Nile like an unwanted litter of kittens. The life Moses experienced in Egypt did not leave space to hear God, to understand the Lord, the creator of heaven and earth. But then he escaped Egypt and lived a more simple life in Midian, where he could solve most of the problems he faced with nothing more than a shepherd’s staff. It was a quiet life, where a strange burning bush in the distance could grab his attention.
So just imagine how Moses must have heard these jarring words coming out of that burning bush, breaking into his quiet life and reminding him of the tragic situation of his relatives in Egypt-
7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians . . . . the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
It’s really quite a job description God gave Moses. He told him: Go to Pharaoh (the most powerful man in the world who refers to himself as god) and bring my people out of Egypt. Free them from slavery. Even in more recent history, we all know that people who call out The Oppressors do not fare well. Just last week, when I visited the Henry Ford Museum and looked at the chair in which Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, I was reminded that people who speak against slavery don’t fare too well. And when I was in Memphis, TN earlier this summer, looking at the Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was murdered, I was reminded that people who speak against oppression don’t fare too well. This was quite a job description God gave Moses- and I can understand why Moses would prefer to mind the sheep in the wilderness instead of take the job he was being offered.
That’s the thing about joining God, about heeding the call of the everlasting Lord, the creator of heaven and earth– it’s not an easy calling. It inherently includes risk, and it may not make a lot of sense. We don’t get quiet and still so we can hear God and enjoy a self-centered, zen lifestyle, complete with lots of “me” time. We are prayerful, and we cultivate quiet so we may hear the call to join God’s work in this world.
It’s a delicate balance – this balance between work and rest.
I’ve seen students here at Rochester College embrace God’s call, and it’s not always a call to church ministry – God calls people to all kinds of work. Ben Nelson graduated from RC a few years ago with a degree in Psychology, having discerned a calling to serve students as a high school social worker– he finished his masters degree in Social Work at Wayne State just weeks ago, and he got his first job at a high school in Hamtramck – It won’t be easy, but he’s been called. Jessica Brooks graduated from Rochester in May, and she posted on FB recently – “I just got a big-girl job as a social-worker. God is so incredibly good.” From the day I met Jessica in my freshman Bible class, I saw that she was determined to serve God with her life, and she did it while she was a student, and she will keep doing it, because she discerned not just a major or a job, but a calling. Stephan Henning graduated from RC a year ago, and he has an interesting job combination – he’s a 4th grade elementary school teacher and was just recently named the head men’s basketball coach at Oxford High School. In a press release, Stephan showed that he comprehends what it means to be a person of calling, a person who thinks outside himself:
I definitely want to extend things outside of basketball to show the kids that, no question, it’s great to compete and win games, but more importantly, it’s great to be young men in the community they live in. That’s the aspect I want to bring to the Oxford culture,” he said. “Especially with my basketball program – you should always carry yourselves the right way and know that people are watching you. Wherever you are – whether it is the mall or the movies, you represent the program and (you need to) represent it the right way.
It turns out that God can use us in ways we cannot imagine. There are some mysterious, strange miracle stories in the Bible, like Moses and the burning bush. But if you ask me, the greatest miracle of miracles, the greatest wonder of wonders – is that the creator of heaven and earth calls people like you and me to join this mission of God, to make a difference in our little corner of the world.
And when we receive our burning bush moments – when we hear, when we understand that the Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth, we receive a promise, the same one God gave Moses: “I will be with you.” It’s the same promise Jesus gave his disciples: “I will be with you, even to the end of the age.”