3 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. 2 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. 3 Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” 4 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.” 5 Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 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.
7 Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. 10 So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”
13 But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”[a] He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord,[b] the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:
This is my name forever,
and this my title for all generations.”
In November 2012 on one of my off days, I dropped by Gillman Barracks, checking out the galleries there. There was this gallery that I went into exhibiting Filipino artists and one piece of art caught my eye. It was made from hardened pieces of resin from a plant, and as you approach, the light reflects off the different pieces, almost like the flames dancing.
It was hanging in the back room, as it was a piece from the previous exhibition, but it stood out. I knew, even without looking at the tag, what it was.
The burning bush.
I enjoyed re-reading Exodus as I prepared for this sermon – and I encourage all of you to go back and spend this evening reading Moses’ story again. No, watching Prince of Egypt is not the same. I have heard of students watching Pride and Prejudice instead of reading the book.
Many people think that burning bush moments happen to special people – special people God has chosen like the prophet Moses.
I think that burning bush moments happen to us as well. I don’t think the question is whether we recognise these moments when they happen – the question is whether we act when these moments happen.
Even after God declared to Moses “I AM THAT I AM,” Moses continue to give excuses. “But… but…”
“But suppose they do not believe me or listen to me”
Then God transformed his staff into a snake. AND God turned Moses leprous when he put his hand into his cloak, and then turned it back to normal. Not 1 miracle, but 2.
Yet, Moses continue to give excuses. “But Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”
Even when God reassures Moses saying, “Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.” Moses reply, “O my Lord, please send someone else.”
Moses isn’t the only prophet who kept trying to avoid when they were called.
Gideon in Judges 6:11-18, who said “But sir, how can I deliver Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manaseh, and I am the least in my family”
Isaiah 6:1-13 “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man with unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the Lord of hosts!”
Jeremiah 1:4-10 “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.”
We often give excuses to avoid what we need to do. Sometimes it is out of a lack of trust. Sometimes it is out of fear. Fear, because we know that it is going to cost us. But being faithful means following regardless the cost. Sometimes, we don’t want to change, even though we know that the change is good for us, and even though we are in a bad situation, we prefer to remain where we are.
When the rich young man approached Jesus, asking “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus gave him the answer – yet he was unwilling to let go of what he held on to. Are you willing to let go of the things that get in the way of following Jesus and responding to the burning bushes in your life?
In FCC, we always say FREE stands for First Realise Everyone’s Equal. This isn’t something new in the Christian tradition – or more precisely the Protestant tradition. The doctrine of the priesthood of all believers is this – Protestants believe that through Christ we have been given direct access to God – God is equally accessible to all the faithful, and every Christian has equal potential to minister for God.
I believe that all of us are called. And I believe all of us are called differently because while we are equal, we are also different, and all of us have different gifts.
What is it that you have, when God asks “Whom shall I send?” you know it’s you?
God doesn’t promise it would be easy, not would we be successful – Moses only managed a glimpse of the Promised Land – he did not get to enter it. But God promises “I will be with you.”
I have learned one important thing this week. While I was at the gym with Paul and Rain, Paul shared with me a great insight.
He said every Sunday, we go to church, we learn something new, something good, and sometimes we try to put that into practice. And then, the next Sunday, we go to church, and we learn something else, and then we may try that for a week. Whatever we try to do, isn’t going to stick. What we need to do, is to pick one thing and keep doing it until it sticks and we get it right. Then we move on to something else. He said he started going to the gym every day for half an hour and kept doing it until it stuck. And now he is making progress.
This is the same for spiritual growth. You need to be focused on one thing and keep doing it until you make progress. Don’t get distracted. Don’t try a new thing until you get the current thing you are doing right.
Paul, in that burning bush moment, said to me “it is not the breadth that matters, but the depth.”
We want you to be engaged, to be connected to the life of the church. There are many things that need to be done. Pick one. Get involved, get engaged.
A member from church wrote to us a few days ago – “as i was praying just now, i tried to “mind read” what are the immediate concerns of the church which i could volunteer in… i offer to interview 5 attendees(of Amplify 2016) & collate their responses & write it in a Q&A format.”
I wonder if he thought about who would have been inspired by the article. Or what impact that would have on future Amplify conferences. I don’t think so. We often just focus what needs to be done – the rest will just follow.
My journey started because I saw one thing that needed to be done. And I kept doing it. And in doing it, I grew. I saw that after we formed Free Community Church, the leadership was too busy with other things and nobody was addressing the needs of those who have yet reconciled their faith with their sexuality.
Was I trained? No. Was I equipped? Not really. At that point in time, I probably read less of the Bible than you right now. But like many of those before me, I said “Here I am.”
Those of you who have been here for a while – you have heard many stories of many others who said “Here I am.”
I thought about the panel we had for Transgender Day of Remembrance 2 years ago, and the courage the participants had to share vulnerably and honestly about their lives. In their way, they replied “Here I am,” even though they were worried, anxious, and not sure what would be the fallout from sharing so publicly. We even decided not to put the video up because some of the participants were not ready. But immediately after the panel, I was told they were ok with putting it up publicly on our website.
That, to me was a burning bush moment. I am not sure if they felt the same way. But I know a burning bush when I see one.
It was 2 weeks later that Rain joined us, and that video was helpful to him. And a year later, Rain shared about his story for Transgender Day of Remembrance. Rain and Paul didn’t know what will come out of their sharing. And things continue to unfold for them. But they leaned on their faith in God, who promised “I will be with you.”
“I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”
The burning bush moment is not so much a miraculous sign, but rather the moment we encounter God and God calls our name, and put in our hearts a calling – a calling to respond to people’s suffering and oppression, and our response to that call.
I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry,
All who dwell in dark and sin
my hand will save.
I, who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?
Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night
I will go Lord if you lead me
I will hold your people in my heart
Here we are Lord, Is it us Lord?
We have heard You calling in the night
We will go Lord if you lead us
We will hold your people in our hearts.