(A sermon for Sunday, September 7 based on the story of Moses)
Frederick Buechner once wrote, “Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness; touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.” (Now & Then, p. 87)
This morning I want to call of us to listen to our lives, to consider what God has done, is doing, and will do through them.
Consider your beginning
Into what circumstances were you born?
Moses was born to Hebrew slaves. But he was raised in the household of Pharaoh with his Hebrew mother as his nurse. He had one foot in one world and his other foot in another world. But it was God’s world that finally and most fully had hold of him.
Were you born into two worlds, in a sense? What advantage came from your family? What disadvantage? As for me, I was born into this world but I was also born into a family that believed in the kingdom of heaven. Other stories are different; your circumstances may have been like mine or may have been much different. Regardless, God works through those circumstances to equip us for what he needs us to be and to do.
What opportunities did you have? Of which did you take advantage? Which did you neglect? To whose whispers did you listen? Regardless, God has worked to get you ready to fulfill your calling. Everything that has happened to you and through you has prepared you for this moment. And this is the only moment you have.
The only question is what you will do with it.
Consider your call
God calls all of us to serve him. The call to salvation is a call to service; being saved is both a privilege and a responsibility.
God calls us in the ordinary course of our ordinary lives. Moses was being a shepherd, which is what Moses did. Deborah was judging Israel, which is what Deborah did. Peter and James and John were fishing, which is what they did. Paul was persecuting the church, which is what Paul did.
You may or may not get a “burning bush,” but God does have his hand on you.
We have hesitations about our call. When God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush and told him that he wanted Moses to lead the Hebrews out of Egyptian captivity, Moses had four questions/requests that revealed his hesitation.
First, “Who am I?” (3:11). This is a good and fair and necessary question. You’re avoiding a very important question if you don’t ask it and mean it!
Notice God’s answer to Moses: “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” (3:12).
We have to have the faith to go ahead and do what God is calling us to do, trusting that God is with us and everything will be all right in the end. Usually confirmation has to wait until we have done what we are supposed to do! If you wait for confirmation before you act, you’ll never do anything for God.
Second, “What is your name?” (3:12). God revealed his name as “Yahweh”—“I am who I am.” God was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (3:15) and thus the God of the past. This was the God who would bring the Hebrews out of Israel and thus the God of the future. This was the God who was calling Moses in that moment and thus the God of the present.
Now, God has fully revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ. We know God because we know Jesus Christ who lived, died, and rose again. If we want to know who God is, we need to look at Jesus.
Does God love us? Look at Jesus and answer that question.
Does God forgive us? Look at Jesus and answer that question.
Does God show his grace to us? Look at Jesus and answer that question.
Third, “What if they won’t believe me?” (4:1). God gave Moses the ability to work signs and wonders. God gives us the ability to show grace, to practice forgiveness, and to exhibit his love to all those around us. Those are miracles, too! By showing grace, forgiveness, and love through us, God shows the people around us that he is real.
Fourth, “Please send someone else!” (4:13). We would like to be like Isaiah who said, “Here am I—send me!” In 1978 Jill Briscoe published a book called Here Am I—Send Aaron! That’s the way Moses was and that’s the way we often are. God still wanted Moses to go but he did send Aaron along to be his spokesperson.
No one can fulfill your calling but you. Still, God does call others to be in partnership with you. No one has all the gifts that are necessary. It takes each member of the body of Christ working together.
No one but Moses was Moses. But he needed Aaron! No one is you but you. We need others, too, to complement and balance us.
Consider your service
So Moses went. And that made all the difference! We would not remember him had he not gone, would we? Woody Allen said that 80% of success is showing up. Are you showing up for God and for his kingdom?
How did Moses serve?
He served as liberator. God used him to set people free. How might God use you to set people free? From their sin; from their sorrow; from their need.
He served as lawgiver. God used him to bring people into covenant relationship with him and to grow in that relationship. How might God use you to help people grow in their relationship with him? Can you teach? Can you mentor? Can you encourage?
He served as intercessor. Moses went to God on behalf of the people. We need people who will pray for others. We need people who will do good for others. We need people who will stand up for others.
Sometimes, though, the people got on Moses’ nerves and he had to deal with his own frustrations. Being involved in people’s lives can be painful and stressful. We are not called to work in paradise; we are called to serve in the real world with real people.
Consider your end
When you get to the end of your life you will not have accomplished everything for God that you intended to accomplish or wanted to accomplish. Moses died short of the Promised Land. But he nonetheless entered his heavenly home and I am sure heard “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Moses did not enter the Promised Land but he did enter the Promised Land.
No, when you get to the end you won’t have done everything. You will have failures on your record. You will have come up short too many times. But when you die, you want to be able to look back knowing that you made progress, that you tried, that you trusted, and that you served.
The Bible says that “no one knows the place of (Moses’) burial to this day.” Where your body is placed when you die doesn’t make much difference. What you do with it before you die does matter. Where you are after you die does matter.
Moses is a model for us. Will we answer the call to serve God and trust him all the way to the end?