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“Your Burning Bush”
(Dare to Dream #1)
Exodus 3:1-10 (CEB)
Moses was taking care of the flock for his father-in-law Jethro, Midian’s priest. He led his flock out to the edge of the desert, and he came to God’s mountain called Horeb. 2 The Lord’s messenger appeared to him in a flame of fire in the middle of a bush. Moses saw that the bush was in flames, but it didn’t burn up. 3 Then Moses said to himself, “Let me check out this amazing sight and find out why the bush isn’t burning up.”
4 When the Lord saw that he was coming to look, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!”
Moses said, “I’m here.”
5 Then the Lord said, “Don’t come any closer! Take off your sandals, because you are standing on holy ground.” 6 He continued, “I am the God of your father, Abraham’s God, Isaac’s God, and Jacob’s God.” Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God.
7 Then the Lord said, “I’ve clearly seen my people oppressed in Egypt. I’ve heard their cry of injustice because of their slave masters. I know about their pain. 8 I’ve come down to rescue them from the Egyptians in order to take them out of that land and bring them to a good and broad land, a land that’s full of milk and honey, a place where the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites all live. 9 Now the Israelites’ cries of injustice have reached me. I’ve seen just how much the Egyptians have oppressed them. 10 So get going. I’m sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”
Reflection on the Word:
1. How have you heard God speaking to you before?
2. What does it mean to encounter God in fullness as opposed to asking God for what we want?
3. Why might God have chosen to meet Moses here, and not earlier in his life?
Family Time or Small Group (Better Together) Discussion:
1. What is God calling you to do in your life?
2. Do you struggle to rise to the audacity of God’s calling for you?
3. What do you do to listen for God’s voice in your life?
4. What might keep you to hear God’s call to you? What might help you to hear it?
5. How can I pray for you?
Sermon Progression: “
Sometimes, the preaching calendar just isn’t fair.
Last week, Pastor Daniel was able to kickoff a new sermon series called Dare to Dream and he did so in fabulous fashion. He talked about the big idea that God has a big plan for you. God has a big purpose. God wants you to dream and to dream big!
Dream like Jacob and … expect God to show up. Expect God to use you to do great things for this is God’s desire for you. The Lord spoke to the prophet Jeremiah once with these words:
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you.”
- Jeremiah 29: 11- 14
These words were meant to encourage all of Israel and to let them know that God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, a promise of a great and influential nation, was still very much alive and well. The dream was and is still alive.
Dream O Israel. Dare to dream big!
And that is the problem isn’t it? We don’t dare to dream big. We play it safe. Close to the vest. Measure every response. Calculate. Cut short the dream.
We don’t embrace the BHAG. The BHAG that Pastor Daniel introduced last week and the acronym that Pastor Mike Slaughter uses throughout his book Dare to Dream. And just what might the BHAG be? Simply put, the BHAG is the Big Hairy Audacious God purpose. A BHAG- big, hairy, audacious, God purpose for you and a BHAG- big, hairy, audacious, God purpose for me.
And like I said earlier, sometimes, the preaching calendar just isn’t fair.
Pastor Daniel was able to speak to you about the big and I …
Well, it isn’t fair. I get to preach about the hairy.
The pastor with the least amount of hair gets to speak about the hairy.
And that is scary, or should I say hairy for quite often the hairy isn’t about a full head of hair, like good looking Pastor Daniel, but rather a soul needing to be filled with God’s Spirit. The Holy Spirit. A soul needing to trust in God’s purpose. A soul needing to lay aside their own purpose and embrace the BHAG and the plan that God has for us. Not always easy for our own desires often get in the way and we need to be groomed to see and embrace something bigger.
One of my favorite gospel stories and a perfect illustration for what I am talking about is found in the gospel of John, the fourteenth chapter. Here Jesus is trying to help the disciples embrace their BHAG- their big, hairy, audacious, God purpose. And when he talks about his coming death and resurrection; God’s big plan of salvation, …, well the situation gets a bit hairy. Un-charted waters and Philip tries his best. Listen to his response and listen to what Jesus lays out before the disciples.
8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”
- John 14: 8- 12
What was “hairy” for Philip was the unknown. What is often “hairy” for us is the unknown too. But God has great plans for us. Nothing is impossible with God. (Luke 1: 37) And because Jesus went to the Father, after his resurrection, believe that your BHAG- your big, hairy, audacious, God purpose will include an even greater work-- miracles, healings, the spiritually dead coming alive, being born again and yes … even the transformation of the world so that no one misses out on the grace of God!
Believe it for Jesus Christ has equipped you and I, the Church, to be the body of Christ for the world.
Which brings me to our passage this morning. (I know you were wondering when we were going to get to it.) Often this passage is used to set roles in the church-- apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers. But the Dare to Dream book makes an interesting observation. Where did Paul, the writer of the Letter to the Ephesians, get these roles? They weren’t part of his faith tradition of rabbi’s, priests, and scholars of the law. The prophets hadn’t spoken for years. So, where did he get this idea that there would be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to build up the body of Christ?
Well, it has something to do with Jesus going to the Father and what that really means. When Jesus returned to the Father, he promised a gift, an advocate, a teacher and a helper. He promised the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit to live inside of you and me. God’s Spirit to take the hairy … the scary and unknown … and give to us the means to move mountains. Give us the way to be a light that shines in the darkness. Give us a way to overcome all evil and oppression; to speak truth in love. Defend the weak and be a voice for the poor.
My friends, the Holy Spirit has come!
The Holy Spirit spoke to Paul and gave him the roles and the words to write for the Ephesians and for us. The Holy Spirit’s desire is to see “all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” And the Holy Spirit is at work in you that you might discover your BHAG and role in God’s kingdom.
And though it may seem hairy … dare yourself to dream it. Dare yourself to be open to it. Dare yourself to become full … full of the Holy Spirit. And with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, may you discover your role in God’s world and transform your community, street, home, your workplace … maybe even the world so that no one misses hearing and seeing God’s grace at work.
I have to begin this sermon by telling you guys that, well sometimes the preaching calendar just isn’t fair. Sure, the hairless pastor has to preach about the hairiness of our God sized dreams, but this week, I, the short pastor, have the challenge of talking to you guys about being audacious enough to pursue a higher purpose.
This sermon, which is the third in our series, is about being audacious, not for ourselves but for God. Moses does this after a conversation with God that happens beside and through a burning bush. So it’s worth asking: how did he get to this point? Moses was an Israelite by birth, but in Exodus 2 he is taken in by Pharoah’s daughter and raised as her Egyptian son and a member of Egypt’s royal family. So the world would’ve been his oyster. If all he’d wanted to do for the rest of his life was kick back, drink good wine, eat good food and enjoy the best Egyptian high society had to offer, he probably could’ve. I’d bet that, if he’d wanted to be a famous general, he would’ve been able to pursue that career too. And if he’d wanted to be an adventure and explore parts unknown, he probably could have done that too.
Of course, there are times when forces outside of our control show up on our doorstep and demand we change whatever plans we had. In the case of Moses, this happened when he stopped an Egyptian overseer from beating an Israelite slave and killed the Egyptian in the process. The reason Moses was in this situation in the first place is that, years before he was born, the Egyptian leader, Pharaoh, was dealing with what he saw as a domestic threat. The Israelites had fled a famine and taken refuge in Egypt. And while they lived in Egypt, the Israelites experienced a population boom. Pharaoh saw this, and he worried about what might happen if, say, Egypt were to go to war, and their opponents tried to sway the Israelites to their side. So Pharaoh acted. Violently. He enslaved the Israelites and forced them to labor on behalf of himself and his people. Moses would have known about this. Why it apparently never fully registered with him, we don’t know. But it seems that seeing this slave driver beating this Israelite slave snapped something inside him. It’s easy to ignore evil when you hear about it from someone else. It’s harder to watch evil rear its ugly head right before your eyes.
Moses’ emotional state notwithstanding, his actions put him in danger. After finding out about what had happened, Pharoah attempted to kill Moses, who had to flee for his life. By the time we encounter him, Moses is living in Midian, which to someone who’d grown up in Egyptian high society would have been like us swapping a nice house in Chesapeake for a tin roof hut in a third world shantytown. Moses got married and had a child, so he adjusted. But his life now wasn’t dictated by the rhythms of the royal court or palace intrigue or of the movement of armies and navies. Now, he was focused on the needs of the flock he tends to eat, drink, and so on.
As you read through Moses’ story, and as you discover what’s happening to the Israelites, you find yourself wondering “Where’s God in all this?” Because God has been pretty silent up to this point in the story. For us today, that silence is deafening. We’re used to thinking of God as intervening all the time. Case in point: I remember being eleven years old and wanting to watch a movie after school. So I popped a DVD in the player. And no matter what I did, the DVD wouldn’t play. So I kinda freaked out, because I really wanted to watch “The Hunt for Red October” starring Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin, and this DVD player wouldn’t let me. So I got down on my knees and prayed. I called down divine power upon that DVD player.
These days, I still catch myself slipping into that pattern of prayer from time to time. Thinking “God, give me the life I want to have” or some variation of that. Can you relate? Do you ever pray prayers that could be summarized with the phrase “God, gimme stuff”? We do this a lot. We live in a world where we can get what we want pretty easily. And this can, at times, impact our religion. As if God is there simply to give us what we want.
And to be clear, it’s not wrong to want our lives to be different. But if the only word we hear God say to us is ‘yes,’ then you better believe we’ve missed a good many other things God is saying today and every day. After all, our God is not a vending machine. Our God is the one who has to stop Moses from coming too close, for fear of Moses’ physical safety. Encountering the divine is no simple thing. Would Moses have been able to hear what God was calling him to do if he’d encountered God at a party in the royal household? I doubt it. But out here, away from all the distractions, from all the power and wealth, from all the prestige and authority, Moses can really hear God. And God addresses him. Saying something like “People are praying to me. But not for DVD players. People are praying to me because their bodies are being broken. People are praying to me because their children are being killed. People are praying to me because they don’t want to be slaves. No, Moses, they want to be free.”
And God continues: “Now, I’ve made promises to these people. They need to see firsthand who I am. They need to know that I am a promise keeper. I don’t provide DVD players and Amazon Prime and Netflix, but I do provide freedom and joy and hope and health and life and love. They need to know that I’m not the God of chains and slavery but the God of giggling children and full stomachs and beautiful sunsets and a mother’s gentle touch. And I’m going to give these things to my people….And you, Moses, you get to be my instrument.” When he accepts this, Moses becomes a full participant in the plans God has for the world, as Jacob was and Paul will be and as we are invited to be today. Moses, the prince turned shepherd, he is the one who will go, on his own, up to Pharaoh and say “Let my people go.”
Sadly, since the days of Moses, the world hasn’t really changed that much. There is still incredible need in our world. And God is still audacious about meeting it. Which means that God hasn’t stopped calling out to us, nudging us, pointing us towards our own big, hairy, audacious God purposes. We might not be facing off with Pharoah, but we are still being led into the story of God’s redemption of the world as it unfolds before us. Practically speaking, that can take any number of forms and go any number of directions. But they all require that we listen for God, and that we accept the bold, audacious, crazy plans God might be calling us to pursue.
So as we prepare to leave here today, let’s do the work of listening for that call. And if something stirs your soul and moves you to think about doing something bold and new, it might be that God is calling you to take on a greater purpose. So if that happens, stop what you’re doing, take a moment to pray, and prepare yourself to say with courage and conviction “Here I am LORD, send me.” Amen.
Thought for the Week Ahead:
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet”