17th Sunday after Pentecost – October 1, 2017
Exodus 2:23-25; 3:1-15; 4:10-17 and John 8:58
Who is it that brings me to faith? Is God just some far-off divine entity who is impossible to reach? The God that worked miraculously in the lives of impatient Abraham, faltering Isaac and conniving Jacob. Is this the very same God that affected the lives of just regular folk like missionaries, preachers, grandmothers, uncles and aunts and also our parents’ lives? Or perhaps not.
We are moving through five weeks that deal with God as provider and as promising God. First we saw that God provides new beginnings. Followed by God provides over and above our pain and we will never be abandoned. After that, just last week, we saw God blessing Jacob at Bethel, despite the fact that Jacob used deceit to steal his father’s blessing from his brother Esau; God provides hope amidst calamity. This week we’ll explore further who this God is that touches our lives in so many ways.
We fast-forward to a time when the descendants of Jacob have grown into the nation of Israel, having settled in Egypt to escape a serious famine. Israel survived the famine, but eventually became cruelly enslaved to the Egyptians. It is here that our story picks up today, four hundred years later. The Israelites groaned as slaves under the ruler of Egypt, but amidst all of this, God once again, took notice of them.
A man by the name of Moses encounters someone in a flame of fire coming out of a bush, the fire being almost supernatural because as it burns, it curiously does not consume the bush. Moses wants to know who this is that is speaking to him from the fiery bush.
God asks Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and help them escape their slavery. Moses is indeed concerned, why would the people listen to him, trust and follow him. What if the people ask who has sent him, what should Moses say? How do you think God should introduce God self to a broken and distrustful people?
Moses is worried about the reception he’ll encounter back in Egypt, so he puts forward a very personal and relational request: “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”
God’s answer is a bit mysterious, as if by God’s very nature we can know God but never entirely pin God down.
What’s clear, though, is that God is giving God’s name: not just an arbitrary label, but a name bound up with who God is on a very personal level. Elsewhere God is described as the same yesterday, today, and forever; “I AM WHO I AM” covers the same territory.
Perhaps the most helpful conception we have of permanence is given by the spectacle of the lofty mountains, which stand unmoved and unchanged for centuries and millenniums. We call them the everlasting hills. But God was before the mountains, and will continue to exist long after we are gone.
Knowing God’s name means that we’re interacting with more than an anonymous force or principle. God is a personal being who has made promises God intends to fulfil. So when Jesus says in our brief one-verse New Testament reading from John 8:58, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am”, the Jews tried to stone him because they recognised what He was actually saying: Jesus is one with the Father. He is the one who fulfils the promises to Abraham, who has brought about the salvation of his people not from Egypt, but from sin and death itself. He is the one we will call on as Lord for all generations.
Now that we have looked at who it is that calls us and brings us to faith, there is an obvious question that might arise, which is “So what?”
Let’s look at what is beyond the question “so what?” What does all of this mean for us? Chapter 3 of Exodus is the call of Moses. We also have a call from God. We are called to do God’s work of love wherever we are. We are to stand for the truth and to work for what is good. I often wonder whether I appreciate this as much as is befitting to all that God does to me. Do we recognise the godly action that God performs on us? Each and every one of us is transformed.
How does our country Canada respond to Syrian refugees, or to our First Nations? How do we help Caribbean residents who haven’t asked for climate change? We know that there are families grieving after Fentanyl deaths. There are folks who are at a loss as to how their children will ever be able to break the chains of addiction.
God uses each and every one of us to make God reign visible in the world. God uses us to care in loving ways for all whom we encounter. We work and throw our all into alleviating the suffering and the enslavement that we come across. We can’t live untouched and we can never live with apathy. God cares deeply for the oppressed and the vulnerable. We are new creations and we are called to make a difference in our family circle, the circle of our neighbourhood and into our sphere of work. The God of promises and who provides is faithful, and never gives up on us.
Copyright 2017 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church
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