This is my manuscript for my sermon for October 4 on the Narrative Lectionary text of Exodus 1:8-14 and 3:1-15. I don't read from my manuscript, so what I actually preached was different.
There is a lot that has happened between last week’s lesson and todays. So let me catch you up.
We left Jacob who was just given the new name of Israel and was about to be reunited with his older brother Esau. Their reconciliation went well. Israel and his 12 sons settled into the land of Canaan. One of Israel’s sons was Joseph, who was so annoying to other brothers they sold him into slavery. Despite being a slave, Joseph managed to rise into power in Egypt, eventually becoming second in power, only being behind the Pharaoh in control. Because of his gift to interpret visions, Joseph saw a famine coming and planned ahead so others could survive.
When the famine struck the land of Canaan, Israel sent some of his sons to Egypt to see if there was food there. After a series of shenanigans, all of Israel’s family settled into Egypt, under the protection of his son Joseph.
Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.
The decedents of Israel became slaves in Egypt. They were there for over 400 years. The Pharaoh became afraid of the Israelites because of their numbers. He ordered midwives to kill all male Israelite babies. Many defied Pharaoh’s command. When Moses was born, the midwives spared him, but his mother knew she couldn’t hide a newborn baby boy. She put him in an ark and floated it down the Nile to where the Pharaoh’s daughter was bathing. The Pharaoh’s daughter raised Moses as her own. He grew up in Pharaoh’s court, but fled when he killed an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave. He goes to Midian where he comes to work for the priest of Midian and marries into his family.
Now we are caught up to the second part of today’s lesson. Moses is tending his father-in-law’s flock and sees a bush that is burning, but is not being consumed. Moses wanders over to investigate.
He is told to stop where he is, come no farther, in fact, take off his shoes. He is standing on ground that is holy. He is told that he is in the presence of the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
Moses hides his face because he was afraid to see the face of God.
God tells Moses that God knows what has happened to the descendants of Israel. God has heard their cries. God has seen their suffering. God is going to bring them out of Egypt, and lead them back to the land where the sons of Israel had come from. And Moses is going to be God’s representative.
Moses asks, Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?
God tells him not to worry, because God will go with him. In fact, God will lead them back here so they can worship right here.
Moses tells God that if he goes to the descendants of Israel and says he has been sent by the God of their ancestors, they will ask What is his name?
But there is more to that question. God identifies to Moses as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Men who were told by God they were blessed to be a blessing to the world. Men who were told by God that through them and their descendants, the world would be blessed.
Those descendants have been in slavery for hundreds of years now.
Moses isn’t wondering about being asked what God’s name is.
Moses is worried that he is going to be asked where God has been. Where was God while we’ve been in slavery?
That is a question that is asked time and time again. Where was God?
That is the question asked when the doctor leaves the room after starting a conversation with, “I’m sorry.” Where was God?
That is the question asked when you hear about yet another mass shooting, like the one Thursday in Oregon. Where was God?
That is the question asked when there is a natural disaster, an earthquake, hurricane or other event. Where was God?
That is the question we ask when we see, or hear, or experience something unjust or wrong or that doesn’t make sense. Where was God? How could God let that happen to them? Or me?
Moses was worried that the children of Israel would say that it is great that you were sent by the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, but where has my God been while we have been slaves? If we’re blessed to be a blessing, how much of a blessing is slavery?
I know that worry. Whenever I’m going to visit someone at home, or in the hospital, or at a funeral, I’m waiting for that question, where was God? How could God let this happen?
I’ve asked that question myself. Where was God? How could God let this happen?
We all wonder why there is suffering. Where is God?
God answers Moses, and God answers all of us with a challenge. I AM WHO I AM.
God tells Moses that God is who God is. Actually, because the verbs used refers to ongoing continuing, unfinished action it is I AM BEING WHO I AM BEING. God’s actions and existence have been, are happening and will keep going into the future.
Even though we feel the God is absent, God is always with us. But we don’t see or feel that when we are looking at the pain in our lives, in the lives of loved ones or in the lives of the world.
If we want to understand God and what God does, we need to be involved. God tells Moses that he is being sent to the people of Israel because God has called him and God will be with him. Moses will spend another chapter and a half coming up with excuses why he can’t or shouldn’t go. Each time God promises to help and aid and empower Moses in this work.
Moses is reluctant to follow God’s call. It isn’t until he begins to answer God’s summons and do what God has called him to do that he begins to feel and experience who God is.
As he calls upon Pharaoh to release the Israelites and as he leads them through the desert, Moses is able to do incredible things. He can do them because he trusts that God can do what needs to be done, that God can be who God can be.
Out of his doubt and fear, Moses comes to believe and trust in God’s love and God’s power.
We are called to do that as well. We may not summon plagues or part large bodies of water, but that is because that isn’t what God calls us to do. But we can share God’s love with those who need to hear and feel it. We can provide food to the hungry. We can provide water to the thirsty, and clothes for those without. We can visit those who are ill or alone, and fight for justice for those on the outside of society.
If you have wondered where God is, or has been, find out.
Get involved in sharing God’s love, sharing the message of the Good News of our forgiveness because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
If you think that God doesn’t care, dare to find out you are wrong. If you think that God doesn’t care, dare to get involved.
What problem do you think God doesn’t care about? Are you willing to do something about that problem to see if you’re right?
If you think God doesn’t care about injustice, start to fight it, and feel God working with you. If you think God doesn’t care about people who are sick and struggling, go and be with them, and see God working through you. If you think God allows horrible things to happen, be with the victims, and know God is supporting those who struggle.
Faith is a participation sport.
If you are wondering where God is, God is wondering where you have been. God has been and will always be with those who are hurting and struggling, even and especially when they don’t know it or don’t feel it.
God is always doing what God is always doing; loving all of creation, caring for those who no one else cares for, forgiving those who disobey, searching for the lost and giving totally for the sake of God’s beloved.
God gave us Jesus, who called his people to a new and better way of life. They killed him for it. And God raised Jesus from the dead, defeating death for those who killed him, forgiving the sins of even the ones who sent him to the cross.
God is always doing what God is always doing, and calls us to be a part of the mission.
Moses was reluctant to answer the call. So too are we. Like Moses, we are afraid of what people will say, how people will treat us.
And as God told Moses, God tells us as well, I will be with you.
God will be with us always. But especially when we are with God, bringing God’s love to those who feel alone. AMEN.
Pastor Brian's Page
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell has served at Our Savior's and Emmanuel since August 1, 2011, and began serving Nazareth on December 1, 2015.
Pastor Brian is originally from Saginaw, Michigan. He graduated from Alma College with a B.A. in Business Administration, and worked for the Saginaw Public Schools' Community Education Department for 17 years before answering the call to ministry. He graduated with a M. Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish is his first call.
He is the only child of Robert and Charlotte Campbell, both who have entered the Church Eternal.
He is accompanied in ministry by his faithful bulldogge Ananias, who regularly writes for our newsletter. His articles are archived here.
He is a fan of sports teams from his native Michigan, especially the Tigers and the Lions. But we tolerate him despite that.
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