Moses

Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. He thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight..."

Exodus 3:1-15

“Earth is crammed with heaven,
And every bush is aflame with God
But only those who see, take off their shoes
The rest sit around it and pluck blackberries.” 

– Elizabeth Barrett Browning

 

Two minutes before the burning bush caught his attention, Moses would have called his corner of the Sinai ‘God Forsaken.’ He is in the heart of the world’s third worse wilderness. He’s been there for weeks, following his father-in-law’s flea-bitten goats from scrub weed to broom brush. At night he dreams of Egyptian beer and gentle rock of the royal barge as it glides down the Nile. He can’t doze more than 18 minutes at a stretch, though, because the nights are cold, lonely, and filled with constant worries that his gnats-for-minds animals will wander themselves into a bear infested cave. Each dawn he awakes, sans coffee, to a bleating chorus of the goats and scorpions in his duffle.  No, Moses would not say that,‘earth is crammed with heaven.’

 

Betsy got that one wrong, as most writers do. Human beings are terrible judges of the places where God is and isn’t. Moses, even after seeing the bush, has to be told to take off his shoes. He’s used to talking with goats and rocks, he has a hard time changing his attitude to interact with the Holy. This is not the thing you notice when you just casually read bits and pieces of Exodus. We wrongly assume that Moses, who goes on to be a renown theologian, was looking for God when he turned aside. I believe the opposite is true.

 

Moses is a lost soul as he enters the third chapter of Exodus. He is like so many people today, intimate with spiritual wilderness. Each wayward being experiences this forsaken-ness of God differently. For Moses, the wilderness is composed of one part drudgery and two parts humiliation. As a young man, Moses had wealth, status, the desire to do something good with his position and education. Then suddenly, he lashes out and commits murder. It is shame, as much as fear of punishment, that dives him out from his green home and into the brown of Midian. A stranger in a strange land, he becomes trapped in a meaningless job. Not the place you would look for a future bestselling author.

 

What makes all this fun is the fact that Moses’ post God-in-the-bush life isn’t any better. His stress level goes up, his popularity becomes even more fickle, and he continues to spend his nights in the desert. Further, every question he had for God gets answered in a way that only brings on more questions. Job had much the same experience. The only thing that makes experiencing God worth it for these folk, is the fact that afterwards life has meaning. God is speaks clearly about one thing in Exodus chapter three, the Almighty has a plan and it involves us. This is what remakes Moses. 

 

Life is not about comforts, or wealth, or fame. It’s about partnership with God. This is the one thing that crams this earth with heaven, and makes every bush aflame with the Holy.

 
Lent 3
Sunday, March 3, 2013
Moses killing an Egyptian