Labor Day. Moses. Burning Bush. No, the phrase Burning Bush is not a political statement either way. Burning Bush is this story about Moses trying to figure out what God is saying to him.Moses was “keeping the flock” of his father-in-law Jethro (not the old TV show Beverly Hillbillies’ grandpa named Jethro), the priest of Midian. Moses was working in the family business. When God wants to speak to people in life, most often the speaking is done to the person while the person is working. Doing the mundane in life. Keeping the flock was not an exotic activity for the holy. It was simple hard work. Family business.
I gave Lisa Dennis a book recently. It is entitled The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. A classic spiritual work written by Brother Lawrence several centuries ago when he was a monk living in a monastery and not very pleased with his assignment of having to work in the kitchen doing dishes. He grumbled and his grumbling turned to reflection of his task of doing dishes. Soon he came to see that God wanted him to do dishes and that it matters not what task we are working at in life…we are called to Practice the Presence of God in whatever labor we are doing in life. Soon Brother Lawrence realized that he could pray and practice the presence of God within his life while he washed dishes. Doing dishes became holy work and prayer for him. The kitchen became a Holy Place and a place of meeting God and a place of prayer for him.
We have to be working doing something in life – that is one lesson from this Moses’ story. God works through people who are working in routine jobs themselves, busy doing the mundane in life like keeping the flock, doing dishes, teaching, cooking in a restaurant, working in a library, and all of the other jobs we have to do in life. While Moses was working was when God decided to interrupt Moses’ life.
Moses had no experience in the things he was about to be asked to do by God.
Two outstanding candidates in their mid-40s have burst onto the political scene this past week in our country. It has been energizing for me personally to see both of them emerge and surprise our nation. One is a “hockey mom” from Alaska who took on corruption in her own party in Alaska and one passed up lucrative income as a corporate attorney in order to help voiceless people in south Chicago. He told this week of his single mother making him get up and do his homework, with her help, at 4:30 am in the morning. He would complain about the early hour and she would respond, “This is not a picnic for me either.” I loved the image of a single mom teaching a child the value of hard work and education at 4:30 am in the morning. Both candidates are young and full of Hopeful energy. .
Wren Giesen tells me regularly that she loves coming to our church because of seeing all of the young people here. Nelwyn Moore told me recently that she lives peacefully in life because she is so encouraged to see fathers in our church who care so much for our children. Wren and Nelwyn are energized by watching younger ones. I, at age 55, fit into that category of “younger ones” in our church. Our church has over 90 members and 47 of our members are under age 21.
I am energized and hopeful about the future of our nation and world because of the passion and intellect of these two young candidates in their mid-40s. I am also glad they have older and seasoned running mates.
Every one wants to know how each candidate is tied into the labor in our country. I saw one poll this week that was taken at the doors of Wal-Mart around the country. If you want to know what people who labor in our country are thinking, poll the entrances of Wal-Mart apparently.
Moses was tending to the flock and God interrupted his life. A bush was burning but yet not being consumed. It was a test. God wanted to see if Moses was curious. God can work through you when you are working and then God can work through you when you are curious. Moses became curious as to why the bush was burning and yet not consumed.
Curiosity about why things do not work out the way you want them to is something that God is pleased with. God was pleased that Moses was curious as to why the bush was burning yet not being consumed. Being curious about why parenting is so difficult or being curious about why poverty exists is a good curiosity that God can deal with in you. God created the curious minds and wants to see if we are willing to engage and be curious about life.
Working and curiosity. Two attributes God can use to help others. Once God saw that Moses was both working and curious, then God called out to Moses from the bush. Now it gets even funnier and more interesting.
Now that God had the attention of Moses through the burning bush and now that Moses was curious as to what was going on, then God gets even funnier. Humor and Play abounds in this story. Humor and Play are part of Godliness and good relationships. Now God says to Moses that it is time to learn how to dress.
“Moses, take your sandals off. You are standing on Holy Ground.” Learn how to dress, Moses. Get your sandals off. You are going to have to dress according to the new job I have for you in life.
At age 55, each day is Holy. Each place I stand is Holy. Each conversation is Holy. Each phone call with people is Holy Ground. Each email is Holy Ground. Well, maybe not each email!
Our job is to work, be curious, and take off our sandals each day, for we are standing on Holy Ground.
God wanted Moses to learn the ways of God and go where God wanted him to go and do what God wanted him to do. To go free the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt. “I have observed my misery of my people in Egypt and I have heard their cry.”
Moses had to learn the ways of God.
Randy and Mark are always helping me to learn the ways of Texan men. Mark told me in 2005 that the reason we have big air conditioners in Texas is so that we men can hide trash and old Christmas trees, etc, behind the air conditioners. That has served me well over the years.
When my brother and I built a tool shed in my back yard, I placed the tool shed right outside our bedroom window so I could see it the first thing each morning and the last thing each evening. Having to look at my tool shed, Pam wanted some flower pots to be hung on the shed to brighten up the view a bit. After all, I built it so I can see it from our bedroom. When Mark saw the flower pots hanging on the tool shed, he pulled me aside and said, “Gary, men don’t hang flowers from our tool sheds down here in Texas.” I had to choose between Mark and Pam. Mark lost. Was not even close.
Last Sunday at the youth End of Summer Tubing Party, we were finishing up lunch and it was time to take the youth tubing. We had 42 there for lunch. Great turnout and great brisket to eat. Time to get in the river. Pam yelled out to me, “Gary, are you going to get your swimming outfit on?” After 33 years of marriage you begin to learn it is just easier to talk the same language then it is to confront it daily. So I yelled back, “Yes, I am going to get my swimming outfit on now.”
I turned around and Randy was glaring at me. In silence. He came over to me and whispered, “Gary, men don’t own swimming outfits. We have swimmin’ trunks or shorts. No outfits.” And he walked away. He is trying to help me learn the culture here. I am trying to stay married and to speak the language of Pam still.
The next three chapters in Exodus tell us about how Moses argued with God. Moses said he did not have credibility or name recognition…that the people would laugh at him. God said “Just tell them I sent you.” Right. Moses said the people would not believe that God spoke to Moses. God said, “See that stick in your hand. Throw it down and watch it become a snake.” He did and it did. Then Moses told God, “I can not speak. I stutter. Who is going to listen to one who stutters?” God said, “That is why I am sending your brother with you. He speaks well.”
God was way ahead of Moses. You can not out-excuse God. He is already way ahead of your excuses and mine as to why we can not do His work. He wants work, curiosity, argumentative and compassionate hearts. And he wants your sandals off. It is Holy Work and Holy Ground you are called to be a part of in the Church.
We have to learn God’s ways and He certainly has His ways, huh? He has a plan.
What did God require of Moses? Moses had to work, be curious, be willing to argue with God, learn how to dress, learn to deal with bushes and snakes and sticks, and learn to trust his brother. All the stuff of being human.
I mentioned in last Sunday’s sermon of telling Daniel of how much I was enjoying his being out of the house now. Told him of how I was baking a Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake with Cream Cheese icing and how much I am enjoying eating it…by myself. I do not have to share it with him anymore. I have worked hard all my life to get to the point where I can bake a cake and have it to myself. I suggested he flunk his classes over there and stay another year so I can enjoy a second year of cakes by myself.
I waited eagerly for his response.
He wrote back on Monday and said, “After all this cake talk, I decided to solve the problem. I decided to bake a cake that I do not have to share with you. And I am currently enjoying a warm delicious German chocolate cake. That is why this email is short because I have to get back to more important matters such as my cake that I baked. I would mail you some but I don’t think it would be fresh by the time it got to you, plus I don’t think I would share it anyway. Ball is in your court. Ha Ha. Love, Daniel.”
He could not bake or cook prior to leaving home for Germany. Hey, this education plan is working!
God tells us we each can do new and good things we never imagined being able to do in life if we just work and are curious and argue with God some. Then God has us and our attention. We are only three years old as a Church but God can work through us and you this week to do the good things in this town that God wants done. We have no excuses that God has not already figured out and trumped ahead of time. He has a plan for your life and mine.
Something very Holy about all of this cake talk and it makes me hungry. Come and have some of Don’s homemade bread for communion. This is Holy Ground. Let’s sing hymn number 138 “We are Standing on Holy Ground” and then have some bread together around our Father’s Table. Amen.
By GARY L. SMITH
Reverend – Christ the Redeemer Church