A sermon by Rev Vikki Waller, Pilgrim UCA
Sunday 3 September 2017
Readings: Exodus 3: 1-15 Rom 12: 9-21 Matt 16: 21 -28
Did you see the article by Rev Dr Mike Frost in the August/September New Times? It is on page 16/17. The title is “Are you willing to be sent where few can see you?”
After a service where he had preached on God’s call, an elderly lady in a lavender cardigan bailed him up and told her story. Her husband has advanced Alzheimer’s and is a shell of the man she had loved for most of her life. She said that she used to be angry and yell at God for letting him just lie there and not die. Then it dawned on her that this is God’s calling to her. She looked around and saw others in the same situation and she began praying for them and then speaking with them. Now she is like a pastor to them as well as her husband. These are the people to whom she has been sent.
Moses was wandering around in the wilderness, minding his own business with his sheep, which he had done for many years. Suddenly something breaks into his day – fire in a dry land. He turns aside to check things out. Then he realises that it is not what he thought. In fact, this fire is different – the fire is not burning the bush. Real fear of the unknown now takes hold of Moses. Then a voice speaks to him and tells him to take off his sandals as he is on holy ground. He has entered a sacred space – a place where God is. God has now got Moses’ attention. God now tells him what he wants him to do. God says that he has seen the plight of the Israelites in Egypt, that he has heard their cries and has remembered his promise to their ancestors and now he is sending Moses to Pharaoh to bring the people out of Egypt to a new land. Just like that. Now this was not exactly the activity that Moses had planned for his old age!
So he thinks up reasons why he should not do this. Who am I to do this? I’m a nobody!
God says, “I will be with you”.
If I do this, the Israelites will ask me what your name is?
God says, “My name is I Am who I Am – tell them that “I Am”.
If we go beyond today’s lectionary to cChapter 4 we find Moses is still trying to evade God’s call. He says, ”The people will not believe me. I can’t talk, I am a hopeless public speaker.”
God says, “I will give you the words to say.”
God – please don’t send me!
At this, God gets mad and says, ‘you can take Aaron, your brother, I know he can speak well‘. Finally Moses accepts God’s call and starts on the road back to Egypt. Moses’ call changed his life and the course of the history for his people forever.
The Bible is full of stories about God’s call. One story is of Jesus calling to ignorant fisherman and the other to an educated, upper class young man. Jesus’ call comes to them all. Like Moses, they understood what it meant but they did not all respond the same way. The rich young man turned his back on the way of freedom and “trudged back to the bondage of the past” but the fisherman left all and followed Jesus into a future that was to change their lives forever. Little did they know what would happen and where the journey would lead when they took that first step.
God’s call may come when we least expect it, often when we are not looking for it, and at any age. Samuel’s call was when he was very young but Moses call came when he was almost 80 – so that covers us all. The churches call may well be different for every generation or the vision the same but the expression different
So what for us as a church? Is it the same as for individuals? I suspect that churches too can live the life of an ‘uncalled community” when they get caught up in things that are only for themselves. For the church as for individuals also God’s call will make sense of what we do, will hold us fast through tough times, will send us out on mission made possible by God. But this may well be counter cultural – and may well also be counter cultural within the church community
At Pilgrim we commit ourselves to responding to God’s call to live like Jesus, to be ambassadors for the one who walked the way of the cross and so to represent his values of forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace. To heal the broken, feed the hungry, stand up for the oppressed. And we also acknowledge that the call to non-conformity with the ways of the world includes a call to resist the legitimising of greed, selfishness, infidelity, violence, and exploitation. But it is precisely that refusal to legitimise the very things on which our society is founded which, if really followed through faithfully, will provoke an angry backlash against us.
Romans 12: 2 says, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you in to its mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and move towards the goal of true maturity”.
This is no easy call. It may sound okay as a religious theory, but to live by it when we are really under threat is as difficult. We have to work at this. We have to allow the Holy Spirit to train us in a new way, in a way that goes against our basic instincts and scandalises and offends our natural sense of justice and decency.
The full sermon can be downloaded here, Pilgrim sermon 3 Sept 17.VW