Burning bush

In Exodus we are told the story of God getting the attention of Moses who was out in the wilderness herding the goats.  How did God manage to do this?  With a burning bush that wasn’t being burned up!  Once Moses got closer out of curiosity, God told him to go tell Pharoah to let God’s people go.  No small order.  We usually quit reading at that point…at least our reading for Sunday does. Too bad, because the burning bush is just the teaser for the real tension of the continuing story:  Moses arguing with God. Now, I don’t see burning bushes, but I have been known to argue with God…quite frequently, in fact.

Moses gives reason after reason why God’s idea won’t work:  I’m not qualified for the job description.  I don’t know your name.   People won’t believe me.  I’m a wanted man in Egypt and won’t pass the background check.  I have a speech disability.  And last but not least, I don’t want to do it.  All accurate reasons.  And each time God dismisses the excuse as not a problem or provides a solution.  Thousands of years later, many of us know the rest of the story (if not the details of Moses’ argument); how God through Moses rescued an enslaved people, gave them a law and a land, and changed the world.

There is an irony.  When God calls us to use our gifts in serving others, it is most often meaningful, freeing and bring lots of joy.  It can feel like we are doing exactly what God created us to do!   But there’s irony here too, because sometimes when faced with the challenge of serving with our gifts, for whatever reason, we protest and try to get out of it like Moses.

Jesus knew this irony; in fact he himself in his self-giving struggled with following God to the cross for which we owe our lives.  So we, sitting around as recipients of grace and with God-given gifts must listen when Jesus says, “Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”  Moses wanted to save his private life, and live quietly in the wilderness.  He lost that life, but with the God-given gift of leadership, he walked into saving the lives of  a whole group of people.

In the end, Moses himself was like the burning bush: burning with God’s passion to rescue, yet never consumed.  His influence is still alive.  He either didn’t or couldn’t refuse, and God was immensely patient through the long argument.   But as Jesus seems to warn us,  if we refuse to serve with what’s been given us, we lose something in our baptismal life.  Maybe what we try to cling to, in spite of God calling otherwise, will end up being more like charred stumps.  Life and renewal is always where God is calling us, even if it appears at the moment like losing.  Why do we, like Moses, have such a hard time believing that?