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Lent 3 C RCL March 7, 2010

Lent 3 C RCL March 7, 2010
 
 Exodus 3:1-15

This morning, we look in on one of the most dramatic and crucial scenes in the Bible. Moses is tending the flocks of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian. In other words, Moses is going about his daily routine. He leads the flock into the wilderness, near Mount Horeb, and there he has an encounter with God which changes his life forever. “Moses, Moses,” God calls. Moses answers, “Here I am.” So holy is the presence of God that Moses must remove his sandals. The very place is holy ground. Moses is afraid to look at God. Remember that ancient belief that humans could not stand to see God, that they would die.
 
 
 
And God is awesome. Yet God has seen the sufferings of the people Israel and is calling Moses to lead the people of God out of slavery. When Moses asks God’s name, God says, “I am who I am.” God is the source of all life, all being. And in Hebrew, verbs have fluid tenses. I am who I am, I will be who I will be, I was who I was, even I am who I was. The very being of God is constantly in motion, yet eternal, stretching back into the past and forward into the future—beyond time itself, ever active and ever life-giving.
Moses encounters God, the source of all Being, and Moses answers the call of God to lead the people out of bondage into the promised land. Every Lent, each of us, on our spiritual journey, moves from bondage to freedom, in the individual ways God is calling us to become more free, so that the story of the people Israel becomes and is our story. We are ever moving from the bondage of sin into the freedom of forgiveness and new life.
In his Letter to the Corinthians, Paul is reminding the people that they and we have all made this journey out of slavery into freedom, and we continue to make this journey. We will not be tested beyond our ability to remain faithful to God. But we are called to be faithful to our discipline as Christians.
The Gospel for today makes at least two major points. One is that disasters and tragic events are not punishments for bad people. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. The other point is that God likes to allow the maximum opportunity for change and growth. The poor fig tree has not borne as it should, but let’s dig around it and feed it well and nurture it and give it the optimal conditions for success before we give up. Can’t you just see God, the skilled and compassionate Gardener, doing whatever is needed to help us all to grow? God is the generous giver of second and third and infinite chances. God is the God of hope. God is the God of opportunity. Some people picture God as ready to gunch everybody, keeping track of all our crimes and misdemeanors. Nothing could be farther from the truth. As someone has said, God is a lover, not a lawyer. With God, there is always another chance.

You and I probably have not seen many burning bushes which, though on fire, are not consumed. But we have had moments when we knew God was truly present and when we sensed the awe-inspiring power of God. In these moments, we do feel inadequate, we feel unworthy, we know we are standing on holy ground. We can fully identify with Moses. It is amazing that the eternal God would come to meet with us and would call us as God did Moses, but it’s true.Each of us has encountered God in our own way. It may not have been a dramatic mystical experience such as seeing a burning bush, but our experiences are just as real as Moses’ was. From these experiences—it may have been looking at a beautiful sunset; it may have been looking into the eyes of a baby, or hearing a glorious piece of music or spending some time with a friend or walking through the woods, or standing at the seashore and watching the endless rolling of the waves and hearing the hiss of the undertow and the cries of water birds—all these and many more can be moments of encounter with God. Receiving the Host in our hand each time we share Eucharist, passing the Peace, our sign of oneness with each other—all are encounters with God. Through these encounters, we realize that God is always reaching out to us in love and compassion. This generates in us the hope and faith which enables us to respond to God’s call.

Just as God called Moses, God is calling you and me. God is calling us to be faithful to our part of our covenant with God, to live our lives as citizens of the heavenly realm, to remain steadfast in the values of love and compassion, and to be a caring and loving community in Christ.

The beauty of it is, God really does figuratively dig around our roots and give us the nourishment we need. God gives us everything we need in order to respond to God’s call and do a fine job. Like Moses, we need to keep going about our daily tasks and spiritual disciplines, and lo, and behold, just when we least expect it, there is that burning bush or perhaps our less dramatic equivalent, and there is God, letting us know what to do next.

God is always and forever loving us, and God is always and forever calling us. By God’s grace, may we respond in faith and trust.

Amen.

Psalm 63:1-8
I Corinthians 10:1-13
Luke 13:1-9
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