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Lent 3C RCL February 28, 2016

Exodus 3:1-15
Psalm 63:1-8
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Luke 13:1-9

Our opening reading today is the account of Moses’ life-changing encounter with God. Before we examine this historic moment, let us gather some background.

Just before Moses was born, the Pharaoh had ordered that the midwives kill all the boy babies born to the Hebrew people. God’s people were growing in numbers, and the Egyptian king was threatened. The Egyptian midwives refused to carry out this order. When the king complained that there were still Hebrew boy babies being born, they explained that the Hebrew women gave birth so quickly and efficiently that the birth was done before the midwife could get there. God’s people “continued to multiply and became very strong”, and the king finally commanded that every Hebrew boy baby be thrown into the Nile.

When Moses is born, his mother hides him for three months, but finally she realizes that she can hide him no longer. So she makes a basket of papyrus and seals it with pitch and tar to make it waterproof and  places the basket in the reeds by the river bank. Moses’ sister, Miriam, keeps watch.

The Pharaoh’s daughter comes down to the river to bathe, and Moses begins to cry. She finds the basket, opens it, and sees this little Hebrew baby. She takes pity on him. This is a baby that her father would kill, but she takes him into her home. Miriam offers to find a nurse for the baby, and Moses’ mother gets the job. The Pharaoh’s daughter pays Moses’ mother the usual wages for a nurse. Moses is adopted by the princess and will be raised in the palace as an Egyptian prince, with his mother serving as his nurse and nanny.

There comes a day when Moses leaves the palace and goes out to see what is going on. Even though he has been raised as an Egyptian, he identifies with his own people. He sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew man. Moses looks around to see who is watching,  sees no-one, and kills the Egyptian. The next day, he goes out again, sees two Hebrews fighting and asks the one who is in the wrong why he is fighting another Hebrew. The aggressor asks Moses who made him the judge and then asks Moses if he is going to kill him, too. Moses realizes that he was seen killing the Egyptian. The Pharaoh hears about Moses’ attack on the Egyptian and decides to kill Moses.

Moses flees to the land of Midian. He marries Zipporah, the daughter of the priest of Midian. They have children, and Moses helps with the  family agricultural business.

The fact that Moses is alive is nothing short of a miracle. Moses has survived because of the courage of the midwives who would not murder innocent children; the love  and courage of his mother and sister, and the compassion of the Pharaoh’s daughter, who adopted a baby whom her father would have killed.

So here is Moses tending the flocks of Jethro, his father-in-law, and he sees this very strange bush which is obviously on fire but never is consumed. The text says that Moses “turn[s] aside.” He notices. He goes over to look.

Most of the times when God is calling us or guiding us, we are going about our daily tasks. Like Moses, we need to be paying attention. We need to notice. We need to let God speak to us. God calls. “Moses, Moses!” And Moses answers. God tells Moses to take off his sandals, that he is on holy ground. In the midst of our daily routine, we are on holy ground. We are always in God’s presence, doing our daily chores doing the most humdrum things. It is all holy ground.

God tells Moses that he has seen the suffering of the people, and that he is calling Moses to lead the people of God out of slavery. Like all of our heroes of the faith, Moses has questions. Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and free the people? If I go to your people, what is going to make them believe me? And God tells Moses God’s Name,”I am who I am.” Moses is the first person in the Scriptures to hear the Name of God. Moses is becoming very close to God, and God is going to give Moses the grace and gifts to lead God’s people out of slavery.

Moses’ life up until this point is a crucial part of this story. He knows how powerful the Pharaoh is and how easy it is for someone with all that power to kill people. He has had to run away to save his own life. His mother had to set him adrift in a basket to try to save him when he was a baby. He has seen the suffering of his people first hand. He put his own life in danger trying to protect one of his people from an Egyptian.

Moses grew up in the palace. He could have lived his life as a member of the Egyptian royal court. He could have denied his own identity as a Hebrew man. But he did not. He could have lived a life of privilege based on that denial, but he did not choose that path. Moses has been tried and tempered in the fires of his own life experience, and now he is accepting God’s call to lead the people out of slavery into freedom.

Lent is the season in which we move from slavery to sin into freedom in Christ. The life of Moses reminds us that our own experiences of  brokenness or oppression or slavery can be our greatest sources of strength to help others on their journeys.

Fortunately, we are not being called to do what Moses did. but the story of Moses is full of rich insights for us. Our own experiences of brokenness or oppression or slavery of various kinds have strengthened us as Moses’ experiences strengthened him. Because we are walking the Way of the Cross, these experiences make us more compassionate and they give us the wisdom to help others on their journeys to new life.

May we listen for God’s call. May we trust God. May we follow our Lord into freedom and newness of life.  Amen.

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