Now That I Have Your Attention

Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church, Wesley Chapel, FL
Preacher: The Rev. Adrienne R. Hymes
May 24, 2020 ● Easter 7A/Morning Prayer II 
Old Testament: Exodus 3:1-12

According to one television ratings resource, on Saturday, April 4, ABC’s annual airing of “The Ten Commandments” topped the primetime television charts with five million viewers. Perhaps you were one of the five million.  The lesson before us today was featured in that televised story of Moses’ awe-filled encounter with God on Mount Horeb. The cinematic artistry of the burning bush, the thundering voice of God, and the intensity of the awe-struck Moses, played by Charlton Heston, were visually woven together to depict this critical encounter between God and Moses which would forever change Moses and the lives of God’s chosen people, the enslaved Israelites. 

Today’s narrative in Exodus demands that curious readers go beyond the surprise and awe of the TV-worthy image of the burning bush that defied the natural laws of nature, ablaze, yet not consumed. Readers of scripture are challenged to go deeper into the narrative, beyond the extraordinary event of the burning bush. We are to recognize that this story is about God, and His intentional interaction with humankind, through that extraordinary event, which caused his would-be servant, Moses, to stop and pay attention in the presence of the Holy One. 

While going about his work of herding sheep for his father-in-law, Moses was led to the mountain of God. It was there that he encountered a messenger of the Lord, who did not speak, appearing in a flame of fire out of the bush.  The awesome sight alone caused Moses to stop. But it was Moses’ curiosity about the blazing bush, which was not being destroyed by the fire, that compelled him to turn and pay attention. Only then, did God speak. It was as if God was saying to Moses, “Now that I have your undivided attention…” It was not enough for Moses to stop; his curiosity in turning to see what was happening, signaled his readiness for a holy conversation with God.

“Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground,” God said.  Removing one’s sandals was an act that showed willing submission and respect. Now, Moses seemed to be unaware that he was standing on holy ground until God announced His presence by calling to Moses from the bush.  So what exactly made that ground holy? The very presence of God made that ground holy.

Now that God had Moses’ undivided attention, God told him that he had seen, heard and known the sufferings of the Israelites under Egyptian oppression. Further, God said that he had come down to deliver his people, and to bring them up into the freedom and abundance in the land, which, by the way, was already occupied by various peoples. 

Moses listened attentively to God speak about all of the things God was going to do to fulfill his mission until Moses heard the words, “I will send you.” I tend to think that Moses’ response to God, “Who am I,” might be well summed up with the words, “Who, me?” Moses herded sheep; 

he was not a freedom fighter equipped to take on the dangers of agitating the status quo or the responsibility of leading an entire people to safety in a new land. 

When God said, “I will send you,” Moses was forced to stop and pay attention. But, it was Moses’ curiosity about his own perceived inadequacy, expressed through his question, “Who am I?” which signaled to God Moses’ readiness to engage a deeper holy conversation. 

And, while God had the undivided attention of Moses, God spoke the reassuring words, “I will be with you.” With those words, God’s divine mission to deliver the Israelites from oppression into freedom, became a joint endeavor with humankind in the calling and sending of Moses. Recall that God’s very presence established holiness.  So, God’s promised accompaniment of Moses meant that the mission itself, was to become holy ground. 

This holy conversation took place at an unexpected time, in the midst of Moses’ normal routine, and God changed his life.  We, too, have unexpected moments while going about life’s normal routine, that may cause us to stop and pay attention. Certainly this extraordinary event of the pandemic is one of them.  It has figuratively, and literally, compelled human kind to stop and pay attention to the brokenness inside ourselves and in this world in which we live. But it’s not enough to stop and pay attention.  In the midst of human suffering, we must be curious about God. It is our curiosity that signals to God our readiness to engage in holy conversations with him.  

Might we reflect on our lives, in this critical time in human history, and recognize that there’s a larger narrative at work? The larger narrative of God, who transcends human history, and breaks into human history to be present with us as we serve in bringing about his mission of reconciling all people to God and to each other in Christ.  

God is calling you, by name, as he did Moses, into holy conversations with him—holy conversations that entrust you with a vision for how God plans to use your life to continue Christ’s reconciling work; holy conversations that assure you that, in Christ, God will always be with you. 

Holy conversations that, in the very presence of God, will transform your life into holy ground. Through ongoing holy conversations with God, may we be less inclined to respond in fear to God’s call with, “Who am I?” and feel empowered by the Holy Spirit to respond with, “Here I am.”  May it be so. Amen.